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Thread: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

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    Default Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    In the book “Ataturk: rebirth of a nation” by Patrick Kinross, the author makes a lot of statements to the effect that Islam was holding Turkey back, that the country was dead, there was no life, no colour, no spark of energy, and that the way of thinking was imprecise and oriental. It also makes a lot of comments about the whiteness of Ataturk’s skin and his affinity for the west, as if that somehow explains why he was different to the others (and, it is implied, superior). To me, these sound like nothing other than outdated prejudices (the book was published in 1964) and there is nothing in the text to back them up; they are simple unsourced assertions without any supporting evidence.

    There are also comments about the superiority of the “Christian countries” of the west. While the western countries were indeed Christian, I don’t think that had anything to do with their success. I think their success was much more down to competition between a large number of states, diversity of competing nations and different forms of government such as city states, republics, monarchies and empires, and the influence of the reformation. It may also have been partly down to luck of geography, since the discovery of the new world benefitted Europe’s economies enormously and altered global trade routes, markets and currencies in their favour, while disadvantaging those regions left out. Inflation caused by new world gold and silver is one example of this, since it would have driven up prices in global markets, but since the Ottomans and others didn’t have access to the gold and silver of the new world the price increases may have hit them harder than the west which had direct access to the precious metals.

    The book presents Attaturk’s fascination with western culture and the impact of attending an Opera as well as western things like waltzes and so on. It also presents a man who identified Islam as “the problem” holding his country back, and took steps to eliminate it from public life. This included some pretty extreme measures, such as closing down all religious schools and closing down the Sufi lodges, which had existed for a thousand years in some cases. He also abolished the Arabic script and replaced it with the Latin one, cutting the people off from their historical heritage and leaving the country 100% illiterate overnight. In addition, his focus on nationalism seems to have led to problems particularly with the country’s Kurds, which were not integrated and which suffered repression to the present day.

    Overall I find Attaturk an impressive and successful historical leader who achieved many remarkable improvements for his country. In general, I agree with the secular principles and also agree that fossilised religious systems that become overly-rigid do indeed inhibit a society. There should be freedom of thought and freedom of opinion. There is a lot of good in the secular values he championed, and it is certainly infinitely preferable to the thuggish barbarism and stupidity, ignorance and greed that characterise the current Erdogan dictatorship in Turkey. Attaturk was vastly better than the leaders Turkey has today.

    All of that said though, I wanted to open up some of the more problematic questions for debate. Was Islam really a problem in Turkey at that time? Was it really true that the society was backward “because of” Islam, or is that simply incorrect? Were other economic, political and cultural factors more accurately to blame? Did Attaturk’s reforms and in particular his curtailing Islam go too far? Could it even be argued that by weakening the Sufi orders, he inadvertently created the conditions for the very ignorant, uneducated and extreme Islamic backlash that we see today, with Erdogan and his right-wing so-called “Islamic” policies? If the Sufi orders still existed as they had done before Attaturk closed them down, perhaps the people would have been better educated about Islam in the first place and therefore less susceptible to those criminals who seek to use it as a cloak to hide their authoritarian semi-fascist policies? (Erdogan, looking at you).

    Needless to say, I’m not interested in this becoming yet another thread derailed by people posting arguments about the merits of Islam itself, quotations from the Quran, right wing fascist comments about immigration to Europe or other totally unrelated subjects. If you want to talk about those, go away and post in the politics forum, where that stuff belongs. No, what I want here is an intelligent discussion for members especially such as Abdulmecid I and Roma Victrix and many others who are impressively knowledgeable about these things.

    Was Ottoman society held back by Islam? Or did Ataturk simply find something convenient to blame?

    Thanks

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Next thread: Was Hitler right? (eg to refer to Ataturk in his Mein Kampf as to how you get away with genocide ).

    Sorry, but you can't seriously defend a genocidal goon like Ataturk. Re islam, he probably didn't give a crap.
    Last edited by Kyriakos; November 09, 2017 at 10:24 AM.
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Ataturk isn't even a Turk. He was a jewish born and was a free mason before they kicked him out. Also he is a god of Turks at the moment. People worshipping him every chance they get. Also he is protecting by the law so we can't speak the truth or criticize him. North Korea should be jealous. He called himself the Father of Turks while he is alive. It's like Turks didn't exist before him, lol. We have nice Greek Temple in Ankara too.
    Last edited by gastovski; November 09, 2017 at 11:01 AM.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    The problem with evaluating Ataturk or the Ottoman Empire is that their impact on the modern situation of the Middle East and the Balkans had been so great, that the issue causes too much controversy to be able to be discussed soberly. Firstly, there is the side of Turkish nationalists, who have idealized Ataturk and regard him as some sort of almost supernatural being, whose actions are always praiseworthy, from both a moral and a practical perspective. Secondly, there's the more recent case of Islamists, who hate Ataturk, because he initiated several secular reforms, including the abolition of the Caliphate. Thirdly, there are the Balkan nationalists, who either justify the failures of their countries as the result of the nefarious Ottoman administration (thus absolving their tribe from any responsibility) or blame Ataturk for the defeat of their ideology (that would be the case for Greeks, Armenians and perhaps Kurds, despite the fact that the uprising of Kurdish warlords should be explained by religious zeal and most importantly the protection of their tribal privileges, which were threatened by centralization).

