How is Islam perceived in Turkey?

State and Islam in Turkey

Günter SeufertSWP study 2004 / S 29, August 2004, 29 pages

Is Turkey really a "major Islamic state" which, by its very nature, has no place in the European Union? Does "Islam" dominate politics and society in Turkey in such a way that they simply cannot become "European"?


Based on historical developments, the study examines the current relationship between the state and Islam in Turkey. Rejecting an unchangeable essence of "Islam" and its relationship to politics, a historical-structural analysis shows how the Islamic religion, based on European models, serves the Turkish raison d'être and the building of a republican nation (nation building) is provided. The resulting Turkish secularism is characterized by strict state control of public religious life, including a "correct" interpretation of the religious content ordered by a state institution, and by the fact that any form of "free" religious practice is perceived as an existential threat to the republic . Only under the AKP government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan does the official understanding of religion begin to change: Laicism in the European sense is seen as a real separation of state and Islam; Islam is understood as a possible ethical basis, but not as a guideline for political action, and a pluralistic understanding of religious freedom is beginning to germinate. Seen in this way, the current situation between the state and Islam is still characterized by a relationship that has largely been overcome in most EU countries, but in the process of its secularization, Turkey is "belated Europe" and not the "current Orient".