Islam has been a dominant force throughout Turkish history. During the Ottoman Empire, Islam ruled every part of the theocratic state, but after the demise of the empire, Turkey's rulers led the country away from political Islam. The modern Turkish state has a strictly secular government, and Islam has been relegated to the personal sphere. Although Turkey has experienced a rise in fundamentalism in the past twenty years, the separation of church and state has remained relatively intact. Even with this increase of fundamentalist Islam, the wide majority of Muslims in Turkey are moderate and tolerant. They have adapted to modern life and value Islam for its moral and spiritual messages. Islam is a guide for right living and ethical conduct rather than a political system. Turkey constantly struggles to balance Islamic life with a secular government. Although the government wants to maintain a strict separation between religion and politics, it cannot ignore the power and influence that Islam has in the lives of the Turkish people.
History of Islam in Turkey
?In the 8th century, the first Turkish-speaking tribes migrated westward from central Asia and began converting to Islam.? They became Sunni Muslims, who follow the most orthodox form of Islam.? Islam appealed to these nomads because it was a simple faith with straightforward requirements.? Many were so passionate about the faith that they became ghazis, ?warriors for the faith.?? Fighting the Byzantines, they began to conquer the lands of Anatolia in the name of Islam.? The Ottomans, one of the Turkish clans, became the dominant leaders of this new land and united the scattered Turkish tribes.? By the 12th century, a new wave of Turkish immigrants who followed a Sufi militant form of Islam came to Anatolia.? These Muslim groups (e.g. Safavi) became rivals of the orthodox Sunni Ottomans for control of eastern Anatolia.? To counteract this growing influence, the Ottomans appointed a rival Sufi group, the Bektasi, to become the official order of janissary soldiers who captured Byzantine cities throughout Anatolia.1
In 1453, the Ottomans captured Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul.? This victory allowed the Ottomans to consolidate their empire.? They revived the Islamic title of caliph and based the legitimacy of their rule in Islam.? Religion was integrated into every aspect of life.? Although the religious leaders did not have official titles, they maintained a strong influence over the political rulings of the empire.? They used the Shariah ? Islamic law ? and Islamic courts to rule their empire.? They also allowed non-Muslims to be self-governing groups known as millets (?nations?).? The Armenians, Greek Orthodox, and Jews were all allowed to have their own religious leaders and follow their own religious laws as long as they did not disrespect the ultimate authority of the Ottomans.2
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottomans had the largest and...