Monday, January 30, 2006


One of the successor states created from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Turkey became the first secular state in the Muslim world. Kamal abolished the Sultanate in November 1922, and Turkey became a Republic in 1923 with Kamal as its president, and Abdul Majid as the caliph of the Muslims. The abandonment of the shariah and the adoption of a secular legal system based on Western codes of law, as well as the declaration of a secular republic in 1928, were radical departures from tradition.

By the 13th century, when the Ottoman state was created, Islam was well established under the influence of such sufi orders like Naqshabandiyah, Mawlawiyah and Bektashiyah (the heterodox Bektashiyah order was particularly influential because of its intimate connection with the Jannisary corps, the heart of the Ottoman army.). The balance between the official Islam of the ulama and the popular, folk Islam of the Sufis began to turn in favour of the ulama in the 18th century.

The orders, as well as the ulama, had been able to maintain a certain autonomy vis-à-vis the state due to the revenues of religious foundation or awqaf. But the sultans began to restore their authority over these foundations, and finally Mahmud II brought them under the control of the newly created Inspectorate of Evkaf. He incorporated the ulama in his state by creating an office of Shaikhul Islam, which was transformed into a civil servant with consultative function. Later Shaikhul Islam became a member of the cabinet appointed by the sultan. The process of rationalizing and secularizing continued, accelerated with the Tanzimat reforms, until the founding of the state in 1923.

Meanwhile, however, the Ottoman regime stressed the Islamic character of the state and society as a response to the growing nationalism of its Christian subjects and increasing imperialist encroachments on Muslim lands in Asia and Africa. Mustafa Kemal was quite emphatic about this, noting that the nation whose preservation and defense we have undertaken is composed not only of one ethnic element.

After dissolving the sultanate in 1922, the Kemalist wanted to make the caliph as a symbol figurehead, but the ambitions of Caliph Abdul Majid supported by Kemal’s opponents, forced the government to abolish the caliphate in March 1924. All educational institutions were placed under the Ministry of Public Instruction and all cases related to dogma and ritual of Islamic faith were placed under the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The Kurdish rebellion of February 1925 led by the Naqshabandi Shaikh Sa’id caused the Kemalist to launch a program of reforms that effectively removed Islam from political life and secularized society. The dervish orders and sacred tombs were closed down in 1925. The practices such as fortunetelling, magic, cures by breathing performed by Shaikhs, Babas, Sayids, Murshids ect became illegal. Purdah and polygamy were abolished. The wearing of the Fez was outlawed and men were required to wear hats. The Gregorian calendar was adopted along with the twenty-four-hour clock. The Swiss civil code replaced the shariah, depriving the ulama of their traditional source of influence. Later in 1928, the Assembly voted to remove the words “the religion of the Turkish state is Islam” from Article 2 of the constitution, completing the process of disestablishing Islam.

The Kemalist held that the purpose of these radical reforms was not anti-Islamic but political; to remove the jurisdiction of religious leaders to the hands of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Kemalist daily, “Hakimiyet-I Milliye”, had written “we can sincerely claim that our revolution has more of religious than an irreligious character…. To think that a nation can live without any religion is nothing less than denying humanity, sociology and history”. The fact is that Islam became an instrument of government policy, but was presented as a rational and scientific religion.

Out of Kemalist expectation, the Menemen Incident of December 1930, in which Darvish Mehmed, a Naqshabandi devotee, called on the people to destroy the regime, proved that the people had failed to understand the reforms. The ideology known as Kemalism was launched in 1931 and written into constitution in 1937. Its core was the six, Fundamental and unchanging principle of of Replubicanism, Nationalism, Populism, Statism, Secularism, and Revolutionarism. Islam was nationalized in January 1932, with the Quran being read in Turkish, followed by the Turkish Azan.

