Notes and reflections on Peace Be Upon You: The Story of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Coexistence by Zachary Karabell
I promise y'all one of these days I *will* be done with this book! It's interesting, but just lots of stuff for me to note. Sorry if it bores you. Not many chapters left! :-)
The French Revolution and its influence on Muslim lands were topics of this chapter. Karabell shared how Napoleon and his army went into Egypt and how disgusted the Egyptians were with their uncouth behavior. The Egyptians thought of these French aggressors as a Christian army although Napoleon, with his love of reason and science and hatred for religion especially the Catholic church, would not have agreed in the slightest. This was a time in history where answering to king and God was cast aside as progress was measured by man's ability to shed primitive forces, purge past impurities (such as organized religion) and obtain the highest levels of civilization based on inquiry, reason and science. Islam wasn't being picked on by Napoleon because it was Islam, but simply because it was religion - another faith to be shed in the eyes of these secularists.
Next the author discussed Muhammad Ali an Albanian guy on a quest to modernize Egypt. He got rid of the Mamelukes who were controlling Egypt by inviting them to a banquet, sealing the doors and ordering his soldiers to kill them while they ate. Karabell says all but one Mameluke was killed and Muhammad Ali emerged as the sole ruler answerable only to the sultan. However he and the sultan had their clashes, which at one point lead to European states having to help the Ottoman sultan send Ali back to Egypt.
Muhammad Ali sent Egyptians to the Western world for education. He wanted them "to take what they could from Europe and apply it to the betterment of Egypt." Instead of separating faith from progress Ali and his followers tried to implement a model where faith was compatible with progress. They took the parts of the European model that they liked and skipped the ones that were not favorable to them.
About European expansion the author says it "combined a passion for progress with pure power politics. The utopian impulse to create a better world, where human reason and ingenuity would invent technologies to make hunger, war, and disease obsolete, walked hand in hand with the ancient human desire to conquer and control." (pg. 216)
Also in this chapter the author tells how the Ottomans tried to restructure their government by copying the Europeans with their strong central governments. The Ottomans saw how this worked favorably in Europe with the Europeans' advances in technology and army power. So they gave all people basically the same rights and privileges which was good, however, these reforms made people start seeing themselves as separate millet community groups instead of a united empire. It's like they saw themselves as Catholics, Arabs, Armenians, Jews and Greek Orthodox instead of Ottomans and they became loyal to their own groups more than they were loyal to the empire.
This section reminded me of the United States in the sense that we have fifty states within the country. In reading about Civil War history, I was always struck with how the Southerners fought for states' rights over the strong central government telling them what to do from hundreds of miles away. In fact when General Robert E. Lee had to choose between staying with the United States army or fighting with the South, he said he could not fight against his state of Virginia and led Confederate troops. I believe for many back then loyalty to and connection with the state rather than the nation was of more importance. Of course we know states' rights suffered a blow when the North defeated the Confederates and the southern states were forced back into the Union. I'm guessing that these Ottomans seeing themselves as "states" first lead to the empire's demise just as southern states seeing themselves as "individuals" led to war.
Any thoughts or comments to share?