Issue 41 – Redebating the Laïcité/Secularism

Editors: Deniz Parlak – Yasin Durak

Enlightenment, Class Struggle and Laïcité
Taner Timur

In this article, I tried to explain in general terms how religion and state relationships have been regulated in Western societies and Ottoman Empire since Mediaeval times and what social revolutions brought about in this respect. I can summarize the topics that I addressed in the following pages as follows: The evolution that occurred more as “laïcité” in Latin tradition, on the other hand, as “secularism” in Anglo-Saxon tradition, occurred differently in Ottoman-Turkish world due to some characteristics of Islam and it was given form by external effects. Protestant movement, which is seen as a reform in religion and starting point of secularism in the West today, in fact aimed at returning to the “real religion” against corrupt Church, which was a part of feudalism, and meeting Christ’s doctrine without a mediator. However, the resistance that emerged in a period when feudal relations of production started to dissolve, found different representatives in class conflict and made progress within class struggle. Therefore Martin Luther, who started “the protest” movement in 1517, represented the part of aristocrats who were against the church, Thomas Müntzer found support among the poor peasants and Calvin found support among the bourgeoise. Destroying the integrity of the church, this movement caused Jesuit reformism, Jansenism and class struggles that looked like “religious wars” as a reaction. Ottoman Empire hadn’t had a fight under the name of “laïcité” or “secularism” until it collapsed. Therewithal, falling under the hegemony of Western capitalism from the first half of 19th century
also caused secular practices that caused dichotomies in public life implicitly. Tanzimat pashas and New Ottomans started a new period and Mithat Pasha and his friends crowned this period with “Kanun-u Esasi -The Ottoman Basic Law” which brought a citizen status that was appropriate in the secular sense, although they didn’t deny sultanate and caliphate. However, in the “Eastern Question” and intrigue world of imperial interests, this movement was short-dated and was ensanguined with the murder of Mithat Pasha. Afterwards, laïcité movement became an issue again only after Second Constitutional Era was declared in 1908 and again namelessly. However, again in this short period, laïcité that basically means freedom of belief and thought suffered from oppression and restrictions of Turkist nationalism and it didn’t leave a deep-rooted tradition to the new state to be established with National Liberation War. Under these circumstances, the country went through a period when the gains of Tanzimat-New Ottoman-Jeune Turks (Young Turks) movements were radicalized together with the republic and religion was pulled away from public life and partially was put under the control of the government -by means of Presidency of Religious Affairs-. Therefore, there has always been complaints of “unjust suffering” and criticism of laïcité practices in Republic period of which the 100th anniversary we will celebrate soon. Even four founder members of Democrat Party (DP), who were MPs within Republican People’s Party (CHP) for years, included this “unjust suffering” discourse in their criticisms mostly. Following this development, parties that got the greatest support from cults were formed since 1970s and in an atmosphere where vote calculations politicize religion, we have come to today when Turkish Parliamentary Speaker could express clearly that “Laïcité should be removed from the constitution”. Yet laïcité has gained a meaning that goes beyond religious feelings, theology and all kinds of holiness and covers both freedom of thought and lifestyle at the present time.
Keywords: Enlightenment, class struggle, laïcité, Turkey.

Secularization of the Demands of Equality and Justice in Pre-Revolutionary Russia and China
Yeşim Akmeraner

This study argues that the demands of equality and justice secularized on the basis of the strugglefor equal use of land within the context of peasant revolts/popular uprisings in pre-revolutionary Russia and China. It focuses on secularization of the demands of equality and justice on the basis of Stephan Razin and Pugachev revolts in Russia. It also concentrates on secularization of aforementioned demands on the basis of opposition against dynasty and anti-imperialist reactions in China. Within this context, it questions the assumption that secularization of the demand for power (which is named as secularization) is a product of bourgeoisie by focusing on the dynamics of social struggles.
Keywords: Russia, China, peasant revolts/popular uprisings, secularization.

On the Role of Religion on“Baazar ” and a Reconstruction of Hegemony
Engin Sune – Göksun Uğurlu

This article, through its concentration on the Iranian Revolution, analyzes how the religion is instrumentalized by a new hegemonic project in its effort to be dominant. In order to achieve its purpose, the paper firstly examines the contradictory relationship between Shah’s regime and the alliance of mullahs and bazaar that is mediated with the religious discourse and practices. It is aimed to show how the dominant accumulation strategy, with its exclusion of the bazaar from the economic structure, created a distinctive economic sphere amalgamated with the religious practices within the bazaar. Later the study targets to demonstrate how the bazaar-mullah alliance transformed the economic structure and the form of the state in the post-revolutionary period. This analysis aims to put forth the relationship between the processes in which the religious
oriented accumulation strategy and the new hegemonic project of the bazaar turned out to be dominant and the problem of secularism came to fore in the Iranian case.
Keywords: Iranian Revolution, bazaar, hegemony, religion.

