The CUP’s notion of an Ottomanism that denied political representation on a religious-communal basis, its denunciation of decentralization, and its inflexible attitude toward the demands and organizational initiative of the religious minorities exposed it to charges of “Turkification,” a systematic process of depriving non-Turks of their established social, political, and cultural rights. This charge was leveled first by the Committee’s European critics. In the mind of European observers of the Ottoman state, the fact that the empire was ruled by a Turkish dynasty rendered Turk, Ottoman, and Muslim synonymous. They therefore regarded the Ottomanism of the Young Turks as Turkification that threatened the empire’s Christian population. When a contemporary European observer wrote that the CUP had a “plan of reducing the various races and regions of the empire to one dead level of Turkish uniformity,” or when the British ambassador Sir Gerard Lowther defined Young Turk Ottomanism as “pounding non-Turkish elements in a Turkish mortar,” their concern was with the empire’s non-Muslims. Lowther viewed Turkification first and foremost as a means of fighting European tutelage, an “Asianization” of the Ottoman Empire and its mobilization against Western interests. The Young Turks indeed believed that the economic interests of the Muslim peoples of the empire, Arabs as well as Turks, had been neglected and thus would have to be remedied. They would deny, however, that putting the Muslims on a footing of economic and political equality had to take place at the expense of the religious or ethnic rights of other groups.
The circumscription of liberties of press and association exposed the Committee to renewed attacks. Hüseyin Cahid took on the charges leveled against the Young Turks for attempting to Turkify non-Turkish elements. He argued that the charges of Turkification were being advanced to justify separatist goals. Referring to Turkification he asked, “How could one be so devoid of political common sense as to believe that what was not enforced by the sword when there was not even the question of European intervention will be attempted under the constitutional regime?” Cahid argued that ethnic and religious differences had to be superseded to achieve unity and a strong political community, but he ruled out compromise on two points: the state religion and the state language. He viewed Islam and Turkish as the cornerstones of the Ottoman state in its six-century-long life and did not see the primacy of these elements as undermining Ottomanism.
Reference to Turkification, understood as a manifest sociopolitical program, is ubiquitous in studies of the last Ottoman decade. Even the more discriminating analyses of Arab politics, society, and ideology during the second constitutional period presuppose Turkification without adequately questioning the notion. It is accepted to have been a conscious policy conceived in 1908 and systematically implemented, often as an integral part of a nationalist program. The recent suggestion in the revisionist historiography of Arab nationalism to view Turkification as a by-product of Ottoman centralization rather than vice versa represents a useful rethinking of the conventional wisdom, but it leaves the essence of the notion of Turkification unexplored. Turkification should be examined as an ideological construct of those opposed to the actions and policies of Ottoman government as much as a conscious or unconscious element of İstanbul’s policies. The question that needs to be asked is what policies of Young Turk regimes, as different from previous practice, gave added privilege to Turkish and Turks? The issue of discrimination against the Arab element in Parliament and in other state offices needs to be addressed because it was voiced by some Arab leaders at the time, not just by later historians and future generations of Arab nationalists when pointing to the roots of Arab nationalism.
The evidence cited most often by Arab critics and contemporary European observers for the deliberate establishment of Turkish domination in the political process comes from the particular composition of the 1908 Parliament. In the absence of numerical data it is difficult to make a statistical evaluation of the results of the Ottoman elections. A general analysis of the results and of the equally erratic census data can be used to determine certain trends and tendencies in 1908. Studies on the composition of the Ottoman Chamber put the number of deputies in the 1908 Parliament within a range from 260 to 288. There is agreement on the approximate number of ethnic Turks (between 142 and 147) and Arabs (60) elected in 1908. Though population estimates for the empire at this time vary widely, it may be assumed that the Arab and Turkish populations were approximately equal. Turkish members of the 1908 Parliament outnumbered the Arabs, however, by a ratio of 2.5 to 1, a proportion far above what reasonable population estimates would warrant. This diagnosis of underrepresentation needs to be evaluated in the historical and demographic context.