    Of course, like every time bigotry is involved, almost every excessive praise and criticism, apart from not being factual (e.g. the rumour of Ataturk being a Jew, because he lived in Selanik, where many Dönmehs and Jews lived, until the population exchange and the Holocaust respectively), is also deeply insincere. Turkish nationalists are justifiably proud of expelling the imperialist invaders from Anatolia, but they also complain about the "limited size" of the Turkish state. Islamists feel discriminated by Ataturk's domestic policies, but an Islamic establishment would hardly treat every religious community on an equal basis. Finally, Balkan nationalists insist on the massacres committed by the Ottoman and Turkish armies, but they have no problem at slaughtering the opposite side, too, or ethnically cleanse Istanbul from its Muslim majority.

    Anyway, in my opinion, like the majority of historical figures, for an appropriate assessment of Ataturk, we firstly need to define our point of view. It is reasonable for the Turkish citizens, at a certain extent, to appreciate Ataturk's contribution, because his military and political skills played a crucial role at undermining the planned partition of the Ottoman Empire, which would involve a large number of Muslim and Turkic-speaking communities, inspire of generally composing the majority of the local people, to fall under essentially colonial regimes, which would treat them as second-class citizens, and at modernizing the Turkish society. However, the consequences of his reforms tend to be somewhat exaggerated, while they definitely weren't revolutionary and innovative, in the sense that the Ottoman authorities had consciously endorsed a reformation policy, at least since the reign of Abdülhamid I, approximately 200 years before Mustafa Kemal Pasha. Additionally, Ataturk's rule was definitely despotic and although it didn't reach the level of tyranny of several fascist European states (Germany, Italy, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and etc.), it is undeniable that several essential rights of its citizens were denied.

    From a universal, moral perspective, Ataturk's heritage is inevitably much more controversial and, ultimately negative. He should directly or indirectly be blamed for many atrocities his irregular troops committed, while his already mentioned totalitarianism is also morally reprehensible. Unfortunately, as I explained in the introduction, any criticism against him is doomed to suffer from a fragile credibility, because of how the negative commentary is basically monopolized by fascists (nationalist or religious bigots), whose stance is evidently hypocritical, as they are simply jealous of their assumed ancestors not being able to harm the Turks or the secularists as he did to them.

    Regarding Kinross' arguments, they are obsolete and it shows. I agree that Islam, as every other religion, is ultimately a force of conservatism, which tries to obstruct any progress away from the status quo, from which the dominating clergy profits a lot. The Sheikhs ul-Islam were instrumental at the demise of many ambitious Ottoman Sultans (Selim III being the primary example), who fruitlessly attempted to threaten the benefits enjoyed by the upper classes. The Kurdish revolts, as well, were inspired from religious bigotry, although their real goal was the preservation of the tribal aristocracy's privileges, while even the Ecumenical Patriarchate openly attacked the propagation of the Enlightenment, as an ideological force which put its legal and moral superiority at a worryingly precarious position. However, the example of the Christian priests, among others, demonstrates that this tendency affects every religious dogma and is not limited to Islam, so, considering that Europeans continued to be particularly pious well in the 18th century, I doubt that the causes of the decline of the Ottoman Empire should be traced to Islam. In my opinion, climatic change (droughts, heatwaves), the disruption of trade routes, the deurbanization of the Middle East, because of the Mongol expansion and the discovery of the American resources (only exploitable by Europeans, due to geographical reasons) are much more relevant. However, again, I wouldn't overestimate the importance of said decline. It definitely harmed the military prowess of the empire and also damaged the possibilities of the elites to enjoy certain luxuries, but the quality of life of the average desperate peasant was not different at all. Whether you were British, Ottoman, French, Sicilian or Spanish, chances are that you were constantly threatened by the prospect of famine, eviction and undernourishment.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    but since the Ottomans and others didn’t have access to the gold and silver of the new world the price increases may have hit them harder than the west which had direct access to the precious metals.
    The fact is only Iberian states had direct access of the precious metals in New World, none others had that. Hence your statement does not explain other success like Dutch or German.

    But to answer your question, rather than Islam pull back the development of Muslim states, it is more like Christianity is a big push for West.
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    He also abolished the Arabic script and replaced it with the Latin one, cutting the people off from their historical heritage and leaving the country 100% illiterate overnight.
    Actually, that was a huge improvement and one of the best parts of his legacy. The Arabic script is obsolete, at the very least for any language that isn't Semitic. I haven't specifically researched it, but I suspect that the rate of literacy is now much higher in Turkey than it is in most other officially Islamic countries (of course, that might very well change if the country keeps going in the Erdogan direction...).
    I can understand people clinging on to the Arabic alphabet for aesthetic or religious reasons, but the modernized Latin alphabet is much better. Not just for Turkish, but also for Indo-European languages, which is why Iran should adopt it as well (it really is better suited for Farsi, I've tried).
    Oh and by the way, Japan should adopt the Latin script too, as their current writing system is a disgrace to our species.

