This essay aims to examine the peculiarities of the process of secularization and the outcomes of the proclamation and enforcement of the principle of secularism (laiklik) during the Second and Third Republic of Turkey. In this period, the country has experienced a deep transformation of the relationship among religion, politics and society, whose most evident results are a greater visibility of the Islamic headscarf and the success of religiously-oriented political parties. These developments have compromised the ideological pillars on which Atatürk, ‘Father of the Turks’, had founded the ‘new Turkey’ and have led to opposite interpretations. On the one side Turkey, once the bulwark of religious moderation in the Near and Middle East, is seen as being threatened by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. On the other side, the religiously-oriented protagonists of this social and political change have achieved the country’s most significant progress in the process of adoption of the acquis communautaire and have strengthened its credentials as a democratic regime far more than their Kemalist counterparts.
Keywords: Laicity, Turkey, modernization, Kemalism, Islamic headscarf, Islam-oriented parties