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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Three

       "On November 14, less than two weeks after the Ottoman Empire entered the war, the sheikh-ul-Islam (the chief Sunni Muslim religious authority in the Ottoman world), Mustafa Hayri Bey--who was a CUP appointment and not, as it was traditionally, the sultan's choice--made a formal declaration of jihad in Constantinople, followed by well-organized demonstrations in the streets.  Even though the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians were the only Christians exempt from the jihad, they were uneasy about this aspect of the Ottoman religious war cry.  Wagenheim wired the Wilhelmstrasse (Foreign Ministry) that the unleashing of religious passions among the Turks was liable to do more harm than good.  He noted that there had already been anti-Armenian violence and other disorder in the city, and he assured the kaiser that he was doing everything 'to prevent further troubles for which we would be held responsible.'  The Entente governments were alarmed about the jihad, and the Italians, for example, now bolstered their armies in Libya, where they feared trouble.
       To promote the idea of jihad, the sheikh-ul-Islam's published proclamation summoned the Muslim world to arise and massacre its Christian oppressors.  'Oh Moslems,' the document read, 'Ye who are smitten with happiness and are on the verge of sacrificing your life and your good for the cause of right, and of braving perils, gather now around the Imperial throne.'  In the Ikdam,the Turkish newspaper that had just passed into German ownership, the idea of jihad was underscored:  'The deeds of our enemies have brought down the wrath of God.  A gleam of hope has appeared.  All Mohammedans, young and old, men, women, and children must fulfill their duty. . . . If we do it, the deliverance of the subjected Mohammedan kingdoms is assured.'  Jihad pamphlets appealed to the need to exterminate all the Christians--except those of German nationality.  'He who kills even one unbeliever,' one pamphlet read, 'of those who rule over us, whether he does it secretly or openly, shall be rewarded by God.'  In the worldwide Islamic revolution that was coming, 'India' would be 'for the Indian Moslems, the Caucasus for the Caucasian Moslems, and the Ottoman Empire for the Ottoman Turks and Arabs.'
       At the American embassy the day after the jihad proclamation, over tea and cakes, Enver assured Ambassador Morganthau that jihad proclamations would not mean any harm to Americans, nor would there be any massacres.  In the midst of his assurances, Morgenthau's secretary came into the room to report that a mob was demonstrating 'against certain foreign establishments,' and already had attacked an Austrian shop that was advertising 'English clothes' for sale.  Enver brushed off this news as nothing to worry about, but shortly after he left, a report came to Morgenthau that a mob had looted a French dry goods store, the Bon Marche, and was heading toward the British embassy.  A few minutes later the mob marched to 'Tokatlian's, the most important restaurant in Constantinople, ' as Morgenthau called it.  Then Turks broke the mirrors and windows and smashed the marble table tops;  within minutes the restaurant was 'completely gutted.'
        If the jihad failed to incite a worldwide call for three hundred million Muslims to take arms against Christians, it did fan the flames of Turkish nationalism and continued to escalate what Jay Winter has called 'the culture preparation of hatred.'  As the American ambassador put it, the jihad 'started passions aflame that afterward spent themselves in the massacres of the Armenians and other subject peoples.' "The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian Pgs. 169-170

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