Kayseri, Central Anatolia. Photo: ESI
Kayseri, Central Anatolia. Photo: ESI

ESI report: Islamic Calvinists. Change and conservatism in Central Anatolia (19 September 2005)

En el Harén de Estambul (In the harem of Istanbul), Carla de la Vega (novel from 2009), A form of capitalism that has been qualified as Islamic Calvinism

En el Harén de EstambulAt the beginning of the 1980s, with Turgut Ozal's government, a new conservative bourgeoisie with strong religious believes was born. They were coming from the deepest Anatolia and became rich thanks to thriving furniture, textile and food businesses. They are the so-called Anatolian Tigers, where their industries follow the guidelines from Islam and pray five times a day. They have achieved to combine the Koranic beliefs that do not allow them to use loans with interest, with a form of capitalism that has been qualified as Islamic Calvinism (Islamic Calvinists. Study realized by European Stability Initiative. 19th September 2006). These are the people who vote for the moderate Islamists from the AKP.

Hürriyet, 30.01.2006, The comparison of Kayserians with Calvinists is very true

Abdullah GülAbdullah Gül: "The name of this concept is Calvinism in Christianity. In different religions it has different names. They compare the sociological situation in Kayseri to this. They explain it in this way. It is very true."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Kai Strittmatter, 13.06.2006, Rewarding pious diligence

Kayseri's entrepreneurs are an excellent case study into - of all things - [Max] Weber's theses on Protestants: pious und ascetic, yes, but also diligent, frugal, solidary and investing with an eye for the future.

A big howl went through the country when ESI’s report was published: On one end of the spectrum, die-hard seculars who would not have it that pious people can be economically successful and on the other end religious fundamentalists who suspected a clandestine Christian proselytization effort. Kayseri’s entrepreneurs, however, understood the praise. No one less than Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül – prominent son of the city – declared himself a proud Islamic Calvinist.

BBC Radio 3, Aasiya Lodhi, 13.03.2006, Turkish toil brings new form of faith

The new entrepreneurialism sweeping across the province is providing an unlikely catalyst for a remarkable religious transformation. A new form of Turkish Islam is emerging here, one which is pro-business and pro-free market, and it's being called Islamic Calvinism. …

Critics say it's a Western conspiracy to Christianise Islam, but others have passionately argued in its favour, holding it up as a model for how Islam and modernity can co-exist. One of its most prominent defenders has been Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Gül, himself a native of Kayseri and the son of an entrepreneur. He sees no contradiction in the term and argues that Turkey can provide a lasting template for a new kind of modern Islam. "The most important thing to ask", he says, "is what kind of modernism do we want? Are you living in this world, or are you dreaming? The people of Kayseri are not dreaming - they are realistic, and that's the kind of Islam we need.

Bugün, 03.02.2006, Calvinism debate and Weberian analyses

The ongoing discussion has started to focus on an important central theme. If our elites put their prejudices aside, adopt an objective perspective and base their arguments on sound knowledge, important conclusions can be drawn. These conclusions will be important for Turkey, the Islamic world and the West.

CNN Turk, Mithat Bereket, 02.02.2006, Manset CNN Turk

On 2 February 2006, between 17:00 and 17:45, on Mithat Bereket's prominent Manset ["Headline"] programme, Gerald Knaus (ESI President) discussed the findings of ESI's Islamic Calvinists report and clarified the questions that ensued from the debate in the press in the past months. Please see some photos from the discussion.

Hürriyet, Özdemir İnce, February 2006, ESI and Islamic Calvinists (eight op-eds)

Özdemir InceHowever, ESI's report uses religion for political and economic purposes. It turns the realities upside down for the sake of Nakshibendis, Nurcus and the AKP government. That is the reason why I have deep suspicions about ESI's national and international links … the report published by ESI reveals the games which Turkey is subject to as well as the role played by NGOs in these dangerous games.

 download highlights from all eight op-eds

Kayseri Akın, Hamdi Altuntaş, 01.02.2006, Criticizing without knowing

I don't think the report of the European Stability Initiative has even been read by some commentators. The target audience of the report is the Europeans who are sceptical about Turkey's EU membership; in other words Turkey's interests are at stake. In my view the report makes an unbiased evaluation of the Anatolian reality. In fact if you read the report carefully you will see that the term "Islamic Calvinists" to define Kayseri was not put forth by the people who prepared the report. The term is the way people of Kayseri described themselves when the people who prepared the report asked them.

