POWER AND ISLAM IN TURKEY: The Relationship Between the AKP and Sunni Islamic Groups, 2002-16


Since its election in 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has gone from strength to strength, winning elections local and general and constitutional referendums, by large margins. Turkey’s Sunni groups have been a decisive factor in these political victories, since uniting for the first time ever in 2002. The AKP came to power as a conservative or Islamic-rooted party expected to protect the rights of religiously observant people. Over the years religious groups have mobilised their religiously observant followers employing the power of their visual and written media and personal and institutional charisma. What are the factors behind this extraordinary alliance of political and socio-religious forces, never before seen since the inception of the Turkish Republic, what was the impact of this alliance on the elections, and how has it changed in the thirteen-year period? What are the reasons some religiously based groups withdrew their support from the AKP and built up opposition blocs in recent years? What do these divisions mean in terms of exploring various Islamic understandings? In discussing these questions, this paper aims to explore the theological, historical and sociological background to the relationship between Islamic groups and the state, and these groups’ understanding of state and opposition; and examine the relationship between power, political Islam and secularism.


Çelik, E. (2017) ‘Power and Islam in Turkey: The Relationship Between the AKP and Sunni Islamic Groups, 2002-16’, in: Authoritarian Politics in Turkey: Elections, Resistance and the AKP, ed. by Baser, B. & Ozturk A.E., London: I.B. Tauris


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