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Decentralization, Imperialism, and Ottoman Sovereignty in the Arab Lands before 1914

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Shakīb Arslān’s Polemic against the Decentralization Party

image of Die Welt des Islams

Before the First World War, Shakīb Arslān’s political views and polemic against the Ottoman Administrative Decentralization Party was primarily based on his and his family’s experiences in the politics of Mount Lebanon since 1861. His contacts with Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muḥammad ʿAbduh did not inspire him to adopt a pan-Islamist or reformist stance. When he became involved in politics at the Ottoman imperial level after 1911, he called for strengthening Ottoman central control in the Arab lands. He interpreted the demands of decentralization and autonomy as the desire to establish a political system along the lines of the special administration in Mount Lebanon, which he viewed as an invitation to increase of European influence. He therefore accused those who promoted decentralization of dishonesty and treason. His essential motive at this time was to preserve and justify the strength and control of the Ottoman center. His view of Islam as a political unifier did not have a reformist edge, but was designed as a counterpoise to the idea of Arab exclusivity. 

Affiliations: 1: New York


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