Rival jihads: Islam and the Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1918

by Eugene Rogan

04 Apr 2016
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Full text posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 4, pp. 1-20.

Abstract: The Ottoman Empire, under pressure from its ally Germany, declared a jihad shortly after entering the First World War. The move was calculated to rouse Muslims in the British, French and Russian empires to rebellion. Dismissed at the time and since as a ‘jihad made in Germany’, the Ottoman attempt to turn the Great War into a holy war failed to provoke mass revolt in any part of the Muslim world. Yet, as German Orientalists predicted, the mere threat of such a rebellion, particularly in British India, was enough to force Britain and its allies to divert scarce manpower and materiel away from the main theatre of operations in the Western Front to the Ottoman front. The deepening of Britain’s engagement in the Middle Eastern theatre of war across the four years of World War I can be attributed in large part to combating the threat of jihad.

Keywords: Ottoman Empire, Great War, jihad, WWI, Middle East.

Elie Kedourie Memorial Lecture, read 8 July 2014 (audio recording)

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