Integral Politics: The Islamic Movement and Political Crisis in Turkey; with a 2012 Postscript

August 2007. Revised July 2008

(Paper presented at the IWB Istanbul and ITC Meetings, 2008)

Postscript, 2012

When green attacks orange, amber wins.” Ken Wilber, Integral Politics, Ch. 15.

[People] can find no way to move from their amber beliefs to orange beliefs when it comes to their religious faith…they hit a steel ceiling.” Ken Wilber, Integral Spirituality, p.181.


Much of the current political debate in Turkey revolves around what the ruling AK Party “really” stands for. While the AKP defines itself as a regular socially conservative party, folks with an orange lens see an Islamist party bent on establishing a theocracy and folks with a green lens see a pluralist party resisting the old elites and working for freedom of religious expression. This paper uses Wilber’s Integral Politics model to index the AKP movement, illuminate the relative positions of folks with different lenses, and help make sense of the current political discourse. It then assesses the likely paths of development for Turkish society.


What a mess!

The recent string of political crises in Turkey broke out a year ago April just as I was getting ready to read Chapter 15 of the Terrorism Trilogy/Integral Politics. They were (and still are) tense days: Prime Minister Erdogan and his ruling Islamic AK Party nominated Foreign Minister Gul for the presidency. The military posted a statement on its web site that it was watching the situation closely and would fulfill its obligation to defend secularism. (This would later be dubbed the first e-coup in history.) The BBC World News was reporting that tens of thousands of secularists were demonstrating in the streets, and the speaker was spitting out the word “secularist” as if it were a four letter word.

The president in Turkey is elected by the parliament and holds largely a symbolic post. But he does have veto power over parliamentary decisions, has to confirm high level bureaucratic appointments, and is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. For the past 7 years Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who had served many years as the head of the Constitutional Court, was president. A thorough secularist, he vetoed a record number of bills and appointments passed by the ruling AK Party.

So now, with the possible election of Abdullah Gul as president, the AK Party would control both the government and the presidency, and there would be no countervailing secularist power. Would the AKP establish an Islamic theocracy (sharia)? Would it promote religion and religious imagery in public life even more aggressively (“debase religion by using it as a political tool” as the secularist orange statement would go)? These were the reasons tensions ran high and, as it turns out, not tens of thousands but millions took to the streets.

The reporting on the demonstrations itself was interesting. Nobody could decide on the number of participants and in some ways nobody could get their heads around the events. The current best count seems to be that about 4-5 million secularists took to the streets over the course of 4 weekends, shouting “Turkey is secular and will remain secular” and “No Sharia No Coup”.

A controversial ruling by the Constitutional Court in May 2007, regarding presidential election procedures, stalled the election of Gul and precipitated early general elections in July. On July 23 2007 the AKP came back to power, having increased its share of votes from 34% to 47%. This, under the Turkish electoral system which requires a party to get at least 10% of the popular vote to make it into the parliament, translates to over 60% of the parliamentary seats in both cases.

Abdullah Gul was elected president by the parliament in August 2007. It has been a tug of war between the secularist military and judiciary and the AKP since then, as the revision of the constitution looms large on the national agenda.

Political Islam became prominent in Turkey in the 1970’s with Necmettin Erbakan’s National Order Party. Over the years it took on many different names as one party after another was closed down through military intervention under the rigid secularism of Turkey. Turkish secularism is more accurately laicism – the subordination of religion to the state as opposed to the separation of religion and the state. The constitution holds the religious expression Islam to be a completely private affair, allows no religious symbols in state public functions, and limits the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in public spaces and institutions. The state controls the education of religious professionals and their assignments to mosques, as well as all religious schools and the content of religious education. In this context, whether a political party is Islamist or not becomes a highly sensitive issue and the military, with a responsibility to defend the constitution, intervenes. So in 1972 The National Order Party became the National Salvation Party, in 1983 it was the Welfare Party, and in 1997 it became the Virtue Party. In 2001 the movement split into two groups. The followers of Erbakan formed the Felicity Party and young reformists under the leadership of Erdogan and Gul formed the Justice and Development (AK) Party.

Even though the AKP has been in power since 2002 with an overwhelming majority in the parliament, it also holds the “top victim” status in the national psyche, because it is constantly under the watchful eye of the military. A lot of folks, especially those with a green lens, tend to see the demands of political Islam in Turkey as the plea of a marginalized group for freedom of religious expression. It was, therefore, quite surprising to most to have the secularists, long considered “the establishment,” demonstrate in the streets.

According to the Turkish media, the US State Department, which seems to want to promote “a moderately Islamic state,” responded to the demonstrations after many days of silence also with: “We are surprised.” Europe was caught between a rock and a hard place. Turkey is in membership talks with the EU and so relations are quite tense at the best of times.  While European governments are uneasy about the possibility of a theocratic Islamist government, they see the military’s withdrawal from politics as the litmus test of a “true democracy;” and who can really blame them. Military regimes have usually come with a great deal of violence, oppression and authoritarianism. But would it not be wise to also look at the LL cultural and ideological content of this authoritarian LR organization?

