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Associate Dean of Faculty, Research and Postgraduate, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation, London Metropolitan University, Calcutta House, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT. Jeffrey Haynes is recognised as an international authority in five separate areas; religion and international relations, religion and politics, democracy and democratisation, development studies and comparative politics and globalisation. He has written many books, journal articles and book chapters, totalling around 160 such publications since 1986. They include a 17,000-word discussion paper for the Geneva-based United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, ‘Religion, Fundamentalism and Identity: A Global Perspective’ (1995) and a 15,000-word study for the Commonwealth Secretariat, ‘Political Transformation in the Commonwealth’ (2009). Between 1993 and 2012, Jeff Haynes produced 30 books (14 single authored, 1 co-authored, 12 edited and 2 co-edited).

Jeffrey Haynes’s abilities and expertise as an academic and research leader are also manifested by his experience in forming and developing research networks and communities. He has regularly organised and directed international academic events over the last 15 years. These include major workshops and conference sections variously focused on religion, democracy and politics for the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) at Bordeaux (1995), Mannheim (1995), Canterbury (2001), Marburg (2003), Budapest (2005), Turin (2007) and Potsdam (2009). He also organised a Panel, ‘Religion and International Relations’ at the 20th International Political Science Association World Congress in Fukuoka, Japan, in July 2006.

Professor Haynes is convenor of the ECPR’s Religion and Politics Standing Group, with over 200 active members, editor of its newsletter (published three times a year), vice-chair of the International Political Science Association’s Research Centre, ‘Religion and Politics’ and co-editor of its newsletter, and co-editor of the journal, Democratization, published six times a year by Taylor and Francis.

Taken from

Professor Haynes on Religion, Democracy and Civil Liberties

Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor Haynes, thank you for accepting our interview proposal. You are recognized as an international expert on democratization and relationship between religion and politics. How do you see Turkey’s story of modernization starting from the late Ottoman period and especially the Kemalist revolution in the 1920s, which introduced broad range of secular reforms?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: The Republic of Turkey connects Europe and Asia, bridging a divide between (mainly) Muslim Asia and (mainly) Christian Europe. Sharing a border with several Muslim-majority countries -including, Iraq, Iran, and Syria- Turkey is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an entity long dominated by the United States and other Western countries. While the Muslim population of Turkey amounts to 99 per cent of the country’s inhabitants, government rejected Islamic rule in 1923 in favour of a categorically secular regime. Now, however, Turkey’s current government -led by a party with roots in political Islam, the AKP- finds itself caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, Western governments are, to varying yet significant degrees, suspicious of political Islam in office, a concern of course highlighted in recent years following 9/11 and the subsequent ‘war on terror’. On the other hand, Turkey has an increasingly vocal constituency that dislikes the country’s growing closeness to the West. This is characterised by the continuing bid to join the EU, NATO membership, and closer ties to both the USA and Israel. It is sometimes asserted that a conservative Islamism lies at the heart of this anti-Western stance, implying profound ‘civilizational’ differences between Turkey and a ‘normal’ European country. It is certainly true that, despite decades of often aggressive secularisation, Islam still retains a strong social (and to a degree, political) position in Turkey. Indeed, it is a sense of profound adhesion to Islam which provides core electoral foundations for the AKP. Since the election of the AKP government to power in 2002, two questions have contoured political considerations in Turkey. First, how should the AKP proceed in office? Should it defer to the demands of many of its supporters and reintroduce aspects of Islam into public life? Or, second, should the AKP retain the secular path which has not only dominated the country’s development for over 80 years but has also brought Turkey within sight of EU membership?

Turkey’s secularist orientations were originally laid down in the 1920s by the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938). Over the next eight decades, Turkey’s political circumstances reflected two key aspects of elite preference for secularism, focused in: (1) a strongly secularising and centralising state, and (2) political domination by the armed forces. Although Turkey first democratised in 1950, the next 60 years saw frequent, often dramatic, political intrusions by the military.[1]

Transition from military rule in 1983 exemplified the degree to which outgoing military regimes in Turkey consistently set the terms of their departure from power. Post-1983 constitutional amendments eradicated some legacies of military rule, including the ban on political activity by former politicians and on cooperation between political parties and civil society organisations, including trade unions and professional organisations. In addition, other constitutional exit guarantees, such as the president’s power to block constitutional amendments, automatically expired in 1989. On the other hand, the progress of civilianisation -and hence democratic consolidation after 1983- arguably had less to do with formal constitutional change than with informal practice and adaptation. The point is that, despite Turkey’s current status as a ‘partly free’ country in Freedom House terminology, implying that the political system is characterised by a fair degree of democracy, the military retains high political salience in Turkey, which may put in doubt the country’s long-term democratic consolidation. In sum, the long term structural effect on politics of aggressive secularisation and military significance has significantly influenced the country’s political culture and made it difficult to develop an emphatically democratic regime.