An attempt to determine the numbers of Arabs and Turks in the empire during the second constitutional period runs into formidable problems. The absence of accurate census figures at the imperial and provincial levels is one problem. Another has to do with the determination of the proportion of the different Muslim groups within mixed provinces. Ethnic differences had as little meaning for the census takers as for the Muslim populations themselves. What came to be accepted as an objective criterion of nationhood by the critics of the Ottoman regime, language, was not accounted for in the census. Under the assumption of the validity of this criterion, it becomes relatively easy to identify population figures for Arabs (or Arabophone Ottomans), except in the case of the Peninsula, where no census was conducted and estimates were arbitrary and curiously generous. With the exception of the province of Aleppo, where one-third to one-half of the population was non-Arab, and northern Iraq, where sizable Kurdish and Turkic minorities lived, Greater Syria, Iraq, Tripolitania, and the Arabian Peninsula can be assumed to have been preponderantly Arab. The number of Arabs living outside these provinces was negligible. Enumerating the Turks is more problematic because Turcophone Ottomans cohabited several provinces with non-Turkish-speaking Muslim groups (e.g., Kurds, Laz, Pomak). Furthermore, language would be a more tenuous ethnic marker for Turcophone Ottomans, who included segments of Albanian, Slavic, Greek, and Kurdish peoples.
At the time of the elections the African and Asian periphery of the Ottoman state had been incompletely integrated. The goal of the CUP-controlled government to create a politically integrated society notwithstanding, the elections reflected and reproduced existing administrative conditions. Population data needed to determine the number of deputies to which each province was entitled (on the basis of one deputy for every 50,000 male Ottomans) were incomplete. The data of the 1906–07 census, upon which such calculations must have been based, contained no counts, or far lower ones than actual numbers, for many Arab provinces. The Arab sancaks where the population was mostly settled and for which population registers were kept received the requisite representation, whereas in nomadic regions populated by Beduins there were wide discrepancies between actual population and stipulated representation. In addition to inherent problems associated with the counting of itinerant populations in remote areas, the nomads consciously avoided the census in fear of state exaction, because the traditional purpose of census registration was taxation and military conscription. Indeed, taxation (more specifically, the payment of a direct tax of any amount) was an eligibility requirement for voters, even though this electoral taxation requirement was not particularly onerous compared with contemporary practices in other countries.
In the Unionist view of Ottomanism, ethnic, religious, and linguistic differences were of no import; to dwell on strict proportional parliamentary representation was wrong and divisive. If the Unionists can be accused of insincerity and idealism on the first score, they may be given the benefit of the doubt on the second. As we have seen, the Unionists did not see Parliament as a microcosm of the Ottoman collectivity, but as a forum where “enlightened sons” of this collectivity would give voice to the interests of the many diverse groups.
The idiom in which the issue of Arab underrepresentation and the breakdown of the composition of the Chamber has been presented in scholarship is shaped by anachronistic categories and subsequent political realities and concerns. Contemporary and later sources provide us with a breakdown of Greek, Armenian, Jewish, Albanian, Arab, and Turkish deputies. Here the Turkish category represents the residual non-Arab and non-Albanian Muslim group. It includes not just Muslim subjects from Slavic Balkans, the Circassians, the Georgians, the Laz, and others, who were not exclusively Turkish-speaking, but also, and more significantly, the sizable population of Kurds, of which only the Ottomanized and educated elements were Turkish-speaking. If, then, all non-Turkish-speaking Muslims are excluded from the Turkish category and the tribal population of the Peninsula is excluded from the population figures for Arabs, the respective parliamentary representation of Arabs and Turks would correspond more closely to the demographic picture.
The acknowledgment of language as the basis of ethnic identity, and of ethnicity as the basis of political identity, is an anachronistic extrapolation from the more recent experiences of Middle Eastern societies and polities. Language became the focal point in the construction of Arab and Turkish identities in the postimperial period and was rallied in the Arab case to counteract political fragmentation imposed by Europe. This did not prevent the flourishing of local territorial political identities responding to the specific realities of individual mandatory arrangements. Ottoman discrimination was invoked in the states that came into existence. Thus, an official Jordanian history points to Ottoman discrimination in the admission to Parliament of only one deputy from Jordan, a political and administrative nonentity in the Ottoman Empire, revealing the force of retrospective reasoning and anachronistic regional-political differentiation.
