Week 2 Blog (Gelvin ch. 9)

From my understanding of what Gelvin was saying, it seemed that the Ottomans attempted to implement some of the ideology that allowed the Europeans to progress but was often unsuccessful, and attempting these changes greatly affected religious doctrines and institutions. The European and “western” world’s willingness to separate religion from the policies may have been what allowed these changes to take control of beginning a more progressive society rather than the approach taken by Abdulhamid II, who strained to keep religion tightly linked to the state.

An interesting perspective I thought Gelvin was suggesting in Chapter 9 was that most argue whether or not secularism is needed for modernization, but on the other hand, a different question might be whether modernization leads to secularization or vise versa. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine modernization with no secularization either way. I think this is because I associate current, progressive ideology and political systems as “modern”, and many religiously based structures for society seem outdated because they were developed so long ago in such a different time. In terms of the view that secularization might result from modernization, I can see this happening as different interpretations of an outdated, religiously based system gradually leading toward a more secular society.

I also definitely think it’s worth noting that our view of what is modern could be skewed as we see it only from our own version and way of life. Gelvin even notes that the “West” could be viewed as just as religious as the “East” where the west is primarily Christian and the East Islamic. As I was thinking about why I view the “West” as more modernized, I think that I associate equality with modernization. The U.S. demonstrates that inequality can definitely be present amongst modernization, but I think the separation of religion and state is allowing for more opportunities to address and find solutions to these issues. I think that ultimately, equality is the progression of the recognition of human rights, which may be the most important front of modernization.


2 thoughts on “Week 2 Blog (Gelvin ch. 9)

  1. I appreciated that you decided to write on this chapter from Gelvin (I saw another classmate did the same) since I also thought it was particularly interesting in considering how social/cultural artifacts are so integral in forming modern/historical forms of government. I agree with your point that our perspective, as Americans coming from an Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority nation, we have trouble *not* projecting our views of modernity on parts of the world perceived as “other.”

    As a bit of a personal stance, I think its fair to assume based on historical evidence that a “one-size fits all” solution to government cannot, and should not, exist. We cannot assume that a nation or diverse group of people with an entirely different history and values of what is important to them wants to be “modernized” in the same way as a post-industrial Westerner, or at all. I also cannot help but think that Western countries claiming their “secularism” is slightly ironic and a total farce. Whether or not it is explicitly stated in the United States, most of our laws surrounding social issues are drawn up over doctrines of the Judaeo-Christian religions. If this were not the case, we would not be a nation so prone to discrimination of non-heterosexual/gender binary individuals in our laws, for example. So I find it, as Gelvin is asserting, a little funny that we “Westerners” seek to bring secularism to distant parts of the world while we ourselves have yet to achieve it.


  2. You made an excellent point in saying, “equality is the progression of the recognition of human rights, which may be the most important front of modernization.” This is something that the United States consistently fails to achieve and becomes more and more evident every time I consume a piece of news.

    One concern that springs to mind with an entirely secular Middle East is the threat of intensifying extremist tendencies in certain groups due to their lack of participation in accessible politics. Could excluding them entirely cause feelings of isolation and prompt a violent flare-up? Allowing one sector of Islam to participate while excluding others could encourage negative feelings among the excluded party.

    I agree entirely that our view of what is modern is correlated to our Western upbringing. For example, the issue of marriage. Gelvin states, “If, for example, Middle Easterners in other states want to get married they must go to their local clergyman and not to a nondenominational marriage license bureau. This, in effect, both discourages and obstructs interfaith marriages in the region.” Whereas, in the United States, it does not matter what gender, religion, region, or color you identify with; if you love another and want to share your life with them, you may. This is not how it has always been, even within our lifetime, but we have been exposed to rapid progression in that sense since we were born. With this knowledge, it is easy for us to perceive Middle Eastern policies as non-inclusive and dated.


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