The roots of the military’s political involvement in contemporary Turkey can be traced back to before the founding of the modern state of Turkey in 1923, to the time of the Ottoman Empire (1302-1922). Since Turkey’s founding, there has been nearly a century of often aggressive modernisation and secularisation, initially dominated by the leadership of a military hero, Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ (‘Father of the Turks’). For 15 years, until his death in 1938, Atatürk aggressively imposed western-style civil law in Turkey. The new republic also inherited from the Ottoman empire a strong, centralised and highly bureaucratic state which Atatürk proceeded to mould to his own vision. Believing that Turkey’s indigenous traditions -including, most importantly, Islam- were unequivocal expressions of backwardness, Atatürk believed that national progress would come by emulating, absorbing and reproducing ‘European’ cultural values and political institutions. This dual ideological perspective was henceforward promulgated in state policies and programmes, defended not only by the politically powerful armed forces but also by an array of increasingly entrenched civilian secular interests.

The armed forces long enjoyed almost total control over their own processes of recruitment, training and promotion, resulting in the creation of a specific military culture facilitating the development of a specific role within Turkish society: the ‘hypersecular’ defender of Atatürk’s revolution. The armed forces’ institutional autonomy made it impossible to manipulate the military for political purposes from outside its ranks. In recent years it demonstrated a profound ability to maintain its cohesion and organisational integrity -a period when Turkish society itself became increasingly fragmented into competing classes, ethnic entities, religious groupings, and ideological factions. The military’s political clout was demonstrated by the fact that the armed forces could -and did- close down political parties which it believed to be ‘extremist’ – that is, either too religiously oriented, too ideologically radical, or too separatist in orientation, for example, those connected to Kurdish demands for autonomy or independence. In addition, the military top brass periodically purged the officer corps with the aim of to rooting out those suspected of sympathising with Islamist groups or Kurdish rebels.

In addition national leaders, supported by the military, have long shown little concern for the wishes of the national legislature[2], which has resulted in a lack of horizontal accountability between the leader and the legislature. Consequently, civilian political leaders have on occasion sought to make policy by decree – following discussions with senior military figures. In sum, Turkey’s political culture and the legitimacy of successive regimes has been strongly moulded by the heavily politicised armed forces. In recent years, under AKP rule, Turkey’s democratic credentials have developed and recent years have seen the country enter the ranks of consolidated democracies.


Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor Haynes, how would you define religious fundamentalism? Do you think Islamic fundamentalism poses an exceptional case compared to other religious fundamentalisms? If yes, in what sense?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: A defining character of religious fundamentalism is that it is always socially but not necessarily politically conservative. For example, some Islamic fundamentalist (or, as I prefer, Islamist) groups seek an overthrow of the current socio-economic and political order by the use of various means, including: violence or terrorism, incremental reform of existing political regimes or by winning elections through the mobilisation of a political party. Islamists, like their Jewish and Christian counterparts, take as their defining dogma what are believed to be God’s words written in their holy book, the Quran. In other words, singular scriptural revelations are central to Islamist dogma.

Modern Islamism dates from the 1920-1940 period. This was a time when growing numbers of countries in the Middle East were demanding – and in some cases receiving – political freedom from colonial rule. The main point of contention was how far these predominantly Muslim countries should employ the tenets of sharia law in their legal systems. This example of a desire to Islamicise polities had its precedents in the Muslim world in anti-imperialist and anti-pagan movements (jihads) which periodically erupted from the late nineteenth century, especially in parts of West Africa and East Asia. These were regions where the conflict between tradition and modernisation, and between Islam and Christianity, was often acute. Going even further back, to the beginning of Islam nearly 1,400 years ago, Islamist critics of the status quo have periodically emerged in opposition to what they perceive as unjust rule. Contemporary Islamists are the most recent example of such a phenomenon. They characterise themselves as the ‘just’ involved in a ‘holy war’ against the ‘unjust‘. The dichotomy between ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ in the promotion of social change throughout Islamic history parallels the tension in the West between ‘state’ and ‘civil society’. In other words, ‘just’ and ‘unjust’, like ‘state’ and ‘civil society’, are mutually exclusive concepts where a strengthening of one necessarily implies a weakening of the other. The implication is that the ‘unjust’ inhabit the state while the ‘just’ look in from the outside, aching to reform the corrupt political system. The Islamic ‘just’ strive to achieve their goal of a form of direct democracy under the auspices of sharia law. The ruler uses his wisdom to settle disputes brought before him by his loyal subjects. The Islamic concept of shura (consultation) does not by any means necessarily imply popular sovereignty, that is with God alone; rather it is a means of obtaining unanimity from the community of believers, which allows for no legitimate minority position. The goal of the ‘just’ is an ‘Islam-based’ society; at the current time in many Muslim countries, Islamist groups are the vehicle to achieve this end. To some Muslims, liberal democracy is fatally flawed and compromised, a concept of relevance only to secular, western(ised) societies which often appear to many Muslims unacceptably morally deficient.