A more compelling argument for discrimination against Arabs is the election of several Turks from the Arab provinces, between 6 and 11 percent of all delegates from these provinces. (The exact proportion of Turks in the representation of the Arab provinces is not known because of uncertainties about the ethnic affiliation of some Muslim deputies.) This argument assumes that Turks could have been elected only as a result of electoral engineering. Of the four known Turks elected in the Arab provinces in 1908, there is numerical justification in the case of one, Ali Cenani of Aleppo, as Aleppo had a sizable Turkish population. Cenani, judging by his criticism in Parliament of the government for allocating disproportionately large revenues to İstanbul and its surroundings, cannot be considered a CUP yes-man, though he treaded the general Unionist line. A second Turkish deputy, Abdülkadir Cami of Fezzan, won his mandate only in an extraordinary by-election. His candidacy did indeed lead to the objections of one Libyan deputy on grounds that Cami was not of Libyan origin. As an administrator who had served in Libya for many years, however, he was an advocate of local interests. Thus, the election of Turks in Arab provinces, some coming from families assimilated to the local population, does not necessarily reflect a policy of Turkification. The perception or claim that Arabs were subjected to discrimination in the allocation of parliamentary seats is not irrelevant to the development of an Arab collective identity, notwithstanding the argument that such claims reflected little else beyond the bid of Arab notables for greater recognition and power. But relating perceived discrimination or actual underrepresentation to a policy of Turkification remains problematic.
The overbearing attitude of the CUP was an irritant in Turkish-Arab relations and contributed to the politicization of Arabs and to increased alienation between Arab and Turk along ethnic and linguistic lines. In his first rebuttal of accusations of Turkification in August 1909, Hüseyin Cahid wrote with exaggerated frankness:
Such remarks could hardly have inspired the confidence of non-Turks, but the almost naive juxtaposition of chauvinism against political realities underscores the Unionist commitment to the implementation of policies that would perpetuate the imperial political traditions within a multiethnic and multireligious framework.
[The Young Turks] too are attached to their nationality [milliyet]. If they had the choice and if this were possible they would lose no time to make Turks out of all nations [akvam] within the Ottoman Empire. Had the Young Chinese or the Young Hottentots been in their place they would have desired the same.
In April 1910 Shukri Ghanem, the president of the Paris Syrian Arab Society, wrote an article for Le Temps and attacked the Ottoman government for the unjust treatment of its Arab peoples. Just as he had denounced the Mutran circular for seeking autonomy for Syria, he again emphasized that the Arabs did not seek separation. He went on, however, to charge the government with discrimination against the Arabs in the allocation of public office, such as the civil service, army, navy, foreign service, and also Parliament. Once again Tanin took on these charges.
Hüseyin Cahid argued against the assumption implicit in the quest for proportional representation that the interests of different ethnic groups were antagonistic to each other. He asserted that setting up quotas would violate the spirit of Ottomanism. Then he refuted the claim that Arabs were underrepresented in Parliament. He reminded Ghanem of the absence of reliable statistics and the difficulty and futility of distinguishing among different ethnic groups. Furthermore, Cahid wrote, a unity of interests was bound to supersede unity based on ethnic consciousness. He argued that if the Arabs were underrepresented in government this was due to their past inclinations or the policies of the previous regimes. “Which senior Arab diplomat can you point to who was denied an ambassadorship?” he asked. In countering the charges of discrimination in public offices and the military, Tanin provided the names and ethnic backgrounds of army commanders. Of the top nine positions in the army, two were occupied by Arabs (Mahmud Shawkat Pasha and Commander of the Third Army Hadi Pasha), two by Albanians, two by Circassians, and one each by a Georgian, a Tartar, and a Bosnian. Dismissing Ghanem’s incrimination in this manner, but also realizing that at the crux of the issue lay the language question, he emphatically repeated the Unionist position on the state language: “To allow different languages in government would be setting up a Tower of Babel and would lead to decentralization.” Yet Ghanem’s argument would be repeated by Arab deputies and journalists as the battle lines between the CUP and the decentralists continued to take shape.
