In November of 2002, the Justice and Development Party swept to victory in the Turkish parliamentary elections. Because of the party’s Islamic roots, its electoral triumph has sparked a host of questions both in Turkey and in the West: Does the party harbor a secret Islamist agenda? Will the new government seek to overturn nearly a century of secularization stemming from Kemal Ataturk’s early-twentieth-century reforms?Most fundamentally, is Islam compatible with democracy? In this penetrating work, M. Hakan Yavuz seeks to answer these questions, and to provide a comprehensive analysis of Islamic political identity in Turkey. He begins in the early twentieth century, when Kemal Ataturk led Turkey through a process of rapid secularization and crushed Islamic opposition to his authoritarian rule. .Yavuz argues that, since Ataturk’s death in 1938, however, Turkey has been gradually moving away from his militant secularism and experiencing “a quiet Muslim reformation.” Islamic political identity is not homogeneous, says Yavuz, but can be modern and progressive as well as conservative and potentially authoritarian. While the West has traditionally seen Kemalism as an engine for reform against “reactionary” political Islam, in fact the Kemalist establishment has traditionally used the “Islamic threat” as an excuse to avoid democratization and thus hold on to power. Yavuz offers an account of the “soft coup” of 1997, in which the Kemalist military-bureaucratic establishment overthrew the democratically elected coalition government, which was led by the pro-Islamic Refah party.He argues that the soft coup plunged Turkey into a renewed legitimacy crisis which can only be resolved by the liberalization of the political system. The book ends with a discussion of the most recent election and its implications for Turkey and the Muslim world. Yavuz argues that Islamic social movements can be important agents for promoting a democratic and pluralistic society, and that the Turkish example holds long term promise for the rest of the Muslim world. Based on extensive fieldwork and interviews, this work offers a sophisticated new understanding of the role of political Islam in one of the world’s most strategically important countries.
Tamimi introduces the thought of Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, the renowned Islamist political activist who heads Tunisia’s most important–albeit banned–Islamist political opposition to the current authoritarian regime of Zine Abidine Ben Ali. Ghannouchi is the leader of a school in modern Islamic political thought that advocates democracy and pluralism.While insisting on the compatibility of democracy with Islam, he believes that because of their secular foundations, contemporary forms of liberal democracy may not suit Muslim societies. Ghannouchi insists, however, that Islam is compatible with Western thought in matters concerning the system of government, human rights, and civil liberties.
Before 9/11, few Westerners had heard of Wahhabism. Today, it is a household word. Frequently mentioned in association with Osama bin Laden, Wahhabism is portrayed by the media and public officials as an intolerant, puritanical, militant interpretation of Islam that calls for the wholesale destruction of the West in a jihad of global proportions.In the first study ever undertaken of the writings of Wahhabism’s founder, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1702-1791), Natana DeLong-Bas shatters these stereotypes and misconceptions. Her reading of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s works produces a revisionist thesis: Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was not the godfather of contemporary terrorist movements. Rather, he was a voice of reform, reflecting mainstream 18th-century Islamic thought. His vision of Islamic society was based upon a monotheism in which Muslims, Christians and Jews were to enjoy peaceful co-existence and cooperative commercial and treaty relations. Eschewing medieval interpretations of the Quran and hadith (sayings and deeds of the prophet Muhammad), Ibn Abd al-Wahhab called for direct, historically contextualized interpretation of scripture by both women and men. His understanding of theology and Islamic law was rooted in Quranic values, rather than literal interpretations.A strong proponent of women’s rights, he called for a balance of rights between women and men both within marriage and in access to education and public space. In the most comprehensive study of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s interpretation of jihad ever written, DeLong-Bas details a vision in which jihad is strictly limited to the self-defense of the Muslim community against military aggression. Contemporary extremists like Osama bin Laden do not have their origins in Wahhabism, she shows. The hallmark jihadi focus on a cult of martyrdom, the strict division of the world into two necessarily opposing spheres, the wholescale destruction of both civilian life and property, and the call for global jihad are entirely absent from Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s writings. Instead, the militant stance of contemporary jihadism lies in adherence to the writings of the medieval scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, and the 20th century Egyptian radical, Sayyid Qutb. This pathbreaking book fills an enormous gap in the literature about Wahhabism by returning to the original writings of its founder. Bound to be controversial, it will be impossible to ignore.