The Turkish military has intervened in Turkish politics four times. Each time they have returned power to the civilians within a few years. The 1960 coup actually expanded and guaranteed the rights of free speech and free association. The 1971 and 1980 coups were against socialist movements and escalating political violence, limited many civil rights, and were both quite brutal. The 1997 “soft coup” – in the form of a letter of ultimatum – brought down the coalition government of the Islamist Welfare Party, in which Gul served as an MP and Erdogan as the mayor of Istanbul.

In other words, it seems to me the military has been pretty consistent, and in a bizarre combination of amber paternalism and orange values, has been trying to keep Turkey on the straight and narrow of a secular, democratic, and capitalist modern/orange path. It is also important to point out that the military is the only institution in Turkey that consistently gets a 80%+ approval rating in national polls, reflecting, not only deeply seated nationalist-amber support, but now orange level support as well: An unusual bedfellow, indeed, for orange secularism and democracy.

Still, would it not be great if the average level of consciousness in the society was at orange (or better yet, healthy green) and military interventions were uncalled for? Sure. Isn’t there a better way to ensure development? Hopefully. But greens, whether in Europe or in Turkey, cannot think in developmental terms or acknowledge the possibility of regression to an undemocratic amber social center of gravity. Such regression, on the other hand, is all that orange is able to see.

Given this complicated situation, a lot has boiled down to the question of what the AK Party really stands for. Would they really rescind secularism? Do they really want to establish sharia? Could they, even if they wanted to?

AKP says they accept secularism, but that they oppose the rigid secularism (European laicism) of the Republic. They argue that they have no intention of establishing sharia or forcing all women, for example, to wear the Islamic head scarf/hijab. Secularists, of course, don’t believe that for a moment. They point to the fact that the former speaker of the parliament, Bulent Arinc, called for a debate on secularism. They also point out that in fundamentalist Islam it is considered auspicious to lie if it will further the interests of Islam. (And where do we go, if the validity claim of truthfulness in the UL of individuals is called into question?)

The AK party members point to the fact that their government has done more in terms of legal reforms and economic stability to further the process of EU membership and “westernization” than any other government in Turkey. Some, including the Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria, accept this as proof that they have no intention of establishing sharia. (see Newsweek, May 14, 2007.)The secularists, however, point to the attempt to make adultery a criminal offense, as would be mandated by Islamic Law, and to the reforms which expanded courses on religion and religious practices in primary education. They point to the efforts of some Islamist mayors to ban alcohol, segregate city busses based on gender, and remove statues of nudes from parks, as well as the appointment of Islamists to every conceivable post.

They also point to the newspaper interview with one of the top leaders of the AKP who said they started out on this road pretty much like the Taliban. They wanted to destroy the giant sculptures on Mount Nemrut. They had changed now, though, he said. (And I count on my fingers “OK, say a minimum of 5 years per level shift, how many years ago was this? Can we get from red to green values, at least hypothetically?” Never mind…)

Then there is the poem Erdogan recited some years earlier at a political rally. In rough translation it went something like “the mosques are our barracks, the minarets our spears, their domes are our helmets and the faithful our army…” (Before you cringe: how do you react when someone sings “Onward Christian Soldiers”? What meaning do you attribute to it? An internal transformation? A social development project?  A blood bath? Depends on the altitude of the person singing it? See what I mean about counting?)

Erdogan was charged, tried, and convicted by the National Security Court for reciting that poem at a political rally --for “having provoked religious hatred and having called for a religious insurrection.” For the Turks with a green lens, this is ample proof of the oppressive regime of the secularist establishment that allows no plurality of views. And so it is. Except that in countries like the US or in Europe, with stable orange/green social centers of gravity, such poems do not threaten the self reproduction of the society; they do not exert a strong regressive pressure on the social holon. According to green they don’t threaten anything in Turkey either. But then greens have no depth vision, and they would not see danger if it did. So I cannot trust the green view, as much as I would like to. And I cannot forget the Sivas affair where, in 1993 a large group of religious zealots coming out of Friday prayers stormed and set fire to a hotel where a group of secular and Alevi intellectuals --writers, novelists, poets-- were meeting and 37 people died. And the local Islamist Welfare Party mayor was accused of withholding police assistance and firefighting equipment.

And then there is the issue of the religious headscarf/hijab which became popular in the 1990s. This is not the traditional head covering many women have always worn, but a special way to tie the head scarf that signals something new. While everybody agrees it signals something new, there is disagreement on exactly what it signals: a “conscious” Muslim staking out her place in civil society, as seen through a green lens; an Islamist who wants regime change, as seen through an orange lens; or a new fashion for a devout Muslim fulfilling the mandates of Islam, as seen through an amber lens. Here, in another unexpected alliance, the AK Party has adopted green language. Instead of culture, tradition or religion, it has began to point to the lack of “individual rights and religious freedom,” evident in the ban of the headscarf in state-related spaces.  They have even taken the issue to the European Court for Human Rights, though not with the desired results. The Court, looking through an unexpectedly orange lens, decided that the head scarf was a threat to Turkish democracy.

