Turkish and British empires

by
13 September 2019

September 12th, 1919

THE unspeakable Turk has some influential friends in England, as may be seen by a glance at the signatures attached to an address presented to the Prime Minister. The signatories are averse to the abolition of the Turkish Sovereignty in Europe by the Powers at the Peace Conference. They affirm that the consequence of our Empire’s being a great Mohammedan Power will be that, if the Turkish Sultan is expelled from Constantinople, the whole Mohammedan world will be inflamed with religious anger, gravely perilous to our Empire. All Moslems of the Empire, they maintain, consider the Sultan of Turkey the Caliph or Successor of the Prophet, the spiritual head of their faith, and Mohammedans who do not acknowledge the Sultan’s spiritual authority are strong in their sympathy with Turkey. In India, they continue, the loss of Mohammedan confidence in British justice would be disastrous, and they add more to the same effect. There are, however, those who think quite differently on the points raised in this address. Is it so certain that the Mohammedans outside the Turkish Empire feel any very strong attachment to it? Does not the fact that the Sultan in Constantinople is not regarded by them as their spiritual head make a considerable difference? It seems to us that, as regards Constant­inople at least, the Powers must remember that it is essentially a Greek city; that it has never been, except by conquest, a Turkish city; and that the Great Church of Saint Sophia is not, and has never been, a great centre of the Islamic faith. The address is a very skilfully worded document, making the most of the Asiatic character of the British Empire and its consequent need to be chary of offending Mohammedan susceptibilities. But we think it is decidedly overdone, and trust that the Prime Minister will not impulsively yield to its persuasive appeal, but give due weight to the arguments which can be advanced from the other side by persons quite as well informed as his present memorialists.

 

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