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'Religious' and 'Laik' Actors and the Question of Democracy in Turkey

36 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 12 Aug 2011

Murat Akan

Boğaziçi University

Date Written: 2011


The rise of Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been taken by many scholars as an example of a religious actor furthering democratization. Such a conclusion rests on an insufficient attention to concrete policies, their politics and context, and overemphasizes the differences between religious and laik actors in Turkey. In particular, the rampant presentation of the post 1980-coup Islamist activism as a major contribution to civil society 1) misunderstands the nature of power in the socialization mechanisms deployed by religious communities on the youth, 2) misses the state support some “supposedly” grass roots religious movements received, and 3) ignores the embezzlement cases involving religious persuasion. The article closes with an examination of the religion policy of AKP through an analysis of parliamentary discussions, daily politics and high court decisions to show that AKP is pursuing anti-democratic religion policies which are of Kemalist heritage in general and of the 1980 military coup heritage in particular.

Keywords: Turkey, Justice and Development Party, Political Islam, Secularism, Laiklik, Democracy, Military

Suggested Citation

Akan, Murat, 'Religious' and 'Laik' Actors and the Question of Democracy in Turkey (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Murat Akan (Contact Author)

Boğaziçi University ( email )

Department of Political Science and
International Relations
Bebek, İstanbul 34342

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