Sitting in Cambridge, with an inescapable green aura, I want to laugh at this issue. Who cares, for heaven’s sake, if a member of parliament or a student attending public university wants to wear a headscarf? Isn’t it a matter of individual choice? They are worn everywhere else. Don’t we have better things to worry about? At the same time, when I am in Istanbul and I activate my subtler LL ways of knowing, the amber-orange tensions and the symbolism of the headgear are palpable. The militancy of both (some of) the women who wear the scarf and those secularists who observe them can be overwhelming. The darn scarf might as well be a black shirt or a brown shirt or a KKK robe, from the perspective of the secularists. Clearly, though, this is not what someone looking through a green lens sees. They see a rebellion of the marginalized religious folk and the disdain of secularists, as I tend to when I am in Cambridge.

So: It is pretty clear that people who look at the AKP through a secularist orange lens see an Islamic fundamentalist religious movement bent on establishing a theocracy (sharia) modeled after Iran and with ca 700 AD as the utopian vision. For them the military is the savior of the modern Republic. Folks who look through a green lens tend to see the AKP as the champion of millions of ordinary religious Turks who want to exercise their group-human rights and bring more of their religious beliefs into public discourse. They refer to the “secular ruling establishment” and argue that “The Real Threat is Secular Fundamentalism” (the title of the editorial by columnist Mustafa Aykol in the International Herald Tribune, May 5-6, 2007). For them the Military is the authoritarian arm of the ruling elites who have no tolerance for pluralism or multiple perspectives.

What better opportunity to apply the new theory, especially since the central theme of Ch. 15 has to do with classifying political parties/movements? So, what does the ruling AK Party stand for, if we look through an integral lens?

Indexing the AKP

According to Ch. 15 we can look at a political movement on three major axes-- internalist/externalist; individualist/collectivist; transformation/translation-- and the altitude scale.

The internalist/externalist axis, or LH vs. RH quadrants, answers the question of who or what is primarily to blame for the cause of human suffering, the internal world or the external world? Here, the AK Party would fall in the internalist camp. The prototypical argument would be something like: It is the repression of our values, most especially our religious values that has led to suffering. While the economic advances of the West are to be admired, Western culture and their secularist local followers have undermined our individual and social health with decadence, promiscuity, and permissiveness. We are without a compass if we let our traditional values be corroded by imported cultures.

In 1997, while he was the Welfare Party mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan gave a TV interview clearly locating the cause of suffering as well as its relief in the interior world. Earlier he had said that democracy was not an aim, but a means. This had been widely interpreted as the means to Islamic Rule. He wanted to set the record straight: “Democracy is a means, but not for totalitarianism, not for undemocratic aims. We are seeking a moral, ethical basis for governance…The purpose of democracy is to give people peace of mind. To give people peace of mind, you need ethics.”

Researchers have pointed out that at the grassroots level party activists tend to relate the universalist themes that emerge at the national level – democracy, freedom, social justice, equality and pluralism—directly to sharia and Islamic cultural norms. Overall the party emphasizes the moral requirements of the Kuran rather than specific issues, which, in turn, are presented as the outcome of an immoral versus a moral system. Ultimately democracy, social justice, ethics, sharia and sometimes even civil society are used interchangeably, underlining the idea that sharia law is necessary to be able to live the requisite moral principles fully and that this is not possible under the present system of rigid secularism and state controlled religion. (White)

At the same time, it seems the exact meaning of each of these concepts, especially that of “sharia”, shifts according to the audience at hand, helping redefine each of these terms, and creating much confusion, not for the audiences, but for the researchers. While this makes for a particularly resilient political movement and gives me hope about translations of amber beliefs and values to fit with an orange social center of gravity (more on that later), it also gives support to the secularist view that the Party will say whatever an audience will bear, making their “real” intentions unclear.

This internalist orientation also helps explain why an AK Party government would undertake a lot of the RH political and economic reforms demanded by the EU in good faith, since these would have little to do with the real source of suffering or its relief. And why they would, instead, concentrate on policies that allow for the expression of LH religious values.

The second axis, the individualist/collectivist axis, reflecting upper vs. lower quadrants, has to do with who has sovereignty, “I, the individual” or “we, the people”.

The AK Party is collectivist, but with two different altitudes. The relatively new outlook is based on green group-rights. This stance is, in fact, what most differentiates the AKP form all the earlier Islamist parties. It seems to me this was the path the movement had to take in order to make itself heard in an orange/green world, but it also found support in the broader population. Some members and supporters of the party, especially its post-modern intelligentsia, do fall in the group-rights camp, defining themselves as “the religious”. They would argue something like: the rigid secularism that was established at the beginning of the Republic makes absolutely no room in civil society for our religious beliefs and practices. Culturally, we are treated like second class citizens. If we also want to wear religious garb in public office or in school, we should be able to. If we want to pray 5 times a day, there should be facilities to accommodate us in most places. If we want our children to get a religious education they should have access to such courses in public schools. These are our traditions and our beliefs. We believe there is a right/good way of being and behaving and we should each be allowed to practice that.

Note that this line of argument is healthy if it builds upon (transcends and includes) universalist individual rights of orange – rights that all individual members of the society can live under. The healthy green collectivist position, in other words, would be something like: “We don’t care what anybody else does, but we want to be allowed to be ourselves, to form value communities/identity groups. We want to change power configurations, but not infringe on anybody else’s fundamental orange rights.”

It is in this context that AKP underlines that it would like to see what they call “American Rules” rather than “European Laicism.” “American Rules” would abolish state regulation of religion, allow folks to open religious schools and freely wear religious clothing.

