Compare and contrast the process of Westernization by Middle Eastern governments during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Why did such attempts take place, and what consequences did they have?
Westernization in the Middle East began through revolution. This was first carried out in 1908 by the young Turks in power in the Ottoman Empire and in Iran, 1905 by the then constitutionalists. During this time, leadership and the law were strictly based on the Islam religion and the leaders went to brutal extremes to ensure that religious requirements were adhered to. They viewed this as a responsibility according to their religion. In the beginning national movements against foreign leaders and overlords saw the removal of some unwanted leaders. However, revolution increasingly became as a result of the forceful overthrowing and removing of preceding leaders. One of the most popular revolutions in the Middle East is the Islamic revolution in Iran, in the year 1979 (Hinnebusch, 2003, 63). This revolution resulted in a massive shift in political and economic movement that was backed by a mass movement for change.
The revolution is called Islamic because the movement was informed by a strong religious sense by the participants to remove the foreign “infidels” from power. Islamic extremists were willing to go to any lengths, even when such lengths meant that their lives were on the line to remove the supposed “infidels” from power. They viewed this as sort of a sacred responsibility to their people.
Westernization especially in the Middle East war against infidels was mostly revealed in how they handled and used western weapons. The country however suffered greatly in the preceding years from foreign wars. Foreigners sought to bring about democracy and westernized notions forcefully and they managed to in some regions. In the eighteenth century most of the westernization in the Middle East was forcefully imposed in a bid by foreigners to force democracy on seemingly ignorant nations.
However in the nineteenth century, westernization was mostly achieved through education, the media and rational coercion. This method is still underway and is so far the most successful method as it achieved through having the Middle Eastern citizens voluntarily take on western ideologies. Education aims at changing the mind-set of the learner through teaching them the ideologies and rationale behind their own culture and other cultures. The learner therefore consciously decides to become westernized.
While the forceful methods applied in the eighteenth century may seem barbaric, they have often been justified as necessary. It appeared to the world that citizens in the Middle East had no choice in the culture they practiced and were forced into the Islamic religion and into the culture that came along with practicing this religion. Scholars have defended this approach as necessary because as it was, the leaders would never have willingly allowed their citizens the right to choose whether or not to practice certain cultures, let alone choose their leaders. In a sense, this approach was necessary in order to assist the citizens of the Middle East exercise the rights that were being trampled upon by their extremist leaders.
Hinnebusch, Raymond A. The International Politics of the Middle East. Manchester.: Manchester Univ. Press, 2003. Print.