The First Step in Dismemberment of Turkey

[Current Opinion, February 1915]

Egypt has now passed from the sway of a Khedive to that of a Sultan. The country itself ceases officially to be a dependency of Turkey. No more tribute will be paid. The British protectorate becomes henceforth formal as well as actual. Hussein Kamel Pasha, eldest living prince of the line of the great Mehemet Ali, reigns in Cairo. Abbas II, Kheclive of Egypt for nearly twenty years, was last heard of in the neighborhood of Vienna. He is accused by the English of having aided the expedition which, under Enver Pasha, was to have invaded Egypt some weeks ago. Arrangements were actually made with the German embassy in Constantinople for his presence with a military expedition that was to have crossed the frontier of Egypt to effect the delivery of the land from the English.

Turkish diplomatists have sent a protest to the neutral powers against the Khedive's expulsion. When the house of Osman is driven from Constantinople, as the British intend it shall be, it is highly probable, according to the London News, that Cairo will become the official metropolis of Islam, precisely as Mecca is the spiritual metropolis of that faith. It is therefore highly astute, it thinks, for Great Britain to refrain from the annexation of Egypt, as some propose, and to set up, instead, a Sultan who may become the logical commander of the faithful when the city of Constantinople is no longer held by the Turk.

The British Vassal on the Throne of Egypt.

England has a warm admirer in Sultan Hussein, who will rule Egypt, as the German dailies concede, in complete submission to the resident sent out from London. Martial law has existed in Cairo and Alexandria since last November. There has been a rigorous censorship of the vernacular press. Political arrests have been made in all Egypt on a large scale, a fact admitted by the British. Troops from Australia fill the land, now held down by an unusually large army of occupation. The Moslem press of Cairo was vehement in its comments at first; but the Shaab, organ of the Young Turks and of the Egyptian Nationalists well, had to cease publication. Princes of the Khedivial family have been flying to the continent until Hussein, the new Sultan, has few relatives left. Germans and Austrians in Egypt have been placed under arrest and concentrated in Malta. Italy seems pleased at the new situation, which, as the Giornale d' Italia remarks, "is accomplished silently and politely, without shocking anyone."

Young Turks Denounce the Change in Egypt.

Helpless to control the progress of events, Sultan Mahmoud in Constantinople remains a prisoner and an invalid in a palace on the Bosphorus, as the month's European despatches hint. His convictions are said in London to lie with the moderate party, which, mindful of "the sympathy extended by Great Britain to every effort towards reform in Turkey," wanted their country to remain neutral. On the other side was what the English call "a band of unscrupulous military adventurers" who sought in a war of aggression a means of retrieving the disasters, financial, military and economic, into which they had plunged their country. The crossing of the Egyptian, frontier by armed bands and the attacks upon Russian ports by Turkish sea-forces under German officers proved too much for London. Mahmoud V is absolved from blame, but his dynasty has been doomed by the English newspapers, if not by the English foreign office. Thus is marked a fresh stage, we read in the London Telegraph, in "that steady process of disintegration and decay which has for many years been overwhelming" the empire of the Ottomans. The result of the recent wars in the Balkans, it adds, was to deprive the Sultan in Constantinople of much of his European territory. Now Egypt goes.

How Matters Stand With the Turks.

Now Constantinople is virtually cut off from the outside world, observes the Manchester Guardian, which states that the native populace lived last month on imaginary victories reported by Enver Pasha and his followers. ''They have been confiscating foreign concessions by wholesale and seizing foreigners as hostages against the possible bombardment of Turkish ports." Turkey, in the opinion of the British daily, has only failures to record. She has done badly on the Russian frontier. Her expedition against Egypt has yet to be taken seriously. The Turkish fleet, even with Germans in command, has won no victory. That holy war which the Berlin Kreuz-Zeitung calls such a menace to England is laughed at in the columns of our Manchester contemporary. There are reports of a Moslem army in action against the Suez Canal; but that waterway was at last accounts in operation. Should Enver Pasha and his German allies involve the Turkish army in disaster, there would ensue a native revolt. There was an element even among the Young Turks which opposed Enver Pasha and his scheme of intervention, but the Germans made short work of it, as the English think. The Berlin daily denies the existence of any such Young Turks.

Riot and Bloodshed in Constantinople.

Mobs of the faithful continue to loot and destroy in Constantinople, affirm French dailies. All foreign schools in Turkey were entered by the military, the teachers expelled and the seminary buildings turned into barracks, as one report in the Paris Figaro has it. Two American institutions, Roberts College and Constantinople College, escaped injury. The banks and the railroads have likewise been taken over by the agents of Enver Pasha. Steamship sailings have been cancelled. But one train a day entered Turkey last month, it seems, apart from the cars used for the transportation of troops. Foreigners leaving the land may not carry documents or letters. Notwithstanding these efforts to suppress all news, stories are printed abroad concerning the scramble among the factions for possession of the aged Sultan's person. The Sheikh-ul-Islam is described as a creature of the militarists now in power. His fetvas or edicts are the supreme law of the land and they proclaim a war on the infidel. Germany is behind all these proceedings, in the opinion of the well-informed London Telegraph.

Future of the Caliphate of Islam.

Since the commander of the faithful is to be driven from Constantinople, what shall the Moslems do for a capital? Hitherto, replies Hafiz Awad, the editor of the Moayad, Egyptian organ of the faith, Moslems have accepted the Ottoman caliphate as a historical necessity. Now, however, they have to face a revolutionary state of affairs, for "it is impossible that the Caliphate can still be suffered to remain in the hands of a member of the House of Othman, who is under the thumb of a handful of renegade Salonica Jews while Germany pulls the strings."

"The whole scene is changing and soon the political center of Islam may have to move from Constantinople; but whither? Now Egypt is geographically the center of the Islamic world. It is also the linguistic center, since our Faith is essentially bound up with the Arabic language, and nowhere is that tongue spoken and taught better than here. Again, Egypt is the educational center, for Al Azhar is the greatest Moslem University in the world, with its twelve thousand students drawn from every country between Morocco and Malaya. Moreover, since education with us is so intimately connected with religion, the Ulema of Al Azhar are the only body in Islam which can be regarded as an authorized intellectual hierarchy. Cairo, historically and architecturally, is preeminently the city of cities of Islam, and its convenience as a central point between the holy places of Arabia and Constantinople marks it out for the ideal center of the Caliphate. Great Britain could pay no greater compliment to Islam in general and Egypt in particular than by reviving the glories of the Fatimites Caliphs and Ayoubite Sultans in their own city."

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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