    Regarding Sufism, we should not forget that it has an ambivalent legacy. There's the tolerant peace-loving Sufis, sure, but there are also obscurant tendencies that don't mix particularly well with intellectual progress. And IIRC, historically, some of them espoused religious fanaticism as well.
    Can't be bothered to comment about the rest, since Abdülmecid has already covered a lot of the issues.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    The problem with evaluating Ataturk or the Ottoman Empire is that their impact on the modern situation of the Middle East and the Balkans had been so great, that the issue causes too much controversy to be able to be discussed soberly. Firstly, there is the side of Turkish nationalists, who have idealized Ataturk and regard him as some sort of almost supernatural being, whose actions are always praiseworthy, from both a moral and a practical perspective. Secondly, there's the more recent case of Islamists, who hate Ataturk, because he initiated several secular reforms, including the abolition of the Caliphate. Thirdly, there are the Balkan nationalists, who either justify the failures of their countries as the result of the nefarious Ottoman administration (thus absolving their tribe from any responsibility) or blame Ataturk for the defeat of their ideology (that would be the case for Greeks, Armenians and perhaps Kurds, despite the fact that the uprising of Kurdish warlords should be explained by religious zeal and most importantly the protection of their tribal privileges, which were threatened by centralization).
    Yes, this seems very true. He is a polarising figure and everyone seems to have an opinion. For many western people he is a hero, and many secular Turks as well. But for Arabs and others, he was someone who disrupted the fabric of society, damaging the country's culture, history and religion and turning away from its traditions. For Islamists, obviously his abolition of the Caliphate and many moves to reduce the role of Islam in society were an attack on the faith and viewed with mistrust at best. Personally, I am in the secular camp but I also suspect that Ataturk may have been wrong about Islam, i.e. I don't believe Islamic ideals themselves kept Turkey back, however the institutions of the state may have contributed to its decline.

    It's an incredibly complicated topic and I suspect there is no easy answer. For example, the industrialisation of the western nations was more what put them ahead, rather than that Turkey falling 'behind' as such. Turkey was behind relatively speaking, because the western nations leapt forward so far and so fast in the period after about 1750. That leap, I suspect, was based significantly on the fact that Europe was divided into lots of small competing societies, whereas the Ottoman Empire was a single state that ruled most of Muslim world, with the remainder ruled by Safavid/Qajar Persia. Factors like the new world have also already been mentioned. Many of the innovations of the west seem to have begun in the smaller countries and city states of Italy and the Netherlands that were independent of any central authority. But the Muslim world didn't have the same level of fragmentation.

    It has even been argued that it was the simple discovery of coal and its industrial use in northern Europe that led to the great divergence between the west and the other countries. All in all, I suspect geography probably did play a major role, combined with the fact that the greater part of the Muslim world was united in a single state. We see the same phenomenon with China, which also was a large unified state that fell behind the rest of the world, partly due to overconfidence about its own strength and superiority and a rejection of the outside world.

    I think the role of the Islamic law schools and their increasing codification after the 12th century, combined with the centuries-long swing away from the Mutazila philosophers, was probably another factor. The victory of the Asharite school of theology has been argued as a factor that led the Islamic world gradually to turn away from science, although this is a process that took centuries. It has also been argued that the influence of al Ghazali, who published his book "The incoherence of philosophers" which attacked Greek rationalism, may have been another turning point - although this is disputed. I have also seen the opposite argued, that al Ghazali actually lead to a golden age of Islamic learning, so it appears unclear either way. I suspect the increasing solidification of the Islamic legal system may have been a factor, but by no means the only one and perhaps not even the most important.

    Other factors are likely to include the Mongol invasions and the Sack of Baghdad, the destruction of much of the urban civilisation of Khorasan where cities like Nishapur went from being vast centres of education, science, literature and learning to being a smouldering pile of ash virtually overnight. The destruction of irrigation systems in Iraq and Iran and the depopulation of the region and its urban centres would have been disastrous. The constant influx of nomadic horse-based cultures such as the Seljuk Turks and especially Mongols and Timurids from about 1200 onwards was also damaging to settled cultivation and higher civilisation. As much as half of Iran's population seems to have been nomadic horse-based societies in the period after the middle ages. It has also been argued that climate change, increasing salination of the soil and deforestation may have played a role in the decline of the Middle East, although I don't have much knowledge about the details.