The names of some of the ethnic societies that came into existence after the revolution or surfaced after clandestine activity during the Hamidian regime, such as the Kurdish and Circassian mutual aid societies, suggest that ethnic awareness and assertion among the Muslims of the empire were not restricted to Turks, Arabs, and Albanians. In a first step to defuse these organizations after the counterrevolution, the CUP attempted to form an umbrella organization called the Ottoman Allied Committee (Heyet-i Müttefika-ı Osmaniye), which included these and other cultural and political societies, including the Liberal Party. A few months later, the new Law of Association banned ethnic-based organizations.
In this first wave of organizational activity, we do not find Arabist or Turkist organizations except Al-ikha’, or the Arab-Ottoman Brotherhood. Several months later the Arab Literary Club (Al-muntada al-adabi) and the Turkish Society (Türk Derneği) came into existence. These literary societies have been ascribed an undue share in the politicization of Arabism and Turkism, because some of the leaders of Al-muntada subsequently played a leading role in Arab nationalist activity and were among those executed by Cemal Pasha in 1915–16; and Türk Derneği and its successors had prominent Unionists, including some deputies, as members.
The Turkist societies certainly contributed to the substantiation of the charges of Turkification. In many ways, Türk Derneği was the continuation of the Turkist trend (see chapter 1) that had emerged during the Young Ottoman period. Like the Arab literary societies of the nineteenth century, it cast itself as a “scientific” society dedicated to the promotion of the Turkish language. Its language policy was one of simplification rather than purification and did not aim at purging Ottoman Turkish of Arabic and Persian words. The declared objective of the society was to promote Ottoman unity. The existence of Greek and Armenian groups in the empire who communicated in Turkish, even though they wrote it in Greek or Armenian characters, was convincing evidence of the practicality of Turkish as an Ottoman lingua franca.
The Turkish cultural societies gradually rediscovered the elements of an overarching Turkish identity in the same way that the Arabists had begun to rediscover those of a broad Arab identity under the influence of the salafis. Among the Arabs there was relative linguistic homogeneity. Moreover, language and scripture were intertwined to further strengthen the consciousness of Arab group identity among the literate. Ancestry, reinforced by tribal organization and linked to the salaf, imparted additional weight to religio-linguistic identification. Arab intellectuals could emphasize an Arab geographic and historical continuity with little straining of the imagination. Nevertheless, the obstacles in translating these elements to a political construct remained formidable. Indeed, the primacy of broader religio-political factors, namely the need to preserve and strengthen the Islamic caliphate, militated against the desirability of such a transformation.
Turkish intellectuals as well applied themselves to the task of imagining the Turkish ethnic community on the basis of the revelations of European Turcology half a century before. One avenue to affirming Turkishness would be to turn to the Central Asian roots of the Turks and to the domain of linguistic cognates. However, geographical contiguity between Anatolian and Central Asian Turks was precarious and historical links between the two groups and common lineage had to be belabored so as not to be confined to the category of myth.
Language and literature became the focus of the activities of the Genç Kalemler (Young Pens) society that was founded in 1910 and published a journal of the same name. The Genç Kalemler addressed linguistic roots and looked more favorably to the purification of Ottoman Turkish than did the adherents of Türk Derneği, but the group did not dwell on organic links with Turks of Central Asia. Their concern with language was less as marker of cultural or political identity and more as a practical vehicle. “The social unit the awakened Turks intended to reconstruct was not the Turkish or Turkic nation, but an Ottoman state.” Turkish would need to be taught to all Ottomans so that it would serve as a medium to diffuse progress.
Yet the proponents of stronger links with the “outer Turks” were not absent. They became particularly active in a third Turkist society to be formed in 1911, the Türk Yurdu (Turkish Home). Like Christian Arabs (who since the nineteenth century had formulated a linguistic-cultural conception of an Arab nation but were first unheeded and later overshadowed by Arabists of an Islamic-modernist persuasion), Russian Turks formulated similar constructs of a pan-Turkic commonality (which had equally insignificant appeal). They found, however, an opportunity to renew their activities in İstanbul after 1908. Prominent among them were Yusuf Akçura and Ahmed Agayev [Ağaoğlu]. These immigrants played a more important role in reinforcing the attempts to formulate a Turkish identity than in offering viable political programs.
