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The Resurgence of Pan-Islamism in Turkey and the Varying Perceptions of the Middle East

Authors: Nihat Celik*, School of Public Affairs San Diego State University
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East, Religion
Keywords: geopolitical imagination, identity, pan-ideologies, Turkey, Middle East,
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism emerged as a reaction to the failure of the initiative to develop a common Ottoman identity in the face of nationalist movements such as Pan-Slavism, Pan-Hellenism and Pan-Arabism in the late 19th and early 20th century, however, the First World War discredited both movements. As a result, a secular form of Turkish nationalism based on citizenship and territory, in harmony with the cautious and pro-status quo foreign policy and modernist reforms, was fostered in the Republican era. Yet the pan-ideologies went on to attract supporters and resurface at times of geopolitical turning points such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union. With the Justice and Development Party's (JDP) coming to power in 2002, due to the increasing level of Turkish involvement in the Middle East and political discourses based on Islamic solidarity, it is possible to observe a resurgence of Pan-Islamist ideas. The main aim of this paper is two-fold: as the first of all, it will shed light on the historic moments that led to the emergence and evolution of these pan-ideologies. Secondly, by focusing on the interaction between the highly-polarized domestic politics and foreign policy, it will identify the varying perceptions of the Middle East (swamp vs. backyard) and Turkish engagement in the region in the Turkish public with an emphasis on the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War.

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