Law that cites justice is the pillar of the heaven; if the law goes corrupt, heavens crumble; principality can survive with law; law is like water; tyranny destroys everything like fire. You streamed pure water and put out the fire. (Author’s translation.)
—KUTATGU BILIG (as cited in Arat, Yusuf Has Hacip)
“To put everything in its proper place” is the most common definition of justice that a reader would encounter in the pages of Turkish Islamist journals since the 1960s. As simple as this definition is, a closer analysis of Islamist journals’ archives reveals highly complex and multifaceted conceptualizations of this notion. For Turkish Islamists, justice refers to many things at once, including but not limited to fairness, charity, rights, rebellion against an oppressor, anti-imperialism, social order, retribution, equality, and the rule of law. This chapter attempts to place order onto this complex semantic field. The analysis of Islamist writings in Turkey provides significant insights into Turkish Islamism, conceptions of justice, and political preferences.
Justice discourses have been instrumental in political struggles throughout Islamic history as far back as the prophetic community, the medieval period, and, more prominently, during the colonial and independence periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This chapter builds on the theoretical framework proposed in previous chapters for examining the evolution of justice discourses among the Turkish Islamists since the 1960s. Through close readings of 396 articles published in forty-three Islamist journals, it examines the meaning and political instrumentation of Islamic conceptions of justice against the background of significant sociopolitical developments in Turkey. The discourse analysis of Turkish Islamist texts corroborates the implications of the explanatory framework developed in this book. As has been the norm throughout different historical episodes and contexts, the debates about justice took place in very dynamic discursive fields within the Turkish context. These discursive fields are powerfully shaped by Turkish Islamism’s reference frames and the significant sociopolitical events unfolding in the Turkish society in the Cold War and the neoliberal age. Two critical themes that shaped Islamist justice discourses are social order (nizam, or kamu düzeni) in the 1960–1980 period and resistance against economic globalization and American hegemony in the post-1980 period. While both of these themes are closely related to the lineages of social and political justice trajectories, their contemporary incarnations in the Turkish Islamist writings take entirely unexpected turns.
This chapter presents a brief description of the discourse analytic method and the suitability of Turkey as a case for the analysis of justice discourses. It then provides a general overview of Turkish Islamism, especially highlighting competing visions informed by the native and external Islamist ideologies. The chapter continues with discourse analysis of the texts published in the Islamist journals during the 1960–1980 and 1980–2010 periods. The conclusion discusses the implications of the analysis for understanding Islamic conceptions of justice and political preferences.
Explaining Islamic Conceptions of Justice through Discourse Analysis
This chapter uses discourse analysis to examine the development of the Islamic conception of justice in Turkey. The discourse analytic method is chosen over content analysis because it is more suitable for examining the Islamist texts within the social and political context. Discourse analysis does not treat the text as an objective body of information subject to quantification. Instead, it makes possible the social scientific analysis of meaning by using a systematic approach and considering the interaction of the text and social reality.1 As such, discourse analysis focuses on the interaction between the text and the context and, subsequently, provides the necessary tools for observing the change in the discourse.2
The concept of discourse is used in the Foucauldian sense to signify the primary tool for creating knowledge and frames of action within the discursive fields. As stated by Weedon,3 discourse refers to the “ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity, and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them.” Discourses help us trace the “genealogy” or “archaeology” of knowledge production.4 As places of meaning-construction operating within the power structures and generating power itself, discourse can attach itself to knowledge production that can create domination or resistance strategies.5
As discussed in the previous chapters, justice discourses provided the main cognitive frames in the intraelite struggles and the political interactions between the rulers and the masses throughout Islamic history. The analysis up to this point has shown how justice discourses shaped the meaning systems and constructed alternative truth claims among the opposition groups during different episodes of Islamic history. Some examples include the first civil war during the early period of Islam, struggles between the ethically minded pious leaders and the Umayyad rulers,6 the opposition of ulema to the sultans in the name of protecting the welfare of the masses in the age of the decline of the Islamic Empire and the Mongol invasion,7 the constitutional rebellions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries against domestic and colonial injustices,8 and contemporary Islamism presenting Islam as the third way against capitalism and socialism.9 This chapter adds to this book’s central theme by tracing the evolution of justice discourses in Turkish Islamism.
From a discourse analytic perspective, the evolution of Turkish Islamism is replete with multiple variations in the interaction of texts and social reality. Since justice is one of the central concepts of Islamic political thought, it allows for studying the different moments of the construction of Islamist ideology under changing sociopolitical conditions. Turkish Islamism’s origins go back to the nineteenth-century Ottoman intellectual tradition, the main goal of which was to save the state from collapsing.10 However, during the republic period (1923–1930), the secular-authoritarian regime’s restrictive religious policies severed Turkish Islamists’ ties to their origins and the global Islamist movements. In effect, one can argue that Turkish Islamism entered a dormant period, until the 1950s, to awaken in the multiparty democracy era, post-1950. Various Islamist movements and organizations flourished in a context characterized by the activism and militancy of youth groups in the 1970s and 1980s. During the 1980–2010 period, among other sociopolitical developments, the alliance between the devout bourgeoisie and the Islamist/conservative political parties11 resulted in the taming and incorporation of Turkish Islamism’s political wing into the neoliberal economic order.12
In contrast to our knowledge about the sociopolitical context of the Turkish political Islamism, we know very little about how Turkish Islamists constructed ideology in their texts. The bulk of scholarly attention has focused on institutions and strategic behaviors of Islamist actors while paying little attention to knowledge production dynamics. For example, Turkish Islamist parties use justice or a related concept like welfare or prosperity in their names and make ample references to the notion of justice in their manifestos.13 However, research has not looked into what Islamists mean by “justice” when they say “justice.” The discourse analysis conducted in this chapter aims to address this shortcoming. It looks into how Islamist actors use the concept of justice in their texts to present Islam as a solution for all problems in Turkey and the world.14
Finally, discourse analysis of Islamist writings has the added advantage of compensating for the lack of historical survey data that could have given us a glimpse of public opinion about Islam, justice, and democracy in the past. Islamist journals have functioned like schools through which less sophisticated readers were educated about Islamist ideology since the nineteenth century. The articles in Islamist journals are mostly written with a nonacademic language to appeal to the common readers to increase membership. It can be reasonably assumed that the content of these texts provides a reliable proxy for gauging public opinion about such issues as justice and democracy compared to the scholarly works of prominent Islamist intellectuals.