But there is also the more traditionalist collectivist camp reflecting an amber altitude: It is our old and time tested traditions that will save the day. We should all respect and observe the mandates of Islam. There is a right/good way of doing things and a bad/wrong way. We need to debate the principle of secularism, because, after all, Islam also has political mandates. It is not a matter of, say, making religious education available to all, but making it mandatory. It is not enough that secularism gives everyone an opportunity to worship, we should all be worshipping. Charity, community, conformity, unity are key. 

And in this context it is not at all clear that the Party would accept “American Rules” fully, which would also imply giving up national religious holidays and excluding religious instruction and prayer from public schools.

One bizarre outcome of this dual stance, or the “conformist identity politics” stance, has been the proposal of multiple legal orders which would formally fragment the society. Under this regime Muslims would be governed by sharia and minorities by civil laws based on their own religious precepts. Given that the non-Muslim communities in Turkey are very small, the real problem would be how to deal with non-religious or secular Muslims. When pushed on this issue, the response of the Party leaders generally has been that “Muslims have to follow holy law” or that “secular Muslims are not Muslims.”

The third axis, the transformation/translation, or progressive/conservative axis, has to do with the type of change envisioned. Transformation refers to progress up the developmental spiral (Eros). Translation refers to consolidation at the existing level of development, by embracing the present and reaching down to lower levels (Agape). These are both healthy moves. Unhealthy transformation, reaching up and repressing aspects of the lower level, is Phobos; and unhealthy translation, a fragmentation at the present level and regressing down to a lower level, Thanatos.

Here we need to specify what is moving where in a little more detail. What I am concerned with is the social holon and the social center of gravity. History suggests that the LR techno-economic base is the most important determinant of the average level of consciousness and thus the social center of gravity in the longer run. It is, however, the altitude of the LL dominant mode of discourse and the corresponding LR governance systems that define the social center of gravity, in the here and now.

While exact specifications are difficult, I think we could agree that the social center of gravity, as defined by the current dominant mode of discourse and the governance structure in Turkey, is orange or emergent orange. The dominant techno-economic base also is increasingly industrial. While the leading edge in the population is orange/green, the average level of consciousness of individuals in the society is probably exit-amber/emergent orange.

Under these circumstances any orange or higher governance structure and a dominant mode of discourse that aligns with an orange/industrial techno-economic base would be healthy –it would not drag down individuals who are rapidly moving up the spiral as their socio-economic context changes from amber agriculture to industrial orange and accommodate individuals who stop their development earlier on the spiral. An amber governance structure (eg theocracy) combined with an amber mode of discourse (eg a discourse based on conformist mythic religious beliefs and values) would be a regression and would create widespread carpet burn.

At the same time, it is possible to argue, as the AKP seems to, that as Turkey progressed to orange, it did so by repressing amber level religion, creating an unhealthy, phobic structure. This is itself creating a drag. Another way to state this in more general terms is to say: “[People] can find no way to move from their amber beliefs to orange beliefs when it comes to their religious faith….they hit a steel ceiling.” (Wilber, 2006, p.181)  It is healthy, at this point, to translate and consolidate orange with amber religious beliefs and even healthier to facilitate the emergence of orange Islam which would transcend but include amber Islam. Is this, essentially or potentially, the goal of the AKP?

It seems to me as the religious political movement first gained momentum in the late 1970s, the goal was a very clear cut regression to a traditional authoritarian and conformist regime, or sharia in its full blown, historical version. I still think a lot of the members of the Party would vote for formal sharia, if given the chance. But, through the push and pull of daily politics, the role of the military, the secularists as well as the greens, and, most importantly, with the emergence of AK Party reformists that vision is changing.  It would be very difficult, now, to try to abolish secularism, after the party leaders have had to say, repeatedly, that was not their intention. What the Party has in mind now seems to be a kind of translation that keeps the orange economy and the governance system of the LR reasonably intact, but brings in a LL mode of discourse that reflects religious values.

It is in this context that the Party logo – a lit light bulb – also finally makes sense: not a moment of cartoon inspiration, but a marriage of orange technology (electricity) and religious revival (seeing the light).

Given, however, that the center of gravity of the social holon is defined partly by the dominant mode of discourse, whether the translation envisioned by the AKP will be a healthy one keeping the social center of gravity at orange (Agape) or an unhealthy one pushing the social center of gravity to amber (Thanatos) depends on how exactly they articulate, synthesize, and legislate amber religious beliefs and values. In this context it would also be wise to remember that the dominant mode of discourse component of social centers of gravity can shift radically and unpredictably, depending on the individual centers of gravity of the leaders.

Things come together once we consider the altitude scale more explicitly: What altitude does the movement stem from? What altitude does it address?

