Not convinced by vague expressions such as “moderate Islam,” which tells one little about content and rather describes what that type of Islam it isn’t, Neslihan Cevik, of University of Virginia, identifies new Islamic orthodoxy as “Muslimism.”
Although paying special attention to the Turkish case, Cevik said her observations can be applied, at least to some extent, to other areas as well. She presented her paper at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES) in late August. “Muslimism” neither rejects modernity nor does it submit to it.
It aims at finding ways to live in the modern world while preserving one’s identity and piety. “Muslimists” move away from traditional establishments, such as Sufi orders. In relation to the state, they tend toward a liberal polity. Educated, urbanized and upwardly mobile Muslims are the agents of Muslimism. Islamic and modern political values are seen as congruent with each other.
The Muslimist discourse is not anti-secular, but it is critical of State secularism as it developed in Turkey. Life and institutions must be submitted to the sacred, but the state’s business is not to tell people to be religious. It redefines Turkish secularism by giving religion its autonomy, while the state has its autonomy as well. Muslimism is critical both of Islamic and secularist State models. This leads to a political and cultural tolerance, with a reluctance to support top-down policies (e.g. no alcohol ban, but the duty of the state is to warn about its dangers).
Contrary to some observers and critics, Cevik argues that Muslimism is not a mere strategic trick; it really does represent an innovation within Turkish Islam.