Yet another Turkist society, Türk Ocağı (Turkish Hearth), has been described as the “most durable and important of all organisations with Pan-Turk proclivities.” Founded in 1911, the society underwent many transformations and survived through the first decade of the Kemalist period. Most prominent Turkists associated themselves with Türk Ocağı, as did some Unionists, including Enver Pasha. As a society, the Türk Ocağı focused on Turkist cultural and linguistic activities and concerned itself with political issues perhaps even to a lesser degree than the others. Though it eschewed party politics by statute, some Unionists’ association with the society has imparted to it the false appearance of an arm of the CUP.
Problems of practicability or considerations of raison d’état inherent in promoting a nationalist policy objective, which a few members of the CUP in Salonika or others more closely related to the state machinery in İstanbul may have harbored, were forbidding. Nevertheless, the CUP’s attitude toward the place of Turkish in the Ottoman state and government policies with regard to language were situated at the crux of the Turkification debate. The set of enactments that can be collectively viewed as a “language policy” did not represent a substantial change from the Hamidian regime to the constitutional period. The grievances, then, did not arise from the adoption of novel Turcocentric policies under the new regime, but rather from the failure of the government to adapt its existing policy when confronted with novel demands for greater recognition of languages other than Turkish in the affairs of the state.
The 1876 constitution designated the state language of the Ottoman Empire as Turkish (Türkçe). Ottoman Turkish (lisan-ı Osmani), a hybrid of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian with Turkish grammar, had historically served this purpose. The designation of the state language as Turkish rather than Ottoman Turkish in 1876 reflects the efforts, if not the decisive input, of the Young Ottomans, who advocated and used a simpler Turkish than the complicated Ottoman. While such designation has ideological and practical implications, none was detailed in the constitution. Neither the particular clause designating the state language nor any other reference to language in the constitution was modified in 1908 or afterward. The constitution stipulated a more rigid definition of ability in Turkish as a requirement for deputies (only to be applied in four years), namely ability to read and, “to the extent possible,” write Turkish (Article 68). In 1909 this clause was endorsed as it stood in the original text, and a motion to enforce the stricter requirement effective immediately was defeated.
The CUP’s political program in 1908 included the following clauses about the use of Turkish:
The vague phrasing in Article 17 suggests that Turkish was favored in secondary curriculum as the language of instruction. Neither clause contravened past policy, although past practice was not uniform. The policy as stated in the CUP program and also implemented by the government has been construed as the adoption of Turkish as the language of instruction, which was true only for secondary and higher education, where the local language would also be taught as a subject.
The official language of the state will remain as Turkish. All correspondence and official memoranda will be executed in Turkish. (Article 7)
Teaching of the Turkish language is compulsory in elementary schools. For secondary [idadi] and higher [âli] education, firm guidelines will be adopted on the basis of the Turkish language. (Article 17)
The difference between the teaching of Turkish in elementary education and its adoption as the language of instruction is significant. The overall educational policy of the second constitutional period allowed socialization in the local culture during the formative years through the teaching of the local language. Instruction in Turkish in secondary and higher education aimed at incorporating local groups into the imperial administrative system and at developing an imperial elite. Referring to the post-Tanzimat Ottoman Empire, the authors of a comprehensive study of the education of nondominant ethnic groups in Europe accurately point to the distinction between integration (in this case, Ottomanization aiming to strengthen allegiance to the state framework) and assimilation (ensuring self-identification with the “dominant nation”). Curiously, the same authors refer, without explication (and no doubt swayed by the weight of the inaccurate appraisal of Turkification in existing scholarship) to the Young Turks’ “expanding assimilation to new elements,” whereas educational policy during the second constitutional period does not depart from the patterns that had existed before. Changes were quantitative (an increase in the number of students and new schools) rather than qualitative (Turkification of the curriculum).