While the original movement stemmed from red and amber religious values, most of the current leadership of the AK Party seems to coalesce around an amber/orange center of gravity; or more accurately a green/orange talk and an amber/orange walk. The current speeches and party documents are peppered with such typically world-centric phrases as: universal values, participatory democracy, inclusive politics, cultural reconciliation, respect for diversity, gender equality, tolerance, transparency, and accountability. At the same time, the self definition of the party as “Conservative Democrat” clearly reaches to amber. As Erdogan explains Conservative Democracy, the goal is to “adopt a concept of modernity that does not reject tradition, a belief of universalism that accepts localism, an understanding of rationalism that does not disregard the spiritual meaning of life, and a choice for change that is not fundamentalist…Our aim is to reproduce our system of local and deep rooted values in harmony with the universal standards of political conservatism.” (Erdogan’s address to the American Enterprise Institute, January 29, 2004; cited in Yavuz, 2006)

Here it is useful to look at the make up of the most important players in more detail. It seems there are two groups which could be considered the top powerful players in terms of core support:

The leadership of the Party tries to hold together a coalition of Sunni orders and their sheiks (the Nakshibendi – affiliated, some say, with the Muslim Brotherhood-- being the most prominent) who have red/amber values and do want sharia, according to the limited number of sociological studies available. In fact the only convincing hypothesis so far for Erdogan’s bizarre and failed attempt to criminalize adultery has been that it was a requisite political gesture to the sheiks. The sheiks play an important role, because in amber communities members will tend to conform to the sheiks’ wishes and vote for whomever he endorses. This group has increased its influence by financing, building, and running dormitories for the youth who flock to the cities to get a college education. These religious orders represent the core of the amber level support for the party. (It is important to note that there are also contemplative as well as more individualist religious orders, like the Mevlevi --the Whirling Dervishes, founded by Rumi’s son, or the Cerrahi, but they are, predictably, not into politics.)

At the same time there are members of “green capital” who play an important role. Green in this context is the color of Islam (integral version would be orange capitalists with amber values and beliefs). In the rapid economic development of the last couple of decades a new class of smaller capitalists have emerged (the so-called Anatolian Tigers). They come from traditional backgrounds, find it difficult to compete with the much larger conglomerates, and have chosen to differentiate themselves in terms of their amber religious values. Most of them too have thrown in their lot with the AK Party, which makes for interesting, liberal, as opposed to monopolist, economic policies, also endearing Turkey to the multilateral institutions like the IMF. The emergence of this group has also meant the emergence of a fashionable Islamist elite, considerably undermining the populist/collectivist image of the AK Party movement. They have supported the religious movement through their newly established charities, TV stations, radios and newspapers, clearly seeking to influence public discourse. They represent the orange/amber core of support for the party.

In terms of the broader population, the AKP tries to address three very distinct audiences at three different levels: One is the Turkish and European greens. This green audience is addressed not so much to draw it into the fold of religion, but more in order to find supporters against the rigid secularism of the state. This audience responds to the green talk of the party. The second audience is the urban poor, who have recently migrated from the rural areas, are switching from agricultural to industrial pursuits, and are just beginning to adapt to an orange lifestyle. This is the audience that most responds and contributes to translations of amber beliefs and values to fit with an orange social center of gravity. The third are those folks mostly in small towns or rural areas with clearer amber centers of gravity and they tend to be more traditionalist. In the 2002 elections 45% of AKP support came from urban areas and 55% from rural.

Overall then, if we simplify AKP’s “talk” as green and its “walk” as amber, we need to look at two basic configurations of the AKP movement: interiority/collectivist/translation/amber and interiority/collectivist/translation/green.

If we put together interiority and collectivism we get a focus on the LL quadrant. If we put translation and religious amber values together with this, we end up with a conservative movement based on mythic religious beliefs and conformist values. Overall we end up with a political movement that attempts to change the LL dominant mode of discourse of the society and tries to align the cultural center of gravity and amber religion. So far, at least, this has been the “walk” of the AKP at the grassroots level, in communities where Islamic cultural norms already play an important role. (With much more orange policies dominating the LR issues, which seems to have been instrumental in the success of the AKP in the most recent elections.)

In this context the key question revolves around whether the Party helps translate amber beliefs and values to have them align with an orange social center of gravity, thus relieving the phobic structures (Agape); or it tries to change the social center of gravity by having it align with amber beliefs and values, exerting a regressive pressure (Thanatos). The difference is crucial: “If you don’t believe in and behave according to our amber religious precepts, you will be damned to eternity, but that is your choice” vs. “You must believe in and behave according to our amber religious precepts to establish the good society or be a cultural outlaw. You have no other choice.” It seems to me, any sane orange or higher political or legal response would have to come from monitoring the AKP as it walks this particular knife edge between social values and religious beliefs.

If we put together interiority, collectivism, and translation with green values, we again get a movement that wants to influence the LL, but not one that necessarily wants to change the dominant mode of discourse with the religious content of those values. The value put forth to influence the dominant mode of discourse in that movement would be the green value of pluralism: “You do your thing, but give us the cultural space to let us do our thing. All beliefs and practices have equal validity and equal value. Thus, we must be given equal legal and cultural space.” This configuration has been an increasingly important “talk” of the AKP, at least at the national and international level.  Here it is important to note that if the first phrase of the first sentence (“You do your thing”) is dropped, this removes the orange basis of green, and the position actually becomes highly compatible with conformist amber.

The integral framework also allows us to specify orange and green perspectives outside of the AKP in more detail.

What does orange see and why?

