Forward to the past
If residents in the former Ottoman lands, including Turkey, stretching to three continents took the Turkish prime minister seriously, they could panic and start the world’s biggest-ever wave of immigration toward safer lands. Being an honest man, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has confirmed any (unfounded) suspicion that he is a neo-Ottomanist and promised Turks to bring the “order and justice” of the Ottoman Empire to today’s world. It is extremely relieving that past experiences point to colossal differences between what Mr. Davutoğlu promises and what actually happens.
But assuming he will succeed in restoring the Ottoman system, what will he achieve? Endless wars on three continents? Does Mr. Davutoğlu want to revive a Turkish state which endlessly wants to capture other nations’ lands in order to Islamize them? Does Mr. Davutoğlu also want the endless ethnic unrest in these captured lands and locals fighting back to end the Ottoman rule? Is the Turkish carnage today not enough bloodshed?
Which Ottoman times would he prefer, glorious, or not so glorious? Glorious like at the beginning of the 17th century when English historian Richard Knolles described the Ottomans as “the present terror of the world?” Or not so glorious like the 19th century, when Russian Tsar Nicholas I described it as “the sick man of Europe?”
Does he want degenerate sultans, incompetent grand viziers, treacherous friends, sultan’s sons executing each other to capture the throne, uncles and lucky brothers locked up in small cells during the sultan’s reign, sultans with several wives and concubines? Nations living in constant fear of civil war?
Does Mr. Davutoğlu want badly-equipped, backward armies but too powerful military and religious elite who fight in every evil way in order not to lose their privileges? Does he want to revive a system that boasts corrupt religious opposition to free and critical thinking? Does he really want a system that meticulously discourages creativity to keep the nation(s) from knowledge that might be disseminated through books other than the holy book of Islam?
It is out of the question that Professor Davutoğlu is not aware that the Ottoman religious leaders released a fatwa decreeing compatibility between the printing press and Islam 272 (yes, two hundred seventy two!) years after Gutenberg invented it.
Does Mr. Davutoğlu want the Sharia as the basis of law? It is elementary knowledge that the Ottoman legal system accepted the religious law over its subjects. Or does he want Muslims’ hegemonic power over his country’s non-Muslim populations? Does he, like the Ottomans, think that the Muslim sects of the Druze, Alevis and Ismailis are mere heretics and should rank below Jews and Christians? Should his ideal neo-Ottoman system also include the dhimmi order in which Christians are treated as second class citizens and, for instance, should not be allowed to ride on horseback (maybe drive cars today?) and their houses should not overlook Muslims’?
I do not think Mr. Davutoğlu would wish to revive the Ottoman slavery system - but remember female slaves in Ottoman lands were sold as late as 1908. All the same, with an impressive career in academia he might be tempted to prefer the madrasas to universities.
It is also elementary knowledge that according to the Ottoman understanding “the state’s primary responsibility was to defend and extend the land of Muslims and to ensure security and harmony within its borders within the overarching context of orthodox Islamic practice and dynastic sovereignty.”
Hopefully, in Mr. Davutoğlu’s ideal neo-Ottoman order and justice there are no massacres or genocide. We have had enough of them in these lands.
The prime minister has a difficult task ahead. But he should look at the brighter side of things. He will find it too easy to find the sultan (and the caliph) and the grand vizier. The palace on the to-do-list has already been ticked. The constant bloodshed, social and ethnic unrest and systematic intimidation of non-good-Sunni-Muslims are all the Ottoman acquis Turkey has already successfully completed. With a little bit more effort Turkey can soon become both the “terror” it was in the 17th century and the “sick man” two centuries later - all in one.