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Negotiating Difference in a Muslim Society: A Longitudinal Study of Islamic and Secular Discourses in Turkey

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This article explores the changes in attitudes among Islamic and secular groups in Turkey through an analysis of their discourses regarding Islam, democracy, secularism, and dialogue. We present the findings of a longitudinal study (Q study) conducted in Turkey in 2002 and 2007. The time period under investigation marks the first uninterrupted five‐year‐long term of an Islamic‐leaning government, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP, Justice and Development Party), in office since the inception of the Turkish Republic in 1923. We suggest that the continuous electoral success of the AKP has played an important role in shaping Islamic and secular discourses in the Turkish public sphere. In contrast with its predecessor, the AKP has employed a rights‐based paradigm when defining the place of Islam in a secular society. This, we suggest, has softened the divide between Islamic and secular discourses in Turkey. In this article, after defining the core characteristics of both discourses that remained the same in both 2002 and 2007, we focus on the major shifts in discourses that have occurred during these five years. Our research reveals that during this time, both Islamic and secular discourses underwent important shifts with respect to Islam's place in a democratic society. We interpret the AKP's discursive shift toward a rights‐based paradigm and the increasing emphasis on dialogue in both Islamist and secular discourses as promising signs for expanding the scope for democratic polity in Turkey.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Australian National University

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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