The Sociopolitical Context
In contrast to the relatively vibrant Islamist intellectual field in the Middle East and South Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, Turkish Islamism had entered a dormant period until the Cold War era. Such inertia is a result of the Kemalist project’s secular authoritarian policies, aiming to create a Western-style nation at the expense of eliminating all manifestations of religion from the public sphere.15 These policies resulted in the abolishment of the caliphate and establishment of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the closure of religious schools, the formation of a secular educational system, the banning of the Sufi orders, the prohibition of traditional attire, the adoption of a Western civil code, and the replacement of the Arabic alphabet with the Latin alphabet. In 1928, the constitution of the young Turkish Republic was amended to remove the phrases about state religion and, in 1937, to make laïcité a constitutional principle. In this context, some of the most prominent Islamists, including Mehmed Akif, Elmalılı Hamdi, and Said Nursi, were exiled (or went into self-exile) or prosecuted. İsmail Kara defines this period as the most challenging years of the Islamist movement in Turkey to the extent that “the publications of [Islamists] are shut down, they were barred from publishing books . . . their professions were discredited, their ideas were banned, religious education was minimized at every stage, the [government’s] attempts to intervene and deform the religious sphere had increased, and the [Islamist] cadre was dispersed, disappeared, or went into hiding.”16
While religious opposition primarily used grassroots activism focusing on educational activities, Islamists started to maintain a low profile and retreated to the intellectual field to preserve Islamic identity by infusing it into the nationalist ideology as an alternative to the Kemalist secular nationalism. Islamism was one of the three ideologies that fueled the intellectual energy toward the salvation of the Ottoman state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with the other two being Ottomanism and Turkism.17 While Islamists like Mehmed Akif first promoted a pan-Islamist ideology based on a rational, modern interpretation of Islam, this ideology was compatible with Turkish nationalism, primarily infusing an Islamic element into the Turkish national identity.18 After 1913 and during the early republic period, Islamists like Mehmed Akif openly advocated the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. Although a secular nationalist identity came to dominate the political scene during the early years of the republic, Yavuz argues that this represents an exception in the history of Turkish identity rather than a norm.19 In a way, Turkish Islamism remained dormant during the 1923–1950 period to only resurface as an element of religious-nationalist identity after the 1960s.
A similar retreat was also visible in the public presence of Islam. There were attempts to reinvigorate religion in the civil sphere and bring back the Islamist publishing tradition during the transition to democracy (1945–1950) and the multiparty era (1950–1960). The Democratic Party came to power in 1950 and appealed to the traditional religious groups, most prominently to various Nakshibendi/Nurcu groups who found ample opportunities to expand their educational, religious, and charity activities.20 Islamism, however, came to prominence only in the 1960s. The primary stimulus behind this “reemergence” is the democratic effect of the 1961 constitution that had increased civil and political liberties. One result of this liberal constitution, the civil and militant activism of the 1960s and 1970s, eventually led the Turkish society into conditions approaching total social anarchy. Youth militancy and urban violence pitting the nationalist and leftist groups against each other are the defining characteristics of this period.
Against this background, Islamist movements resurfaced through the activism of publishing houses and civil organizations representing a “third way” against the nationalist and leftist ideologies. Islamist groups did not participate in the youth militancy and urban violence until the late 1970s. They focused their intellectual energy mostly on the development of Islamist ideology, separated from its roots for so long, and remained isolated from the influence of global Islamism during the dormant period. After the translation of Sayyid Qutb’s works to Turkish, some intellectuals rejected his ideas in favor of native ideologies that fused Islam and nationalism. The most prominent figures of this era are Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, Nurettin Topçu, and Sezai Karakoç. All three aimed to develop nativist ideologies infusing Islam with the Turkish national identity.21 These intellectuals had further developed the foundations of nationalist-religious (milliyetçi-mukaddesatçı) identity, providing the intellectual background for various nationalist and Islamist political parties.
Among these pioneers, Kısakürek held strong anticommunist views, which became prevalent among most Turkish Islamist groups.22 This position resulted in the co-optation of certain Islamist and nationalist groups as regime elements to counter the challenge of communist ideologies, as seen in Egypt and Indonesia. Some organizations that opted out or unique figures who remained independent from the state are exceptions to such co-optation. Nurettin Topçu, who promoted native Islamic socialism and youth activism (hareket felsefesi) as a solution to underdevelopment in Turkey, and Sezai Karakoç, whose Islamist view involved a grand civilizational argument, are notable examples of such independence.
Developing native ideologies (yerli ve milli) fusing Islam and Turkish nationalism or utilizing civilizational discourses were not the only preoccupation of Islamists in the 1960s. More significant for the Islamists was the so-called “degeneration” of the youth falling under the spell of Western ideologies and culture. Islamists blamed the Republican policies for moral decay and strongly criticized the imposition of Western culture onto society. To counter this challenge, Islamists tirelessly worked on refining the nativist ideologies visiting the pre–republic era and reconstructing the images of the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires.23
Turkish Islamism’s search for identity resulted from the crisis of Turkish modernization, visibly observed in urban sites. As mass migration to urban centers in the 1960s brought about a tension between traditional and modern forms of cultural belonging, religious ideologies were employed to facilitate the integration of the rural masses into modern urban lifestyles.24 Rapid rural migration and urbanization remained at the top of the policy agenda from the 1970s to the 1980s. Militant organizations found fertile ground for recruiting in the mushrooming shantytowns (gecekondu mahalleleri). However, religious inhabitants of these towns turned to traditional and modern Islamist groups searching for a new identity that included both nationalist and religious elements.25 The view that the state is an instrument for protecting religion and establishing order (kanun ve düzen) and Islamic national identity were central elements of the Islamist outlook that resonated among the devout urbanites.
