The Nation or the Ummah

Islamism and Turkish Foreign Policy

By Birol Başkan & Ömer Taşpınar

Subjects: Political Science, Middle East Politics, Middle East Studies, Religion And Politics, Islam
Hardcover : 9781438486475, 222 pages, December 2021
Paperback : 9781438486482, 222 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents



1. Turkey's Traditional Kemalist Foreign Policy

2. JDP's First Decade

3. The Arab Spring

4. Islamism at Work

Conclusion: Reflections on the so-called Turkish Model


Explains why Turkey embraced the Arab Spring despite the risk both domestically and internationally.


Turkey's enthusiastic embrace of the Arab Spring set in motion a dynamic that fundamentally altered its relations with the United States, Russia, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran, and transformed Turkey from a soft power to a hard power in the tangled geopolitics of the Middle East. Birol Başkan and Ömer Taşpınar argue that the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Islamist background played a significant role in the country's decision to embrace the uprisings and the subsequent foreign policy direction the country has pursued. They demonstrate that religious ideology is endogenous to—shaping and in turn being shaped by—Turkey's various engagements in the Middle East. The Nation or the Ummah emphasizes that while Islamist religious ideology does not provide specific policy prescriptions, it does shape the way the ruling elite sees and interprets the context and the structural boundaries they operate within.

Birol Başkan is non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. He is the author of several books, including Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East and From Religious Empires to Secular States: State Secularization in Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Ömer Taşpınar is Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books, including What the West is Getting Wrong about the Middle East: Why Islam is Not the Problem.


"…this book is a valuable contribution to the field of Turkish studies. Two top experts provide a very good overview of Turkish foreign policy and propose a framework for understanding Turkey's policy choices in the Arab Spring. The book also provides a good case study for those who want to analyze the intersection of domestic and foreign policy and how ideology can be relevant in foreign policy decisions. It will therefore be useful for a broad audience interested in Turkish politics, Islamism, or foreign policy analysis." — Bustan: The Middle East Book Review

"…highly topical and timely … this book is a very good read for students of Turkish politics, Islamism, religion, international relations, and foreign policy." — Middle East Journal