The orange lens illuminates the interiority/collectivist/amber configuration of the AKP. At the same time, it does not reveal even a potentially healthy translationist movement, but solely a regressive/reactionary one. These have more to do with the orange lens itself. While the orange level acknowledges developmental depth, it seems to have two major blind spots. One is the Line-Level Fallacy which equates religion/spirituality exclusively with the amber level of development. In consequence, any religious/spiritual inclination or movement is automatically seen as stemming from pre-modern amber.

The second major blind spot seems to be equating individual development with social development and individual centers of gravity with the social center of gravity, as seen in most modernization theories (Individual-Social Fallacy?). In other words, according to orange, modern societies have members with orange centers of gravity and pre-modern societies have members with amber centers of gravity. Orange does not see that people can stop developing at any point, in any society. Thus the presence of amber values and amber centered individuals signals a developmental failure to orange.

If we combine the two blind spots, orange predicts that as societies develop, amber centered individuals will disappear and religion/spirituality will wither away. Conversely, if you have a religious or amber-values based movement, to orange this signals a reactionary movement intending to take all of society and all individuals back to historical amber. Thus we have the orange vision of AKP as a fundamentalist Islamic movement bent on establishing a theocracy with ca 700 AD as the utopian vision. This then becomes a movement which needs to be suppressed at all costs with no need to analyze the actual interior content(s) of the movement.

It also creates considerable confusion among the orange secularists. On the one hand they see an immanent danger of regressing to historical amber and on the other, seeing the well established orange or emergent orange structures in the society and the LR in general, they cannot fathom how this could happen. So the conversation goes from “the AKP intends to drive us back to the Middle Ages” to “but it cannot happen here, can it?”

What does green see and why?

The green lens illuminates the interiority/collectivist/green aspect of the AKP movement. Greens do not see a translationist movement either, but in stark contrast to orange, a progressive one, by greens’ own definition.

The distinguishing characteristic of the green perspective is that it does not see any developmental depth, be it individual or social. Every person and every society exists on a flat plane. What makes a good society is one in which all power hierarchies have been removed and all folks integrated on their own terms. So movement toward fewer or weaker power relations and social accommodation of more and more identity/value groups indicates progress to green. In this context pretty much any movement that tries to undermine the authority structures of the state appears progressive.

The green perspective is healthy and on solid ground as long as it tries to integrate groups whose self-identity is world-centric into societies with a world-centric social center of gravity, as was the case for the women’s, gays’, and civil rights movements in the West. It gets into deep trouble when the centers of gravity of the identity groups or the societies in question are ethnocentric or lower. In these circumstances green ends up fueling ethnic and/or tribal conflicts. Because green cannot see depth, it accepts the self definitions and demands of the groups at face value and cannot filter them through a developmental lens to assess the best forms of integration (ie some formulation of ‘the greatest depth for the greatest span.’)

And so the AKP, with its victim status, its conflicts with the military and the “secular establishment”, and its wish to change the constitution to allow its supporters to participate in civil society on their own terms, signals a progressive movement to the greens. They gleefully (and I am being quite literal here) participate in the attacks on orange. And to the extent that they attack orange, some kind of regression to an amber cultural center of gravity becomes more likely.

Interestingly, and predictably, the ideological or values content of the movement does not really register in green consciousness either. They are typically externalists and are more concerned with LR procedural arrangements than with what a movement wants to achieve. And at least in this case, they simply do not hear the conformist speeches, but zero in on the pluralist procedural demands.

AKP and Society

While the current demands of the AKP and its self-definition as simply a socially conservative party suggest, at least potentially, a movement of healthy translation, how a politics based on mythic religious beliefs and amber values will play out in the society will also depend on individual centers of gravity.

It used to be that the amber “us vs. them” ethnocentric value structure coalesced around Turkish nationalism, making a reasonably good functional fit for a country developing from an amber to an orange social center of gravity, and that is still an important force. Indeed, quite a number of the secularists are likely amber nationalists, rather than orange universalists, pointing to yet another strange fellowship.  In fact, a full analysis of Turkish politics would need to include the strange and powerful alliance of nationalist-amber and orange values within the opposition parties as well as the military and judicial institutions. With the emergence of Political Islam though, sense of public amber identity has begun to coalesce around religion.

What amber religious public discourse within a transitioning amber centered community does is to lay emergent ground/give legitimacy to types of “us vs. them” dynamics based on religion. While many postmodern social scientists have rightly pointed out that in the urban areas religious identity and the hijab have given migrant folks a sense of safety and belonging, allowing especially women to venture into public space more freely, few have acknowledged the fact that such ethnocentric identity formation also has its flip side.  Given the “us vs. them” core of ethnocentric belief systems, amber religious symbolism in the public domain immediately becomes a way to distinguish who is of “us” and who is of “them”. And just as “we” are protected, “they” are fair game, especially if you have red tendencies.

The results can range from harassment of women who do not conform to the religious dress code and assaults on people who choose not to fast during Ramadan, to refusing service to folks who do not display the requisite religious symbols, as well as much more dire consequences. Witness the recent murder of the journalist Hrant Dink, because, as his assassin said, “He was an Armenian.” Or the murder of the head of the Supreme Court of Appeals for Administrative Affairs, because, as his assassin said, “He was against the hijab.” While the details of these murders are murky and under investigation, it is still important to note that the perpetrators consider these explanations as legitimate.

