Engaging with the text and lectures this far has given me greater overall image of middle eastern history but more specifically I have learned of the ”grassroots” affiliations that crusaded for Egyptian decolonization, how the role of European education made it difficult for graduates in the Middle East to achieve jobs, European effects on 19th century Middle Eastern economics, Egypt’s struggle for complete independence from Britain, and lastly, Ottoman finances and how they contributed to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.
The common theme regarding these concepts I have now learned is that they all surround the European presence in the Middle East and how it resulted in altered events and history. The late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century in the Middle East would have occured much differently had it not been for this meddling. European existence in the Middle East perpetrated many financial complications. Prior to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in the late 1800s, they struggled with maintaining a European, modern military that was then necessary for Crimean War.
To begin implementing European military ideals to strengthen their military, the Ottoman Empire received help as well from European military officials. In Chris Rooney’s The international significance of British naval missions to the Ottoman Empire, 1908-14, Rooney states that Great Britain sent ”Naval officers, mostly foremen, engineers and deck officers but also including one flag officer or captain to command the active fleet in wartime and one captain or commander to be commodore of the torpedo flotilla in war and peace”. To cover the costs of military supplies including weapons and warships they took out large loans from European lenders that were impossible to repay and lead to the Ottoman Empire’s bankruptcy. Throughout the rest of the Middle East, the European leadership was accompanied by instituting European capitalism and commerce ideals which also lead to bankruptcy and nations taking out enormous loans from European lenders. Overall, the Middle East economy was left nothing but unstable and devastated by involuntary implementation of European economic policy.European presence affected the daily lives of all who lived in the Middle East.
With European intervention in Middle East governments, Europeans filled most government jobs and other leadership positions, making it difficult for natives to secure educational and career opportunities. Britain faced widespread difficulty in this time period and according to Johan Mathew in Spectres of Pan-Islam: Methodological Nationalism and British Imperial Policy after the First World War, ”In the aftermath of the First World War the British Empire faced mass political protest in India and Egypt, fought wars in Afghanistan and Anatolia, rebellion in Iraq, Syria and Central Asia, and civil war in Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.” In this time period, Britain became exclusively fixated on Egypt where they saw great potential for their nation. Britain established military bases in Egypt and conducted Egypt’s international affairs. During World War I, Britain even used Egypt’s resources and civilians in their war efforts.
This lead to many grassroots affiliations that crusaded for Egyptian decolonization from Britain such as the Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. These Middle Eastern activists were organized and impassioned. The men and women lead large demonstrations demanding independence and the return of their leader. When studying the Middle East it is essential that we view the knowledge from the widest and open-minded perspective attainable to distance ourselves from the myriad of misleading and biased untruths that are prevalent throughout the world entirely.
We must disassociate ourselves with our experiences, rights and entitlements given to us based on our geographic fortune at birth. By removing our prejudice and disallowing ourselves to be susceptible to the desire of wanting to have understanding of the Middle East immediately and completely which would most likely lead to creating our own mistruths and incorrect judgements. Yiannis Mylonas and Matina Noutsou, in The ‘Greferendum’ and the Eurozone crisis in the Danish daily press, discuss instances like this as ”cultural racism” where these untimely judgements are created. Over the course of history, the term ”Orientalism” has also been defined with the intention of labeling these instances. This term is very important to the study of the Middle East as often we apply our own cultural practices and fears to define a part of the world and its people that we know so little about. Especially, in the western world where Orientalism is often used to misinform us to lead our political and societal support in other directions, by ”inviting young people to identify with an aggressive defense of the West and serving as an ideological support for the United States in the context of ongoing global conflicts” as stated in Scripted Fantasies and Innovative Orientalisms: Media, Youth, and Ideology in the Age of the ‘War on Terror.
Simply put, to gather the most accurate and understandable studies of the Middle East we must be in avoidance of Orientalism and cultural racism while maintaining a broad, receptive mind.