Toward the end of the 1970s, Turkish Islamism started to change course through new translations and interpretations of the major works by the scholars of Middle East and South Asia such as Mawdudi, Qutb, and Shariati. The Iranian Revolution has also significantly contributed to the new direction of Turkish Islamism that increasingly expanded its sphere of influence in the 1980s and 1990s. As Turkish Islamists started to demarcate the boundaries of the Islamist ideology from the outlooks of traditional Sufi groups and religious-nationalist tradition, the social anarchy conditions resulted in the military coup of 1980. Like many groups, the newly budding Islamist actors, but not necessarily all Islamic groups, had also taken their share of repression and prosecution. Equipped with the intellectual ammunition obtained from Ottoman Islamism, global Islamist ideologies, and the foundations built in the 1960s, Turkish Islamists’ separation from the traditional Sufi orders and conservative-nationalist groups gained pace in the 1980s. Turkey’s transition to the free market system and its integration into the neoliberal economic order were additional parameters of this new sociopolitical reality.
Next to the reinvigoration of Islamist movements in the intellectual field in the post-1980 period, the most apparent manifestation of Islamic revival was the rise of Islamist political parties. Islamist Welfare Party won the plurality of the parliamentary seats to become the principal partner of a coalition government with the True Path Party in 1996. This outcome is partly the result of Prime Minister Turgut Özal’s reforms in the 1980s, allowing the Islamist actors to expand their civil, economic, and political activities. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Islamists also established newspapers, journals, and TV stations to appeal to a broader social base. The financial support for this awakening was provided by the owners of small and midsize enterprises, the so-called “devout bourgeoisie” or “Anatolian tigers,” who also had strong ties to various Sufi orders, Islamist movements, and conservative political parties.26
The rise of Islamism in civil society and the political arena was perceived as a severe challenge to the establishment elites’ secular ideology. In the 1990s, the publishing houses served as the focal points of Islamist activism. Seeing a threat in this vibrant intellectual and civic activism, the military, in cooperation with other political and bureaucratic elites, intervened in democratic processes to reverse the rising tide of Islamism. Under the tutelage of generals, the establishment elite started to repress Islam’s public manifestations (e.g., headscarf ban). The 1997 military intervention (the February 28 intervention) targeted Islamist civil society by banning Islamist organizations and political parties and closing down the publishing houses.27 Some observers of Turkish politics view the February 28 intervention as the most significant moment of contemporary Turkish politics vis-à-vis the Islamist movements.28
One can reasonably argue that the February 28 intervention has shattered the vibrant Islamist intellectual and civic field. Most Islamist journals and religious organizations were perceived as a threat and shut down by the secularist establishment elite. The intellectual vigor and civic activism of Islamist actors in the 1990s remain unmatched in the recent history of Turkish Islamism. From İsmet Özel to Ercümend Özkan, Ali Bulaç to İhsan Eliaçık, contemporary representatives of Turkish Islamism vigorously developed the discourses of new Islamist ideology. This effort helped demarcate the intellectual and social boundaries of Islamism from Islamist credentials of political parties and traditional Sufi orders that have constituted the “religion side” of the state-religion complex in modern Turkey. Just like the Islamists of the 1960–1980 period, members of this most recent wave have established numerous publishing houses and used Islamist journals to disseminate their ideas. At the same time, this period is considered the era of reinvention, moderation, and the Islamist movement’s co-optation by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government.29
During the post-1980 period, the rise of the Welfare Party and later the AKP is also viewed as a development integrating the religious bourgeoisie into the neoliberal economic order.30 Not all Islamists integrated or were content with these developments. Those who survived the repression and prosecution of the February 28 intervention continued to criticize the moderate Islamism (political Islam) and its capitalist tendencies, mostly manifested in the changing lifestyles of the devout individuals.31 Some Turkish Islamists also became fierce critics of the economic globalization and American hegemony. These tendencies have become salient, especially during the ethnic war in former Yugoslavia and international interventions in Iraq and in the new millennium after the AKP won the election to rule the country single-handedly.
Understanding the evolution of the Islamist justice discourses in response to this complex sociopolitical reality is important. This inquiry is likely to provide insights about conceptions of political and social justice, political preferences, and Islamist ideology addressing the contextual factors. The next section discusses the competing visions of Islamism to explain how different views within this ideology inform political and social justice discourses in the Turkish context. Then, the content analysis of the articles in Islamist journals since the 1960s is presented. The analysis elaborates on the synergies among contemporary manifestations of justice discourses, Islamist ideology, and regime preferences.
Competing Visions of Islamism and Justice Discourses
To recap, following a retreat and a dormant period between 1924 and 1960, Turkish Islamism entered a reconstruction period starting in the 1960s, within a political setting of increased freedoms and rights.32 In this context, Islamist groups constituted a dynamic segment of the Turkish intellectual field. Turkish Islamist groups continued to flourish after the 1980 coup and in the new millennium despite periodic repressive policies undermining their activities.
