Scholars and other observers have often remarked upon the minimal participation of Turkish Cypriots in Muslim religious rituals. Theories to explain this have included that Turkish Cypriots are actually crypto-Christians or that they are the descendants of Alevis, a heterodox branch of Islam. This paper argues, in contrast, that the decline of Muslim religious practice began in the island in the mid-nineteenth century, with Ottoman reforms that attempted to root out the Sufi folk practices that were common in the island, particularly in rural areas. The paper shows that this institutional suppression of Sufi Islam created a fertile ground for the rise of secularist Kemalism in the 1920s and 1930s.
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