Race, Religion, and Civilization in Programs of Governance and Modernization

Part of the Middle East Today book series (MIET)


This chapter examines how the standard of civilization and, in particular, the failure of the Ottoman Empire to produce the appropriate outcomes from the civilizing process facilitated and justified the racialization of religious groups. The European powers, particularly France, argued that the underdevelopment of the Ottoman Empire was a result of Muslim barbarism and fanaticism, an inherent trait that suppressed the development of Christian communities. Through this process of racialization that characterized Muslims as barbaric, fanatical, and underdeveloped, the Christian communities were considered the ‘civilizational cousins’ to the European powers; justifying European interference and interventions on their behalf. In this context, France justified their close political and economic relations with Christian, and particularly Catholic, communities. Similarly, Russia had formed relations and alliances with the Christian Orthodox communities. The development of racial hierarchies based on assumptions of ethno-sectarianism contributed to the development of political contestation related to European alliances with, primarily, Christian communities. The notion of racial difference further became embedded in the development of a distinct Lebanese national conscience, particularly with the notion of Phoenician history; facilitating justifications of separateness based on a historical civilizational difference.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, School of Languages, Cultures, and SocietiesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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