Islamist Party Poised for National Power in Turkey

by Haldun Gulalp
published in MER194

In Turkey’s March 1994 local elections, the pro-Islamist Refah (Welfare) Party won 19 percent of all votes nationwide. This was almost equivalent to the roughly 20 percent each of the government party (True Path) and of the major opposition party (Motherland), and significantly higher than the 13 percent of the junior partner of the coalition government, the Social Democratic Populist Party. Refah particularly triumphed in big cities and in the southeast. Both Istanbul and Ankara now have Islamist mayors, as do most of the towns and cities in the Kurdish region. Non-Islamist circles reacted to this Refah victory with shock and disbelief, despite indications that foreshadowed it throughout the second half of the 1980s.

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Report from a War Zone

Gama'at vs. Government in Upper Egypt

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER194

From the outside, they give a friendly impression, the villages around the small Egyptian city of Mallawi, four hours by train south of Cairo. The Nile waters flow serenely to the north. Only the chatter of the colorfully dressed women doing their laundry together on the riverbank breaks the silence of the countryside. On the unpaved village streets enormous water buffaloes and scrawny cows spend the day, only occasionally frightened off by one of the service taxis.

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Shari'a of Civil Code? Egypt's Parallel Legal Systems

An Interview with Ahmad Sayf al-Islam

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER197

Egyptian courts have increasingly become a site of political struggle between Islamists and secularists. In a state that restricts political parties and open political debate, courts are now one of the main venues for political expression for groups such as the Muslim Brothers. In the last few years, their lawyers have filed dozens of cases against what they perceive as “un-Islamic” writings by secular intellectuals or “un-Islamic” government decisions. They use the ambiguity inherent in the Egyptian legal system, which seems torn between mainly secular codified positive laws and the rules and regulations of the shari‘a, as interpreted by Islamic law scholars.

The Most Obscure Dictatorship

by Alain Gresh
published in MER197

The camera avoids faces, except those of the plainclothes police. The black-and-white images are hazy, jumpy. They evoke the antiquated style of negatives that have escaped the censor and customs searches. “This could be any country,” says the commentator -- Chile under Gen. Pinochet, or Burma under the military. But here the men who gather wear long white robes and checkered headdresses, held in place by an ‘iqal, a black silk tress. The women remain invisible.

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What Does the Gama'a Islamiyya Want?

An Interview with Tal`at Fu'ad Qasim

by Hisham Mubarak
published in MER198

Tal‘at Qasim got his start in al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya [1] (the Islamic Group) in the 1970s when it took control of many student organizations in the Egyptian universities. He led the student union in Minya, a hotbed of the Islamist movement, and later was a founding member of the majlis al-shura (governing council) of the organization at large. Sheikh ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman later became head of the majlis.

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Women's Organizations in Kuwait

by Haya al-Mughni
published in MER198

Women’s groups, like all voluntary associations in Kuwait, are controlled and funded by the state. They have elected boards, written constitutions and paid memberships. Law 24 of 1962 governing the activity of associations -- partially amended in 1965 and still in force -- gives the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor full control and power over voluntary associations. The Ministry has the power to refuse to license an association, to dissolve its elected board or to terminate an association if it determines the group not to be beneficial to society as a whole or not to be abiding by its constitution.

On Gender and Citizenship in Turkey

by Yesim Arat
published in MER198

In the summer of 1993, True Path Party delegates -- 99.8 percent of them males -- selected Tansu Çiller as chairperson of their party and thus their candidate for prime minister. For the first time since 1934, when women gained the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament, a woman became prime minister of Turkey. If citizenship involves the rights and responsibilities of membership to a state, here was a woman who had fully exercised her right to head the government of her country.

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"We Are a Civil Party with an Islamic Identity"

An Interview with Abu al-'Ila Madi and Rafiq Habib

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER199

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Turkish Women and the Welfare Party

An Interview with Sirin Tekeli

by Nukte Devrim-Bouvard
published in MER199

After the victory of the Welfare Party in the municipal elections of March 1994, the newly-elected mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, thanked the disciplined and devoted Islamist women who had campaigned door-to-door until election day. Islamist women also gave the same determined performance during the general election campaign. Contrary to expectations, however, the Welfare administration refused at the last minute to allow women to become parliamentary candidates for the general elections in December 1995. Headscarved women, they claimed, would have difficulty because of the dress code which prohibits women in public offices from wearing the headscarf, a prohibition which applies to women deputies in the parliament.

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Turkish Islam and National Identity

by Sami Zubaida
published in MER199

Turkish Islam is tied up with Turkish nationalism in a unique fashion, the product of Turkish history and identity. Turkey’s brand of Islamist ideology challenges the secularist components and the European identification of Kemalism, historically the dominant form of Turkish nationalism, but retains the central core of Turkish nationalism and statism.