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The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey [Paperback]

Professor Banu Eligür

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Book Description

2 Jan 2014
The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey explains why political Islam, which has been part of Turkish politics since the 1970s but on the rise only since the 1990s, has now achieved governing power. Drawing on social movement theory, the book focuses on the dominant form of Islamist activism in Turkey by analyzing the increasing electoral strength of four successive Islamist political parties: the Welfare Party; its successor, the Virtue Party; and the successors of the Virtue Party: the Felicity Party and the Justice and Development Party. This book, which is based on extensive primary and secondary sources as well as in-depth interviews, provides the most comprehensive analysis currently available of the Islamist political mobilization in Turkey.

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“Banu Eligur’s marvelous study of political Islam in Turkey is must-reading for everyone interested in Islam and democracy, and makes fundamental contributions to social movement theory as well. One might have expected that Islam in Turkey, after being marginalized in Attaturk’s secular revolution, would have become a radical movement. Yet it did not; instead Islamists rose to power by becoming the Islamic world’s most successful moderate, democratic, pro-European Islamic party. Eligur shows how Islamists took advantage of the military’s obsession with the left and thus the military’s willingness to ally with them against leftist parties, the growth of a Saudi-supported Islamic business elite, and rapid urbanization, to create expanded networks and opportunities for electoral gains. Then promoting a theme of ‘Justice’ the Islamists gained secular supporters, running on a pro-Europe platform against the corruption and abuses of the military. Telling the story in impressive detail from the 1970s to the present, Eligur thus explains how a moderate Islamist party came to power. But her story also shows how a focus on grievances, or structural opportunities, does not provide an adequate explanation. With great theoretical insight, she shows how opportunities were seized and created by movement entrepreneurs, who adjusted their strategies of mobilization across different conditions and time-periods. Viewing party-building and party competition through the lens of social movement theory allows Eligur to provide a rich and elegant account of the mobilization of political Islam in Turkey, and to shed new light on how social movement theory can explain party-building and mobilization outside of Western democracies.”
—Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University

“Banu Eligür’s book, The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey, is a must read for those who are asking questions about what has changed in Turkey's political and socio-economic landscape over the last three decades. Through a meticulous research and very careful analysis, Eligür demonstrates the successful mobilization of political Islam in Turkey, primarily through the successes of such movements as the Milli Görüş and Turkish-Islamic synthesis, and assesses its implications for this country’s political future. This book is truly an eye opener for anyone who wants a better understanding of the rise of political Islam, the nuts and bolts of their strategies and tactics, and its consequences.”
—Birol Yesilada, Portland State University

“Banu Eligur deftly applies social movement theory to advance our understanding of Islamist-state politics in Turkey. Moving beyond models of Islamist movements functioning within non-democratic settings, this book introduces considerable new empirical material to illuminate inner-party politics and, particularly, the crucial role of party entrepreneurs in broadening the support base for Turkey’s mainstream Islamist movement. While the context of political opportunity structures remains central to explanations of mobilization, Eligur demonstrates that party entrepreneurs must not only frame their movement in a manner that has appeal beyond the party’s core Islamist base, but they must also identify and exploit the presence of elite allies.”
—Jillian Schwedler, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Overall, this is an excellent and impressive book. Eligur frames her study in a carefully crafted analytical framework anduses the perspectives drawn from the social movement literature judiciously to provide a systematic and interesting analysis of the political transformation that has been taking place in Turkey in recent years. The Mobilization of Islam in Turkey offers a detailed, informative, and balanced explanation of how the Islamist movement, which began from a marginal position in Turkish politics, eventually grew to occupy a central role, providing the organizational basis and leadership for one of the most successful parties in the Turkey’s modern political history.”
—Middle East Journal

Book Description

Explains why political Islam, which has been part of Turkish politics since the 1970s, has now achieved governing power. Drawing on social movement theory, the book focuses on the dominant form of Islamist activism in Turkey by analyzing the increasing electoral strength of four successive Islamist political parties.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book on Turkish political Islam 27 Sep 2010
By Hamid Akin Unver - Published on
This book is gold. Covering about a century of Ottoman and Turkish history, it explains the rise of political Islam in Turkey, social dynamics behind the AKP and grassroots Anatolian Islamist movements better than anything else I've read.

As with any analysis on Turkey should do, the book begins with the Young Turk - Islamist tensions during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Then, it goes on to explain how this tension translated into the the Turkish Republican period, secularization of the state and Anatolian Islamist movements 'going underground'. These underground Islamist movements have evolved in the last half century and went through a period of alliances and counter-alliances, which first manifested as the 'Milli Görü'' movement of Necmettin Erbakan, and then as the Welfare and Felicity parties.

As a lecturer of Turkish studies at Princeton University, I ask my students to buy this book, as all of its chapters offer new information and insight.
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