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Ataturk's rule was definitely despotic and although it didn't reach the level of tyranny of several fascist European states (Germany, Italy, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and etc.), it is undeniable that several essential rights of its citizens were denied.
    Could it be argued that though regretable, this was necessary given the dire situation in which the country found itself in at the time? Secularism was an ideology imposed on a predominantly conservative Muslim society from the top down, rather than from the ground up. A small educated elite in Istanbul and perhaps some other cities may have supported it, but the mass of the people understood Islam as an integral part of their culture and would not have found it easy to grasp. It was only because Ataturk was a celebrated war-hero and had clearly delivered the country to an epic victory against enemies on all sides, against the odds, that he was so widely revered and respect that he was able to push his reforms through. And even then, the language he used in his public statements seems to have been careful to conciliate Islamic opinion, while at the same time his more private statements seem to suggest someone who had no time for what he viewed as backward beliefs that simply stood in the way of progress and reform of his country towards a better future. Is this broadly correct?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Regarding Kinross' arguments, they are obsolete and it shows. I agree that Islam, as every other religion, is ultimately a force of conservatism, which tries to obstruct any progress away from the status quo, from which the dominating clergy profits a lot. The Sheikhs ul-Islam were instrumental at the demise of many ambitious Ottoman Sultans (Selim III being the primary example), who fruitlessly attempted to threaten the benefits enjoyed by the upper classes. The Kurdish revolts, as well, were inspired from religious bigotry, although their real goal was the preservation of the tribal aristocracy's privileges, while even the Ecumenical Patriarchate openly attacked the propagation of the Enlightenment, as an ideological force which put its legal and moral superiority at a worryingly precarious position. However, the example of the Christian priests, among others, demonstrates that this tendency affects every religious dogma and is not limited to Islam, so, considering that Europeans continued to be particularly pious well in the 18th century, I doubt that the causes of the decline of the Ottoman Empire should be traced to Islam.
    I agree. I think that the key issue was the factors you have mentioned, combined perhaps with the outdatedness of the state's institutions, the lack of good leadership, the rapid pace of advancement of overseas nations, the rise of nationalism, and the excessive hold of conservative thought and conservative institutions, including religious ones but not limited to them. Ataturk's reforms changed the whole fabric of society and the country. Perhaps it was necessary to shake up religion just as it was necessary to reform the country's institutions as a whole. Certainly the concept of a Caliph seems somewhat outdated given Turkey's international position by the opening of the 20th century and the state of contemporary civilisation.

    That said, I think Ataturk could probably have achieved as much success if not more in reforming the country, without some of the more radical steps (replacing the alphabet, banning traditional dress, closing the Sufi lodges). These steps were probably counterproductive in my opinion, as they did not respect people's freedom of choice and may in the long run have produced a backlash which undermined the very values Ataturk was fighting for. On the other hand I do also accept that these were all major symbolic events, which it can be argued were necessary to shake up the mentality of the people at the time and symbolise the extreme commitment to change which may have been necessary at the time. Obviously as a Sufi myself I don't believe closing the lodges was a good idea. I'd be interested to hear what others think on these last points?
    Last edited by bigdaddy1204; November 10, 2017 at 01:07 PM.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by athanaric View Post
    Actually, that was a huge improvement and one of the best parts of his legacy. The Arabic script is obsolete, at the very least for any language that isn't Semitic. I haven't specifically researched it, but I suspect that the rate of literacy is now much higher in Turkey than it is in most other officially Islamic countries (of course, that might very well change if the country keeps going in the Erdogan direction...).
    Interestingly, there are still almost four million illiterates in Turkey. Better than the other western Islamic countries, but still way worse than the ex-Soviet -stan countries with their cyrillic alphabets (Almost 100% there).

    Quote Originally Posted by athanaric View Post
    Regarding Sufism, we should not forget that it has an ambivalent legacy. There's the tolerant peace-loving Sufis, sure, but there are also obscurant tendencies that don't mix particularly well with intellectual progress. And IIRC, historically, some of them espoused religious fanaticism as well.
    The Sudanese Mahdists were Sufis