The main substantive change in the implementation of language policy during the second constitutional period came in the domain of law with the requirement to use Turkish in all courts of the empire—a measure that led to discontent, inconvenienced judicial officials and litigants, and threatened the administration of justice. As governor of Syria in 1878, Cevdet Pasha had tried unsuccessfully to implement a similar measure requiring the use of Turkish in courts and administrative councils in Syria. The 1909 requirement was contested even by Tanin, not for its principle but for practical reasons. Hüseyin Cahid argued that the time-honored practice of utilizing Arabic in the law courts of Arab provinces should be continued until such time when Turkish spread in these areas. Cahid did declare in unambiguous terms that everyone who wished to be in association with the state had to learn Turkish. According to him, “Turkish ought to be taught also because it is a language of knowledge and civilization.” This afterthought, that Turkish is also a language of civilization, reflects literary and cultural Turkist activity that parallels the Arab intellectuals’ rediscovery of the civilizational import of Arabic.
The primacy of Turkish in state agencies and secondary education was perceived in different ways by Arabs. Many Arabs accepted the integrative function of Turkish and supported instruction in Turkish. Deputies from Libya lamented the granting of diplomas to students who did not attain proficiency in Turkish. They demanded instruction in Turkish and deplored the fact that there were a hundred times as many Italian speakers in their provinces as Turkish speakers. All in the Arab provinces favored the appointment of Arabic-speaking local officials. The rationale for this demand was administrative efficiency. The demand was not necessarily for local appointees or native Arabic speakers but merely for officials proficient in Arabic. The Mülkiye curriculum had been revised in 1891 to require every student to receive courses in Arabic, Greek, Armenian, or Albanian. The Young Turks continued the same policy. The government favored distributing officials from a particular region throughout the empire, as it also attempted to appoint officials who had gained familiarity with the language of the locality where they were to serve.
While the administrative challenges posed by the language problem were addressed in a centralist idiom, the growth of decentralist opposition to the CUP moved the issue to a different realm. Arab critics increasingly blamed the Unionists for Turkifying the Arabs by imposing the Turkish language and for instituting a selection process that excluded non-Turkish speakers. In Eric Hobsbawm’s terms, this was an expression of “linguistic nationalism” and its “battle-lines were manned by professional journalists, schoolteachers, and aspiring subaltern officials.” These grievances were closely interlinked with the broader decentralist challenge to the CUP and will be taken up in that context in the next chapter.
Voices that called for greater emphasis on Arabic and the promotion of its instruction in schools came from non-Arabs as well. As the language of religious scriptures, Arabic had a special importance. The Islamist journal Sırat-ı Müstakim (The Straight Path), published in Turkish in İstanbul, advocated greater attention to Arabic, particularly compared with French (which was widely taught in schools), and stressed the political and religious benefits that could be derived from a dissemination of Arabic. The association of the Arabic language with Islam was a powerful element in Arabism and a recurrent theme in the Arabist discourse. The Unionists cannot have been unaware of the political value of according greater latitude to Arabic in the public realm. A concession here, however, would have invited similar demands from other linguistic groups and undermined the sense of Ottoman unity transcending communal divisions that the Unionists were trying to forge.
Language as a symbol in the expression of a yet unclearly defined political agenda is implicit in the words of the British consul in Damascus:
The antagonistic sentiment between Arab and Turk has been quietly fomented during the past three or four months now, whether by hasty or somewhat autocratic behaviour on the part of office holders, and by their occasionally contemptuous or discourteous manners towards local notables, or by the over-advanced views of those connected with the “Young Turk” Party who are manifesting themselves (not alone here in Syria I imagine) in a distinct tendency towards xenophoby.
The antagonistic sentiment between Turk and Arab is beginning to permeate downwards to the lower classes; and will soon no longer be confined to the ulama, notables, and grandees, and official circles.
The most sore point of all is the attempt of Young Turks to propagate the use of Turkish in exclusion of Arabic in all official circles.…
The rhetoric of supplanting Arabic with Turkish, to which the centralizing policy of İstanbul gave credence, was successfully exploited by those elements dissatisfied with the CUP’s role in government. They were menaced by official encroachment on their spheres of influence and underscored the Unionists’ break with traditional social and political norms in order to gain political capital in the eyes of the “lower classes.” Associating the CUP with a Turkish despotism became a convenient way for those segments of Arab society and individuals whose interests were not served by the regime to attack the Committee government.