Unlike the cases where a single group (Muslim Brothers in Egypt or Ennahda in Tunisia) is dominant, the Turkish Islamist landscape is a crowded field, including political parties, professional associations, literary movements, Sufi orders, and religious communities of many shades. This feature of Turkish Islamism allows researchers to carry the discourse analysis of Islamic justice beyond the empty rhetoric of party slogans into the substantive content of Islamist texts produced by various Islamist groups. The lack of scholarly interest in broader Turkish Islamism by scholars of comparative and Middle Eastern politics, save the vast literature about Turkish Islamist parties, comes as a sizable surprise given this movement’s rich intellectual tradition and vibrant organizational capacities. Perhaps one reason for the lack of studies is the narrow focus of existing studies on political Islam or militant organizations.33 Before we can discuss the evolution of justice discourses in the Islamist publications in Turkey, we need to define Islamism beyond this narrow focus. İsmail Kara,34 the renowned expert on Islamism in the Turkish language scholarship, provides a broad definition of Islamism:
Islamism is a thought and a movement of the 19th and 20th century, which is the total sum of the political, intellectual and scholarly studies/quests that are highly activist and eclectic and aim to re-establish the dominance of Islam in society as a whole (belief, worship, ethics, philosophy, law, education) to save the Muslim world from the Western exploitation, oppressive and tyrannical rulers, imitation [of the West] and the superstitions in order to civilize, unite, and help develop it [the Muslim world].35
Kara provides a broad definition avoiding the pitfalls of the scholarship in the West that usually confines Islamism to either political Islam or violence. He situates Islamism in its historical context by linking the current movements to their anti-imperialist origins of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the main goal of Islamism is seen not only as a struggle with colonialism but also as establishing the dominance of Islam in society. This definition does not exclude political party activism for the sake of Islam. However, it expands the scope of Islamism beyond the political sphere. Prominent Turkish Islamist Ali Bulaç employs a slightly different approach:
Islamism is an intellectual, ethical, social, economic, political, and international movement rooted in the primary sources of Islam aiming to establish a new model of human[ity], society, politics/state, and the world, and subsequently a social order and universal union of Islam. In other words, Islamism is to bring back Islam’s livelihood, to implement its principles, and it is an ideal and struggle to rebuild the world for every historical and social condition.36
Bulaç’s definition is as broad and ambitious from the perspective of a practitioner as it can be. He does not link Islamism to its apologetic and defensive origins but defines it as a movement with universal ideals that will solve humanity’s problems (a.k.a. Islam is the solution). Bulaç is not alone in not invoking the anticolonial threads of Islamism. Turkish political scientist Mümtazer Türköne argues that Turkish Islamism differs from similar movements in other parts of the Muslim world due to differences in their motivations.37 Islamism in non-Ottoman (non-Turkish) societies emerged as a resistance movement against foreign invasion and colonialism. Accordingly, these movements are generally associated with anti-imperialist ideology and a jihadi outlook. There was no direct foreign invasion in the Ottoman Empire, but a state in decline needed saving. Turkish Islamists’ main concern, thus, was to protect and strengthen the state. At the onset, Turkish Islamism came to life as a modernization project that also promoted constitutional government according to the Islamic principles.
Several Islamists’ works can be cited to support the above proposition. Nineteenth-century Ottoman poet, writer, and bureaucrat Namık Kemal argued that a new reinterpretation of religious sources according to a rational and modern outlook could bring Islam’s original vision to life. Consequently, he believed that Islam could be a source of progress and constitutional government.38 Mehmed Akif, another leading figure of Islamism, believed that Islam could inspire scientific progress and democracy if its real message is brought to life. He propounded a selective adaptation of Western science and argued that Islam is already compatible with science and progress in his poems and writings in Islamist journals (Sırat-ı Müstakim and Sebîlürreşâd). He viewed Islamic identity as a solution to the reversal of the state’s decline and took an anti-imperialist position during the Turkish independence war.39
By and large, global Islamism encompasses two broad views. On the one hand, there is a view that takes an anti-imperialist reaction as an inherent characteristic of Islamism. According to the second view, Islamism is not a reaction, but, rather, it is a genuine ideology. It relies on the motto that “Islam is the solution,” and it can solve the crises of humanity, the nation, and the world. This view also attributes a prescriptive quality to Islam, viewed as a panacea to social ills or a blueprint for constructing an ideal order. In this vein, Türköne argues that Turkish Islamism has not emerged as a reaction to colonial domination, but it is about saving or strengthening the state.40
These two views have divergent implications for justice discourses. The first view will take Islamism to a position of “resistance” or “rebellion” against oppressors. Such acts could be directed against foreign invasion, colonialism, economic exploitation by the global economic powers, or domestic tyrants. In this scenario, Islamism becomes an ideology of justice against all injustices and oppression. As Kara succinctly states, “We must not forget that almost all of the Islamist movements have continued to be, at the same time, movements fighting injustice as well as movements of solidarity with and protection for the oppressed.”41 By this account, Islamism is an ideology that fights for the rights of victims who are being exploited by colonial rulers or contemporary beneficiaries of the global economic order. The cause of injustices is usually perceived to be external to Islam. The culprits are the forces of modernity or the Western hegemonic powers, in most cases. Subsequently, devout Muslims are seen as agents, and they should rise and fight with imperialist powers and challenge all the inequalities and oppression created by these same powers.
This first view has been the predominant approach among the Islamist intellectuals and social scientists in the non-Turkish context. For example, Mohammed Ayoob42 and Immanuel Wallerstein43 view Islamism in these terms. For Wallerstein, Islamist groups are among the antisystem elements, but they will eventually be incorporated into the world system.44 By invoking rebellion against a hegemon in the name of the oppressed masses, this view implicitly attributes a democratic quality of the revolutionary brand to Islamism. Finally, in this vein, Ali Shariati defines the world system as a constant struggle between the forces of the Islamic worldview and the polytheist worldview or the oppressed and the oppressor. In his account, the imperialist and capitalistic orders represent the oppressor, and the people are the oppressed who should fight against them.45
The second approach attributes a prescriptive quality to Islamism. In this view, Islam turns to a magic wand that could save the individual, society, and humanity. It can solve social problems, end the chaos, establish morality, and institute a just political system. In effect, the most important goal of early Ottoman Islamists was to save the order and prevent the state from collapsing.46 Islamists like Mehmed Akif aided the founding of Turkish-Islamic synthesis as the primary identity to accompany this goal. Turkish Islamists have followed these pioneers’ footsteps to focus on social order, national identity, and building a new civilization in the republic era. This view is especially visible in the writings of prominent Turkish poet Necip Fazıl Kısakürek in the 1960s.47
This second view does not preclude resistance against the corrupt systems, but its implications may also lead to political quietism to prevent fitna. Thus, one can argue that the Islamist ideology may inadvertently engender pro–status quo attitudes (and behaviors) even when the nondemocratic or illegitimate government is in place. This approach is akin to the doctrine of Sunni political quietism best expressed by the fourteenth-century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya: “Sixty years with a tyrannical imam are better than one night without an imam.”48 As demonstrated below, political quietism and obedience have been the dominant attitudes among many Islamist groups in Turkey.