Arab Nationalism

Arab nationalism can be understood as a political movement of a twentieth century product. However, it may originate with the presence of the Arabic language itself or with the Arab’s social, intellectual and political culture. Arab nationalism aims at the political reunification of all Arabic speaking states and their transformation from a ‘kulturnation’ into a ‘staatnation’. The movement of Arab nationalism acquired its present form only gradually, from 19th century. Though the sense of Arab nationalism based on national collectivity started since the Arab language was spoken, but politically it emerged clearly along with the emergence of Young Turk in the Ottoman Empire.

When Young Turk came to power in the Ottoman Empire, it tried to abolish the old Turkish policy of diverse ‘religious state’, which had previously lived together, and to replace it by a new ‘Ottoman policy’. Arnold Hottinger wrote, “The fact that the Turkish element began to appear more and more as the most reliable element among all the ‘Ottoman citizens’ had its effect on the racial policy of the nationalists. In practice it amounted to the first class ‘Ottoman citizens’, the Turks, being differentiated from the second class ‘Ottoman citizens’, the religious and ethnic minorities”. The Arabs which were the largest and most important among minorities reacted to this and demanded to separate from this empire, in which they were nothing but second class citizens, and to set up their own states.

The lost of Ottoman control over the route from Black Sea to Mediterranean Sea humbled the Empire and led to the decline of Ottoman power was one of the factors which contributed to the development of Arab nationalism. The invention of printing press opened up the media to propagate the doctrine and spirit of Arab nationalism. It has an important role in the growth of Arab nationalism by publishing the speeches and articles written by the Arab nationalist writer.

World War I marked the beginning of an explicitly political phase. Sharif Husayn, the ruler of Mecca, and his sons, in collaboration with Britain and France and with the active help of T. E. Lawrence, rebelled against his sovereign in far off Istanbul to establish a single Arab kingdom in its Arab provinces.

Prof. Z. N. Zeine of Beirut, in his book, “Arab-Turkish Relation and the emergence of Arab Nationalism”, comes to the conclusion that a sense of Arab nationhood and Arab nationalism only developed later. At first, preparatory period of this development began with the Young Turk Revolution and as reaction to their nationalism. Arab nationalism only became effective in extensiveness during the World War, under the pressure of the Turkish occupation and the methods used by the Turkish against the Arab civilian population. It then grew under the pressure of the European mandates, which were established after the war, into a general movement for emancipation.

The idea of mandates was born in Versailles. Arab provinces were divided between France and Britain according to the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. Palestine and Iraq became mandates while Lebanon and Syria came under the mandates of France. All that left to the Arab was the Arabian Peninsula. In November 1917, British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, promised Palestine as a national home for the Jews.

The Arab consider this division of their lands among the victors of the first World War a betrayal. They insisted insisted that an Arab kingdom was promised to them, since to some extant they liberated themselves by their own efforts from their Turkish overlords. Directed against European domination, the basic we/they dichotomy of nationalism facilitated the movement’s politicization.

Following the establishment of the Arab League in 1945, the disastrous end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war made Palestine a core issue in the Arab politics and its relation with outside power. Egypt and Syria united under charismatic leadership of Nasser, which resulted to the emergence of the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961, aimed at the establishment of a unified Arab state. A conservative Pan-Islamic strategy promoted by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, opposed the radical Arab nationalism and emphasized the convening of Islamic conferences.
The Arab region was shaken to its roots in 1967 by the third Arab-Israeli war. The magnitude of Arab defeat restructured regional leadership, culminating in the decline of revisionist forces and the rise of the oil-producing powers.

The policy of Arab territorial state was changed after 1968. They were more tempted by the riches of the oilfields than the hardship of battlefields. Egypt approaches with Israel, culminating in the 1978 Camp David Accords, seemed a threat to Arab nationalism. In Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), Syria, Libya and Algeria supported non-Arab revolutionary Islamic Iran instead of an Arab Iraq. Harrased on two sides by territorial ‘raison d’etat’ and revolutionary Islamism, Arab nationalism was severely wounded, though not dead.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Muhammad Ali Pasha

