Turkey and neo-Ottomanism: Domestic sources, dynamics and foreign policy

Mustafa Gokhan Sahin, Florida International University


This study examined the relationship between the Turkish Islamic movements and the present government of the Justice and Development Party ( Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AK Party). Since the AK Party came to power in 2002 it implemented unparalleled political reforms and pursued to improve Turkey’s relations with the EU. Opponents argued that because of the dominance of the secular military in Turkish politics, the AK Party is forced to secretly advance its Islamic agenda using the language and symbolism of democracy and human rights. This study argued that the ideas of the AK Party show similarities with the “Ottomanist” thought of the late Ottoman era. With special reference to the preservation of the Ottoman State, Ottomanism in an eclectic way was able to incorporate Islamic principles like freedom, justice and consultation into the political arena which was increasingly dominated by the secular European concepts. Literature on Islam and politics in Turkey, however, disregards the Ottoman roots of freedom and pluralism and tends to reduce the relationship between religion and state into exclusively confrontational struggles. This conceptualization of the political process relies on particular non-Turkish Muslim experiences which do not necessarily represent Islam’s venture in Turkey. Contrary to the prevailing scholarship, Islamic movements in Turkey, namely, Naqshbandi, National View and Nur, which are discussed in detail in this study, are not monolithic. They all uphold the same creedal tenets of Islam but they have sharp differences in terms of how they conceptualize the role of religious agency in politics. I argue that this diversity is a result of three distinct methodologies of Islamic religious life which are the Tariqah (Tarikat ), Shariah (Şeriat), and Haqiqah ( Hakikat). The differences between these three approaches represent a typological hierarchy in the formation of the Muslim/believer as an agent of Islamic identity. Through these different if not conflicting modes, the AK Party reconnected itself with Turkey’s Ottoman heritage in a post-Ottoman, secular setting and was able to develop an eclectic political identity of Neo-Ottomanism that is evident in the flexibility if not inconsistency of its domestic and foreign policy preferences.

Subject Area

Middle Eastern Studies|International Relations

Recommended Citation

Sahin, Mustafa Gokhan, "Turkey and neo-Ottomanism: Domestic sources, dynamics and foreign policy" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3470231.