Given the complex sociopolitical reality and two visions of Islamism in the Turkish context, carrying the discourse analysis of articles published in Islamist journals will provide an excellent opportunity for moving beyond the analysis of political and violent Islamism. It is likely to helps us understand better the construction of discursive fields related to the concept of justice as the society and politics evolve. The analysis is likely to provide insights about the role of competing visions of Islamism in the construction of Islamic conceptions of justice. Finally, by analyzing the Islamist journal archives, scholars can shift their scholarly attention from the intricacies of party politics and electoral strategies toward understanding how Islamist movements reconstruct discourses of Islamic justice to create meaning that either triggers critical attitudes or encourages obedience within the existing power relations.
Understanding the Justice Discourses in Islamist Journals
Journal publishing has always been an essential tool for Islamist movements. Turkish Islamists have utilized journals to convey their ideas and educate their followers since the second constitutional revolution of 1908. Some students of Islamism perceive journal publishing to be so significant that they study Turkish Islamism by examining the historical trajectories of journals.49 As discussed above, Turkish Islamist journals entered a lively phase of activity in the 1960s, a trend that continued after 1980. A close reading of the articles in these journals provides a window into the mindset of diverse Islamist groups operating within a dynamic sociopolitical reality. The analysis presented in this section is not limited to Islamist political groups. It also sheds light on the ideology of intellectual communities, literary movements, and antisystem groups. The analysis separates the post-1960 era into two periods, 1960–1980 and 1980–2010, following the scholarly convention about the evolution of Islamism.50
The discourse analysis utilizes the digitized archives of Islamist journals stored in the servers of İLEM library (İlmi Etüdler Derneği) in Istanbul.51 The articles were selected in three stages according to a rigorous method. In the first stage, the main keyword, adalet (justice), was used to filter a large number of articles. In the second stage, a joint keyword search was conducted for additional filtering of the articles to capture the most relevant writings. Many articles were eliminated because they omit the keyword adalet or other keywords capturing different dimensions of justice, including zulüm (oppression), hak (right, desert), zalim (oppressor), and adil (just). In the third stage, the filtered articles were subjected to close reading to separate the articles that directly discuss the Islamic justice conception from those that simply use justice in passing and do not provide any substantive discussion of this notion.52
Table 5.1 shows the distribution of the articles by Islamist journals based on the availability in the İLEM archives. The table reports the publication dates, the number of issues published, and a count of articles referencing justice. This general count is also inclusive of the articles that specifically discuss Islamic justice. It should be noted that the numbers presented in Table 5.1 do not necessarily reflect the full coverage of Islamic justice conception in Islamist journals. Instead, due to the filtering method described above, the counts in Table 5.1 show the most relevant articles to be used in the discourse analysis.53
The analysis of Islamist articles published during the 1960–1980 and 1980–2010 periods takes place in three steps. The first step presents the semantics of the Islamic justice conception by providing examples from various definitions related to this notion’s historical evolution. The second step involves an examination of how the meaning of justice is constructed by the Turkish Islamists against a dynamic sociopolitical background. Finally, the analysis traces the similarities and differences between Islamist conceptions of justice and discourses of political and social justice in the Turkish Islamist writings. Figure 5.1 shows a schematic representation of discourse analysis and the remainder of this chapter elaborates on the mechanisms depicted in this figure.
The Semantic Field of Islamist Conceptions of Justice
In thousands of pages of Islamist journals, the concept of justice takes center stage in a crowded semantic field of related terms like freedom, equality, right (hak), oppression (zulüm), merit, deserve, and moderation. References to justice usually involve these other related terms, whose semantic weight changes as the focus and prevalence of justice discourses evolve from 1960 to 2010 in the Islamist writings. As the sociopolitical reality changes, so do the meanings attributed to justice in these Islamist writings.
Zulüm or zulm is the most frequently used term in discussions of justice. Although this concept has a more significant role in Shia political thought,54 it emerges as one of the principal justice notions in the Islamist writings of Sunni groups in Turkey. Zulüm originates from Arabic and is translated as oppression, tyranny, or wrongdoing. It appears as the quintessential opposite of Islamic justice in most articles analyzed here.55 For example, one article states, “Justice is the opposite of zulüm. Zulüm means to violate rights, to harm, to break hearts. In contrast, justice means to give everyone their rights, to place everything in its proper place according to reason, logic, and wisdom.”56 Another article describes a just ruler by the quality of fighting with injustices and zulüm:
Every ruler, every servant view [establishing] the justice and goodness in society as his first duty. He takes other rulers’ palaces, splendor, and domination to be the indicators of zulüm. He believes that building palaces by exploiting others’ rights or dominating citizens to that end constitutes zulüm. He knows that justice is the foundation of government, and zulüm is the greatest of all sins.57
A similar semantic construction is also visible in the post-1980 Islamist journals. For example, an article discussing the workers’ rights states, “Justice is the government’s foundation. Wherever justice lacks, there is zulüm. Wherever there is zulüm, there is no prosperity.”58 One notable difference between the two periods is the use of zulüm in conjunction with references to social problems in the 1960–1980 period and international politics in the post-1980 period. In this vein, many articles provide strong criticisms of foreign intervention in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq during the second period: “If the feelings of justice were remembered when the world was experiencing these events [wars], then these atrocities would not have occurred. The world still is indifferent to zulüm in Chechnya.”59
Some writers use the notions of justice to denote distributive justice, rights, freedom, morality, equality, and mercy. A strong emphasis is placed on the notions of equality and rights in the 1960s. The Islamists aimed to counter the appeal of social justice ideals defended by the leftist groups with this strategy. For example, one writer states that justice means “to give everyone their material and spiritual rights. The just person ensures the provision of rights to the self and all individuals in society.”60 A similar definition takes place in another article published in 1979. “[Justice is] to give everyone their rights, to treat everyone equally in their rights, and make everyone equal in law.”61
In the post-1980 period, the Islamist writers’ substantive focus shifted from rights and equality to freedom and the main pillars of Islam, such as the unity of God, though zulüm continued to be a central concept. In an article about Prophet Muhammad, the author describes Islamic justice as one of the main pillars of Islamic civilization, along with freedom and rights. “However, Ibrahim’s real tradition is tawhid. This tradition serves the creation of a civilization founded on rights, justice, and freedom.”62
The transformation of the semantic field of justice is best explained by the interaction of Islamist ideology and the changing sociopolitical reality. First, the analysis of Islamist texts reveals that Turkish Islamists have intellectually increased in sophistication over time. In addition to the translation of major works about Islamism and the Western scholarship on the subject, new studies of Ottoman Islamists and classical Islamic texts have contributed to this sophistication. Turkish Islamists came to define justice in light of the Islamic unity principle of tawhid.63
Second, changes in the social and political context brought about differences in Islamist justice discourse in 1970s. The struggles between the left and the right and daily clashes among the youth organizations resulted in an anticommunist stand among the Islamists. In this context, justice was defined in relation to rights and distributive justice to counter the communist ideology’s egalitarian rhetoric. In contrast, during the post-1980 period, the Islamist reaction to the neoliberal economic order, foreign intervention, and wars in various parts of the Muslim world and domestic repression of the Islamist groups in the 1990s brought about a new type of justice discourse emphasizing freedom and anticapitalist preferences.
