Soner Cagaptay, on the new religious Turkey:
In November 1925, Ataturk carried out perhaps the most symbolic of his reforms, banning all Turkish males from wearing the Ottoman fez in order to cement his country's commitment to European ideals. Ataturk wanted [to] make Turks European head to toe and the abolition of the fez embodied this effort.
Most Turks acquiesced to Ataturk’s reforms, not just to the “hat reform” but also to deeper ones such as the “alphabet reform,” which changed the Turks’ script from an Arab alphabet-based one to its current Latin-based form, further connecting the Turks to European culture.
Ataturk was able to achieve these reforms with minor resistance thanks to the weight of his persona. After all, Ataturk - who had just liberated Turkey from a massive Allied occupation - was considered nothing short of a father to all Turks.
Some Turks, however, objected to his reforms.
Enter Atif Hoca, a cleric in the small central Anatolian town of Iskilip, who refused to adhere to Ataturk's “hat reform.” Atif Hoca defended his use of the fez, couching his objections in Islam. He rallied to protest against the reforms and began publishing essays in local papers. He was executed in February 1926, becoming a rare icon of resistance to Kemalism.
Recently though, Atif Hoca’s legacy has been reversed in the public eye. In February 2012, the government decided to name a public hospital in Iskilip - Atif Hoca’s hometown - after him. This dedication carries remarkable symbolic significance, as it is tantamount to honoring one of the best known anti-Kemalists to date, as well as signaling Turkey’s move to a post-Kemalist era.
Kemalism appears to have lost its influence, not just symbolically but also politically. In the past decade, Turkey has undergone a complete transformation. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won three consecutive elections since 2002, with increasing majorities. The AKP, representing a brand of Islam-based social conservatism, has since replaced Turkey’s former Kemalist ideology and secular elites. Turkey seems to be moving to a post-Kemalist era....
Turkey’s new elites have a different view of how to make the country powerful, not by abandoning the country’s Ottoman past or secularizing its religious values, but by embracing them. Though, the ultimate goal remains the same: Become powerful enough to compete against the Europeans. Even if the post-Kemalist Turkey is not going to emulate Europe, it will still treat it as a measuring stick....
Ataturk often said “he wanted to raise contemporary European generations” among Turks. Recently, Erdogan said “he would like to raise religious generations” among the Turks. Kemalism may be dead, but Ataturk’s way of doing business appears to be alive and kicking in Turkey.