"The Religion of Muhammad": Early Turkish Republican Ideology and the Official View of Islam in 1930s History Textbooks

Akile Zorlu Durukan


Shifts to structurally new political formations or at times even governmental changes usually engender new representations of the past. This process generally involves the creation of official national histories or revisions to the existing narratives. These histories are ultimately tied to collective memory engineering and identity building to legitimize the new political formations and to ensure loyalty to them. Public education mostly provides a vital channel for the dissemination and the validation of the collective memory sanctioned by the ruling elite. The rise of the Turkish Republic as a nation-state and the national historiography and educational system it established during the 1930s exemplify one of such cases. The consensus opinion in current scholarship argues that the early official historiography virtually circumvented the Ottoman and Islamic eras by curbing or even repealing their role by favoring strong accent on a remote pre-Islamic Turkish past. Although this view is warranted with regard to the state?s primary ideological emphasis on Turkishness, this approach at the same time misses the intricate subtleties involved in the official national narrative and potentially indicates a total exclusion or denunciation of these subjects. This article aims to assess the new national historical narrative reproduced in the new history textbooks in a more nuanced way with an exclusive concentration on the ideology, religion and history education triangulum. It aspires to unveil what it articulated about the supposedly avoided topic of the Islamic past and especially focus on the officially endorsed view of Islam as a religion.


Turkey; modernization; textbooks; history; ideology; Islam; Kemalism; 1930s; identity; nationalism.

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