Review of Banu Eligur Book / Kemal Silay

The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey
Banu Eligür
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 317 pp. $85
Reviewed by Kemal Silay
Indiana University, Bloomington

In an era when an overwhelming majority of articles and books published on Islamism are apologetic in nature and often fall short in terms of academic and scholarly integrity, Eligür's study constitutes a shift in research design, data, analytical strength, and discursive qualities.

Eligür of Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies utilizes a wide range of primary and secondary sources as well as interviews to write what is perhaps the most successful scholarly attempt to explain the rise of political Islam in Turkey.

The author argues that "grievance-based" cultural approaches are inherently flawed explanations for the Islamist mobilization in Turkey since the 1970s. Those who "regard political Islam as a protest movement against modernity and Western colonial domination" have failed in understanding the situation in Turkey. As Eligür argues, "Turkey was never subjected to Western colonial domination. The Turkish revolution, which introduced a secular state, was a successful struggle to forestall Western imperialism and domination." Eligür's theoretical approach combines a number of crucial themes in a powerful framework: social movements' mobilization, dynamics of organizations, and the use of political opportunity structures thereof.

It is in this triangle that she locates Turkish Islamism's success especially after the 1980 military coup. By eradicating the "Turkish leftist danger," the coup leaders invested in a "Turkish-Islam synthesis" and planted the seeds of radical and neo-liberal Islamism, a blend of neo-capitalism and soft Islamism, in Turkey.

The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey is a remarkable book, providing the best work on the rise and development of Islamism in Turkey, offering significant insights into the major political actors of the modern Turkish Islamist da'wa (proselytism), from Erbakan to Erdoğan.

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