On top of those issues, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey has made the working environment uncomfortable for palaeoanthropologists in much of the country.Now, I know when writing science papers we have to be very careful not only with numbers but also with the language we use, so that we don't mislead readers or misrepresent our results. Journals like Nature or Science or the Astronomical Journal double-check each claim to ensure accuracy. If we go by that standard, this article in Nature (yes, I know this is not a regular research article...it is a news feature) is casually mentioning the rise of Islamic fundamentalism (not just public piety) in Turkey.
Here is the problem I see with this statement: Islamic fundamentalism is a loaded term - and hard to exactly pin down (unlike American fundamentalism - that is rooted in the early 20th century publication of the Fundamentals pamphlets). Technically, Islamic Fundamentalism only means those who believe in the fundamentals of Islam. However, usually it is associated with ideas of al-Qaeeda, and/or the Muslim Brotherhood (Sayyid Qutb et al), and/or the Jamaat Islami (Maududi), and/or varied forms of violent political/religious movements. Is it accurate to use this term for Turkey? It is true that the current ruling party (AKP) has an Islamic identity and that there is a general rise in public piety, but does this constitute as a rise of "Islamic fundamentalism". In addition, the Muslim world is so broad that it is hard to justify the use of such a loaded term without at least some qualifications (none were offered in the Nature piece). For example, the religious "right" party of Turkey would still be to the left of most secular parties in Pakistan.
Later, the article spends two more paragraphs on the issue:
Recently, a new problem for palaeoanthropologists has emerged. As the country has grown more religious, particularly in its eastern and central regions, Islamic creationists are rejecting the work of anthropologists, particularly that relating to evolution.
This is creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for researchers and may be retarding Turkey's capacity to build up an anthropology infrastructure at central and eastern universities. Young graduates, who have studied and lived in cosmopolitan cities, are reluctant to move their families to these regions. Seventeen years ago, several dozen people died in Sivas, when Islamic extremists set fire to a hotel where intellectuals were staying. More recently, researchers have worried that local religious groups are watching dinner parties to determine whether scientists are violating Muslim tenets, for example, by drinking alcohol.Couple of issues here. My impression was that Central and Eastern parts of Turkey were always more religious and conservative. I can imagine cosmopolitan scientists not willing to move to these areas because of its conservative nature (and public piety), in general, and it may also include people frowning over alcohol (minus the alcohol frowning, I can see the same problem for a New Yorker to move to Alabama or Mississippi). Now it is also completely possible that these Turkish areas have become even more religious over the last decade or so. However, again, does that warrant the label of "Islamic Fundamentalism"?
I know we have Turkish readers of the blog. May be they can let us know their thoughts on the subject.
Let me be clear: I would also be worried if Islamic fundamentalism (in its usual usage of the term) was on the rise in Turkey - and I want to get an idea if this is true. But I also want writers to be careful when using loaded terms like "Islamic fundamentalism" - and to be privy of the diverse political and cultural landscape of the Muslim world (at least when writing about the region). Plus, we want to represent the situation as accurately as possible. We often demand and appreciate nuance and complexity in science. We should extend the same courtesy to places where science and society interacts. What do you think?