South Africa: an Ottoman colony?
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Cornelissen Aydemir, Marloes (2013) South Africa: an Ottoman colony? International Review of Turkish Studies, 3 (2). 64-84. ISSN 2211-3975
The relations between the Ottoman Empire and Muslims in South Africa started with the religious mission of scholar Ebubekir Efendi to the Cape of Good Hope in 1862. This mission can be understood as an early example of Pan-Islamism as a political ideology, as it is a precedent of the emissaries that sultan Abdülhamid sent around the world in the service of Pan-Islamism. Besides for its religious and ‘civilizing’ reasons, the Ottomans also used this connection to strengthen their ties with Britain. Over time Britain started to question Ottoman interest in the Muslims in their colony. The sultan tried, with his title of Caliph, to influence Muslims in South Africa, and besides offering them support he also expected their support and loyalty in return. By establishing consulates, schools and a pro-Ottoman sentiment, the Ottomans succeeded in establishing a base of power within the Cape. When after Ebubekir Efendi’s death the Malay Muslims, as the Muslims in South Africa of those days were called, turned to Mecca for religious matters, the Ottomans started to focus more on the Indian Muslims of South Africa. The Indian Muslims needed the support of the Ottomans to the same extent as the Ottomans were in need of their support for their Pan-Islamic ideology. The Ottoman 'grip' on these Muslims was also a strategic move in relation to the Ottoman stance towards Britain.My purpose is to show how the Ottomans perceived the Muslims of the Cape Colony as spiritually under their leadership, in a fashion similar to the “spiritual colonies,” then a popular term referring to (their territory in) Africa and Central Asia, even though the Cape was, territorially speaking, not part of the Ottoman dominion, and the Ottomans could not claim any political power over it. And to demonstrate how with this power over the Muslims they were able to ‘threaten’ European powers with the support of Muslims all over the world.
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