The expression “the death of Islamism” is a metaphor. It describes the disappearance of a main political movement, more precisely; the loss of the oppositional character of an ideology, giving life to the AK Party government. What happens when an ideological movement whose raison d’être is to challenge the existing political system and government structure, and one that gains its identity and character from criticizing power, takes control of the government? In this case, a political movement based on an Islamist ideology was transformed into a political party in order to come to power democratically. What was once a political movement based on the faith of Islam has been softened and modified in order to be compatible with democracy’s rules, and once it carried this idea into government, the Islamic ideology vanished, just like the caterpillar who makes its cocoon and then breaks out of this cocoon as a butterfly. This metaphor argues that the AK Party government transformed Islamism, by injecting it into the democratic system, from a totalitarian ideology into a moderate democratic one.
The Birth and Death of Islamism
What happens when an ideological movement whose raison d’être is to challenge the existing political system and government structure, and one that gains its identity and character from criticizing power, takes control of the government? Turkey no longer has a noteworthy Islamist project. We must place this vanishing, or death, at the end of the story, a story that begins with its birth. When Muslims are able to express themselves through democratic means, they move away not only from violence, but also from an ideological Islamic interpretation. The death of Islamism in Turkey can therefore be explained by the wide-open channels of democracy. In such a free and democratic setting, there is no environment for Islamism to survive, especially when it is fit into a different mold through the support of the government.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal makes a speech during the congress of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara September 30, 2012. Erdogan trumpeted Turkey's credentials as a rising democratic power, saying
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