As the Ottoman Empire fell behind Western states developmentally, the empire's elite investigated the reasons for the decline to take the necessary measures to reform the government. Yet Europe became stronger every passing decade due to the Industrial Revolution and its colonization worldwide, while the Ottoman Empire continued to struggle against the rise of nationalism within its borders.
In the Ottoman Empire, the first reforms were realized in the military. During his reign, Sultan Selim III sought to establish a new army with his modernist reforms, known as "The New Order." When it was seen that technical reformations in the military sector were by themselves insufficient, the state elite launched comprehensive reforms under the leadership of Sultan Mahmud II.
Nonetheless, it was the Tanzimat reform era that drastically modernized the Ottoman state's structure based on the progress of modern Western states. Initiated by the declaration of the Imperial Edict of Gülhane, the Tanzimat reforms have been marked by historians as a turning point in Turkey’s modernization.
The succeeding reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II was the culmination of the modernization of the Ottoman Empire. During this period, the Tanzimat reforms turned into a full-scale educational campaign with the foundation of military, medical and industrial schools. The immense public work of modernization throughout the Ottoman geography was crowned by the completion of the railroads of Baghdad and Hedjaz.
Meanwhile, Western nation-states had an edge over the rest of the world thanks to the Age of Enlightenment, which flared up following the Industrial Revolution and was embodied in the French Revolution. In the face of their new, vigorous ideas, all traditional values of different people were deemed outdated and superstitious; thus, they put forward a new religion, new history, new language of science and a new order.
Backed by scientific innovations and military power, Western states started colonizing the world at a shocking pace. From the African continent to India and far into Asia, from the vast lands of the Ottoman Empire to the American continent, Western colonial states were unmatched by any imperial power by the end of World War I.
The process of Western occupation was perpetuated by the assistance of internal groups in the colonized countries. Cultivated with a colonized mentality, the ruling classes of colonized countries, which were composed of military and civilian bureaucrats and intellectuals, maintained Western colonization in their countries.
In order to save the Ottoman Empire from disintegration and collapse, the state elite not only realized comprehensive reforms for modernization but also developed various political approaches, including most notably Ottomanism, Islamism and nationalism.
Following the principles of computational fluids, these three major political approaches coexisted during the last centuries of the Ottoman Empire. Although one of these political approaches came to the forefront in each period, none of the state administrations were exempt from the influence of the other two trends.
Islamism had become the main policy of the Ottomans during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II and exerted influence even on some non-Ottoman lands, such as India. In the 1970s, Necmettin Erbakan reinterpreted and revitalized the idea of Islamism with his political genius. Coined as neo-Islamism, Erbakan’s political view condemned the Western world order as oppressive and exploitative. Interpreting science and technology as the common property of humanity, Erbakan defended the growth of freedom and welfare in Turkey via industrialization without falling into the ideological trap of choosing between American capitalism or Soviet socialism.
During his lifetime, Erbakan always emphasized the greatness of Turkish history and the independent character of the Turkish people. He truly believed that Turkey has the real potential to be one of the greatest countries in the world – but only if we believe in our own power to realize revolutions in our way of thinking.
During the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) time in political power, Turkey has proven its potential once again. The 10-year Syrian crisis has especially demonstrated that Turkey is a key game changer in its region of influence. The recent agreements signed with the United States and Russia once again have opened the door for the ideals of the great country of Turkey.