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Unformatted text preview: The First World War marks a major watershed in history. Restricting our attention to the Muslim world, and treating that vast area with only the broadest of brush strokes, the second decade of this century produced the following developments: • The last great Muslim empire, that of the Ottoman state, went out of existence. Juridically speaking, this took place in 1923 , but in fact the only question following the Ottoman defeat in the First World War was whether there would be a truncated Ottoman remnant or, as turned out to be the case, a nation-state in Anatolia, the Republic of Turkey, with all remaining Ottoman territories parceled out as separate political entities. • Europe completed its division of the colonialist spoils in Africa and Asia with the British mandates in Palestine (and Transjordan) and Iraq and the French mandates in Syria and Lebanon plus several mandates in Africa, largely a reshuffling of former German hold- ings. The League of Nations mandates, however, presupposed ulti- mate independence for the mandated states. The mandates system itself represented a step away from confident colonialism as had existed in the nineteenth century (and in previous centuries) and toward the European acceptance of decolonization such as took place in the post–World War II period. • The Western concept of “natural” nations and of nationalism as the normal legitimate policy of any people (the idea of easily distin- guishable “peoples” being assumed) was henceforth the dominant 11. From World War I to the 1960 s: The Years of Muted Islamist Politics operational framework for political action throughout the Muslim world. Early stirrings in this direction over roughly the previous half-century can be traced, but this second decade of the twentieth century brought a giant step forward. Woodrow Wilson’s champi- oning of the self-determination of nations served to establish the dominant rhetoric (but not yet the reality) in both the West and the non-West. Nor was there any confusion concerning the presumed applicability of self-determination to Muslim lands. The twelfth point of Wilson’s celebrated fourteen points, given in his address to Congress on January 8 , 1918 , read in part: “The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereign- ty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.” Accordingly, the political history of the Muslim world from this time can be interpreted in terms of would-be “nations” seeking to become states and of existing states seeking to legitimate their existence on nationalist princi- ples. Both the reality and the ideal of a multilingual, multiethnic, and, yes, multireligious empire led by a Muslim ruler was eclipsed. The dominant political paradigm that had existed virtually unchallenged in theory and was usually present in practice since the rise of Islam was giving way to the quite...
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- Spring '08
- Islam, modern times, Muslim world