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The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey

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As a Muslim-majority country that is also a secular democratic state, a member of NATO, and a long-standing U.S. ally, Turkey is pivotal to U.S. strategy to shape the Middle Eastern security environment. Turkey also is a key test case for the role of Islam in politics and its influence on external policy. Until recently, Islamic parties in Turkey were largely a fringe movement. However, the success of the Justice and Development Party AKP in the past two national elections demonstrates the growing strength of a political movement with Islamic roots. That said, the AKP does not define itself as an Islamic party, and its electoral success does not translate into popular support for an Islamist agenda. Although the AKP won an overwhelming victory in the July 2007 election, it still faces serious challenges, including the possibility that it could be closed down. While the AKP has Islamist roots, it is fundamentally different from its predecessors -- the National Salvation, Welfare, and Virtue parties -- in terms of its ideology, its political goals, its market-oriented economic agenda, and the broader range of the electorate to which it appeals. Despite its origins, the AKP government has not pursued an overt Islamist agenda, although critics accuse it of infiltrating Islamists into the civil bureaucracy and condoning Islamization at the local level. The AKP government has given priority to pursuing Turkeys European Union EU membership, economic stability, and reform of the legal system over divisive symbolic issues such as the Islamic head scarf controversy. Over the next decade, Turkey could evolve in a number of different ways. Four possible alternative futures for Turkey are discussed in this monograph 1 The AKP Pursues a Moderate, EU-Oriented Path 2 Creeping Islamization 3 Judicial Closing of the AKP and 4 Military Intervention. The study also assesses the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in the changed Turkish political environment.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History

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