‘The Rise of Political Is­lam in Turkey: Ur­ban Poverty, Grass­roots Ac­tivism and Is­lamic Fun­da­men­tal­ism,’ By Kay­han Delibaş


Is­lamism in Turkey has been rep­re­sented in the for­mal political arena by the political par­ties of the Milli Görüş (Na­tional View) move­ment since 1970. In the mid-1990s, the third political party of the move­ment, the Wel­fare Party (RP), won the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of ma­jor cities and gained ac­cess to govern­ment as a ma­jor coali­tion part­ner. This suc­cess­ful elec­toral per­for­mance, as well as the sec­u­lar es­tab­lish­ment’s sharp re­ac­tion to it, has at­tracted the at­ten­tion of many schol­ars in and out of Turkey. Con­se­quently, a vast body of aca­demic lit­er­a­ture help­ing us to un­der­stand the var­i­ous aspects of the rise of political Is­lam has emerged in a short rel­a­tively pe­riod of time. Kay­han Delibaş’s be­lat­edly pub­lished book aim­ing at dis­cov­er­ing the so­ci­o­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics be­hind the rise of political Is­lam in Turkey is a wel­come con­tri­bu­tion to this lit­er­a­ture. The book is based on the au­thor’s PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, for which field­work re­search on Is­lamist grass­roots ac­tivism was car­ried out in 1999. Then, the RP was re­placed by the Virtue Party (FP) due to the for­mer’s clo­sure by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court as part of the on­go­ing sec­u­lar­ist crack­down on Is­lamism, known as the Feb. 28 process.

Delibaş’s em­pha­sis on “so­ci­o­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics” is con­trary to some es­sen­tial­ist or ori­en­tal­ist ap­proaches that see the rise of political Is­lam as an in­evitable re­sult of the al­legedly political na­ture of Is­lam. It is in this re­spect that the terms “re­vival” or “resur­gence” of Is­lam, or Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism, are found mis­lead­ing for they link the this­worldly phe­nom­e­non of political Is­lam to the script of Is­lam and not to the so­cio-eco­nomic and political con­di­tions within which they op­er­ate. Delibaş iden­ti­fies the fail­ure of Turkey’s cen­trist political par­ties to ad­dress prob­lems spring­ing from the ne­olib­eral re­struc­tur­ing and rapid ur­ban­iza­tion of the 1980s and the con­se­quent dis­il­lu­sion­ment of the pub­lic with them as the un­der­ly­ing cause of the rise of political Is­lam in Turkey. But, for him, what re­ally turned th­ese un­der­ly­ing causes into elec­toral vic­to­ries for political Is­lam was strong grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion and ac­tivism. It was the Is­lamist grass­roots ac­tivism that en­abled the RP and the FP to make the most of wors­en­ing so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions and the con­tin­u­ing political in­er­tia of ri­val par­ties. The ar­gu­ment de­vel­ops in two stages. In the first stage, the so­cio-eco­nomic and political con­text of the rise of political Is­lam is laid out. In the se­cond stage, the find­ings of the field­work re­search into the FP’s grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions in two sub-dis­tricts of Ankara are shared to help us un­der­stand the aspects of Is­lamist grass­roots ac­tivism in Turkey, as well as the vi­tal­ity of it for elec­toral suc­cess.

The first chap­ter briefly


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