The Young Scholars on Turkey (YSOT) Program presents
“Dynamics of Islamic Public Opinion in Turkey” with Judd King, Georgetown University
The rise of political movements centered around Islamic identity has proven to be one of the most complex challenges analytically and in terms of policymaking. The “public opinion” dimension of the issue is critical to the success as well as failure of “Islamist” political projects. In the case of Turkey, the “hidden agenda” argument about the ruling center-right AK Party in Turkey implies that the conservative public opinion can be reduced to “religious” references. Is conservative public opinion shaped solely by Islam? What are the basic dynamics of the relationship between conservative public opinion and Islam in Turkey? How can we determine the set of “moral values” at work and do these values necessarily derive from Islam?
Moderator: by David C. Cuthell, Executive Director, The Institute of Turkish Studies
Judd King started his presentation by outlining the main question of his research: is public opinion among religious and conservative groups in Turkey necessarily shaped by a close reading of the precepts of their religion? Reporting on the in-depth interviews he conducted throughout Turkey among AK Party voters who had also voted for the Welfare Party in the 1990s. King found that “religious conservatives” as such did not necessarily go back to the scriptural source to respond to questions about social, cultural, and political matters. Their responses were often an amalgam of traditional religious beliefs (which can contradict the scripture itself), national identity, a democratic discourse, and “liberal” ideals. King argued that the idea that suggests one can understand the political choices of these actors through a reading of their “belief system” is flawed as it falls short of accounting for the complexity and diversity of opinions among religious/conservative actors in Turkey.
Judd King is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He received his B.A. in International Comparative Studies from Duke University in 2005. He received his M.A. from Georgetown University in Arab Studies in 2007. His current dissertation research examines the moral psychology underlying political Islam in Turkey, and the interaction of cultural, scriptural, and socioeconomic conditions shaping both voters’ political preferences and daily lives based on interviews with both ordinary voters and senior politicians. His research interests include cultural change in the Middle East, Islamic mysticism, sectarian relations, and the construction of authority in Islam.