From honourable to villainous: political competition and sectarianisation in Turkey

Ramazan Kılınç

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This contribution examines how political considerations influence the creation of religious discourses and interpretations among rival religious actors. It analyses how the religio-political discourses of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement in Turkey shifted once they became political rivals in the 2010s. Building on the sectarianisation thesis, I show how the leaders in both movements employed religio-political rhetoric to delegitimise one another. The AKP leadership portrayed the Gülen movement as a heretical religious group used by foreigners. The leaders in the Gülen movement represented the AKP as a corrupt and authoritarian organisation, which deviated from religion and suppressed sincere Muslims. The sectarianisation thesis has frequently been used to explain the relationship between theologically distinct religious traditions. I use it to address the rivalry between theologically similar groups. In this case, the leaders need to engage in massive propaganda that simultaneously combines political and theological messaging. Through sectarianisation, leaders in the AKP and the Gülen movement consolidated the support among their ardent supporters. However, the sectarianisation in Turkey not only deepened the conflict between the AKP and the Gülen movement but also divided the opposition against the authoritarian state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalReligion, State and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • AKP-Gülen conflict
  • Islamism in Turkey
  • Sectarianisation in Turkey
  • the Gülen movement
  • the Justice and Development Party

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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