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Fethullah Gülen: Kemalist and Islamic Republicanism and the Turkish Democratic Future

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Proceedings Cover: Muslim World in Transition - Contributions of the Gulen Movement Abstract

To put it bluntly, the claim that liberal democracy is a universal concept is false. Its prerequisites of individualism, equality, secularism, pluralism etc. have a minority status in the world. On the other hand, what can be termed Islamic conservatism does apply to Islamic societies: 1) the past incorporates within it the revelations of God as expressed in the Qur’an as the spiritual centre of gravity; 2) community and family take precedence over the individual and 3) the goal of society is the enjoining of that which is good and the prohibition of that which is evil. Islamic conservatism can also be analytically attached to republicanism as an alternative to democracy. Referred to here is the republicanism of ancient Rome which argues for (a) the limitation of the powers of a strong and benevolent and moral state, (b) an elite pledged to serve the public good (maslahah), (c) a citizenry also pledged to serve society, and (d) an embedded law respected and upheld by all.

Kemalism in contemporary Turkey represents the principles of republicanism as formulated in the famous ‘Six Arrows’, which centred more on the need for a strong centralised state than on the obligations of the state to its citizens. If measured against the four criteria of the ancient Roman republican ideal, the Turkish state clearly falls far short. By contrast, this paper argues, the Gülen movement does, rather remarkably, meet those high standards. As a consequence, there are present in Turkey today, two interacting modes of republicanism that are increasingly beginning to overlap with and resemble one another.

For the full paper, please click here.

Conference Details
Title: International Conference: Muslim World in Transition - Contributions of the Gulen Movement
City, Country: London, United Kingdom
Dates: 25-27 October 2007
House of Lords, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London School of Economics (LSE)


  • University of Birmingham
  • Dialogue Society
  • Irish School of Ecumenics
  • Leeds Metropolitan University
  • London Middle East Institute
  • Middle East Institute
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London

Editorial Board

  • Prof Henri Barkey
  • Prof Thomas Michel
  • Prof Simon Robinson
  • Prof Paul Weller
  • Prof Tim Winter
  • Prof Zeki Saritoprak
  • Dr Alan Godlas
  • Dr Asaf Hussain
  • Dr Johnston McMaster
  • Dr David Thomas
  • Dr Colin Turner
  • Dr Ian Williams
  • Dr Ihsan Yilmaz