Whither Muslim Fraternity?
Kurdish nationalism is often framed as a secular political project. And yet, Islam undeniably plays a part in the history and daily lives of the Kurds in Turkey. In her recent book for Oxford University Press, sociologist Gülay Türkmen examines the ambiguous relationship between religion and ethnic identity within Turkey’s Kurdish conflict.
Gülay, a research fellow of the Migration, Integration, Transnationalization Unit, presents the controversial legacy of the Kurdish-language Civil Friday Prayers that sprung up in many of Turkey’s Kurdish majority cities between 2011 and 2013 to illustrate the complexities of a conflict whose roots predate the birth of the Turkish nation state. Despite calls in the past from both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Kurdish movement’s leadership for a “Muslim fraternity” of Sunni-majority Turks and Kurds and attempts to present Islam as a conflict resolution tool, according to Türkmen, the Civil Friday Prayers showed that Islam may also act as a tool of resistance.
In following the pathways of secularist and Islamist strains within Kurdish and Turkish nationalism, Türkmen pays particular attention to how they have led to diverging interpretations of a unifying potential based on shared religion. Combining in-depth ethnographic accounts with historical explanations, the study contributes to a larger discussion of how religion may or may not help in resolving political conflict and violence.