Some provincial notables attacked the Young Turk governments not only for their Turkifying but also for alleged anti-Islamic policies. They believed that they could better preserve their social privileges and economic status in a less centralized political organization. In order to achieve this aim they invoked Arab cultural identity and warned of Turkification. With regard to Iraq, Hanna Batatu writes:
[T]he conflicts stirred by the Young Turk Revolution, and which precipitated the movement for Arab autonomy, had a distinct social facet, and were not merely ideological or ethnic conflicts between secularly minded Young Turks and “good” Moslems, or between “Turks” and “Arabs.”…In other words, it is not only concern for their Arab cultural identity or for the old Islamic beliefs that drove the sadah and other Arab landed magnates to seek autonomy.
To those who stressed the CUP’s Turkifying policies, the Committee’s attitude toward Islam furnished different kinds of handles. Some Christian minority groups and their supporters felt that the 1908 Revolution legitimized Islamic domination because it rejected communal sectarian political prerogatives. The Arab opponents of the CUP, on the other hand, held Turkification also tantamount to the elimination of Islam from public life. Dwelling on the “anti-Islamic” policies of the government and personal impiety of the CUP members became a strategy employed to fight the regime.
Partisans of the CUP who adhered closely to secular principles of personal liberties tended to provoke adverse public opinion, particularly in the provinces. The Aleppines, for example, filed complaints about a newly appointed teacher to the Aleppo sultani (high school) who allegedly taught that there is no resurrection. Again in Aleppo, the official handling of the case of an ostensible Muslim prostitute aroused passions. The woman in question, the daughter of a court official in Alexandretta, was seen in unseemly attire, and “even went to the theater as such.” The müftü took the young woman under his custody and placed her in a hotel room in preparation to send her to her father. The prosecutor, on the other hand, invoking her constitutional freedoms, asked that she be released and—according to the Aleppine deputies who brought the matter to the attention of the Ministry of the Interior—that she even be given the choice of returning to the house of ill-fame. The Ministry of Justice promised to take action against the prosecutor.
In Damascus, it was the newly appointed müftü, Sulayman Chukhadar, who drew the ire of a number of town notables, including Sa‘id Mu’ayyad al-‘Azm. Chukhadar, who had served as magistrate in a number of Arab and Anatolian towns before his election to Parliament (and who was to serve as minister of justice in Syria in the post-Ottoman period), resigned his parliamentary seat on appointment to Damascus as müftü. The petitioners expressed dissatisfaction with what they considered to be his promotion to an undeserved post and went so far as to blame the rebellion in Karak on this appointment. Chukhadar, adding insult to injury, allegedly snubbed esteemed physicians in the government hospital and checked into the British hospital for the treatment of his hernia, “where he spent several nights among nuns.”
The surge of complaints about irreligious government officials or their insensitivity to religious sensibilities accompanied a press war between the CUP organs in İstanbul and a number of papers in the Arab provinces. In April 1911, in an attempt to stem further complaints, the Ministry of the Interior wrote to all provinces urging all Muslim officials to observe the Friday prayer diligently and to do so in the principal mosque of the town. The memorandum also mentioned complaints about laxity in prayers and public drinking (or public consumption during the fasting month).
As the accusations in the press increased, some Arab deputies sent telegrams to the Beirut municipality, the Beirut CUP club, and the city’s Muslim newspapers offering to mediate in the conflict that “divided Arab and Turk” and to reinforce Islamic union. Dismayed by this initiative, Christian members of the municipality, Christian newspaper owners, and other Christian leaders sent a cable to İstanbul asking the deputies to reconsider their remarks on “Islamic union.” “The CUP or the municipality is neither Muslim nor Christian, but Ottoman,” the message read. “To call for the unity of one millet will damage the existence of the state.” The minister of the interior sent his thanks for the patriotic sentiments and played down the initiative of the deputies as their personal opinions.