Muhammad Ali was born in the late 1760s in the small port of Kavala. His father was an Ottoman soldier of Albanian origin and a tobacco trader. When Selim III raised an army in 1798 to send to Egypt against Napoleon, the governor of Kavala in Thrace supplied three hundred men, the second in command being Muhammad Ali. The peace Amiens in 1802 and the British evacuation of the Nile found Muhammad Ali responsible for several thousand Albanian and Bosnian troops.
When the British left Egypt in 1803, Ali sided with the Mamluks and drove the Turkish government from Cairo. He then played one Mamluk faction against another. Finally, with the aid of the Cairo populace, he chased the Mamluks, deposed the new governor who just arrived from Istanbul, and was recognized as governor by the citizens of Cairo. Later he was appointed Pasha of Egypt by Selim and asserted his full submission to him.
Finances cramped him severely. War in Lower Egypt, and the passage of troops, had reduced the Delta to Barrenness. Previously, taxes and levies supported an Egyptian army, but Muhammad Ali found little to levy and taxes quite insufficient. In order to raise fund he surveyed all land holdings, seized land grants upon which payment to the state were in arrears, abolished the ancient system of land tenure, and expropriated the remaining fiefs (multazim).

As land taxes increased, Muhammad Ali turned his attention to commerce and established a government monopoly on the export of grain, in which the profit often reached 500 %. Irrigation system was improved, which provided water all the year around, and doubled the production of the land such as wheat, barley, beans, rice, sugar, sesame, indigo, short staple cotton, and later Egypt was able to export long staple cotton in large number.

Besides finance improvement, his other successful endeavors were sanitation and education. When great plagues and cholera raged every year, he organized a more effective quarantine and appointed committee for sanitation, which was given enough fund and absolute authority. The result is the general improvement of health condition and the restriction of the visitation of the diseases.

The first schools established by Ali were for the military. Most of the instructors in these schools were French. Egyptian boys were often sent to study in France and England. The polytechnic schools were founded, preparatory schools to feed the polytechnic were organized in Cairo and Alexandria, and medical college was established. In connection with the schools a government press was set up at Bulaq near Cairo. Newspapers printed in both Arabic and French. These educational activities made Egypt a leader of the Arab world in the intellectual life.

Muhammad Ali continued to make some improvement. Alexandria was transformed into Mediterranean city resembling Marseilles, Genoa and Naple. Construction for public use was carried out on a large scale, including barracks for the army, dockyard for the navy, office buildings for bureaucracy, schools, hospitals, palaces ECT. The Mahmudiya canal was dug, and country roads were improved and widened for better transportation.

Organization of the finances of Egypt and destruction of the Mamluk power enabled Muhammad Ali to widening his rule. He dispatched his able sons on military expeditions to the Hijaz, Sudan, Crete and the Morca. In 1833, Crete, Egypt, Syria, Adana and Tarsus were assigned to Muhammad Ali, for which he agreed to pay 150,000-Pound sterling a year tribute to Istanbul. His son Ibrahim governed Hijaz and Ethiopia consisting a few Red Sea ports, and later he became the governor of Syria also. Ali’s other son took Sudan and founded the city of Khartoum.

When Muhammad Ali declared his independence, Ottoman forces invaded Syria but were destroyed at Najib by Ibrahim in 1839. Five days later, Mahmud II died, and before July was out the Turkish fleet deserted to join the Egyptian at Alexandria. Muhammad Ali was now master of the situation, and the Porte prepared to surrender to his demands. However, a joint note from Austria, England, France, Prussia and Russia informed that they were concerned with the developments within the Middle East and recommended that no action be taken on Muhammad Ali’s claims without their approval. Later, after he refused the Treaty of London in 1840, signed by British, Russia, Prussia and Russia, Muhammad Ali had to face the military action against the four powers. Acre was captured by British-Austrian troops. Forcibly, Ali recalled his son Ibrahim from Syria and accepted the British term.

The defeats of 1840 and the diplomatic negotiation of 1841 gave Muhammad Ali full power in Egypt, but left him and old and broken man. However, ha has proved that he was a great ruler of Egypt who has reformed Egypt to modern country. He lived on until 1849, however, in 1847 the government passed to his grandson, Abbas.



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