Term Paper on Transformation from Secularism to Modernism- Republic of Turkey

After first world war, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk established Republic of Turkey based on secularism and introduced westernization as a means to development, symbol of modernity .But, he failed to bring modernity in Turkey rather, the society became strange to itself .Gradually, the scenario got change by people of Turkey-student, teacher, intellectual, journalist, lawyer, businessman, politician and so on. Turkey started to change its track and follow own values rather than westernization as a means to modernity. This time, Turkey appeared as modern state as its development record got higher. Turkey's growing economy and diplomatic initiatives have led to its recognition as a regional power .
1. Modernization
Modernization means development. According to Harvard development scholar, “there is strong relation between development and culture”.[i]

Encyclopedia of Britannica says, “Modern society is industrial society. To modernize a society is, first of all, to industrialize it. Historically, the rise of modern society has been inextricably linked with the emergence of industrial society. All the features that are associated with modernity can be shown to be related to the set of changes that, no more than two centuries ago, brought into being the industrial type of society”.[ii]

2. Overview of Secular Turkey
3.1 Politics
Through a carefully calculated series of reforms in the 1920s and 1930s, Ataturk attempted to move his people away from their Ottoman and Muslim past. The basic principles of “six arrows” of Kamalism were populism, republicanism, nationalism, secularism, statism and reformism.[iii] He then overthrown the Sultan and established a western style republican system of political authority.

The notion of an Islamic state was anathema to Mustafa Kamal and his supporters. They viewed such a state as the way to maintain the status quo and perpetuate the backwardness of Turkey. For their part, the Kemalists wanted to see Turkey transformed into a modern nation state which, in the words of Mustafa Kemal, would ‘live as an advanced and civilised nation in the midst of contemporary civilisation’.[iv]

3.2 Economy
Having redefined the national, political, religious and cultural identity of the Turkish people, Kamal in the 1930s vigorously attempted to promote Turkish economic development. Westernization went hand-in-hand with and was to be the means of modernization.


3.3 Society
Mustafa Kamal brought many radical changes to Turkish society. He ended the traditional education and religious ministries, abolished separate religious schools and colleges, established a unified secular system of public education and did away with the religious courts that applied Islamic law, replacing them with a new legal system based on the Swiss civil code. He also replaced traditional calendar with Gregorian calendar and formally disestablished Islam as the state religion. He prohibited use of Fez because it was sign of religious traditionalism, encouraged people to wear hats However, those who refused to adopt western headgear and chose to continue to wear Islamic style turbans were put on trial and executed. The most famous example of this is Isikilipi Mehmed Atifhoca, who was executed on February 4, 1926.[v]

He decreed that Turkish would be written at Roman rather than Arabic script. This latter reform was of fundamental importance. “ It made it virtually impossible for the new generation educated in the Roman script to acquire access to the traditional literature, it encouraged the learning of European languages……….”[vi]


[i][i] Ruhul Amin, assistant professor, university of Dhaka
[ii] Modernization, available at http://www.britannica.com/
[iii] Huntington.P.Samuel,The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, Penguin Books India Pvt. Limited, New Delhi, 1996, p.144
[iv] Feroz Ahmed,The Making of Modern Turkey, Routlez,London,1993
[v] Ataturk’s Reform, www.Wikipedia.org
[vi] Huntington.P.Samuel, Ibid