The Enduring Hold of Islam in Turkey

The Revival of the Religious Orders and Rise of Erdoğan

September 2024 9781911723837 384pp, 24 b&w illus
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Available as an eBook
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This is the first account in English of how Islamic religious orders dating back to Ottoman times have risen to dominate and define the future of Turkey, Europe’s awkward neighbour and the major power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Given its determined programme of secularising the people both under and after the Attatürk regime, Turkey is often projected as a model for the compatibility of Islam with parliamentary democracy. In this absorbing book, journalist and writer David S. Tonge reveals the limitations of that secularisation, and its progressive reversal, in what continues to be a profoundly religious country. He describes how Muslim Turks’ religious identity has been taken over by branches of one of Islam’s great religious orders, the Naqshbandis, whose profoundly anti-Western ethos was honed by British and French colonial incursions into the heartland of their faith.

Tonge’s history offers a salutary alternative to the wishful narrative developed by Western chancelleries during the Cold War, one which viewed Turkey as a westernising democracy. The revival of both Turkish nationalism and Islam helped President Erdoğan’s rise to power, and will shape the regime that succeeds him—illuminating and understanding Turkey’s realities of faith and religious politics has never been more important.


‘Fascinating; an unknown world. Well-paced and nicely written. It may well become required reading for a range of people with a professional interest in Turkey and Islam.’ — Giles Merritt, author and commentator on Europe

‘“Mabrouk” (Congratulations)’ — David Gardner, former Foreign International Affairs Editor, Financial Times

‘Beautifully written in clear and lively prose, this traces the history of the opaque religious communities who continue to hold real sway to this day–but whose influence is often under-appreciated by outside observers. This meticulously researched book will be a key addition to the bookshelves of anyone interested in the workings of modern-day Turkey.’ — Laura Pitel, former Ankara correspondent, Financial Times

‘A very well-written and enjoyable book–of great relevance, importance and topicality.’ — Iradj Bagherzade, founder of IB Tauris and iB2 Media


David Tonge has lived half of his life in Turkey. A scholar of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, he reported from Ankara and Athens for the BBC, Guardian and Observer, then from London as the Financial Times’ diplomatic correspondent. The author of The Kremlin’s Confidant, he grows citrus and olives.

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