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Nowadays, when illiteracy is not such a big issue, for at least the developed countries, the type of the alphabet is less relevant. Despite that, the former Soviet Republics are not a typical example, because education was the field, where the Soviet Union, even according to her most passionate critics, excelled the most. Illiteracy rates dropped dramatically almost immediately, despite the public infrastructure having been greatly damaged to the WWI and the consequent Civil War. As a result, even the poorest former Soviet Republics can boast of having higher literacy rates than those of countries like Portugal, Italy or Greece. On the other hand, Athanaric is right that the Latin alphabet can be very useful, simply because the modern world is dominated, in political and financial terms, by countries using that type of alphabet. Even if the Arabic or Cyrillic script were easier to learn, young students from Turkmenistan or Oman will benefit considerably from being familiarised with the Latin alphabet, especially in post-graduate education or globalized commerce. On the long term, thanks to Ataturk's reforms, Turkey will probably profit from the Latin alphabet, while countries like Kazakhstan have recently begun to recognize its potential, in what concerns digital services and.. diplomacy.
    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    I think the role of the Islamic law schools and their increasing codification after the 12th century, combined with the centuries-long swing away from the Mutazila philosophers, was probably another factor. The victory of the Asharite school of theology has been argued as a factor that led the Islamic world gradually to turn away from science, although this is a process that took centuries. It has also been argued that the influence of al Ghazali, who published his book "The incoherence of philosophers" which attacked Greek rationalism, may have been another turning point - although this is disputed. I have also seen the opposite argued, that al Ghazali actually lead to a golden age of Islamic learning, so it appears unclear either way. I suspect the increasing solidification of the Islamic legal system may have been a factor, but by no means the only one and perhaps not even the most important.
    I'm a bit skeptical with blaming exclusively al-Ghazali for the failures of Middle Eastern thought. Sure, his reactionary and bigoted ideas definitely didn't promote intellectual values, such as critical thinking and accumulation of knowledge, but in my opinion, sciences stalled, because the prosperity of the Middle East collapsed, following the deteriorating climatic conditions and the destruction of the urban net, following the Mongol conquests and the arrival of nomadic tribes. When money is lacking, then the authorities do not invest in education, while cities become smaller and smaller, incapable of sustaining a large amount of "unproductive" scholars, focused on research.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    Could it be argued that though regretable, this was necessary given the dire situation in which the country found itself in at the time? Secularism was an ideology imposed on a predominantly conservative Muslim society from the top down, rather than from the ground up. A small educated elite in Istanbul and perhaps some other cities may have supported it, but the mass of the people understood Islam as an integral part of their culture and would not have found it easy to grasp. It was only because Ataturk was a celebrated war-hero and had clearly delivered the country to an epic victory against enemies on all sides, against the odds, that he was so widely revered and respect that he was able to push his reforms through. And even then, the language he used in his public statements seems to have been careful to conciliate Islamic opinion, while at the same time his more private statements seem to suggest someone who had no time for what he viewed as backward beliefs that simply stood in the way of progress and reform of his country towards a better future. Is this broadly correct?
    I agree that democracy would probably be impossible to establish and that Ataturk was generally a well-meaning leader, determined to increase the quality of life of Turkish citizens through modernization. However, ends do not justify the means and, although it is always useful to study an event, according to the relevant context (e.g. applying modern morality principles to judge Mesopotamian rulers), I insist that Ataturk's authoritarianism is morally reprehensible. He's not Hitler, of course, and should probably be considered superior to the average fascist dictator of pre-WWII Eastern Europe, but I would definitely prefer to live under, for example, the French, Spanish or Scandinavian democratic government. However, as I said, it's true that the Turkish essentially totalitarian regime in the '20s and '30s was the norm not the exception and, to the credit of Ataturk, he didn't overthrow any democratically elected government in his way to power, unlike Mussolini, Franco or Hitler.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Nowadays, when illiteracy is not such a big issue, for at least the developed countries, the type of the alphabet is less relevant. Despite that, the former Soviet Republics are not a typical example, because education was the field, where the Soviet Union, even according to her most passionate critics, excelled the most. Illiteracy rates dropped dramatically almost immediately, despite the public infrastructure having been greatly damaged to the WWI and the consequent Civil War. As a result, even the poorest former Soviet Republics can boast of having higher literacy rates than those of countries like Portugal, Italy or Greece. On the other hand, Athanaric is right that the Latin alphabet can be very useful, simply because the modern world is dominated, in political and financial terms, by countries using that type of alphabet. Even if the Arabic or Cyrillic script were easier to learn, young students from Turkmenistan or Oman will benefit considerably from being familiarised with the Latin alphabet, especially in post-graduate education or globalized commerce. On the long term, thanks to Ataturk's reforms, Turkey will probably profit from the Latin alphabet, while countries like Kazakhstan have recently begun to recognize its potential, in what concerns digital services and.. diplomacy.
    The Cyrillic alphabet is (almost) as easy to learn as the Latin one, though at least in the way Tajikistan uses it it is less suitable for Persian IMO. The Arabic one isn't terrribly difficult either, but the main point here is that it's structurally awkward, as not only do you have to learn several versions of each letter, but the fact that is doesn't properly spell out every phoneme makes it rather unsuitable for IE languages (and AFAIK Turkish as well). Also, it uses some letters that aren't needed in Turkish and Persian and just add to the confusion.

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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Since the issue is quite close at home for me, I won't go into details other than say that I consider Kemal [insert insults here; plural]. Yes, he was a good statesman and he did many necessary reforms in Turkey. He is also a patriot with the "I am not commanding you to attack, I am commanding you to die" and nobody can deny that. He is also to blame for no Greeks remaining in Asia Minor after 3500 years.

    I would also say that what are "imperialist invaders" for some are actually "liberating force taking back homelands from the actual imperialistic invaders" for other people. Other people that have been in the area for 3000 years more than the Turks. Other people that in those 3000 more years have shown a better ability to cooperate with different people than the Turks. So, I believe those other people are right when they call it liberation and not imperialistic invasion.
    The "failures" of our countries in the Balkans followed a long after we kicked the Turks out of the Balkans and the not-bad parts of the Ottoman administration have been for centuries administered by those Balkan tribals because they knew how to run a state. The bad parts of the Ottoman administration, like treating Christians as second class citizens, absolutism, blood tax, downgrade of scientific research, keeping the Balkans out of the Industrial revolution and in the middle ages... yes, that was mostly Ottoman fault.
    There is a reason you would find very few people in the Balkans (or even in Turkey) sorry that the Ottomans were kicked out. There Ottomans fell at the time the German Empire and the Austro-Hungary fell. And yet, their Balkan (and Turkish) subjects despise the Ottomans more than the Germans despise the Caiser or god-forbid, the Viennese the Hapsburgs. There are actually many reasons.