The global Muslim community, the umma, is a good example of a transnational civil society (the Roman Catholic Church is another), which contains the seeds of both domination and dissent. Shared religious beliefs, as well as cultural, sentimental and identity concerns, link Muslims regardless of which country they happen to reside in. Partly for this reason, that is , a shared religious/cultural solidarity based on a shared Muslim identity, it is unsurprising that international manifestations of Islamism appeared after the humbling defeat of Arab Muslims by Israeli Jews in the Six-day War (June 1967). Since then a combination of poor government, growing unemployment and generalised social crisis together have produced Islamist movements throughout the Muslim world which, in most if not all cases, has led to pronounced conflict  with secular and/or illegitimate governments who refuse to rule according to perceived Islamic tenets of appropriateness. Rulers’ poor rule has in many cases in the Middle East been facilitated by the fact that in most regional countries, government leaders have generally been content to receive ‘rents’ accrued from the state’s control of the sale of oil on the international market. Little has been done to develop more representative polities, plan successfully for the future, or seek means to reduce un- and underemployment. In short, there has been a skewed modernisation, with urbanisation and the development of strong, centralised states proceeded while many people became increasingly dissatisfied with the way that their rulers rule.  This environment has stimulated the growth of Islamism and in the absence of acceptably democratic mechanisms for political change, the usual relationship is one of sustained conflict.

For many Muslims, poverty and a declining faith in the development abilities of their governments, has led to their being receptive to Islamist arguments. Poverty and a feeling of hopelessness may be exacerbated by a withering of community ties as people move from the countryside to the town in a search for paid employment. And when traditional communal and familial ties are seriously stretched or sundered, religion may replace or surmount them. On the other hand, it is clear that this is not the whole story. A notorious incident directed by Islamists – the September 11, 2001, attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York, with the loss of nearly 3,000 lives – was apparently ordered by the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. This makes a mockery of the simplistic claim that all Islamists are poor because both the 19 hijackers themselves, as well as bin Laden himself, come from highly privileged backgrounds. Thus to seek to explain their turning to ‘fundamentalism’ clearly requires a different explanation to poverty. In their case, it is hatred of the United States which supplies the motive for their actions.


Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor Haynes, how do you perceive the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: The AKP under Prime Minister Erdoğan controls parliament single-handedly. The party controls Turkey’s executive branch of government, and has a strong ally in the person of the president, Abdullah Gül, a founding member of the AKP. This is the first time that the presidency has been occupied by a non-secularist. Among the remaining institutions still beyond the AKP’s control, both academia and the judiciary are still packed with secular appointees of former presidents. However, this situation will not last indefinitely. As time goes by, attrition will mean that replacements will be required. The job of choosing them will fall to President Abdullah Gül, although his status as head of state now makes him officially apolitical.

Conservative practices now apply in several AKP-led municipalities, including in Istanbul an alleged alcohol ban in some parts of the city and violence against shopkeepers selling it, which made headlines in newspapers in Turkey in 2008. Is this the beginning of the end of secularism in Turkey? Will it encourage the military to act again to throw the popularly elected AKP from power? If so, what would this mean for the country’s EU membership bid?

After years of democratisation, Turkey is at something of a political impasse. On the one hand, it seems very unlikely that military rule will return to Turkey in the present circumstances, despite the military’s known dislike of AKP rule. Military rule would neither please most Turks nor find favour with the EU; for these reasons, in the present circumstances armed forces rule seems highly unlikely. Indeed, recent opinion surveys and scholarly opinion agree that there is a strong commitment to democracy at both elite and mass levels.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor you also wrote previously on transnational religious soft power. Looking from this perspective, how do you assess Gülen movement in Turkey and Turkey’s increasing soft-power in its geography?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: These are two separate issues. The Gülen movement is controversial in Turkey because of its perceived closeness to the ruling government. I do not have an opinion on that issue. Regarding Turkey’s soft power it is especially important as a role model for Arab countries involved with the Arab Spring events. In both Tunisia and Morocco, for example, important political parties point to Turkey’s experience in democratising as a role model, and it is this which gives Turkey soft power among such countries.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor Haynes, what do you think about Turkey’s accession to European Union?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: The weight of public opinion in Europe is not clearly in favour of Turkish accession to the EU. Turkey is still keen, as are some European governments. But I do not see it happening in the short- or medium-term.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor Haynes, could you give us the names of some Turkish scholars, authors or journalists that you follow closely?

Prof. Jeffrey Haynes: I like the writings of Orhan Pamuk very much.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci: Professor, thank you for sharing your views with us and good luck in your studies.



Date: 01.04.2013

[1] Turkey has had four military coups, in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. The most recent was described as a ‘soft coup’, when the generals edged from power a government they considered Islamist, by using both public and behind-the-scenes pressure rather than taking their forces to the streets.

[2] The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Büyük Millet MeclisiTBMM), usually referred to simply as Meclis – ‘the Parliament’).

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