Berna Turam has been studying the inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of Turkish Islamists by fol­lowing them from their home­land to Kaza­khstan and the United States, as part of a 10-​​year field research project exam­ining the way Mus­lims adapt in sec­ular countries.

Northeastern’s new asso­ciate pro­fessor of soci­ology, anthro­pology and inter­na­tional affairs says her work chal­lenges pre­vious schol­ar­ship that has focused exclu­sively on con­fronta­tion and con­flict that has arisen between Islamists and the state.

In her book, “Between Islam and the State: The Pol­i­tics of Engage­ment,” the Turkish-​​born Turam exam­ines the emer­gence of a new, non-​​confrontational inter­ac­tion between the “staunchest sec­ular state of the Muslim world (Turkey) and the rapidly growing Gülen Movement.”

The Gülen Move­ment, says Turam, is a Turkish-​​based group of mod­erate Islamists who seek to make space in public life for faith. It is named for its philo­soph­ical founder, Turkish preacher and edu­cator Fethullah Gülen.

The main argu­ment of my book is that the pol­i­tics of engage­ment facil­i­tates inter­na­tional dia­logue and pro­pels democ­ra­cies by trans­forming both Muslim actors and the states,” she says.

This type of engage­ment, ini­ti­ated through par­ties in the Gülen Move­ment, helps to dilute con­flict, and ease Mus­lims’ lives in poten­tial con­flict zones, such as post-​​Soviet Cen­tral Asia and post-​​9/​11 United States, observes Turam.

After 9–11, a great fear of Mus­lims engulfed the U.S. and that’s when the Gülen Move­ment really took hold … and tried to make more space in the world for Mus­lims,” she says.

Turam, who received her doc­toral degree from McGill Uni­ver­sity, was drawn to North­eastern in part because of its Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram, which enables North­eastern stu­dents to pursue topic-​​focused, faculty-​​led global study experiences.

When I read about the Dia­logue pro­gram, I felt instantly drawn to it. It’s so sim­ilar to the work I’ve been doing,” she says.

Turam plans to lead a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions expe­ri­ence, taking stu­dents to Turkey and crossing the border into Syria, to intro­duce them to her field research sites.

She is also engaged in a three-​​year study of the atti­tudes of Muslim med­ical doc­tors in eight coun­tries, in the Middle East and the West, toward cre­ationism and evolution.

Turam is the only social sci­en­tist in the National Sci­ence Foundation-​​funded project. She is col­lab­o­rating with three cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists at Hamp­shire Col­lege and Johns Hop­kins University.