Political implications of ‘Civilization’ Discourse in Islamism: Anti-modernism or Anti-westernism?

By Necmettin Dogan
Submitted to Session P4820 ("The Political" in Political Islam: Conflict, consensus, or something else?, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Turkey;
Islamic Thought;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper aims at identifying the political implications of Islamic civilization discourse in Turkey, and comparing it with the modernity and democracy critiques in 1920s Germany.
The discourse on a unique Islamic civilization to be rediscovered and reestablished in the near future has been very popular among Turkish conservative and Islamist circles in the last decades. One the hand, the leaders of the governing Justice and Development Party have instrumentalized this discourse against Turkish secular circles in order to get the votes of the conservatives. On the other hand, many academics, journalists, architects, and Islamic communities have made an effort to produce concrete outputs of this discourse by publishing books and articles on Islamic civilization, republishing old Islamic-Ottoman manuscripts, reconstructing historical buildings, emulating old Islamic-Ottoman monuments and arts, and establishing schools taking the examples of old Islamic Madrassas, and so on. Based on these practical outcomes of the discourse, it can be easily alleged that Islamic and conservative circles have taken this ‘civilization’ discourse quiet seriously.
Whether the Islamic civilization discourse has produced the intended outcomes is not the topic of this paper. Rather it aims at discussing the political attitudes of civilization discourse to modernity, democracy, capitalism, and technology. Considering political, institutional and popular support of the ‘civilization’ discourse recently in Turkey, identifying and analyzing its political implications and consequences would be a significant contribution not only to the literature on the political attitude of Islamism in Turkey but also to the literature on the relationship between Islam and the West. After identifying the political implications of Islamic civilization discourse, this paper will compare the critiques of the West and modernity embedded in the Islamic civilization discourse with the critiques of modernity and technology in Germany in 1920s. Interestingly both of the discourses have imagined an autarchic culture that was invaded by the enemy cultures. Also both of them wanted to surpass this ‘decadence’ by criticizing modernity and democracy, and calling for a return to the original roots.