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Confessional pluralism and the civil society effect: Liberal mediations of Islam and secularism in contemporary Turkey



Practices and ideals of confessional pluralism and liberal interpretations of Islam have achieved new prominence in Turkish civil society in recent years. In this article, I marshal fieldwork conducted among a variety of Turkish Islamic civil society institutions to argue that confessional pluralism and liberal Islam have reoriented practices of politics and secularism in Turkey. As I demonstrate, liberal discourse about religious difference emerges within civil society as a foil to hegemonic, homogeneous visions of Islam on the part of the state. My principal theoretical contribution is the civil society effect: how the institutions and discourses of civil society are idealized and rendered distinct from state power. Ethnographically, I focus on two religious groups that have achieved organization within civil society: Turkish Alevis and supporters of the Sunni Hizmet Movement.