The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey: The Role of Socio-Psychological Factors

8 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018 Last revised: 28 Feb 2019

Date Written: October 25, 2018


The factors behind the rise of Islamism in Turkey remain the subject of intense scholarly debate. There are remarkable relationships between the rise of Islamism and preceding changes in population dynamics in Turkey. Rapid urbanization and large-scale migration of Kurds and other ethnic minorities from the east of the county to major cities in the west created a situation when Kemalist ideology, that was based on Turkish nationalism and secularism, could not continue to play its nation-building role. The increasing share of ethnic minority groups in major urban centers of the country created a need for a social transformation that can bring people with different ethnic identities together based on a shared aspect of their identity. There was a need for a bond that can link members of different ethnic groups to one another and to the country as a whole. This need found its realization in Islamism as the main shared aspect of the identity of the majority of ethnic Turks and Kurds is their religion - Sunni Islam. Islamism offered a sense of a new superseding identity that helped to restrain existing Turkish, Kurdish and other ethnic identities and helped to reconcile and stabilize social relationships by reducing ethnic antagonism, tension and potential conflict. This new consolidating mechanism helped to create a state of a strong and substantial common ground between different ethnic groups concentrated in major metropolitan areas of Turkey. The rise of political Islam in Turkey was the political consequence of changing social preferences and motivation that resulted in inventing the reason for the social and political change, without recognizing and acknowledging the real underlying motives behind it. The fact, that many leaders of Islamic parties and movements in Turkey belong to ethnic minority groups, is another argument in favor of this proposed explanation. On the extreme end of the spectrum, religious extremism and radicalization, that are some of the adverse effects of the same processes, represent the high price that society has to pay for stabilizing its ethnic relations.

Keywords: Islamism, Turkey, Radicalization, Conflict, Religion, Nationalism, Muslim, Jihadism, Identity

Suggested Citation

Hasanov, Eldar T., The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey: The Role of Socio-Psychological Factors (October 25, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

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