Robert Spencer has criticized the following article by Soner Cagaptay for praising the moderate Islamic traditions of the Ottoman Empire. While Spencer is right to slam the Ottomans for their oppression of Jews and Christians, a fact which I never saw mentioned in my college career, that doesn’t mean there weren’t strains of a moderate Islamic tradition.
Cagaptay writes that the sultans and caliphs lived Western lifestyles and produced secular education that included women:
Years before the emergence of al Qaeda, the caliphs produced an antidote against radical jihadists—a progressive vision for a Western-oriented Muslim society. The sultan-caliphs built the institutional foundations of this society, including the first Ottoman parliament and constitution of 1876, and planted in it seeds of Western values, such as secular education and women’s emancipation. Modern Turkey owes its existence not just to Atatürk but to the sultan-caliphs who were among the first to promote liberal and Western values in a Muslim society.
Now, the Islamists want to usurp the caliphate and its legacy. The fundamentalists first distort the caliphate’s politics, re-imagining it as an anti-Western institution. Then, they portray the revival of this invented caliphate as the ultimate political dream in an anti-Western ideology.
Cagaptay concludes: “I want my caliph back.” Click here for the rest of this very interesting read.