Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ottomon Cosmopolitanism, Christians, and Freemasons

Sami Zubaida calls for a "new Ottomanism" — Cosmopolitan citizenship in the Middle East. The author looks back and notes that it was supported by "the modern metropolitan middle class, expanding with the bureaucracies, professions, modern business, the arts and the media," in other words, "the inhabitants of the new public sphere and its venues of government departments, associations, schools and universities, the press, cafe society, and last but not least the new, respectable meyhanes and the symbolically important drinking culture, symbolising civilization, medeniyat," who shared "a great interest and thirst for modern knowledge and idea, of science, rationality and positivism, and a critical stance in relation to religion, and for many a discreet rejection."

"Christian modern elites," we learn, "in both Turkey and the Arab world, did not share the traditional, conservative outlook of their communal authorities and men of religion." We also learn that "[s]ome Christian intellectuals converted from Catholic and Orthodox churches to Protestantism, and American missionaries were particularly effective in the Lebanon, participating in the Arab cultural ‘renaissance’, including the foundation of the predecessor of the American University of Beirut." Just as troublesome:
    An important venue for this Ottoman cosmopolitanism were the Masonic lodges. Ottoman Muslims were admitted into these lodges in the 1860s and many intellectuals and public figures embraced Masonry with enthusiasm. The lodges they favoured followed the French Grand Orient, which, unlike its British counterparts, jettisoned the references to a Supreme Being, and the Immortality of the Soul, the deistic principle of earlier Masonry. It also embraced the slogan of the French Revolution of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity (to which the later Young Turks added Justice). In effect, those lodges favoured secular positivism and rationality, which was part of its attraction to Ottoman liberals.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.