Ottomanism a guise for Islamic ambitions, prominent historian says

Ottomanism a guise for Islamic ambitions, prominent historian says

Ahmet Hakan ISTANBUL
Ottomanism a guise for Islamic ambitions, prominent historian says

İlber Ortaylı is one of Turkey's leading - and most outspoken - historians of the Ottoman era. Hürriyet Photo / Murat Şaka

A prominent Turkish historian has argued that today's political Islamists use Ottomanism as a guise for their ulterior motives to reach the Islamic "Golden Age."

“Ottomanism is a flashy cover, a guise for the Islamist front in Turkey. What they really seek is the ‘Age of Happiness’ [the term used to describe the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime]. They use the Ottomans as a guise to reach there,” Prof. İlber Ortaylı told Hürriyet in an interview published on Oct. 22.

Ortaylı, a professor of history at Galatasaray University in Istanbul and at Bilkent University in Ankara, also challenged the notion that the Ottoman Empire was supranational. “The Ottomans were not above nations. Turkishness was [in the core] of the Ottomans,” he said.

The recent debate regarding religious education in Turkey is not being conducted on a healthy ground, according to Ortaylı.

“A society can have religious education, but it has to be with quality. Now the government is increasingly opening more [religious vocational] imam hatip schools, as was done in previous decades by other parties. But are these schools producing any religious scholars?” he asked.

Ignorance about ISIL

A similar “ignorance” can be seen in the discussion about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Ortaylı added. “ISIL has nothing to do with Salafism or the Khawarijism. There is no relation at all between the conditions that gave birth to these movements,” he said.

The professor, who once headed the Topkapı Palace Museum, believes that problems in Turkey's education are not limited to religious schools. He complained that new universities are being opened in each province while vocational education is being undermined, leading to more public servants and less manufacturers and intermediate professionals.

“Villages have been wiped up with migration to the city, while small towns have lost their productive and creative capacity,” he suggested.

Ortaylı cited today’s Istanbul as a gruesome scene to observe the destructive effects of ongoing urbanization, which goes back to the 1950s.

“Istanbul’s current situation is so dreary. In 50 years, people will absolutely condemn this era. We have destroyed nature in Istanbul, razed forests, leading to more humidity and higher temperatures. We have turned the city to concrete, confining ourselves to conditions worse than the ones brought to the world by the climate change. I feel hopeless,” Ortaylı said.