Ottomans in the Arab World: A legacy of torture and crimes

Talal al-Torifi
Talal al-Torifi
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The Ottomans committed the most atrocious crimes against Arab Muslims, taking pleasure in taming and oppressing them, as well as sacrificing their lives without second thought. Turks in general adopt a deceptive policy; shedding crocodile tears over Islam and the sultanate while in fact they are grieving the loss of their glory and power. They claim this is in the name of Islam and for its protection to gain popularity among Muslims of all nationalities, only to turn around and seek to reclaim power and domination with obvious propaganda.

Zekeriya Kurşun discussed establishing a nation state as a magical wand for uncovering history. He considered this an inevitable matter. Then, in an attempt to deride Saudi Arabia, he claimed it had completely rejected this trend, and that instead of uncovering history, it sought to deny its facts. He based these claims on the Bedouin culture’s dismissal of civil history, as well as Wahhabism’s disregard - according to him - for history.

Even if we assume that Kurşun logically explained the establishment of nation states and their keenness to use national history, Saudi Arabia has a more holistic and in-depth view that transcends this argument. History in Saudi Arabia is discussed on the basis of the general context of Islamic history starting from the Prophet's Messengership in Mecca and its spread outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

An aerial view of Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 12, 2019. (Reuters)
An aerial view of Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 12, 2019. (Reuters)

However, this seems to be too difficult a concept for Kurşun to grasp. Although it is true that any country would seek to write its own history reflecting its nationalism – as is currently happening in Turkey, and as is considered by Kurşun and his supporters as an attempt to contrive history – history in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is the pure spring of the general culture from which Turkish culture has branched off and extended. This may be hard to explain for those who do not realize that the approach we apply to roots is different from the one we apply to branches.

As for the attack on the Wahhabi concept, as Kurşun called it, by describing it as being based on disparaging the pre-Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab era and dismissing everything that happened before the 18th century in favor of a new era that recognizes neither past nor history, it is nothing but proof of Kurşun’s lack of understanding of the Saudi view of history, as none of our Saudi sources has ever dismissed history.

Perhaps here we can cite some of the things the Algerian scholar Mohamed El Hajjoui said about the Ottomans and their popularizing of the term "Wahhabisim", as well as their blatant and unjust attack of it. Regarding the movement of Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the deceitful lies spread by the Ottomans about it, El Hajjoui says, "It is a political issue, not a religious one. In reality, religious people are in agreement that the Ottomans are responsible for this shameful propaganda against the House of Saud, which freed the Two Holy Mosques from them a hundred years ago. They are the ones who sought the help of Egypt's ruler, Muhammad Ali Pasha, to expel Wahhabism from the Two Holy Mosques and imprison the House of Saud. Indeed, the Turks are the ones who gave the name "Wahhabism" to the Hanbalis of Najd and spread false accusations and lies about them. They paid scholars from all over the world to make up lies about the Hanbalis of Najd. They are the ones who wrote a book attacking Wahhabism and claimed it was written by Sheikh Sulayman ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, brother of Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. They took bin Saud captive to Istanbul where they broke the promise of safety they had made to him and assassinated him. I believe that the West had a hand in this war that was waged by Ottomans on bin Saud. They were dismayed by the notion of bin Saud's rule over Hejaz, and deplored the idea of him spreading security and justice and ruling by what God has commanded. Under the Turks' rule, Hejaz was a breeding ground for chaos and banditry until Wahhabism came and made it a place of peace and justice."

We find the Sufi mindset prevalent in Kurşun's argument as he scrutinizes Saudi history, failing to distinguish between matters of history and matters of faith. Saudi history books have explored history with all that it contains, and books on faith have criticized the forms and manifestations of Sufi polytheism, in which Ottomans engaged directly or indirectly. The argument of faith in Saudi Arabia does not recognize the Wahhabi labels - adopted by Kurşun - which present a dilemma to the history of Ottomans and Sufi Turks; thus, they confuse history with faith, or take the faith argument in the context of history as they defend their Sufi beliefs.

Kurşun himself previously discussed Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's message in one of his books in flagrant contradiction to the arguments presented in his article. The difference between the two stances, in his article and his book, is that he authored the book in a time when the idea of attacking Saudi Arabia had not yet taken root in the minds of the Turks, while the article was written for purely political reasons that depart completely from scientific reasoning.