Here also looms the danger of multiplication of “us vs. them” configurations, possibly leading to a red fragmentation. The current fractures are: Secular vs. religious; nationalist-amber vs. religious-amber; Muslim vs. Christian/Jewish; and Sunni vs. Alevi/Bektashi. What looms on the horizon are divisions like Nakshibendi vs. Nurcu vs. Suleymanci; Turkish Nurcu vs. Kurdish Nurcu, etc. Every religious order, every sect, every ethnic group has their own take on what it means to be Muslim and deciding what constitutes “real” Islam and who the “real” Muslims are (a natural preoccupation of red and amber) becomes a thorny issue.

In other words, to the extent that the religious belief structure as well as the self-sense of the audience in the society is rooted in amber, a dominant mode of discourse based on amber religious beliefs and values almost automatically leads to a conformist collectivism. It can then also open the way to red fragmentation as different groups try to define the “right” beliefs in their own terms. It does not lead to the universalist world-centric embrace of orange. And it certainly does not lead to a multicultural celebration of multiple perspectives.

An overwhelmingly amber/red centered society, incidentally, was the historical reality Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Republic, saw when he established the rigid secularism in the 1920’s as part of an orange governance structure. While the orange secularists continue to see and fear that same world, the greens, with an astonishing lack of historical sense, blame Mustafa Kemal for not having been a pluralist!

The question of how to deal with red/amber tendencies, which exist in red/amber centered communities and individuals regardless of amber religion’s place in the national cultural domain, but are exasperated by it, will remain. Creating a set of amber Islamic values that unifies all the amber segments and has national appeal seems to be the self appointed task of the AKP at its healthiest edge -- and this is dangerous business indeed (who is to say Wahabism is not the “real” Islam?) But, it is also necessary in order to heal the religion/spirituality line repressed during Turkey’s early modernization and bring it into alignment with an orange social center of gravity.

In a society in which the average level of consciousness is no longer predominantly amber or red, but transitioning from amber to orange, the results are likely to be quite nuanced and there is indeed hope. The leading edge within the Islamic movement is composed of folks who have moved into a world-centric perspective, but have hit the steel ceiling. The path of least resistance though has been to try to skip from amber to green, without fully coming to terms with orange values and orange religion. It seems to me that both the compatibility of amber and unhealthy green and the Line-Level Fallacy of orange which makes no room for post-amber religion (not to mention the vacuum created in the LH quadrants by orange) have led the movement onto this path. So, in the Turkish context, AKP’s internalist/collectivist/translationist configuration, with an amber walk and green talk can lead to a range of possible results:

  1. Social regression: to the extent that the party pushes the conformist aspect of amber belief systems, and tries to change the dominant mode of discourse to have it align with amber religious values, this will exert a strong regressive pressure on the social holon, fueling the “us vs. them” dynamics, possibly eventually also leading to the establishment of sharia/theocracy, if not civil war. (Thanatos)
  1. Translation of amber values and religious beliefs: To the extent the party can facilitate the emergence of a set of amber Islamic values that have national appeal and helps translate amber values and mythic religious beliefs to align with an orange social center of gravity, it will become a regular socially conservative party. It seems to me this path requires a separation/differentiation of values and religious beliefs, a process that is the hallmark of orange modernity and secularism. And indeed, a language of ethics --based on mutual obligation, neighborliness, modesty, and family values (or, if we take an orange/green perspective, based on patron-client relationships of loyalty and protection, charity as social justice, and patriarchal organization of the family) -- that is compatible with orange governance but based on amber religion and amber values seems to be emerging from the grassroots organizing efforts (White). In this case AKP will become a party that accepts the basic orange rules of the game, has the support of the religious, amber-values based population, but leaves specific religious beliefs and practices (and thus also the red fragments) out of the political domain. It will become a party which uncomfortably accommodates amber religion within an orange social center of gravity, like most conservative parties in the West, and will take its place in the ‘culture wars’. (Agape for the religion/spirituality line and the social holon)
  1. Transformation of amber religious beliefs: If the party can facilitate the emergence of orange Islam, one which includes and transcends mythic amber Islam, it will have done a great service to the world, as well as enlarged the orange embrace (Eros on the religion/spirituality line, Agape for the social holon.) At this point, however, I do not see much of a change towards either the individualist (UL-centered) contemplative traditions or more rationalist explorations of God as the ground of being. While I suspect this is going on at the leading edges, all the mainstream conversations about religion itself seem to center on the literal importance of typically amber, rote religious observances limited to the gross realm– acknowledging that Allah is the one and only God and Mohammed his prophet, prayer 5 times a day, fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving alms, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition to this there is the fight over women’s dress.  There is some evidence of re-conceptualizing Islamic values from a world-centric perspective, not only in the media, but also in the Party. As Erdogan argued to the American Enterprise Institute in 2004: “Our religion, Islam, considers the killing of a person as destroying the house of God. In other words, killing one person is seen as though killing the whole of humanity. This is the approach of our religion. Therefore it is very wrong to equate our religion with terrorism….It is very important to employ this objective perspective to better understand Muslim people.” (cited in Yavuz, 2006) Similarly, Gul argued that tolerance, moderation, and respect for diversity were “inherently Islamic values,” in his address to the “International Conference of Islamic Civil Society Organizations” in 2005, even as he went on to take a prototypically amber stance with respect to religion itself:  “Clearly the reform that is needed here pertains to the governance of Muslim societies, not to Islam itself. Islam, of course, does not need to be reformed.” (cited in Yavuz, 2006) In other words, while there seems to be at least a cognitive restructuring of “Islamic values”, there is, still, no noteworthy rationalist reinterpretation of “Islamic beliefs” themselves.

