With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Islam And Modernity, History Running Backward From Cairo To Berlin

There are photographs of Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul, taken in the 1960s, that show elegantly dressed women sitting in street cafés. There are similar photos from the period shot in Ankara, Cairo, Damascus and Karachi.

A half-century later, comparable scenes are nowhere to be found in many of these cities.

Ankara is the last city whose inhabitants have not been overtaken by an obscure Islam that involves civil war, destruction and fully veiled women. The former joy of life in Middle Eastern cities has been replaced by a kind of hostility to life that began with a devaluation of metropolitan bourgeois culture.

In the Orient, this Western-oriented culture developed after 1800. Educational institutions as well as cultural centers were reformed based on Western models. Turkish culture took this furthest, but Cairo too was for a long time a major hub of modernization in the Islamic world.

Today, this world that brought equality for Muslim women, educational opportunities to young people, and bridged the gap between city culture and rural areas is now endangered, even in Turkey. The threat of a collapse of civilization looms, the consequences of which would be just as significant as the collapse that took place in Germany in 1933, and finally ended up overshadowing nearly all of Europe...

Read entire article at Worldcrunch