The discourse analysis of Islamist journals demonstrates a considerable change in the Islamist conceptions of justice since the 1960s. These discourses evolved from the dislike of communism into nuanced criticisms of global capitalism. In the 1960s, Islamic justice was defined in relation to social equality, rights, and economic distribution to counter the appeal of the leftist ideology. In the post-1980 period, conceptions of justice concerned freedom, global injustices, and Islamic governance against the negative consequences of globalization.
Justice as Social Order and Political Reform
Just as Sayyid Qutb believed in an Islamic solution to end the corrupt systems, Turkish Islamists also aspired to bring order to a society they perceived as corrupt. The Islamists’ writings of the 1960–1980 period emphasize social order and social morality. For an Islamist writer in the 1960s, justice brings about a harmonious social order (nizam), whereas injustice represents a catastrophic condition for society. One article states, “As far as justice, morality, virtue, and goodness prevail, whether it is aware of it or not, society will realize the best of reforms. The extent of the civility and vigor in this society can be best perceived relative to backward societies that perish within injustices.”64
In the 1960–1980 period, a significant area of contention concerned delineating the conceptions of communist and Islamist social justice. It is not the social justice and equality promoted by the communists, according to the Islamists, that will bring about just order. For Islamists, the best social order is possible only in an Islamic society. The relationship between social justice and harmonious society is best seen in the Prophet’s life and his companions’ stories. Many articles refer to ʿUmar’s benevolence and justice to describe the ideal social order during the golden age. Some articles present the Ottoman political system as the perfect embodiment of just government.65 These examples were instrumental for demonstrating that communist conceptions of social justice and equality will destroy morality, whereas Islamic social justice could provide true equality, prosperity, and happiness. Some articles particularly emphasize the ideal-typical “just ruler” (adil lider) as the most significant prerequisite for establishing justice, morality, and social order. This perspective encourages obedience to the ruler in order to achieve public interest. The focus on social and political order is reminiscent of the principle that requires political quietism in exchange for the public interest in the Islamic social justice trajectory. This principle was especially important during the medieval period, and it was formulated in the works of Ibn Taymiyya.66
Since 1980, the Islamists have turned their attention from the social order to political reform and just governance. While some articles focused on social justice and order in this later period, others focused on just government, political strategies, and an Islamic theory of just government. İhsan Eliaçık appears to be the dominant intellectual figure in debates about Islamic justice with his sophisticated theory of “justice state” in this period. Eliaçık believes that just as divine justice is one and brings balance to the universe, a political system based on justice can bring unity and prosperity to the world. This theory’s underlying logic is hardly novel as inferring justice discourses from the tawhid principle has been quite common among Islamists. Some examples include Sayyid Qutb, ʿAli Shariati, and Said Nursi. The novelty of Eliaçık’s ideas concerns his attempt to make justice the foundation of the modern state. He states, “It should be evident that the unity of existence leads to right and justice (hak ve adalet). Just as cosmic justice creates a unity of existence, can there be any method other than political and social justice to unite humanity? . . . What else can be the state’s raison d’etre other than justice?”67
Eliaçık develops his theory of “justice state” as an alternative to the theocratic and secular state models. His model is based on the togetherness of the state and religion according to a novel secular arrangement. In Eliaçık’s words, “In the Turkish case, state-religion relations can be formed in the following way: 1. The state would have no power and responsibility in religious creed and religious duties, 2. The state can be responsible for the moral aspects of the religion, 3. The state would sometimes be responsible according to some aspects of religious law.”68
The third condition is significant, especially given the close relationship between moral values and law in Islam. Here, Eliaçık comes closer to El Fadl69 and An-Náim70 by emphasizing the central role of moral values in Islamic political systems. Finally, Eliaçık views the justice state as the best means for restoring Islam’s primacy in modern society within the state-religion relations he proposes. Other writers also discuss various aspects of politics as they relate to the notion of Islamic justice. One article looks at the importance of Islamic moral values in creating a legitimate political authority and cites justice, consultation (şura), and allegiance (beyat) as the main principles of Islamic political authority.71
Islamist authors also frequently mention the necessity of political reform and the protection of freedom and rights in the post-1980 period. They argue that Islamic justice protects freedom, human rights, and civil liberties. Sometimes, the justice principle serves as the basis of political opposition strategies against the domestic government, Western powers, or even Islamist organizations. Some Islamists, including Eliaçık, do not see this opposition emerging from traditional religious organizations or the Islamist political parties. Instead, Islamists are encouraged to focus on learning about the essential faith principles, such as unity of God, justice, and freedom, to form the necessary foundations for creating an Islamic government.
What explains this shift in the Islamist outlook? In the 1960s and 1970s, the main occupation of Islamists was the role of Islam in building a social order to confront the communist challenge. Islam was seen as a solution to society’s perceived ills, including moral decay, and revolutionary ideologies were seen as incompatible with an Islamic social model. Therefore, a social order based on Islamic national identity and the twin pillars of justice—rights and equality—took center stage in the Islamist justice discourses. After the 1980s, the main preoccupation was with the politics and Islamic political reform due to increased political activism and Turkey’s integration into the neoliberal global order. Liberalization policies of the 1980s, Islamist parties’ first experience in government in the 1990s, repression of Islamist groups by the secular elite/military establishment in the late 1990s, and the rule of an Islamist party (AKP) unavoidably shifted the center of gravity in Islamist ideology from social order to politics and reform. The Islamic justice conception, now attached to the notion of freedom, was once again the principal semantic tool for constructing Islamist political ideology.
The Manifestations of an Anti-Imperialist Position in Islamist Journals
The second dimension of Islamism is the anti-imperialist position resulting from the colonial origins of Islamist movements.72 As discussed above, some scholars argue that Turkish Islamism differs from its counterparts because it is not a reactionary movement against colonial incursion.73 However, the analysis of the Islamist journals reveals that anti-imperialist ideology is a prominent dimension of Turkish Islamism, albeit in highly nuanced ways. During the 1960–1980 period, anti-imperialist ideology primarily took an anticommunist form. After the 1980s, Islamists diversified to present anticapitalist, anti-American, and antiglobalization discourses to express their discontent with the international system.
Anticommunist views frequently appeared in the pages of Islamist journals before the 1980s. Islamists criticized the communist and socialist systems for leading to a corrupt social order, injustices, and lack of morality. They presented these systems as ideological tools of the Soviet Republic, aiming to subdue and exploit the Muslim-majority countries. Some articles have a strong negative tone, also targeting capitalism and Western civilization. Nevertheless, communism is the principal target of Islamist writers for being a government type creating zulüm. Most of the criticism lacks a strong philosophical foundation and uses slogans. For example, one article states, “In Islam, there is divine justice, not social justice. . . . Every Muslim individual knows that almsgiving (zakat) is processed based on the property. Islam is like the sun; you cannot cover it. Muslimness means divine morality, whereas communism is about social immorality.”74 Another article provides specific references to the Cold War powers by stating, “While millions of people are suffering under zulüm in the Kremlin regime claiming to implement true equality, in the so-called civilized America the segregation becomes terrifying; however, both talk about social justice and democracy. Democracy in Red Russia or capitalist America, I do not think so.”75
By and large, anti-imperialist discourse during the 1960–1980 period is constructed in the dichotomy of justice and oppression, where Islam represents true justice and Western ideologies represent the oppression. Of these Western ideologies, communism is particularly dangerous in view of some Turkish Islamists insofar as it threatens the social order, destroys morality, and prepares the ground for Turkey’s colonization. In this period, most articles used slogans and stereotypes to describe the leftist ideologies.
In the post-1980 period, anti-imperialist discourse is not merely a critique directed at a single ideology or economic system; rather, the close reading of articles reveals a dynamic discursive construction involving anticapitalism, anti-Americanism, and strong criticism of international institutions and Western culture. Justice, once again, surfaces as the central concept in the construction of these positions. For example, one writer talks about injustices and the new world order:
In effect, everything started with demands for “justice and freedom,” but millions of individuals’ calls for justice went unheard. Those who control and manipulate the world system and global capital have transformed the world into a war zone to silence the four-fifth of the global population. Although this war continues in Islamic geography, its primary goal is to force the silent majority into slavery.76
Islamist writers also frame anti-imperialist ideology as attacks targeting Islamic civilization. One article states, “Today, there is an attempt to modify Islam to ease the control of global power; they want to eliminate the noble Islamic bloc, seen as an eternal danger by M. Thatcher and S. P. Huntington.”77 On other occasions, Islamist writers discuss injustices taking place in other countries and blame the corrupt new world order for these outcomes. “There is no difference whatsoever between the hegemonic greed that oppresses (zulmetmek) the people with black skin and that of ‘new world order’ which is forced upon people like a straitjacket.”78
The criticism of the new world order and neoliberal economic order involves criticism of international capitalism and its domestic supporters in the post-1980 period. Islamist writers argue that transnational corporations (i.e., global capitalism), and their domestic accomplices, try to confine religion to traditional interpretations and promote the notion of “moderate Islam” to exploit the Muslims. According to one article, since capitalism is built on the exploitation of people and charging interest, the Muslim businessman cannot avoid the vices of this system.79 Global capitalist activities and the participation of the so-called devout bourgeoisie in this system are depicted as exploitation and injustice in the Islamist journals.
The archives of Turkish Islamist journals provide an excellent opportunity for examining contemporary manifestations of Islamist political and social justice discourses. Islamist journals function like schools where ideology is communicated to people using a simple language. Given the lack of historical elite and mass surveys for the period under investigation, the articles published in Islamist journals are the best proxy for exploring the Muslim attitudes about justice and political preferences.
The analysis conducted in this chapter reveals that justice is a crucial concept of Islamist ideology in Turkey. Its use as a central concept is anything but static as justice discourses evolve in response to changing sociopolitical reality. The articles published in the Islamist journals since 1960 reveal the central role of justice. During the 1960s and 1970s, Islamist justice is viewed as the most important condition for establishing social order. Islamists’ primary preoccupation concerned communism as they tirelessly criticized this system for promoting false social justice and equality and for undermining social morality. For Islamists, Islam is the opposite of communism and is the only system that can bring order, implement morality, and establish social justice. The pages of Islamist journals in the 1960s included numerous references to the issues of rights, social justice, and equality, denying their central role in leftist ideologies and reconstructing these notions according to an Islamic framework. At the same time, references to communist conspiracy repeatedly appeared in multiple journals. Despite the high volume of attention concentrating on these issues, the treatment of justice as a central Islamic term is rudimentary and reduced to slogans at best before 1980.
After 1980, justice discourses became highly sophisticated within the Islamist worldview. Islamist writers described justice with such terms as freedom, human rights, and political liberties. The language of justice included references to politics and Islamic governance more than social order. Meanwhile, Islamists employed a cosmological outlook to construct justice discourses using the doctrine of tawhid. Rather than relying on common examples from the prophetic community or the religious slogans, Islamists developed sophisticated philosophies of just government to present a new image for Islam as the categorical opposite of the capitalist system, the new world order, and economic globalization. Turkish Islamists shifted their attention from the social order to the critique of capitalist ethics, American hegemony, and injustices seen in the major wars in the post–Cold War era. They presented Islam as the solution against oppression, exploitation, and injustices stemming from the ills of global capitalism and American hegemony.