    And that not-too-passive aggressive rant wouldn't be complete without correcting that the city is called Thessaloniki or Salonica.
    Last edited by alhoon; November 11, 2017 at 02:17 AM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    You are right about Salonica, but my comment was a reference to her Ottoman past, when the city was officially called as Selanik. In my opinion, it would be similar to calling the Byzantine capital as Istanbul or the colony of Megara as Constantinople. Anyway, the low reputation of the Ottoman Empire is a rhetorical fallacy, known as argumentum ad populum, especially considering that none of the "haters" had actually lived under the imperial regime, while their knowledge is mainly coming from the education system, which, in the case of the Balkans and Turkey, are notoriously nationalistic. Generally, the situation has improved considerably, but the problem is that the minds of the children are still influenced negatively by the stereotypes of their teachers and parents, who belong to an older generation. Considering how the school system and discipline collapse, the latter's opinion probably enjoys a lot more credibility than the more sober version of the state books. In reality, the situation was much more complicated. Take for example the letter signed by the entire merchant community of Salonica, including its Greek portion, which was sent to the Great Powers and argued against the annexation of the city by the Greeks, because its trade connections would be harmed.

    Now, in what concerns your argument about the duration of the Greek presence in Anatolia, I doubt it is relevant to our modern moral principles. Someone arbitrarily identifying himself with an older culture of that of his neighbor doesn't grant him more rights at land-grabbing. After all, when it comes to the Ottoman Empire, identities were mainly determined by religion, which renders them contradictory (and more fluid) to the current narrative of racial nationalism. According to the Treaty of Lausanne, Orthodox Christians, even if they were descended from Christianized Turkmens were obliged to move to Greece, in exchange for Muslims, even if said Muslims could trace their ancestry straight back to Philip II or Pericles. So, Muslims and Christians were equally tied to the land of Anatolia, while that religious flexibility is nothing new. I'm sure that many Turkish-speaking Muslims used to be Christian and speak Medieval Greek 1.000 years ago, while 2.000 years ago, they probably worshiped Attis and spoke Phrygian. I wouldn't be surprised if 3.000 years ago, many of his ancestors were very immersed into paying their respects to Telipinu, while praying in pure Hittite. The issue between Greek and Turkic Anatolia is simply more controversial, because two modern nations chose to base their existence of those cultures. By the way, your argument could actually work against the interests of the invading Greeks in 1920, as the majority of Greeks in Izmir and a couple of neighboring towns and villages is explained by the large immigration waves from basically Peloponnese, following the economic growth of Izmir in the 17th and 18th century, as a major trade hub. Therefore, theoretically, by that logic, the Muslim Turks should hold a privileged position to these relatively newcomers.

    Quote Originally Posted by athanaric View Post
    The Cyrillic alphabet is (almost) as easy to learn as the Latin one, though at least in the way Tajikistan uses it it is less suitable for Persian IMO. The Arabic one isn't terrribly difficult either, but the main point here is that it's structurally awkward, as not only do you have to learn several versions of each letter, but the fact that is doesn't properly spell out every phoneme makes it rather unsuitable for IE languages (and AFAIK Turkish as well). Also, it uses some letters that aren't needed in Turkish and Persian and just add to the confusion.
    Interesting thoughts. It makes sense, I guess, because it's reasonable to expect the Arabic alphabet to be more suitable for the particularities of the Semitic languages. Generally, whoever is interested in studying Assyriology is encouraged to learn Hebrew and Arabic, so he can more easily understand the structure of the Akkadian languages. I can't add anything more meaningful, as I'm pretty clueless about linguistics, unfortunately, and my knowledge of different alphabets is limited to the Latin and Greek ones.
    Last edited by Abdülmecid I; November 11, 2017 at 05:38 AM.

  14. #14
    bigdaddy1204's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Thank you friends for keeping this emotional topic discussed in a good way.

    I think on the subject of Greeks and Turks identity in Anatolia, it is known that many people living there are descended from the ancient population that has been variously Hittites, Phrygians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans over time by people adapting to the culture for their benefit. For example I have read that in 1338 the Patriarch of Constantinople was horrified to learn that many of the citizens of Nicaea (Iznik) had already abandoned Christianity and converted to Islam, just seven years after the city was captured by Ottomans. He sent a letter to the citizens "for the salvation of their souls", but it was too late.

    Many people converted and changed cultural identity over a process of hundreds of years. Thus by the time we arrive to the early 20th century, in my opinion the subject of "Greeks" and "Turks" is largely a nationalistic invention. In reality they were mostly the same people, (at least by blood) choosing to identify themselves in a different cultural identity mostly based on religion. Thus you could almost call the fighting at that time a "civil war" between two identities of the same people. This was resolved by artificially creating two states with different respective identities. Thus both sides could be called "imperialistic invader" by the other side.

    In my opinion a better solution might have been a single country which has equal rights for everybody. But unfortunately this wasn't possible due to the nationalistic and bigoted approach of everybody living at that time on all sides, plus the "intervention" of so-called Great Powers which stirred up the situation with disastrous results. Many societies have struggled with multi-culturalism and sadly it often causes conflict and arguably doesn't really work (I'm thinking of Iraq and the Kurds, for example), mainly because the dominant group tends to oppress the smaller one. This is a sad feature of human behaviour and recognition of the trouble this causes was undoubtedly behind the population swap of 1920s.

