Evolving Views of Islamic Law in Turkey

22 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2013

See all articles by Russell Powell

Russell Powell

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2013


The tradition of Kemalist secularism (laiklik) in Turkey is often cited to distinguish Turkey as an exceptional case among predominantly Muslim countries. While it is true that the Turkish Constitution, laws, and legal opinions approach the relationship between the state and religion very differently than those of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or even Indonesia, it would be wrong to underestimate the role that religion plays in the formation of Turkish legal norms, including citizen understanding of those norms. There is a wealth of literature describing the nature of Turkish secularism and its evolution. A number of both quantitative and qualitative studies inquire about the preference for Shari’a among Turkish voters. The typical question asks whether respondents favor the establishment of a Shari’a state. Over the past fifteen years, these surveys have received response rates ranging between five and twenty-five percent in favor of such a state. However, these results are extremely problematic, because they do not provide any context or meaning for “the establishment of a Shari’a state,” either for those who favor it or for those who oppose it. This study begins to unpack the range of possible meanings attributed to Shari’a within Turkey, both among voters and among intellectuals, as a framework for future empirical studies and as a basis for deeper understandings of the role of Islam within Turkish law and politics.

Keywords: Turkey, Islam, Sharia, Jurisprudence, Gulen, Ozturk, Diyanet, Fiqh

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K33, K39, N40, N45

Suggested Citation

Powell, Russell, Evolving Views of Islamic Law in Turkey (March 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2233550 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2233550

Russell Powell (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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