Kayseri Akın, Hamdi Altuntaş, 28.01.2006, No need for concern

Kayseri was deemed worth investigating – if anything this is a long due effort. … Let's talk about the identification with Calvinism. Those who put forth the association of Kayseri's success with Calvinism are searching for the source of this success. It is not right, in my view, to associate the concepts put forth with missionary aims or attempts to distance us from our religion. Thinking this way is merely a reflex with no grounds that some circles revert to. We shouldn't shy away from being appreciated. Neither should we feel uncomfortable about our appreciated qualities being termed in different ways. Kayseri tries to embrace the real Islam. Kayseri is a city where people work for this world as if they will never die and work for the afterlife as if they will die tomorrow. [this is a reference to the words of Prophet Muhammed: Hiç ölmeyecekmiş gibi dünya için, yarın ölecekmiş gibi de ahiret için çalış]

Yeni Şafak, Davut Dursun, 24.01.2006, Islamic Calvinists...

Now, in Turkey, it is this report which is being debated.

The report tries to tell Europeans "there is nothing to be afraid about; this is not a clash between Anatolia and the West". The question the report probably tries to answer is: Can one be at once religious, rich/entrepreneurial, and European?

Milliyet, Taha Akyol, 27.01.2006, Islamic Calvinists!

Many movements which the Kemalist tradition in Turkey think are fundamentalist contain the dynamics of sociological modernism similar to the [Calvinist movement]. There is a reason that they are more liberal, open to the world and economic rationalists than the statist secularists.

Hürriyet, Cüneyt Ülsever, 25.01.2006, Is Islam compatible with capitalism?

The study challenges the common assumption, which is to Turkey's detriment, existing both in Turkey and the West- and instead sketches a positive portrait.

The report sheds light on developments that even Ankara from time to time is blind to, whether you call it Anatolian Tigers or Anatolian lions...

ATV, Ali Kirca, 18.01.2006, Siyaset Meydani


On 18 January 2006, between 23:30 and 03:30, on Ali Kirca's widely followed Siyaset Meydani programme on ATV, the concept of "Islamic Calvinists" was debated - with ESI's report serving as the basis. Please read some excerpts from the intense and at times heated discussion.

Referans supplement, 19.10.2005, Turkish translation of ESI Kayseri report

Referans supplement, Turkish translation of ESI Kayseri report, 19 October 2005.

Radikal Newspaper, Funda Özkan, 13.10.2005, Is Kayseri an Exception for the Other Turkey?

The message to Europeans is that "yes, there is a segment in Turkey (predominately in Istanbul) that is more European than most Europeans. As you always note, this segment is a minority. However, the conservatism is no different from the conservatism of towns in Germany and Austria. Therefore, don't be afraid.

Sabah Newspaper, 09.10.2005 News

Abdullah Gül explained that EU Commissioner responsible for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, had handed him a report which stated that Kayseri's successful industrialization was rooted in the lifestyle that can be termed "Islamic Calvinism".

Referans Newspaper, David Judson, 26.09.2005, European conservatives should meet "Anatolian Calvinists"

The traditional "clash of civilisation" arguments explain that Islam is fatalistic, against change and against risk. According to this report, the Kayseri example is evidence that such opinions and assumptions are groundless.

Hürriyet Newspaper, Gila Benmayor, 14.10.2005, Olli Rehn went to Kayseri with this report

The aim of this report is to demonstrate the transformation in Turkey to Europe. Not the change in the west of Turkey but that in the heartland of Anatolia. "Because" says Knaus, "in the minds of the European, the belief is that Anatolia is resistant to change, radically conservative, and undeveloped…" The important conclusion of the ESI report is that: "Though the lifestyles are conservative and religious, there is a passion for rapid growth and modenisation…"

CNN Turk, Eyüp Can, 10.10.2005, Referans Noktasý CNN Turk

ESI Senior Analyst Verena Knaus and David Judson discussed ESI's report with anchorman Eyüp Can on CNNTurk's Referans Noktasý Programme.

Hürriyet, 12.02.2006, Cartoon: Aah, so you are a Calvinist Muslim...

Hürriyet cartoon"Sabit, wait a second - I will get some money from the ATM"

"Aah, so you are a Calvinist Muslim..."

CNNTurk, Gürkan Zengin, 7 pm "Editor" Programme

(Olli Rehn) says Kayseri is the heart of Anatolia and he wants to go to Kayseri and get to know this developing Anatolian city that has undergone such an important jump. In the meantime the report of the European Stability Initiative talks about Kayseri as Anatolia's strongest voice on the road to the EU. Let´s look at the details of this report: what renders this city such a success? What is it that makes its economy so strong? … The report prepared by ESI looks at Kayseris development from a different perspective. According to the report, Kayseri is the best example demonstrating that Islam and western values can coexist without problems in Turkey, and Kayseri is the best answer to those who oppose Turkey's EU membership because of cultural, religious and social differences.