"There is a great congruence in the ideas of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, which aimed to restore faith to its original form, and the ideas and nature of Bedouins who accepted this," Kurşun argues. "It is accurate, therefore, to describe this movement, or what the Salafi movement considers itself, as a message to restore and revive the fundamentals, rather than a new faith or creed".

In his article, Kurşun decides that Saudis have not discovered that they could use history until after 1960, and that Saudi Arabia has not witnessed a historical research movement other than in the last quarter of the previous century. He criticized Najd for having a changing, unstable culture that represents an obstacle to Saudis.

Of course, he’s in contradiction with everyone on this point. Saudi sources are a great proof of the stages of recording history, the considerable interest in it, and the great care given to it since the early stages, whether officially or through the efforts and records of individuals. Naturally, history in Saudi Arabia has evolved over time, same as any other history, and any person who realizes this would realize that Kurşun's argument is but an insult without any rational explanation for claiming that Najd was an unstable region and an obstacle to Saudi people.

Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, al-Ula, Saudi Arabia February 10, 2019. (Reuters)
Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, al-Ula, Saudi Arabia February 10, 2019. (Reuters)

King Salman, "the Compass of National History"

Kurşun goes on to say that the studies of Umm Al Qura University in 1980 and Al-Madinah Research Center have angered Saudi authorities by discussing the Ottoman era. This claim is based on nothing but delusions, deception, and nonsensical objectives without any proof or grounds. Such studies are still being openly conducted and discussed in Umm Al Qura University and Al-Madinah Research Center, as well as in other government institutions, including King Abdulaziz Foundation.

In an attempt to give his work significance and credibility, Kurşun talked about the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, describing him as a good reader of history. But he was simply stating the obvious; King Salman is a man of great intellect and a moderate national approach, known for his opinions, guidance, and historical analyses.

What Kurşun was alluding to was that King Salman discovered the possibility of using history to divert attention from Hejaz to Riyadh. This argument of his is nothing but a hypothesis he shaped to suit his political whims and could not be further from the truth. In reality, centers and institutions concerned with history have issued far more publications on Hejaz than they did on Riyadh and Najd. But we shall not single out a Saudi region apart from others; they are all parts of one unit in one nation that will not be driven apart by malicious attempts. The national awareness of history in Saudi Arabia is causing a crisis for our enemies, who wish to deepen a non-existing concept of dividing the nation into hostile and warring states. This concept holds no water in Saudi Arabia where the display of unity is making its enemies increasingly uncomfortable.

Kurşun himself was one day a status seeker who sought to ingratiate himself with Saudi Arabia, but this country and its history are far above paying attention to the likes of him, who resort to historical extortion by using manipulation and planting seeds of delusions.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz. (File photo: Reuters)
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz. (File photo: Reuters)

Saudi vs Turkish Antiquities

Najd is regarded as a stain on Ottoman history, which is why Kurşun insists on describing the Najdian fingerprint, in a reference to Saudi Arabia's expansion into the Two Holy Mosques as an attempt to obliterate the Ottoman's archaeological sites. Contradicting himself as always, he says that the expansions were necessary to offer the Hajj services, while at the same time claiming that they were an attempt to obliterate the Ottoman's archaeological sites. This leaves us bewildered as to how can the expansions be done while at the same time preserving their historically recent archaeological sites.

What exactly are the Ottoman's archaeological sites that must be preserved? And who are these Ottomans that the expansions must cease to protect their monuments? Are their monuments considered essential for serving pilgrims? Or are they considered an essential element on earth that must be protected?

The Ottoman Empire in Hejaz was nothing but a name, a few stonges stones, and a long history of crimes and torture, so how can their monuments be protected?

If we're going to talk about monuments, it is more worthy of our time to talk about the original antiquities of our country and to fight for the antiquities of the Two Holy Mosques, which were looted by the Turks to display in their museums. This is the difference between those who seek the revival of Islam and its nation, and those who wish to circumvent history and logic by giving worth to the worthless, while at the same time, failing to recognize that they stripped us of what's rightfully ours and refuse to return it. For this reason, Turkey should think twice before talking about antiquities so as to not dig itself into a hole; in this case, everything that belong to the Two Holy Mosques and the Arabian Peninsula will officially and publicly be claimed before the entire world.

I believe it is just a matter of time, the issue is already settled and supported by evidence and documents. It is inevitable; what's for this country will return to this country in the near future.

Read more:

The history of the Ottomans in Hejaz

Ottoman Portico Demonstrates Kurşun's Lack of Knowledge of Historical Sources

Anatolian-Turkish method shapes history on myths and dreams

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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