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Fighting for the Nusayrī Soul: State, Protestant Missionaries and the 'Alawīs in the Late Ottoman Empire

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Based on their writings, the religious beliefs of the Nusayrīs have been studied since the 19th century. But historical knowledge and information about them in the 19th century, based on Ottoman sources has been rather meager. Only in recent years this kind of research intensified. In the Ottoman Empire real interest in the Nusayrīs started during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909). Due to fear of infiltration of heterodox Muslims by foreigners, especially by American and English Protestant missionaries, the Sultan was pressed to attract them to the Hanafī-Sunnī school. In this process, the status of the Nusayrīs underwent changes. After summarizing the attitude of the provincial Syrian administration and of Istanbul toward the Nusayrīs in the first decades of the 19th century, the article will give an overview of the developments regarding the Nusayrīs during the Tanzimat and the Hamidian era until roughly the Young Turk revolution. The following questions will be asked: How did Protestant missionaries integrate the Nusayrīs into their millenarian belief in a new social order? By what means did the Ottoman pacifying or "civilizing" mission attempt to integrate the Nusayrīs? And how did the Nusayrīs respond to the efforts of the Christian missionaries and the Ottoman state? The article will also challenge the view that the name "'Alawī" was only used after 1920.

Affiliations: 1: Jerusalem


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