Uneasy Coexistence: Religion and Politics in Turkey
All Turkish politicians want to appear to be religious and secular at the same time. Is this not true of other political leaders in most democracies? Probably, but with one difference. The Turkish government, unlike those of other democracies, is involved in the “business” of religion. The religious versus secular divide has its origins in the Ottoman Empire. Soon after its establishment following WWI, the republic set out to implement a very strict secular policy to drive religion out of the political domain. This strict policy was pursued until mid-1940s, when republican leadership decided to move into competitive politics. With three consecutive electoral victories starting in 2002, the AKP Party, appearing to be more moderate than previous religiously oriented parties, has been winning over the institutions which the “republican guard” saw as the pillars for the defense of strict laicism pursued by the republic.