The Role of Religion in Public Life in Turkey Today
Religion is increasingly playing an important role in politics and public life worldwide. Despite the increasing influence of religious voices globally, there remains a critical gap in knowledge regarding how attitudes towards the changing role of religion may vary, who drives these changes, and what implications they may have for pluralism in diverse societies. This project fills this crucial gap by examining attitudes and practices concerning the shifting role of religion in public life. How can different moral systems and lifestyles be accommodated within a pluralistic public? What the renewed role of religion in public life means for secularism and pluralism is especially crucial for the Muslim world where the role of Islam in public life is continuously evolving. This project provides insight into the reconfiguration of secularism and the public role of religion worldwide through an empirical investigation of the varying practices and attitudes concerning the public role of Islam in Turkey. Turkey is a prime context within which to study the new role of religion in public life that marks our current era. A secular democracy in which religious lifestyles have been ascendant within the public sphere in the past
decade, Turkey has been ruled since 2002 by a political party that has disavowed its roots in Islamist politics but has effectively combined Islamic values with neoliberal economic policies and spurred the transformation of the roles of Islam and secularism in the public sphere. The objectives of this project are a) to assess how attitudes regarding the reconfiguration of Islam and secularism vary across Turkish society, and b) to evaluate how the devout Sunni Muslim sector in particular is participating in this reconfiguration. The study includes a nationwide survey to identify and assess the spectrum of attitudes towards and practices of the reconfiguration of Islam and secularism in public life. In-depth qualitative research (focus groups and interviews) with moderately to highly devout individuals in two representative Turkish cities will provide new insights into the values and everyday practices of the politically and culturally influential devout sector of society.