[P4913] Politics of Religion During WWI as lived and remembered in the Ottoman Empire

Created by Benan Grams
Sunday, 11/19/17 1:00pm


This panel discusses the interaction between the Ottoman government and its religious communities during World War I. Imperial rhetoric emphasized an Islamic identity and used jihad language to mobilize Muslim men, implicitly excluding the empire’s non-Muslims. The historiography of WWI in the Middle East narrates the Ottoman authorities’ rising suspicion towards their non-Muslim citizens, culminating in the Armenian genocide. However, the historiography has neglected the impact of this sectarianization on other communities. Were other Ottoman Christians subject to suspicion? How did different Muslim communities, fighting with or against the empire, employ concepts of jihad and modernity? How did religious communities negotiate their position in an era of world war and genocide?

The first paper will analyse Ottoman use of Islamic rhetoric during the First World War in Morocco. Under the banner of Ittihad-i Islam, the “Teskilât-i Mahsusa”, the Ottoman Special Organizations, led by Amir Abd el-Malek Muhy al-Din, carried out military actions and fomented uprisings against the French colonial power.

The second paper discusses the complex relationship between the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox of Antioch, Gregorious Haddad, the Ottoman authorities in Damascus during WWI, and Amir Faisal thereafter. In an atmosphere of suspicion and duress, the Patriarch had to secure food supplies and protection to his community. This paper analyzes the Patriarch’s political conduct to understand whether he was ideologically driven or driven by his obligations as a leader and representative of a non-Muslim community.

The third paper addresses the sectarianization of the war’s memory, which became a field of contestation between Syrian nationalists and Christian anti-nationalists during the French Mandate. The multitudinous experiences of the war and famine were flattened into dueling narratives, largely adopted along sectarian lines. The paper will give special attention to discourses in Aleppo, a contested city that was removed from the center of nationalist activity in Damascus.

The final paper discusses the role of religion in the wartime conflict between the Hashemites and the Saudis in the Arabian peninsula. The Hashemites’ propaganda campaign, based on a discourse of modernity and orientalism, portrayed Wahhabism as backwards and threatening to both Islam and Christendom. This effort indicates that the Saudi-Hashemite rivalry was not simply a tribal conflict, as has previously been suggested, but an ideological one, with an assumed ultimate arbiter in the British.






Elizabeth Thompson

(American University)
Elizabeth F. Thompson is Professor and Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. She is currently writing a new history of the constitutional government established at Damascus, Syria...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Odile Moreau

(Montpellier U-IMAF Paris 1)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sami Sweis

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Joel Veldkamp

(Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Benan Grams

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;