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introduction

8

Background

departing from Beirut in June 1911, looking back from the ship, an Otto- man muslim journalist described his thoughts: “The city in front of us is a picture of a passage. my eyes automatically turned to the american protes- tant establishment [the syrian protestant College, later the american Uni- versity of Beirut] and remained fixed on those great, majestic buildings. But they could not penetrate inside the walls. There is the spirit of todays Beirut, in these and similar buildings. There, a young world is nourished. But this nourishment is poison to Ottoman identity.” a deep resentment, a distress- ing feeling of exclusion and inferiority, emerged in this journalist, for whom his Ottoman heritage and the american promise visible in most provinces of the Ottoman empire seemed incompatible. The americans, he felt, worked for a near east that was new indeed but did not belong to him, the muslim journalist and Ottoman civil servant ahmed Şerif. american agency funda- mentally subverted what he believed to be Ottoman and muslim, and there- fore his own. Şerif visited american hospitals, universities, village schools, and school classes in the Ottoman Balkans, anatolia, and syria but always ended up perceiving them as part of an evil outside force that strove for a future he did not want, even if he conceded that the effort rationally spoke well for the americans. he looked with bitter self-criticism on the muslim and Ottoman realities. muslim reactionaries “who cannot penetrate to the sources of islam, and its highest thoughts, to true humanity and general

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