DOIU – Neo-Ottomanism

Neo-OttomanismNeo-Ottomanism began to be heard in the past years — under Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule — with Turkeyand#39s expansionist (not irredentist) foreign policy towards the Islamic near abroad, which was once Ottoman land. Cognizant of the fact that existing states could not be dissolved, at least their union under Turkish patronage could be a successful agenda Of course, such a scheme was premised on the belief that some — if not all — Muslim countries were ready to join the envisaged new Ottoman andldquocommonwealth.

andrdquoNeedless to say, the success of a political project that aims to revive the past, much like bringing the dead to life, is impossible. Any impossible mission or project is better understood for what it is against, rather than what it wants to achieve.

Longing for the glorified past is based on two assumptions. 1 The Ottoman state was a perfect polity: just, merciful and bountiful.

2 The Ottoman reality is the antithesis of the Turkish Republic, which was authoritarian, state-centered and oppressive. Foremost, it has oppressed the pious Muslim majority with its assertive secularism and modernization policies forced on the traditional peasant masses.

Hence, the loss of the empire was over-dramatized and the victimization of the pious and traditional majority exaggerated, only to be compensated with the revival of an Ottoman type of polity. Naive though it may be, such an agenda was bought by many who have little knowledge of sociology and history.

The neo-Ottomanist project not only vies to revive the good old days, but to transform the republican regime and the values on which it is built. This project is thought to be equally attractive for the peoples of former Ottoman lands who are living under different state structures.

The appearance of the Ottoman imperial coat of arms as lapel buttons, or various Ottoman rulersand#39 seals as car window stickers, is not accidental. They indicate an emotional affinity for the Ottoman past and its superiority over the republic.

Such emotions and perceptions are not the making of the formal educational system They are taught or transferred through an informal educational network within the family and the community, especially during religious training. In this epic history, the state is a speckle and individuals are supreme.

Any deviance from this glorified historiography is met with resistance and accusations of insulting ancestors.This optic refraction has reached such a point that a group of educated people no longer call the Ottoman polity an empire! For they know that any empire is imperialistic, and they do not want to attribute this negative adjective to their glorious past.

They call it the Grand State.Their grand state has never made unjust conquests, exploited conquered peoples or enslaved them On the contrary, the Ottomans were kind enough to save the poor Christians from their oppressive rulers — who squeezed them dry — and establish just rule.

Such a fabricated history has not allowed empathizing with the feelings of conquered nations who wanted to gain back their sovereignty. So any attempt on the part of dependent peoples for independence was labeled as treason, any demand for autonomy as secessionism, any complaint about high taxes as insurrection.

Even the independence movement of the Arabs was labeled as andldquoback stabbing.andrdquo Although secessionist Arabs turned a deaf ear to the Ottoman caliph-sultanand#39s call for jihad against the foes of Islam in World War I, todayand#39s Turks do not want to remember this fact.

Neo-Ottomanism, against this artificial backdrop, raised only anxiety among the ruling elite of former Ottoman peoples now living under different national flags. They said, andldquoWe are ready to accept you as an ally and a partner but we do not want the former ruler to come back.

andrdquo As a consequence, neo-Ottomanism only survived in the diplomatic vocabulary of Turkey for a few months. But the utopia still survives in internal politics, functioning as a placebo for the power — and prestige — hungry masses.

The last effort of the government in reviving the Ottoman past has been its willingness to impose obligatory Ottoman language courses in high schools. Ottoman Turkish was Turkish embellished with Arabic and Persian.

It evolved into present day Turkish. So what is planned cannot be language training, but teaching Arabic script.

The republic replaced the Arabic alphabet with the Latinate one. Wanting to reverse this process, religious training would be made easier with the knowledge of the Arabic alphabet.

It will be hard for the government to sell this project that no one demands, while Kurds are still being denied education in their mother tongue despite having fought for it for so long. Could it be a matter of evading the difficulties of the day before the elections? Whatever it is, it will contribute little to efforts to raise the level of national education that is way below world standards.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman