Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
I recently saw a movie on the Crusades which reminded me of the Isis problem in Syria and Iraq. Isis is a Muslim version of the Crusades wherein the Christians were either trying to convert the Muslims to Christianity or kill those who did not choose the be converted. With Isis, it is not clear whether they are intent on killing all of those who do not agree with their view of religion, or whether they just enjoy the act of killing much like some of the Christians in the Crusades.
It is not surprising that the members of the Muslim religion, which is primarily divided into Sunni and Shia believers, do not get along. The present day Christians have so many different factions that it is hard to keep up with all the church groups that call themselves Christians. In James A. Michener’s novel THE SOURCE, a group of Crusaders enter a village and see everyone wearing a turban so they kill all the inhabitants only to discover that the persons they have killed were Christians. The moral of this event was not to assume that people who wear turbans are Muslims.
To understand the current unrest in the Muslim areas, it is important to understand the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I by the Western Forces. The Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years and was a potent force in shaping the future of political interest in the region today. During the greatest extent it had caliphates, which are a combination of religious and political governmental forms of government. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, it encompassed parts of Eastern Europe from Bulgaria to parts of Persia(now encompassed in part by Iran), Turkey, Afghanistan and eventually expanded to include parts of the area not included in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Persia, Egypt, and all the African Countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
During part of the history of the Ottoman Empire, the human rights issues such as equality of men and women was one of the most inspired of any nation or empire. Women’s rights were equal to men’s rights, which we as a nation have not yet begun to equal. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, it included caliphates governed by different members of the empire, but who were under the overall ruler of the Ottoman Empire. At its greatest extent, it included most of the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It got its start with the breakup of the Roman Empire and was still considered part of the Roman Empire. As the Roman Empire began to diminish in its influence, the Ottoman Empire began to become independent and its influence on the areas around the Mediterranean Sea.
It is difficult to determine the goals of Isis because it has grown from a group which was fighting with other groups to change the government of Syria, but then changed into a group to capture Iraq and other countries around the region and establish what it considered a Muslim country with as a Caliphate much as it existed in the Ottoman Empire. It has a goal of expanding its version of a Caliphate wherever it can establish a government of its own liking. In writing this article I do not claim to be an expert. I started this post about December 1, 2014, but I discovered that I needed to go back through history and learn about the Ottoman Empire which was broken up after World War I, because it became an ally of Germany in the war against Great Britain, the United States and others. As a result, Turkey became an independent nation and is no longer a Muslim nation. In fact Turkey is the only part of the Ottoman Empire which still exists. All the other parts of the Ottoman Empire are independent nations populated primarily by the two major groups of the Muslim faiths, the Sunnis and Shia.
I remember taking a course in Modern European History in the early 1950’s which referred to the Ottoman Empire as the Sick Man of Europe so until I spent a great amount of time researching and reading about the Ottoman Empire I could not write intelligently about its history. I urge you to look up the maps of the Empire in order to understand the ultimate goal of Isis which is to build its own Empire and to extend it as far as it is able. However, with its methods of killing anyone who disagrees with its goals, it will very likely encounter much opposition by those who wish to be left alone and determine their own destiny in a more peaceful manner.
Note: To view the Historical Maps of the Ottoman Empire go to Yahoo and type in Historical maps of the Ottoman Empire.