THE ROLE OF THE RELIGION FOR THE FORMATION OF TURKISH NATIONAL IDENTIY

Abstract

Author(s): Cemal ZEL

This study discusses the role of religion in the formation of Turkish national identity. In this regard, first, a theoretical discussion of identity-national identity is presented. This is followed by a discussion of the role of religion in the formation of national identity in light of the macro level historical changes of the Turkish political history. The findings suggest that neither religion nor national identity has been independent from politics throughout Turkish political history. The strong relationship between religion and politics can be also seen between national identity and religion. As the political power increases, both the desire and possibility to shape the national identity increases, and this begets the risk of ignoring other identities. Secularization of national identity does not necessarily mean secularization of society. Nor its religionization means that society’s becoming more religion. And, the role religion plays in shaping the national identity has changed depending on the relationship between politics and religion. In fact, the role of religion for the national identity today is quite different compared to the its role and visibility in 1930s. Another finding of this study is that, the relationship between religion and national identity as well as religion and politics cannot be understood without paying close attention to the idea, the perceptions and practices of modernity. Modernity has become the key determinant in shaping of the Turkish politics, thereby of the Turkish national identity. Modernization, secularization and westernization have been mostly used interchangeably in Turkish political history. And thus, the relationship between religion and national identity should be studied in this context.

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