Muslims and European Modernity

Recently published by the ACRPS, Muslims and European Modernity (512 pp.) by Khaled Ziadeh investigates the relationship between Arabs and Muslims in Europe, dating back to the beginning of the eighth century AD. While being characterized by indifference for long periods, the European progress in the contemporary age, this indifference transformed into admiration of European intellectual, scientific and technological achievements. The book is made up of three previously published works: The discovery of European progress; the Development of the Islamic View of Europe; and Europe has Nothing More to Offer the Arabs.

The first book centers on the discovery of European progress in the countries of the Ottoman empire, beginning by detailing the relationship built by Ottoman diplomacy with Europe. Ziadeh goes on to talk about the decline of the Ottoman empire, which coincided with continued European ascension, a fact that the Ottomans were increasingly aware of. He documents the Sultan's lack of control over ministers and their insincerity, the sabotage of the military divisions that provided the state with money and fighting power, and the trail of corruption that followed clerics and scholars, accelerating the Ottoman deterioration. Travelogues had a huge impact on how Europe understood the Ottomans while Ottoman ambassadors relayed information on the situation in Europe. European thought grew in influence and the Ottomans grew more interested in reforms. A conflict of concepts lent new ideas to traditional concepts such as "the homeland", "revolution", "reform", "the republic" and "freedom".

The second book studies the development of the Islamic view of Europe, looking at how scientists, historians, geographers and others saw Europe throughout different stages of history. Starting from the period following the crusader wars until the modern era, when their position of contempt turned to one of admiration and eventually one tempered by critique.

The third book takes a longer examination of the characteristics of the relationship between the Islamic world and Europe. Ziadeh says that there is no other population in the world that has shared its history with Europe to the same scale as the Arabs, Amazigh and Turks have. This history goes back 14 centuries played out through conflicts, wars, interaction, scholarship, and the exchange of goods, ideas and influence, as well as the transfer of individuals and groups between the two coasts of the Mediterranean. He goes on to examine the impact of enlightenment ideas in Egypt and the Ottoman state as well the Nahda, while making clear that the reforms were not only a response to European influence, but a result of a new understanding of Islam in the light of geography and history scholarship.

In the 20th century the Arab countries, and particularly the Mashreq were overrun with European socialist and nationalist ideas but by the modern day, the ideologies of intellectual currents in Europe no longer have an impact, with Europe losing its influence both globally and in the Arab countries. Ziadeh explores religious currents and the reasons behind their emergence, as a reaction to modernization on the one hand, and an attempt to deepen the role of Islam in confronting modern ideologies. The Arab world after the revolutions of 2011 has moved closer to the foundational stage, hosting visions that fluctuate between optimism about the transition to democracy, pessimism about the explosion of states, and fears of the breaking its contract.

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