April 13, 2023
Muslim World in the New Global World
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Year 1453 is nominally cited as the end of the Middle Ages by historians who define the medieval period as the time between the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror put a decisive final end to the Roman Empire, nearly one and a half thousand years after its foundation by Augustus, by capturing the capital, Constantinople on May 29, 1453. The city was renamed Istanbul and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The consequent closure of the traditional overland route from Western Europe to the Near and Far East via Istanbul, once used by the Christian Crusaders, and the need to identify new maritime routes, led to the Age of Discovery and European imperialism. Although the Industrial Revolution and nationalism shaped European society in the nineteenth century, imperialism—the domination by one country or people over another group of people—dramatically changed the world during the latter half of that century. Consequently, by 1900, a dozen of European empires controlled 146 colonies, writes Abdus Sattar Ghazali in his latest book ‘Muslim World in the New Global World.’By the year 1914, almost 90 percent of the globe was dominated by western powers (including the newly emerging power of the USA, which was a former British colony).
The era of colonialism had actually started centuries prior to the Age of Imperialism (1870-1914). The fall of Grenada, the last Emirate of what was once Moorish Andalusia (or Muslim-ruled Spain), in 1492 had energized the Spanish Conquistadors to conquest new territories. Beginning with Columbus in 1492 and continuing for nearly 350 years, Spain conquered and settled most of South America, the Caribbean, and the American Southwest plus the Philippines. They also spread what they thought was the best religion ever, Catholicism. In that process of colonization, they brought diseases that killed millions of Native Americans and enslaved others who survived and also stole their natural resources.
Other European nations – English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Italian, Dane, Belgian – all joined in the Scramble for Africa and other continents. The colonized people gained a new book - the Bible but lost everything else including their dignity as a human being.This period of colonization also witnessed the forced enslavement – an unprecedented,brutal, and massive one –of millions of Africans to the ‘new’ world when almost half of them perished during the long and miserable voyage.
Under the French colonization, the Jami’ Masjid of Algiers was turned into the Cathedral of St. Philippe in 1832 with the French flag and cross hung on the minaret, symbolizing Christian domination. That same year, the French colonizers celebrated their first Christmas Mass. Several hundreds of Muslims, who had opposed the takeover, were mercilessly killed. The Algerians had to wait for another 130 bloody years before they earned their independence and could revert the cathedral to a mosque.
It is hard to believe today that at the time of her capitulation to (English) East India Company in 1757 CE, Bengal (comprising today’s Bangladesh) was the richest possession of the British Empire. Under the Mughal rulers, the Subah of Bengal was one of the largest, wealthiest, and most influential provinces. It generated half of the Mughal Empire’s GDP and an eighth of the world’s GDP. Its people prospered and lived happily.In contrast to Bengal, Britain then contributed less than 2% to global GDP.
At its height, British Empire was the largest empire in history. By 1913 it covered 35.5 million sq km or 13.7 million sq miles (24 percent of the planets' total land area). In 1920, the Empire's population was over 413 million people (23% of the world population).
The major causes for European colonization of non-European territories can be summed up in the table below.
Of the 15 chapters in Ghazali’s book, the first seven chapters deal with Turkiye (Turkey) because of its pivotal role in the Muslim world for nearly five centuries. In this regard one may be reminded by the speech of the US President Bill Clinton at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1999 when he said, “Turkey's past is key to understanding the 20th century. But, more importantly, I believe Turkey's future will be critical to shaping the 21st century.” Is he right?
As the Ottoman Empire, which for centuries had resisted colonization of its own territories by European powers, declined, it came to be seen in the 19th century by its western rivals as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Many of its territories came under the Russian imperial control, which would later become part of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the growing power of the Freemasons, esp. since 1908 when the Young Turks took effective control of the Ottoman administration and joined the First World War on the side of the losing Triple Alliance, the Ottoman Turkey was already on its death bed before the great war ended. Thus, began the Scramble of the Ottoman Empire or what was left of it in 1918. Even the Arab territories down south, thanks to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, soon would come under the British and French rule.