The changing sociopolitical reality partly explains the differences in Islamist justice discourses between the two periods. In the 1960s, mass migration to urban centers, social problems associated with rapid modernization, and violence among the leftists and nationalist youth groups explain why Islamists focused on implementing an Islamic social order. They viewed the communist system as the categorical opposite of Islam. A crude image of leftist ideologies helped build a rudimentary justice discourse about the vices of the leftist ideologies and virtues of Islam.
After the 1980s, two developments might have triggered the new conceptions of justice among Islamists. First, international events, including the spread of neoliberal policies, economic globalization, and U.S. hegemony, had resonated deeply among Turkish Islamists. In responding to this new reality, Islamist intellectuals frequently referenced to various traumas—stemming from the various post–Cold War conflicts involving Muslim minorities and countries around the world—in developing new conceptions of justice. Second, domestically, Islamists gained influence in Turkish politics with the rise of Islamist parties and increasing the policy influence of religious actors. Faced with a highly complex social and political matrix, Turkish Islamists started to develop sophisticated accounts of the new global order and the rising prospects of Islamist parties. Subsequently, justice discourses concentrated on freedom, human rights, Islamic governance, anticapitalism, and anti-Americanism.
The analysis of Islamist journal articles also provides several insights about the synergies concerning the interplay of Islam, justice, and democracy. Democracy does not come up as a significant issue in the journals’ pages, especially in the 1960–1980 period. In other words, the relationship between democracy and conceptions of justice is a nonsignificant issue in Islamist journals during this earlier period. Usually, democracy is mentioned in passing with no clear indication of what the authors mean when using it. Most accounts of democracy are not necessarily well informed. Those articles making references to democracy usually depict it as an instrument of Western imperialism. Neither do Islamist writers believe that democratic systems can establish justice or prevent zulüm. What matters is justice, not the type of political system in the Islamist outlook in these journals.
In the 1960–1980 period, Turkish Islamists seem to more clearly utilize the lineages of social and political justice trajectories in their writings, namely, freedom and order. Furthermore, these same lineages have been instrumentally used by the Islamist political parties as they made their way into government. Old and new incarnations of Islamist political parties, including National Order Party, Welfare Party, and AKP, have justified their policies either in the name of social order for a just, prosperous society or for the sake of fighting with injustices. This should not come as a surprise as the Islamists of the new millennium were members of various Islamist groups or students of prominent Islamist intellectuals during the 1960–1980 period.80
Ironically, however, the instrumentation of anti-imperialist discourse in foreign policy, a more visible discourse in the post-1980 period, helped the AKP leaders justify the domestic injustices with the pretext of the “social order,” the dominant discourse of the 1960–1980 period. For example, AKP leaders have taken a very vocal stance and exploited the public’s sensitivities about such issues as Palestinian independence, anti-immigrant policies in the West, or the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar. Foreign policy rhetoric employed the language of the Islamist anti-imperialism outlook and involved references to justice and oppression (adalet ve zulüm). In contrast, on the domestic scene, repression of the Kurdish minorities, the crackdown against the civil protesters, or violations of the rule of law were justified in the name of social order (nizam, or kamu düzeni). This dual strategy, while contradictory, contributed to the demise of Turkish democracy.
Despite the lack of interest in democracy in Islamist journals and the potential of the instrumentation of justice discourses to serve the authoritarian policies in a nascent democracy, the articles, especially those published during the 1980–2010 period, consistently used the jargon of democracy. More specifically, it is hard to find unequivocal references directly made to democracy in these journals. However, one can find ample use of notions that are, in fact, the building blocks of democratic institutions. For example, Islamist intellectuals made frequent references to the notions of equality, the rule of law, consultation, freedom, constraining the ruler, and civil rights in the pages of Islamist journals in the post-1980 period. However, they utilized these terms as part of Islamic justice, not as essential jargon of Western liberal democracy. This approach echoes the writings of the nineteenth century Islamists in the Ottoman Empire.81
This approach is symptomatic of a significant dilemma for the proponents of democratization in the Muslim world. It implies that Islamists believe that Islamic justice is compatible with democratic values, but they also view liberal democracy as a foreign system that is not suitable for Muslim-majority societies. From a policy perspective, these findings imply that top-down approaches to democratization that promote democracy by external actors or through the use of Western political culture may not resonate well in Muslim-majority countries, even in settings with a considerable democratization experience, such as Turkey. Democracy may be an acceptable form of government only when it is coated with Islamic notions such as justice (‘adalā), consultation (shūrā), and freedom (ḥurriyā). On the flip side, the disapproval of Western democratic language may serve well to the authoritarian politicians’ ambitions who conveniently hide behind the Islamist pretext of anti-imperialism and social order to undermine democracy.
The analysis in this chapter merely scratched the surface of rich variations in the Turkish Islamist landscape since the 1960s. The Turkish Islamist landscape includes a variety of movements that may not fit in this chapter’s analytical framework. For example, some Islamists started to distance from the ruling AKP and its policies after 2011. The groups inspired by Eliaçık and the grassroots organizations like Emek ve Adalet took ideologically egalitarian and democratic positions against the AKP government.82 These groups openly criticized AKP leadership and their policies and advocated for civil rights, labor rights, and egalitarian distribution. They also participated in the 2013 Gezi protests. Yenigun explains this schism among the Islamists as the new manifestation of the historical divergence between ethicalists and realists.83 He points to the Akif Emre’s84 distinction between Islamists cherishing justice, democracy, and rights and Muslimists sacrificing justice principles for the sake of obtaining power. This new cleavage within Turkish Islamism started to materialize after 2011, a period that is not included in the analysis of Islamist journals in this chapter. The next chapter explores the association between justice discourses and democracy from the perspective of those who could be described as Islamists in the post-2011 Turkey. It presents the outlooks of justice-oriented new Islamist groups and their views about democracy using ethnographic research and in-depth interviews.