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On Horseback In Anatolia

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?
in response to reader comment: information and communication technology will shape the future

Submitted by Mozere (United Kingdom), Nov 7, 2013 at 05:45

I wish I had your optimism.In 1876 just before the disastrous Russo-Turkish war a British Officer named Frederick Gustavus Burnaby traversed the entire Anatolian peninsula from Istanbul to Kotur in Iran.In his book called"On Horseback in Anatolia" he mentions a very erudite Governor of Ankara,with his impressive library of foreign and Turkish books,who claimed that many of his educated contemporaries did not really believe in religion but paid lip service due to social cohesion and that in a 100 years time ,ie in 1976, religion will be no more.We all know this did not come to pass,if anything religion is now setting the agenda in the world to the dismay and utter bewilderement of the 1960s generation!

Incidentally in that book officer Barnaby observed that most of the Sultan's Armenian subjects supported the Ottomans with loyalty and were against the Czar in that they had much more freedom in Ottoman Turkey than in Czarist Russia and they could persue their commercial and artistic interests unfettered.Their only greivance was their unequal treatment under the sheria law which the Ottoman government was trying to remedy with the declaration of constitutional monarchy in 1877 when an Ottoman official famously declared that " from now on no infidel (giaour) is to be called an infidel".

The crushing defeat of Turkey in 1878 sawed the seeds of emnity between the christian and Muslim communities in Anatolia and the Hamidian reaction against the seculirisation .A defeated nation needs scapegoats and an easy way to creep back to a nostalgic past and religion provides a seemingly respectable way to do this ,much better than vulgar fascistic ultranationalism.Religions still have their uses for the vested interests to guide the gullible masses,so they are not going to go away anytime soon.

You may be interested to know that the said book was published as "At Sirtinda Anadolu" by Iletisim Yay. in 1999 .I recommend the book as it gives invaluable window into how the Anatolian Muslim and Christian communities lived in 1876, side by side symbiotically without murdering each other before the murderous hatreds between the two communities were sown.


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