    I don't know much about the extent to which Ataturk was involved in these things or was/was not to blame for it, (haven't reached that far in the book yet, we are still in 1912!) but it is outside the main question of this thread, which is: did Ataturk correctly identify Islam as "the problem" for Ottoman society causing its decline, or was he wrong and other factors were just as important/more important? Discussion of minority groups and the possible role of Greeks, Kurds, Armenians, and various other peoples and what could have been achieved by different approaches, is a valid topic and will be accepted for discussion.

  15. #15
    alhoon's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Well, I said my piece and it didn't have to do with Islam and the decline of Ottoman civilization to be sincere. But I'll just add that both my grandparents from Smyrna have lived under the Ottoman rule. Now, my other grandmother was from Crete and her parents have lived under Ottoman rule and hated it worse than the Smyrna Greeks. Most Greeks weren't allowed to reside in the city of Chania. The nice places in the town were off-limits for Greeks even visiting the city to sell their things. My Asia minor grandparent's family fled to Smyrna before he was born from Crete, not because of choice but because they fled the Turk reprisals in Crete.
    The Ottoman Empire was an Empire. Not all places were treated the same, it had to do with the local boss. The Greeks of Constantinople probably had it best.

    We learn what happened mostly by tradition these days as the school books for the past years tries to white-wash the relationship with Turkey.


    Now to get in topic:
    How we define "decline" of civilization? Territorial losses? Cultural hegemony? Cause both these things were helped by Islam in the glory days of the Ottomans. To the detriment of everyone else but they did help them.
    Last edited by alhoon; November 11, 2017 at 08:57 AM.

  16. #16
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Next thread: Was Hitler right? (eg to refer to Ataturk in his Mein Kampf as to how you get away with genocide ).

    Sorry, but you can't seriously defend a genocidal goon like Ataturk. Re islam, he probably didn't give a crap.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but he was more indifferent to the massacres of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks than he was actually directly involved in said massacres. For instance, with the fall of Smyrna in 1923, he sent a telegram to the League of Nations basically telling them that the central government in Ankara should not be held responsible for the crimes and massacres committed of ethnic minority groups by private Turkish citizens, worked up into a frenzy due to the wars. I'm not saying this absolves him in any way, but he made an attempt to distance himself from these actions rather than holding up severed heads for a public photo shoot and boast about it ISIS-style on Twitter (or, back then, the Akşam newspaper ).

    Quote Originally Posted by gastovski View Post
    Ataturk isn't even a Turk. He was a jewish born and was a free mason before they kicked him out. Also he is a god of Turks at the moment. People worshipping him every chance they get. Also he is protecting by the law so we can't speak the truth or criticize him. North Korea should be jealous. He called himself the Father of Turks while he is alive. It's like Turks didn't exist before him, lol. We have nice Greek Temple in Ankara too.
    Oh god, here we go already with the conspiracy theory drivel. This whole meme that Ataturk was Jewish is based on the idea that, since he was born and raised in Selanik (modern Thessaloniki, Greece), an Ottoman city with a large population of Jewish-to-Muslim converts, he must have somehow been Jewish. Even though his grandparents weren't even from there originally. They came from other parts of the Ottoman Empire. His lighter features than an average Turk could simply be explained by the long-held Ottoman practice of Devshirme, where Greek and Slavic Christian boys of Eastern Europe and the Balkans were taken from their homes, converted to Islam, and forced into military service as Janissaries. For Christ sake there are even some Ottoman sultans who had light colored eyes and light hair. IMHO, Ataturk looked significantly more West Asian looking than Selim II "the Blond", son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hurrem Sultan, a blonde slave woman from Ukraine who became Suleiman's favored wife.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludicus View Post
    I'm sorry to disappoint you,

    You beat me to it, Ludicus!

    Seriously, though, they say everything in life boils down to economics. There's more than a hint of truth in that statement. The Ottoman Empire was simply eclipsed by the global European empires built by Portugal and Spain, and then by England, France, and the Dutch Republic. The new shipping lanes across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans bypassed the historic land route running through mainland Asia and right through the Ottoman Empire, allowing Europeans to trade directly with India and China. Colonization of the New World and Americas also offered immeasurable riches for European powers. There was no way the Ottomans could compete with that, although they did manage to reach Vienna in 1683, where they were soundly defeated. Despite going into a terminal decline, they managed to hold on to portions of the Balkan peninsula into the early 20th century, until they were finally reduced to the small territory they now have on the European side of the Bosphorus.

    As for Islam's role in all of this, you could say the old Devshirme system was a result of Islamic influence, but religious concerns were rather irrelevant by the 19th century and rise of secularism and constitutional monarchism. Ataturk was a proponent of this by engaging in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution that restored the constitutional monarchy in the wake of Sultan Abdul Hamid II's attempted total seizure of power.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddy1204 View Post
    Was Ottoman society held back by Islam? Or did Ataturk simply find something convenient to blame?
    Any actual evidence he actually blamed Islam as a religion for the downfall of the Ottoman Empire? He did quite a lot to support its existence.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Next thread: Was Hitler right? (eg to refer to Ataturk in his Mein Kampf as to how you get away with genocide ).

