I started working on this book in 2013, the year marking the return of authoritarian systems and conflict to the Middle East after two years of protests and regime transitions. The Arab Spring took many by surprise. More recently, protests erupted in Sudan and Algeria with similar demands of justice and democracy. Much has been said about these waves of mass mobilization and their causes and consequences. However, scholars and pundits did not offer much about the culture of these protests, especially about the values and attitudes of ordinary men and women risking their lives chanting for freedom and justice in the Arab squares. As a student of Islam and democracy, I am truly fascinated by the discourses of rebellion and liberation. The Arab Spring presented an opportunity to examine these discourses in action. In my initial research, I learned that social justice was the most significant element in protesters’ chants. Therefore, I wanted to understand how Islamic conceptions of justice shape perceptions of ordinary men and women taking to the streets. This was no easy task as I quickly realized that there are deep historical and philosophical roots of conceptions of justice shaping individual attitudes and orientations. Islamic justice discourses may support rival claims about legitimate political orders, sometimes democratic and sometimes authoritarian. I wanted to understand how Islam shapes people’s conceptions of justice and how these conceptions affect their views of democracy and authoritarianism. I wrote this book to provide new insights about justice and democracy from the perspective of devout Muslim men and women.
This book is indebted to many people who have motivated and supported me during its development and writing stages. I presented early drafts of this project in the 2014 and 2017 Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association (APSA). On both occasions, I got constructive feedback from my colleagues, who encouraged me to study this subject. One useful suggestion concerned the need to get into the field to understand how religious people interpret their faith principles to inform their values and perceptions about justice and democracy. A seed grant from the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI), helped me get on the field and conduct interviews in İstanbul, Turkey. I am grateful for this funding and, especially, the support provided by Christian Smith, professor of sociology and director of GRRI at Notre Dame (Award #BG5225). I would also like to thank the University Research Compliance Office staff at Kansas State University (KSU) who reviewed and approved the field research proposal (IRB approval #8776).
My field research would not have been successful without the support of many people. To start with, I would like to thank Halil İbrahim Yenigün, who has inspired me with his commitment to Islamic social justice and also introduced me to the members of new Islamic movements. My friends at Islamic Think House (İDE, İstanbul Düşünce Evi) and various social justice organizations in İstanbul were very helpful in the success of the field research. They challenged me intellectually with their intriguing ideas about Islam and justice. I especially thank Yusuf Enes Sezgin, Ammar Kılıç, Kadir Bal, and many others for their valuable comments and support in the fieldwork stage. These individuals helped me understand the true meaning of social justice and benevolence from an Islamic perspective. I am indebted to over two dozen individuals who talked to me for hours to share their understanding of Islam, justice, and politics. Attending the Ramadan dinners in Istanbul’s Tarlabaşı neighborhood was an eye-opener for me. It helped me develop an appreciation of how devotion and charity are related. Especially, the social activist Mehmet Abi left a deep impression on me by demonstrating what true benevolence looks like in practice. As part of field research, I also used the library of İlmi Etüdler Derneği (İLEM) housing the archives of Islamist journals. I am grateful to İLEM for opening this archive to the researchers. I especially thank Muhammed Yasir Bodur, for his valuable research assistance and for spending hours in İLEM libraries in completing the archival text collection. Muhammed Yasir is also a social activist who provided many insights about Islamic justice conceptions while working as a research assistant for me.
I would also like to thank several colleagues who engaged with me regularly throughout my career and during the writing stage of this book. Thank you, Mark Tessler, for inspiring me to study the attitudes of ordinary Muslim men and women and for your continued support of my research. I am grateful to Amaney Jamal for inviting me to present one of the first drafts of this book in the After the Uprisings conference in Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University and Michael Robbins for a second invitation to American University in Beirut to attend the Social Justice in the Arab World conference. I am also grateful for the comments provided by Michael Platow, the president of the International Society for Justice Research (ISJR) during the 2018 ISJR meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The participants in two APSA meetings also provided helpful comments, including Ariel Ahram at the 2017 meeting. My colleague John Warner helped me understand the Western justice theory and patiently responded to my emails about reading recommendations. I especially want to express my gratitude to Michael Wuthrich and Ammar Shamaileh for encouraging me throughout the process, reading drafts of different chapters, and providing valuable feedback about these chapters. Finally, I thank Dale L. Smith who has been a lifelong mentor and has always shown deep interest in my work.
I would like to extend my special thanks to Temple University Press for agreeing to publish this book. Paul Djupe, the editor for the series Religious Engagement in Democratic Politics, has been very enthusiastic about this project from the beginning. He took the time to read different chapters and provided valuable feedback that significantly improved the book. Aaron M. Javsicas, editor in chief at Temple, made this process look extremely easy. He guided me throughout the process and accommodated my needs. I cannot thank Paul and Aaron enough for their encouragement and support. The press and production staff also deserve special thanks for their help in the editing and production stages. I am also indebted to Hassan Massoudy, a great calligrapher of our times who graciously agreed to provide a fantastic piece of his art for the cover image of this book.
I would also like to thank KSU and my colleagues in the Political Science Department. I could not work in a more positive and supportive environment, and I appreciate all the accommodation provided by KSU throughout my career. I am also grateful to John and Karen Hofmeister for supporting my research through a large endowment for the study of the Middle East at KSU, the Michael W. Suleiman Chair in Arab and Arab-American Studies.
My extended family also deserves recognition. First and foremost, I extend my thanks to my parents, Zehra and Cuma Çiftçi who supported me over the years and taught me to be just in my dealings. My brothers and sisters and my wife’s family were among the main sources of motivation for me to study Islam, justice, and democracy. I would especially like to recognize my nephew Ali, my sister Songül, my brother-in-law Tahsin, and my sister-in-law Semiha for being friends and keeping me company during my stays in Istanbul.
Finally, I bestow special thanks to my wife and the love of my life, Semra, and my four sons. They are my source of inspiration every day. I cannot thank Semra enough for making so many sacrifices and showing love and patience throughout my professional career and when I was writing this book. My four sons, Bahadır, Yusuf, İbrahim, and Yiğithan, always reminded me of beautiful things outside of academia. Their questions about when I would finish my book, and their wonderful existence, have been a great motivation for me. Despite having zero interest in the subject, they patiently listened to my ideas and read some sections in the process. This book would not have been possible without the warmth and support of my family.