At the Gates of Brussels

Atlantic Online
Nov. 4, 2004

At the Gates of Brussels

If Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets his way, Turkey will be more Islamic and
Europe will be more Turkish. Both would be good news

by Robert D. Kaplan


ho says empires are bad? The multi-ethnic Ottoman Turkish Empire, like
the coeval multi-ethnic Hapsburg Austrian one, was more hospitable to
minorities than the uni-ethnic democratic states that immediately
succeeded it. The Ottoman caliphate welcomed Turkish, Kurdish, and
other Muslims with open arms, and tolerated Christian Armenians and
Jews. The secular-minded, modernizing “Young Turk” politicians who
brought down the empire did not. They used Kurds as subcontractors in a
full-scale assault on Armenians, which scholars now argue about calling
genocide. Ottoman toleration was built on territorial indifference.
Because the same loosely administered imperial rule extended from the
Balkans to Mesopotamia, and as far south as Yemen, minorities could
live anywhere within this space without provoking issues of
sovereignty. Violent discussions over what group got to control which
territory emerged only when the empire came to an end, after World War

The collapse of the Ottoman sultanate continues to haunt geopolitics:
it gave birth to questions about the territorial status of Christians
in Lebanon and of Jews in Palestine, and about whether Kurds north of
Baghdad should live in the same polity as Mesopotamian Arabs to the
south. Moreover, it changed the direction of Muslim thought. For 850
years – from 1071, when the Seljuks defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert,
in eastern Anatolia, to the end of World War I – the House of Islam had
drawn its spiritual direction from Turkey, not from Arabia or Iran. But
with the official abolition of the Constantinople-based caliphate, in
1924, there was no longer any universally accepted authority for the
interpretation of Muslim law. In the competition for doctrinal
legitimacy that has followed, the most radical interpretations have won

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress