After the end of World War I, the Islamic question, or the Ottoman question, ended for Western powers. The process of sharing Ottoman lands as one of the fundamental causes of the war was completed, while a new process of enslavement had begun for all the ethnicities of the former empire who are now divided from each other by being scattered in almost 50 countries. The invasion of Islamic lands had begun with the occupation of India and ended with the ultimate surrender of Istanbul, the Ottoman capital.
Thus, from the Western point of view, Islam in 1918 was utterly defeated and buried in the dusty pages of historic books without leaving a slim chance for its revitalization. Thus, the 20th century for the Islamic world would be predominated by wars of independence after the end of which dozens of nation-states were established perfectly in line with the political schemes of the former hegemonic power of Great Britain.
During the Cold War, while the political world turned strictly bipolar, several Islamic countries such as Turkey and Iran took a stand with the United States, the new hegemonic power of the Western bloc, while many Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Libya turned out to be considerably rich due to oil revenue.
Muslims who played their roles in the right-left controversy of the 1970s had begun to re-evaluate the causes of the Islamic world's fall during World War I, examine not only the historical failures and errors, but also successes and valor of their ancestors, and ripen a zeal for reconstructing their own future through the force and faith that they take from the Quran and the sunnah.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, many opinion leaders and men of wisdom in the Islamic world had tried to establish a future ideology for Muslims. In this respect, Mevlana Khalid-i Baghdadi's intellectual stance against British colonialism during its occupation of India was a cornerstone in the revitalization of Islam in the modern world. In the context of the Cold War, the simple idea that Muslim countries could have a "sui generis" position in the bipolar world was called Islamism. In this respect, the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and the National Vision Movement in Turkey had become the main representatives of such a political stance, now called political Islam. Yet, in a couple of years, the end of the Cold War, the Iranian Revolution and the Afghan War have redefined global and regional dynamics from scratch.In Turkey, most of the theses that were brought forward by the Welfare Party, were realized by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) through the support of a wide social base. The success of its political power concluded with Turkey becoming a center of attraction for the rest of the Islamic world as a model of moderate Islam. By the abrupt process of change in the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood's coming to power in Egypt, the political success of the Ennahda Movement in Tunisia with the leadership of Rashid al-Ghannushi and the appearance of a similar electoral prospect for Syria after the beginning of rebellions worried the regional interests of Western powers, notably Israel. It seemed that the champions of democracy would prefer their former tyrannical allies to the elected parties of political Islam.
Today, the world order operates on the Islamic world only through its destructive forces. The coup in Egypt, the Syrian civil war and a prolonged strategy of war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) look like versatile measures taken against a prospective revitalization of Islam. Without shooting a single bullet themselves they wish to maintain the present status quo in the Islamic world through wars of Muslims against Muslims. As opposed to our former mistakes, therefore, we need to be much more prudent not to fall into the same trap that meant nothing but chaos and blood for Muslims.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.