The most important question at this point is how exactly the AKP will want to change the constitution, especially its secularism clause, and whether its talk or walk will change after that. But it is important to underline that for healthy translations or transformations to occur, it is imperative to strengthen and stabilize the universal individual rights that the orange worldview is based on. Without a healthy orange secularism --without the overarching primacy of individual conscience in religious/spiritual beliefs and a separation of state and religion in the LR-- both amber collectivism and the green collectivism that allies with it will tend to facilitate authoritarian conformism and a multiplication of “us vs. them” dynamics, creating barriers to development in the context of a society with an emergent orange social center of gravity.

Thankfully, individuals and the societies they form have their own momentum of development; a momentum that is influenced by and influences politics, but does not depend on it. Even the very fact that amber religious beliefs and amber ethics are being brought into consciousness and are being discussed, rather than being the non-visible, non-differentiated canvas of public discourse as in historical or repressed amber, implies transformative/translative potential. This could not and would not have happened without the widespread emergence of at least orange cognition.

Perhaps most unexpectedly, judging from the media photographs, there seems to have been quite a large number of women wearing the dreaded headscarf among the secularist demonstrators in April 2007. CNN reports of a man, Mehmet Gunes, 39, whose wife was wearing the new Islamic-style headscarf, who said “We support what the military said. My wife wears a head scarf, we are not against that. We came here to stand up for a secular, enlightened Turkey. Our children’s future is important.” (, April 30, 2007) The strangest of bedfellows indeed. And, this, to me, has to be the best news yet.


Postscript, 2012: In the four years since I wrote this paper some of these trends have deepened and some have changed.

In the cultural sphere there has been a decided reduction in the moderns’ negative reaction to the headscarf. The politicians made a conscious effort to drop this from the political agenda and consequently more of a “live and let live” attitude has emerged, at least in public discourse. Perhaps in consequence, the headscarf as a symbol also seems to be going through a change. In large cities it is not unusual to see young women confidently going about their business in tight jeans and high heels while supporting the headscarf. This, of course, is much to the consternation of amber and confusion of orange. The question of to what extent this reflects the emergence of individualism in religion/spirituality and to what extent it reflects the loss of meaning and depth associated with the symbol would make an interesting study.

In the public sphere, after winning 50% of the popular vote in the 2011 elections, the AKP has taken on the military and the judiciary. Through LR procedural changes and appointments the judicial structure has become much more supportive of the AKP. Multiple legal cases with literally hundreds of civilian and military defendants, most of them held without bail, have been dragging on for years, giving new meaning to the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied.” These cases revolve around charges of conspiring to overthrow the government and in addition seem to be attempts to consolidate power and remove the military from politics. There does also now seem to be a strong faction in the military who would rather not have the military involved in politics. Overall, the postmoderns’ interpretations of these events have been as victories for democracy, transparency, and the rule of law and the moderns’ interpretation exactly the reverse. My own take on the situation is that while the former is the promise, the whole situation could rapidly degenerate into an authoritarian culture war between religious amber (allied with the postmoderns) and nationalist amber (allied and intertwined with the moderns). I must acknowledge, however, that both the moderns and the postmoderns have been more discerning/healthy in their respective support.

The reinterpretation, translation and transformation, process with respect to religion seems to be continuing with more vigor than I anticipated (or, perhaps, was able to see at the time). There is now a more visible post-amber emergence. For those interested, I would highly recommend Mustafa Akyol’s recent book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (W.W Norton, 2011). In it, Akyol differentiates between tradition/culture (defined as sharia) and scripture (defined as the Kuran) and proceeds to reinterpret scripture from an orange/green perspective. He concludes that a properly secular state and individuals free to choose their religious beliefs are both compatible with scripture and part and parcel of true Islam in today’s world. My hope is that the emergence of these types of orange and healthy green interpretations will begin to form the necessary conveyor belt and, as much as possible, facilitate amber translations to align with at least an orange social center of gravity as well.


A Selective Bibliography :

Atacan, Fulya, Sosyal Degisme ve Tarikat—Cerrahiler, [Social Change and Sects – The Cerrahi]  Hil Yayin, 1990.

Cinar, Alev, Modernity, Islam and Secularism in Turkey: Bodies, Places and Time, University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

White, Jenny, Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics, University of Washington Press, 2003.

Yavuz, Hakan, ed., The Emergence of A New Turkey: Democracy and the AK Party, The University of Utah Press, 2006.

Yavuz, Hakan, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Wilber, Ken, Integral Politics, (Excerpts from The Many Faces of Terrorism) Chs. 11, 14, 15. Retrieved from, 2007

Wilber, Ken, Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World, Integral Books, 2006.








Authored or produced by: 
Emine Kiray
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