    Sorry, but you can't seriously defend a genocidal goon like Ataturk. Re islam, he probably didn't give a crap.
    Where in Mein Kampf does Hitler refer to Atatürk as to how you get away with genocide? Perhaps, you're referring to his speech where he mentions Armenians which is widely regarded as a forgery?


    Quote Originally Posted by gastovski View Post
    Ataturk isn't even a Turk. He was a jewish born and was a free mason before they kicked him out. Also he is a god of Turks at the moment. People worshipping him every chance they get. Also he is protecting by the law so we can't speak the truth or criticize him. North Korea should be jealous. He called himself the Father of Turks while he is alive. It's like Turks didn't exist before him, lol. We have nice Greek Temple in Ankara too.
    You forgot that he was V overlord. Very important.
    Last edited by Setekh; November 11, 2017 at 01:41 PM.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by alhoon View Post
    Since the issue is quite close at home for me, I won't go into details other than say that I consider Kemal [insert insults here; plural]. Yes, he was a good statesman and he did many necessary reforms in Turkey. He is also a patriot with the "I am not commanding you to attack, I am commanding you to die" and nobody can deny that. He is also to blame for no Greeks remaining in Asia Minor after 3500 years.

    I would also say that what are "imperialist invaders" for some are actually "liberating force taking back homelands from the actual imperialistic invaders" for other people. Other people that have been in the area for 3000 years more than the Turks. Other people that in those 3000 more years have shown a better ability to cooperate with different people than the Turks. So, I believe those other people are right when they call it liberation and not imperialistic invasion.
    The "failures" of our countries in the Balkans followed a long after we kicked the Turks out of the Balkans and the not-bad parts of the Ottoman administration have been for centuries administered by those Balkan tribals because they knew how to run a state. The bad parts of the Ottoman administration, like treating Christians as second class citizens, absolutism, blood tax, downgrade of scientific research, keeping the Balkans out of the Industrial revolution and in the middle ages... yes, that was mostly Ottoman fault.
    There is a reason you would find very few people in the Balkans (or even in Turkey) sorry that the Ottomans were kicked out. There Ottomans fell at the time the German Empire and the Austro-Hungary fell. And yet, their Balkan (and Turkish) subjects despise the Ottomans more than the Germans despise the Caiser or god-forbid, the Viennese the Hapsburgs. There are actually many reasons.

    And that not-too-passive aggressive rant wouldn't be complete without correcting that the city is called Thessaloniki or Salonica.
    One of the greatest failures of the Great War was the British and French colonial powers did not honor their agreements with the Arab tribes and divided up the territory for themselves and the fact that the British did not hand over Thrace and Constantinople to Greek rule. It also failed to seek out and punish those responsible for the genocide of non-Turks.
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  19. #19

    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Admiral Piett View Post
    One of the greatest failures of the Great War was the British and French colonial powers did not honor their agreements with the Arab tribes and divided up the territory for themselves and the fact that the British did not hand over Thrace and Constantinople to Greek rule. It also failed to seek out and punish those responsible for the genocide of non-Turks.
    Almost nothing of what you said is true, I'm really curious about where you're actually getting your information, Admiral Piett, because it's honestly nothing but propaganda. There was never an official agreement with the Arab tribes, something rather unsurprising, considering how the vast majority of the Arabs remained loyal to the Ottoman authorities and fought against the British, French and Russians in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, the Dardanelles and the Caucasus. The only somewhat relevant document is the correspondence between the High Commissioner of Egypt and the Sharif of Mecca. It can't be called as a diplomatic treaty and neither side followed the content of the letters, with Hussein being the first to violate it. The number of rebels was several times smaller than the promised one (100.000) and the uprising was limited to a small part of Hejaz (Medina being captured by the Arab rebels only in 1919).

    Secondly, both parts of Thrace were actually given to Greece and the western one, originally belonging to Bulgaria, remains Greek until today. The Eastern part was returned back to Turkey, after the Greek Army's defeat in Anatolia. Contrary to the popular misconception, the British remained faithful to the Greek cause, until the end (albeit less enthusiastically), while almost open war broke out between them and the Turkish forces about the status of the Bosporus straits. Now, why do you believe that the moral option would be to surrender Eastern Thrace and Istanbul to Greece? The statistics (p. 28-32) of both the imperial administration and the Orthodox Patriarchate agree that Greeks were the minority in these regions, numbering significantly less than the Turks. So, any territorial expansion of Greece in Eastern Thrace would harm the interests of the majority of the population, thus being the definition of imperialism. Finally, they did seek out and even arrest almost all the officials suspected to be responsible for the atrocities, but the trials failed, due to the lack of the necessary legal context and the fact that the defendants were eventually exchanged with several British captives.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Was Ataturk right? Was Islam to blame for the decline of Ottoman civilisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Finally, they did seek out and even arrest almost all the officials suspected to be responsible for the atrocities, but the trials failed, due to the lack of the necessary legal context and the fact that the defendants were eventually exchanged with several British captives.
    As well as the lack of evidence they found.
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