The period culminating the First World War was one of unfathomable intrigue, deception and betrayal. Lord Balfour had already promised in 1917 a piece of the pie – a ‘national homeland for the Jewish people’ who had no ties but religious to the land of Palestine. It was a classic case of a third party giving away a real estate property that is owned by the first party to the second party! It would take another 31 years before the Jewish State of Israel would be born in the heart of Muslim world to ever work as a ‘rampart for the West’, much to the wishes of Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism. Most of the troubles and wars of the Middle East in the 20th century owe it one way or another to this malignant tumor that is implanted, fostered and nourished heavily by outside entities.
The post-World War 1 era witnessed not only the disintegration of the Ottoman Turkey but its own war of independence against foreign occupation.It was able to hang onto only 31% of its former territories. On November 1, 1922, the Ottoman Sultanate was abolished. On October 29, 1923, Turkey was declared a republic and on March 3, 1924, the Caliphate itself was abolished. Mustafa Kamal, a hero of the war of Turkish wars of independence, became the first president of the republic. Under his watch, Turkey went through a transformational change when secularism and republicanism – an aggressive one –became the order of the day. The Sufi brotherhoods were abolished, the fez cap - worn by men - were outlawed, western dresses were made compulsory, new Turkish alphabet (modified Latin form) was adopted instead of Arabic, religious instructions were withdrawn from the curriculum of primary schools, Hagia Sophia mosque was turned into a museum, Sunday instead of Friday was made the weekly holiday, Islamic inheritance distribution system was outlawed, male circumcision was forbidden, and women headscarves were also forbidden in public domain.
The last 20 years have witnessed a major change in Turkish polity with Recep Erdogan in power;Turkey has never been this closer to its Ottoman roots of unity and strength in diversity in the past 100 years. He is immensely popular among the Sunni Muslims. Despite his much popularity amongst the ordinary Turks, Erdogan faced a coup in 2016, which he blamed on a US-based Sufi cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish Lira has logged badly against the US dollars in the last few years. In 2021 alone the currency lost 44% of its value. The relationship with the West has been precarious. The economic crisis plus the recent earthquakes have caused a significant decline in his popularity. It would be a miracle of sort if his party (AKP) wins in the coming elections of May 2023.
In 2010, former US President Bill Clinton, speaking at Istanbul's Bilgi University, said "Turkey has shown respect for religion without being paralyzed by it." Clinton rejected claims that Turkey's is shifting its focus towards the East, saying that it remains a firm anchor between the East and the West. "Turkey is on its independent course of building bridges," he said.
That message is perhaps not lost to Erdogan who is keenly aware of Turkey’s specific role as a bridge-builder between the East and the West, despite being a member of the NATO. Being at the cross-roads of the world, this role is not an easy one with more to lose than to gain unless managed carefully. Only the coming years will prove or disprove Clinton’s expectations, esp. as Turkish leaders play their cards carefully in the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Ghazali’s book also deals with other subjects of interest to curious readers: how the oil has become a curse for the Middle East (chapter 8); the current economic and political ties of some of the Arab countries with the Zionist state, which is seen by many Muslims as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause (chapter 9); the failure of the OIC (chapter 10) in its dismal failure to create cohesion and unity among the member states, and to resolve six major disasters since the breakup of Pakistan in 1971; the emergence of the new powers in the global arena (chapter 12), esp. that of China, which despite its despicable records of human rights with the Uyghur Muslims, has in recent years have tried to cozy up to the Muslim world with its Belt and Road Initiative (Chapter 13). The chapter 14 shares information about Putin’s Russia that is not known to many Muslims who live outside Russia. The last chapter is a look at the future of the Muslim world based on the western projections, assuming that the prevalent political and economic structures will prevail.
Ghazali has been a professional journalist since 1969. His latest book is a thoroughly readable book that is full of valuable information, many of which are necessary for Muslims to know about in a world that is increasingly becoming hostile to many Muslims. I recommend his book strongly.
Dr. Habib Siddiqui has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through Amazon.com. His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia. Dr. Siddiqui is an alumnus of the prestigious University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he earned his Ph.D.
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