Differences Between West and East Europe

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The Ottomans inherited a rich mixture of political traditions from vastly disparate ethnic groups: Turks, Persians, Mongols, Mesopotamian and, of course, Islam. The Ottoman state, like the Turkish, Mongol, and Mesopotamian states rested on a principle of absolute authority in the monarch. The nature of Ottoman autocracy, however, is greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West, particularly in world history textbooks. The central function of the ruler or Sultan in Ottoman political theory was to guarantee justice (Adalet in Turkish) in the land. All authority hinges on the ruler's personal commitment to justice. This idea has both Turco - Persian and Islamic aspects. In Islamic political theory, the model of the just ruler was Solomon in the Hebrew histories (Süleyman is named after Solomon). The justice represented by the Solomonic ruler is a distributive justice; this is a justice of fairness and equity that comes closer to the Western notion of justice. In addition, however, adalet (justice) has Turco - Persian coordinates; in this tradition, adalet, or justice, is the protection of the helpless from the rapacity of corrupt and predatory government. In this sense, justice involves protecting the lowest members of society, the peasantry, from unfair taxation, corrupt magistracy, and inequitable courts. This, in Ottoman political theory, was the primary task of the Sultan. He personally protected his people from the excesses of government, such as predatory taxation and the corruption of local officials. For the Ottomans, the ruler could only guarantee this justice if he had absolute power. For if he was not an absolute ruler, that meant that he would be dependent on others and so subject to corruption. Absolute authority, then, was at the service of building a just government and laws rather than elevating the ruler above the law as Europeans have interpreted the Sultanate. In order to ensure adalet , the Ottomans set up a number of practices and institutions in the central government surrounding the Sultan. The first was the establishment of a bureaucracy drawn from the Sultan's inner circle. This bureaucracy in turn controlled local governments; this would become the model of European absolutism in the seventeenth century. Other institutions and political practices were: Observance of government : The Sultan's job was primarily to keep a watch on all the officials. In some cases, this observance of government involved the personal involvement of the Sultan. He would sometimes observe in secret the proceedings of the Divan, which was the central advisory group to the Sultan, and sometimes observe proceedings of ulama courts. For instance, at about the same time that Martin Luther was condemned to death by the Diet of Worms, Sultan Süleyman secretly observed the trial of Molla Kabiz who asserted the spiritual superiority of Jesus Christ over Muhammad. After questioning by the ulama court and refusing to recant, Molla was sentenced to death. Süleyman, however, overturned the verdict because the arguments the courts made had not disproved Molla's arguments (eventually, Molla's arguments were overcome in a later trial). Periodically, the Sultan was required to tour local governments in disguise to ensure that magistrates and justices were operating justly. If the Sultan believed that an injustice was being committed against the people, he would interfere directly and overturn the decision. Islamic historians argue that the Ottoman Empire decline primarily because later Sultans took less and less interest in maintaining justice in their Empire. For the most part, however, the Sultan monitored local officials through a vast, complex, and elaborate system of spies who would report back to the central bureaucracy. The intelligence gathering system in the Ottoman Empire was the best in the world until the twentieth century! Siyaset (Politics): Rooting out corruption meant nothing if nothing was done about it. Public...
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