Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fr. Georges Massouh on Orthodox Ottomanism

Arabic original here.

The Orthodox are Ottomanizing

The campaign against the film "Fetih 1453", which recounts the fall of Constantinople from the Turkish perspective, has led to it being banned from theaters in Lebanon. This campaign was led by some people who considered the film to constitute an "insult" to Christianity in general and to Orthodoxy in particular, so they in turn retaliated against the Turks, the Ottomans, and the Ottoman Empire.  They saw banning this film as a victory for them against the Ottomans, despite the fact that Constantinople is still officially called Istanbul!

This imaginary victory over the Ottomans is nothing but a real defeat for the Orthodox to an Ottoman culture that has been raiding their ranks for quite a while. The campaign against the film is merely a minor detail in the confused state of Orthodoxy in Lebanon. Though the Orthodox struggled to escape from the millet system under the Ottoman Empire to the free spaces of citizenship, belonging to the nation, socialism, and secularism, some find themselves under noble and holy names like "Orthodoxy" fighting to return to that ancien régime.

The Ottoman model is the model that some Orthodox are seeking to apply in public life. Can we categorize the "Orthodox" proposal that each sectarian community elect its own deputies as anything other than a return to the Ottoman millet system? What can we say about the proposal to set up a "civil commission" for the Greek Orthodox community, other than that it is a resurrection of the millet council that used to oversee the community's affairs? What can we say about the establishment of an Orthodox party that raises the banner of the Byzantine Empire, other that that it is a retreat from the concept of the national community in the interest of a sectarianism that has only brought wars and conflicts between the people of the one nation?

The Ottoman pattern is winning and the Orthodox think that they are the victors. Ottomanism in thought, attitude, and behavior has come to dominate some Orthodox. They adopt it after their ancestors combated it. They wanted to escape from the millet system, which turned the Orthodox into a millet under the political and religious leadership of the patriarch of Constantinople as ethnarch, to the nation. Now, after less than a century you see them wanting to escape from the nation back to the shelter of the ethnic millet. For more than a century, their ancestors called for separating religion from the state, and here they are wanting the state to treat them as a sectarian community alongside all the others.

The Ottomans were an umma-empire without geographical limits, a comprehensive umma that did not recognize nations or ethnicities. They were an idea, not an ethnic or a national identity. They identified with a religious umma-empire that attached greater importance to religious solidarity than to ethnic or national solidarity. The Orthodox have become Ottoman insofar as they have come to consider themselves, socially and politically, an umma standing vis-à-vis other sectarian communities! Is it not national regression for a person to be elected solely by members of his sectarian community? Is this not religious bigotry and sectarian isolationism? Does not this all mean that the Orthodox, if some of them get what they want, will become an ethno-religious umma?

In 1899, the first Arab patriarch was elected to the See of Antioch after a few centuries [*] of Greek domination. In 1918, the Ottoman Empire fell. Some of the Orthodox are longing for a lost Byzantine paradise while at the same time are bringing back Ottomanism as a model for imitation in public life. Neither longing for Byzantium nor imitating the Ottoman model will bring glory back to the Orthodox, only striving for true citizenship and keeping the Church pure from the mire of politics and its corruptions.

* This is somewhat inaccurate. Between the return of the patriarchate from exile in Constantinople in 1276 and the Melkite Schism of 1724, the majority of patriarchs of Antioch were Arabic-speakers. In the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, however, domination by ethnic Greeks over the office of patriarch came in 1534, near the beginning of Ottoman rule in Palestine.


NOCTOC said...

Fr. Georges Massouh has a way of turning things around but only some-one who knows nothing about the millet system can believe him because in reality it's the Church of Antioch which is keeping the millet system and it's refusing to hand over the secular political power of the Patriarch and the Bishops to modern political parties. This is why they voted against the General Civil Commission for Greek Orthodox in Lebanon few days ago. What is happening here is that he is supporting Ottomanism and blames others who want to adapt their community into a modern democratic system of government as being Ottomans. Ottomans were the Turkish Muslims and the Orthodox Greeks had suffered much under them and yes they had an ethnic identity. They called themselves Eastern Romans or Romioi -Rum and they had a language called Greek. This arabist propaganda is unbelievable. Fr. Georges Massouh who hates Greeks and Byzatium so much should be a Turkish Mullah because he supports their idiology and hate of Orthodox Byzantium and the name Constantinople. If wasn't for Byzantium he would not have been Orthodox, at least in name only because I really don't believe that he is one.
Sorry Samn, I don't want to interfere in your blog but this is too much. He should get a trophy from Erdogan.

Anonymous said...

NOCTOC may need a lesson in Balcan History - Phanariot collaboration with the High Portch in Detriment to Rumanian and Bulgarian Orthodox. Everyone may sweep his own portch first.

Isa Almisry said...

" They saw banning this film as a victory for them against the Ottomans, despite the fact that Constantinople is still officially called Istanbul!"
The irony: it remained officially Constantinople until after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in 1930.

Isa Almisry said...

We in Antioch (and Jerusalem and Alexandria) were Orthodox centuries before the upstart on the Bosphorus. Christ didn't speak Greek; most of us didn't speak it then, we don't need to speak it now.

Btw, it's not "Byzantium," it's Constantinople/New Rome.