It’s true that World War I was mainly a western European war
but it did not gain the title “World War” out of nothing but due to its
horrific consequences which continue to this day, yes to this day, in many
parts of the world including the Arabs’ and Muslims’ world.
November this year, particularly November 11, marks an entire century since the truce went into effect and since the war ended on the military front.
There is an audiotape that consists of several recordings put together from the French-German front and which documents the last minutes of the war. It documents the sounds of the mortars at the American Front at River Moselle, a left tributary of the Rhine, one minute before and one minute after the war ended.
It’s a very touching tape especially as you hear the sound of the mortars gradually falling silent and then you hear the birds twitter as if they’re celebrating the end of war. The tape is displayed at the Imperial War Museum for the 100th anniversary of the war’s end.
However, let’s observe the consequences of World War I on us. I will not talk about the disasters it inflicted on Arabs such as famine, Ottoman compulsory recruitment, Seferberlik, the British empire’s manipulation of the Arabs’ dreams and sentiment and the European powers’ conflict on Arabs’ territories of which the Battle of El Alamein between Egypt and Libya is an example. I will talk about one repercussion. It’s well-known that the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress toppled their dangerous Ottoman sultan in 1909 after he ruled for almost three decades (1876 – 1909). During this time, Sutlan Abdul Hamid employed propaganda to solidify the sanctity of the caliph post and to intensify marketing the idea of the caliphate.
Even after the departure of Abdul Hamid and the departure of Mehmed V, Mehmed VI and Abdulmejid afterwards, the Abdul Hamid propaganda remained a main driving force of caliphate movements. Among the results of that phase was the birth of the Muslim Brotherhood itself as the caliphate occupied a main pillar in the group’s doctrinal structure and in the structure of branching groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIS caliphate is an example).
The Exalted Ottoman Empire withered like others empires of that time, Russia, Austria and Hungary, due to that war. And then came the revolution of Ottoman “invading” General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to save the country from invaders. Ataturk was enthroned as the Turks’ hero, unlike the weak sultan in Istanbul.
We’re still there at the war fronts, and most importantly, in the ideas and principles which the war produced or which produced the war!
It was a horrific war in which around 11 million soldiers were killed by mortars and machine guns. Around 56 million recruits were dispatched for military service in the all the countries that participated in the war. Churches, mosques, hospitals, towns and cities were destroyed.
Is World War I worth remembering and examining to us, Arabs and Muslims, after a century had passed?