A Contribution to Historic al Sociology of the Foundation Period
of Secularism in Turkey
Efe Peker

The institutionalisation of secularism in Turkey is often examined in the social sciences through the analysis of the republican state builders’ positivist worldviews. Accordingly, the legal and institutional form Turkish secularism took in the 1920s and 1930s is viewed virtually as a direct reflection of the republicans’ ideational frameworks. Going beyond such narratives that place positivism (or other modernist ideational currents) at the centre, this study scrutinises the development of secularism in Turkey as part of a concrete sociopolitical conflict inherent to processes of national-capitalist state building. The argument here is that the ebbs and flows of secularisation is ultimately linked to two master processes, namely the establishment and generalisation of bourgeois social relations, and the construction of internal and external state sovereignty. In the context of these nationally organised variables, the study presents a summary of the contentions that shaped secularisation in Turkey, and it seeks to contribute to the historical sociology of the early Republic.
Keywords: secularism, positivism, Turkey, state building, Islam.

‘Sovereignty belongs to Allah’ against ‘Sovereignty unconditionally
belongs to the Nation’: Restoring Divine Rule in the Neoliberal Era
Gönenç Uysal

This paper regards the principle of secularism as one of the founding principles of the Republican
state and society. It argues that secularism has been constructed and transformed in accordance
with the capitalist development and later neoliberal transition of Turkey. By borrowing its theoretical framework from Marxism, this paper unpacks construction and transformation of the state’s
discourse on secularism in relation to the ideology of Kemalism and the hegemonic project of
conservative democracy. It argues that the Kemalist discourse on secularism aims to purge the precapitalist remains at the superstructure level, and to restructure the state and society within the
framework of capitalist modernity. It further argues that beginning in 1947, the state’s discourse on secularism has shifted with conservatism in relation to the domestic capitalist process under the
conditions of international dependency. Finally, it argues that conservative democracy has transformed the state’s discourse on secularism in order to reconstruct the state and societal structures
in accordance with the authoritarian framework of neoliberal-Islamism. In this way, conservative
democracy has dismantled and religionised the founding principle of state and society in order to
consolidate the rule of capital under tutelage of divine rule.
Keywords: Secularism, Islam, Marxism, discourse, Turkey.

Notes on the Adventure of Laicism in Turkey between 1920s-1970s in the Context of Nationalism, Popularisation, Publicness
Ali Ekber Doğan

In the Republic of Turkey, the concept of laicism/secularism is a regulatory principle that has gained different meanings regarding social freedoms during different decades. In this study, the issue of the development of the laicism concept as one of the important constitutional principles within the Turkish Republic will be dealt with in a framework based on three premises: the relationship between laicism and nationalism in the construction of a modern nation-state, the degree of its character of popularisation taking the origins from the ethos of the term in the historical evolution in the west and the level and ways of its impacts to the social formation. In this article, these issues will be analysed from the initial years of Turkish Republic construction to the1970s. In addition to this historical analysis, only some developments in socio-spatial, political and cultural aspects, which representing that time period, will be discussed.
Keywords: Laicism, Nationalism, Popularisation, Publicness, Peasantism, Politics of Religion and laizcism in the Turkish Left.

Woman has No Name: Equality in the Decisions of Constitutional Court on Religious Marriage
Nisan Kuyucu

The Constitutional Court (CC), in one of its judgement in 2015, has annuled articles of Turkish Penal Code which regulate solemnization of religious marriage ceremony without civil marriage as a crime. When the decision has been examined, it has been observed that the CC has not taken account of the consequences of allowance of religious marriage ceremony without civil marriage ceremony on the women and the children who live in Turkey. In 1999, the application to CC for annulment of the same articles of the Penal Code was rejected on the grounds of principle
of secularism and providing equality between women and men. This change of jurisprudence could not be seen apart from conservative politics of AKP government in these elapsed sixteen years. Besides; the judgement of the CC is not in accordance with international legal obligations of Turkey. Because international legal regulations approach to religious marriage ceremony on the
perspective of providing gender equality and elimination of discriminative applications to women. International legal regulations also confer the responsibilities upon States to make parallel regulations with them. It is a simple matter to say that the CC would not have annuled relevant articles of the penal code, if it had considered principle of equality of the 10th article of the Constitution and obligations confered by international law.
Keywords: Constitutional Court, religious marriage, equality, conservatism, secularism.

Migration and Urbanization: The Case of Stallholders from Digor
Ömer Çelebi – Ester Ruben Biton

The contemporary world has witnessed to intensive processes of population condensation in particular places in accordance with the dynamics of capital accumulation. Being the 15th largest city in the world and having received immense amounts of migration, Istanbul is one of those cities where radically transforming dynamics of capital accumulation has had great impact upon the urban space as well as social relations therein. This article aims to discuss the relationship between migration and urbanization with reference to the case of stallholders from Digor, who have become to play dominant roles in the pedlar’s trade in Anatolian side of Istanbul. Based on a field research on the migration as well as urbanization experiences of stallholders from Digor, this article tries to understand how come such a particular position of stallholders from Digor in pedlar’s trade has been historically established.
Keywords: (Forced) migration, urban space, stallholders from Digor, gentrification, urban renewal.