Turkey has the majority Muslim population -- about 99% of Turks are Muslims, and the remaining 0.1% are Christians or believers of other officially recognized religions like Judaism.
So, is Turkey a Muslim nation?
While Islam is the main religion in Turkey, its constitution declares that the country is rather a secular state.
Islam, the Dominant Religion in Turkey
Even though Turkey isn’t officially a Muslim country, Islam is a noticeably significant force and a dominant religion. Previously governed as a Sunni Islamic State under the Ottoman Empire, the country has a deep Islamic history. Impressive Islamic buildings and monuments all over the country are visible reminders of that history.
While not all Muslims strictly practice their religion, there's a high level of religious beliefs throughout Turkey. Islamic devotion is evident in daily life. “Maşallah” (Praise God) is a common phrase in casual conversation, and the call to prayer echoes from mosques across the country five times a day.
Of the Islam religion in Turkey, approximately 70% follow the Sunni branch, and at least 25% belong to Shi’a Islam -mostly the Alevi faith and some less common ideologies such as the Sufi worshipping whirling dervishes.
Other Religions in Turkey
The remaining population belongs to other religions, particularly Christian denominations, including Syriac Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Protestants, and Catholics.
Then there’s Judaism, comprising 90% Sephardi Jews and 10% Ashkenazi, Marrano and Karaite Judaism communities.
Today, Turkey has between 120,000-320,000 Christians belonging to various denominations and nearly 30,000 Jews – most of them live in Istanbul, Turkey. The country also has numerous important sites for Christianity and Judaism.
Though irreligion is uncommon, a few religious and secular officials have claimed that deism and atheism are growing among Turkish people.
Religious groups in the country have remained tolerant and on good terms, even if Turkey appears less cosmopolitan today.
Turkey as a Secular State
Turkey has a secular constitution, without any official state religion. In the course of the 20th century, the country developed a profound tradition of secularism comparable to the French model of laïcité, the main difference being that Turkey publicly controls Islam through the State Directorate of Religious Affairs.
The state's constitution recognizes an individual's freedom of religion. Religious societies are put under the state’s jurisdiction and protection and cannot establish faith-based institutions or be involved in political affairs like forming a religious party.
Though no political party can argue that it represents certain faith or religious belief in Turkey, religious sensibilities are normally represented by conservative parties.
For several decades, wearing theo-political symbolic garments like religious head covers (e.g. Muslim Hijab) was prohibited in public contexts such as military or police service and universities.
Nevertheless, the issue of Turkey becoming less religious has become a subject of various legal challenges. It has caused a growing division between more conservative Muslims and those who strongly believe in a state.
It’s clear that Turkey is in a state of historic commotion, but the country remains secular for the time being.
So how do we answer the question of 'is Turkey a Muslim nation?’: Turkey is a secular country, only that it has a majority of the Muslim population.