By Feroz Ahmad

This insightful background of Turkey tells the tale of a rustic stuck among the ideologies of East and West.

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The dazzling script for this drama, perhaps the star of the production itself, is the interpretive literary discourse on modern Japan appearing concurrently in the pages of the local Arabic and Ottoman Turkish press, the Ottoman and French press published by exiles resident in European capitals and smuggled into the empire, and other miscellaneous literary forms such as books, pamphlets, and poetry collections. All of these forms of expression verbalized and/or otherwise influenced Ottoman public opinion about the distant East Asian nation by extolling the virtues of Japan’s modernization program and the strength of its people’s moral character.

Against this intellectual milieu, Chapter 4 explores the efforts to conduct Ottoman-Japanese diplomacy as a very real response to challenges that both powers faced at the time. Though ultimately these attempts are a failed experiment between the “two citadels of Asia,” they are the backdrop for the Ottoman transformation from a “Sick Man of Europe” into the “Japan of the Near East”—in other words, the Ottoman migration out of Europe and into East. Due to the significant contributions of the Tatar Muslim political activist Abdürreşid İbrahim in attempting to forge this relationship, he will be discussed in a separate section.

The inclusiveness of Arabo-Islamic cultural heritage symbolized by Arabic language, the Islamic faith, and a shared history with other Muslims and non-Muslims, and not necessarily a distinct racial connotation of the term Arab, prevailed in their consciousness. Interestingly, despite the potential for a strongly ethnic understanding of the term “Arab” to unite Arab Christians and Muslims where their religiosity divided them, most Arab Christian writers tended instead to delineate a mutually shared Arab identity in terms corresponding to those of Arab Muslims: as coinheritors of an Arab, Islamic tradition.

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