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Contemporary Middle East History - Essay Example

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Contemporary Middle East History

While not completely Western but also combined with Islamic ideals, the Ottoman Empire presented different challenges for the Middle East than the British and French Empires. The Ottomans demonstrated a semi-Islamic influence in the region. This means that while initially embracing some Islamic ideals, the Ottomans later rejected others and according to Islamic perceptions in the Middle East, the Ottomans while at first more favorable than the British and French Empires were eventually seen as un-Islamic (Gelvin 2005; Khatar, 2004). While many in the region may blame so-called imperialists - (whether they be Ottomans, British-French or American) - for the conditions in the region, the failure of nationalist successive governments to take control of their own destiny is an inherent problem in the Middle East and until today needs to be adequately addressed and confronted (Huntington, 1996). As Huntington (1996) notes 'Western style democracy' in the Middle East has served to increase anti-Western political forces. The history of how and why this rage against Western style democracy can be seen in the social, political, technological and economic forces that have been imposed upon the Middle East via successive colonial administrations.
The Ottoman Empire under the absolute rule of Sultan Seleyman had the responsibility of guaranteeing complete justice or adala among the governed. This idea has both Islamic and Turco-Persian aspects. Borrowing from Hebraic traditions, the idea of distributive justice is modeled after King Solomon in the Old Testament who according to Islamic political theory was a considered a seminal figure in distributive justice. This idea encapsulates the Western notion of justice hence the Western portion of political rule during the Ottoman Empire that regarding fairness and equity. Additionally and importantly, the Islamic portion of justice was that notion it be inclusive for all including the lowest individuals in the power structure. As stated within the Koran Allah admonishes the followers of Islam to act equitably "you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and he careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do" (The Dinner Table, 5.8).

In terms of economic and social life the Ottoman Empire attempted to include all members of the Empire no matter how powerless. Although seemingly removed ideologically from the society the Ottoman Sultan followed a set of siyasa laws, which included the severe punishment of government officials if they were believed to have abused their powers. Such abuses included illegally taxing or forcing the labor of peasants, forcibly requiring them to give food to soldiers or forcibly staying in their homes (Khatar, 2004; Gelvin, 2005). The punishment for these crimes usually included the death penalty. In terms of social structure and relations, the Ottoman Empire can be considered one of the first to quantify public opinion and therefore demonstrates how public opinion was considered very important in legitimating the power of the Sultan. If the Sultan did not have favorable public opinion and more negative public opinion cultivated by its adversaries then the Sultan would be sure to fall. In order to cultivate and maintain positive favor among the public in support of the Sultan ...Show more

Summary

1. Discuss the difficulties faced by the Middle Eastern empires in adapting to the intellectual, technological, economic, political and social challenges presented by the West in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The 18th and 19th century history of the Middle East illuminates much regarding the current frustration of the region in terms of self-determination…
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Contemporary Middle East History essay example
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