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Historical survey

The islamisation of the Turkish-speaking and the conversion of the natives

Between the 9th and the 11th Century, the Turkish-speaking tribes from Central Asia settled in numbers, first, in the Caucasus Mountains and later in the Persian area and finally in Asia Minor. (...)

Between the 9th and the 11th Century, the Turkish-speaking tribes from Central Asia settled in numbers, first, in the Caucasus Mountains and later in the Persian area and finally in Asia Minor. During this period, these tribes progressively converted into Islam.
Heterodox movements coexisting with the classical Sunnite culture and local popular religions in a Christian environment penetrated the Anatolian Seldjoukid State between the 11th and the 13th Century. This Anatolian Islam, living in close coexistence with other religions, especially the Christian Orthodoxes and imprinted with pre-Islamic Turkish beliefs, is characterised by brotherhoods and Sufism.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

The Ottoman Empire

During the Ottoman Empire (15th-20th Century), the official Islam adopted a dogmatic and regressive attitude. This was mostly due to the establishment of a class of ulemas who were at the service (...)

During the Ottoman Empire (15th-20th Century), the official Islam adopted a dogmatic and regressive attitude. This was mostly due to the establishment of a class of ulemas who were at the service of the Sultan, from then on called Caliph (1512). The ottoman power given to the Orthodox Islam started persecuting the other heterodox religions such as Alevism and its brotherhood expression called Becktachism since the 16th Century.
Even though the Ottoman Empire was theocratic, it however, managed to establish an original system of religious coexistence called millets. These are ethno-religious groups with their individual religious hierarchy. The millets system evolved over time to take, in the 19th Century, both a national and religious nature. It gave rise to the use of religion in the formation of the nation, especially in the Balkans.

During this period of the formation of the nation, the Turkish Muslims living in Asia Minor slowly began to affirm itself, through a double process: firstly, with the arrival, throughout the 19th Century, of Muslims coming from the Balkans and the Caucasus to settle in Anatolia, as these regions were gaining independence with time and secondly, they chased out non-Muslim populations from Anatolia. This eviction was on the one hand, exile and genocide of the Armenians who were accused of betraying the "sublime door" by forming allies with Russia in the World War I; on the other hand, the mandatory exchange of people between Greece and Turkey in 1923, which led to the expulsion of the Anatolian Orthodox population. The continental Greece and the Aegean Islands were at the same time stripped of their Muslim population (see the Treaty of Lausanne under the heading Legal status – main texts).

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

The Turkish Republic

The foundation of the Turkish Republic and its recognition by the international community in 1923 were followed by a period of coercive westernisation during which the proponents of the theory of (...)

The foundation of the Turkish Republic and its recognition by the international community in 1923 were followed by a period of coercive westernisation during which the proponents of the theory of Mustafa Kemal held an anti-religious position. Religion was considered to be the reason why the Ottoman Empire was primitive. In this regard, numerous spectacular measures were taken in order to reduce the weight of religion in people’s lives, for example, the abolition of the caliphate and the nationalisation of education in 1924, banning of brotherhoods in 1925 and finally, the integration of the principle of secularism in the constitution in 1927. However, in the same time, religion was still considered to have a dangerous influence in the society and as a result, the State was set to control Muslim religious practices through the establishment of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in 1924.

Thus, the concept of secularism of the Turkish Republic was combined with the State interference in religious practices and mostly in religious messages. On the other hand, this policy of public orientation was only applied on the Sunnite Muslims. The largest religious minorities in the country, the heterodox Alevis, are at the heart of a polemic since 1990 (see current debates). The bone of contention revolves around the possibility of providing the services offered by the Directorate of the Religious Affairs to the Alevis and mostly around mandatory religious courses in public schools.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

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