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Title:Religious freedom as a practice of the nation: religious minorities, Islamic revival and the emergence of defensive inclusion in Turkey
Author(s):Varol, Fatih
Director of Research:Bayat, Asef
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bayat, Asef
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz; Saul, Mahir; Jung, Moon-Kie
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Non-Muslim Minorities
Islamic Revival
Religious Freedom
Globalization and Identity Politics
Abstract:Depending on fieldwork (semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and archival research) in Istanbul, I explore the impact of Islamic revival on the relationship between the state and non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and show there are important reforms shifting state policies toward non-Muslim minorities after the Islamicly-oriented Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AK Party) government came to power in 2002. I analyze the impact of the nation on the state and the reconstruction of the nation and the state through renewed local/global structures and actors in historical context to explain the meaning of recent changes. The Ottoman millet system produced a pre-modern form of religious pluralism until the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century although non-Muslim minorities were second-class subjects to Muslims. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of modern Turkey as a “nationalizing state” seeking ethnic, linguistic, and religious homogeneity under the rule of the secularist Kemalist elites produced an exclusionary polity toward non-Muslim minorities. Islamic movements constructed an alternative nationhood narrative based on the glorified Ottoman past as a reaction to the Kemalist narratives maligning the Ottomans since the early years of the Republic. Yet, it was also an exclusionary narrative accusing religious minorities of collaborating with western powers and of being responsible for the collapse the Ottoman Empire. However, Islamic movements have reconstructed the Ottoman past as a usable past through the narratives of Ottoman tolerance and identified the Turkish nation with tolerance in a defensive manner as a response to the globalization process that poses serious legitimacy concerns over Islamic movements through the identification of Islam with religious fanaticism. This identity politics, which I call defensive inclusion, has resonated with the emergence of a better relationship between Islamic movements and religious minorities for a few decades and the positive shift in state policies toward religious minorities since 2002. However, Turkish/Islamic national identity does not perceive non-Muslims as part of the Turkish nation, but those who live with Turks under the rule of Turkish tolerance even if they are full citizens de jure. This situation, which I call neo-millet system, reproduces the second-class status of non-Muslim minorities in a polity operating through modern institutions even if the state is hospitable. This dissertation not only challenges mainstream theories including the Civilizational Approach, Modernization Theory, Assertive vs. Passive Secularism, and Rational Choice Theory that account for the origin of religious freedom by revealing their weaknesses to explain the Turkish case, but also offers an alternative approach by examining religious freedom or the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of religious minorities as a practice of the nation. This dissertation also engages with the ongoing debate about the relationship between globalization and the revival of identity politics. Contrary to mainstream theories suggesting that the revival of identity politics based on the reinvention of the past under the impact of globalization triggers religious fanaticism, this dissertation shows that identity politics based on a constructed past paves the way of the emergence of religious tolerance within Turkish/Islamic circles. This dissertation also sheds light on the progressive role of the past/tradition in the moderation of Islamic movements and the construction of a legitimate Islamic identity that embraces multiculturalism and tolerance in the globalized world.
Issue Date:2015-03-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Fatih Varol
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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