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Occasional Papers

The Search for Authenticity in

Middle East Cultures: Religion,
Community and Nation

Sami Zubaida

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies

Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University
The Search for Authenticity in
Middle East Cultures: Religion,
Community, and Nation

Sami Zubaida

Sami Zubaida is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck Col-

lege, Universiy of London, and Research Associate at the London Middle East
Institute. He was born and schooled in Baghdad, Iraq, then pursued higher edu-
cation and an academic career in England. He has held honorary and visiting
posts at: The American University in Cairo, Bogazici University in Istanbul, IRE-
MAM in Aix-en-Provence, France, The Universiy of California at Berkeley, and
the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. His research and writing
are on relgion, culture and politics in the Middle East, and on food and culture.
Major Publications include: Islam, the People and the State: Political Ideas and
Movements in the Middle East (London 1993); A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cul-
tures of the Middle East (co-edited with Richard Tapper, London 2001); Law and
Power in the Islamic World (London 2003).
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
241 Intercultural Center
Georgetown University
Washington, DC 20057-1020

© 2004 by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. All rights reserved.

Editing and design: Laila Shereen

Editing assistance: Zeina Azzam Seikaly

Georgetown University—18/3/2004

This paper was originally presented as the Kareema Khoury CCAS Annual Distinguished Lec-
ture on March 18, 2004. This lecture recognizes scholars who have made significant contribu-
tions to the study and understanding of the modern Arab world.

he question of cultural authenticity arises in contexts of colonial and imperial ex-
pansion and domination. This context is complex: it is not merely the imposition of
alien dominant cultural themes on native societies and polities, but also of the active
quest of many sectors of native society, especially of its elites, for items of the dominant
culture. In The Ottoman space, where this process is best illustrated, European expansion
and dominance met many forces of resistance, but also of welcome and embrace; often both
these sentiments and endeavors combined in the same individuals and groups. Authenticity
is then constructed in this context of ambiguity and ambivalence.
Two problematiques combine in this process: backwardness vs. progress, and au-
thenticity vs. invasion. Political and intellectual elites, such as the Tanzimat reformers and
the Young Ottomans of the mid-nineteenth century, internalized the European gaze on
Muslim/oriental societies: they were “backward” (takhalluf, irtija’), obscurantist and super-
stitious, bereft of science and rationality, fatalistic and passive, libidinous, and governed by
arbitrary and tyrannical powers, or “oriental despotism.” These traits were in contrast to a
powerful and thrusting Europe, armed with the wealth and knowledge and rational social
organization based on science (and the retreat of religion). The “apologetic” response to
this contrast was given typically by Namik Kemal and the other Young Ottomans, then by
Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida and their disciples, and stays
with us to the present day.1 These negative traits are not the product of Islam as such, they
argued, or of the national character of Arabs, Turks, or Persians, respectively, but of the cen-
turies of decline of Islam and/or the national essence. This decline is variously attributed.
The remedy, for the modernist reformers, was to restore authenticity to be sought in the
original and pure forms of these religious and national essences. For the early reformers, the
agenda for this restoration looked remarkably like European modernity: constitutionalism,
democracy, science and rationality. A subsequent generation of Islamic political activists
involved in mass mobilization, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, modified or rejected this
transparent surrender to Europe, and insisted on the distinguishing and antagonistic as-
pects of Islam, notably a rigorous version of the Shari‘a (religious law) and its application.2
We call these “fundamentalist” or “absolutist.” Others—various forms of nationalist, pan-
Arab or Egyptian, Kurdish, Turkish, or Persian—presented different versions of Islam and
its place in a national essence which preceded it. In these versions, backwardness was often
blamed, directly or indirectly, on the national “other.” Persians and Turks tended to blame
the Arabs, and the Arabs blamed the Turks for despotism and corruption of religion.
The Ottoman heritage continues to be variously evaluated in this process. The
Egyptian nationalists, liberals and Islamic reformers of the earlier decades of the twenti-
eth century tended to blame the Turks for decline and backwardness. Rashid Rida, in the
Islamic version, exalted the Arabs as the progenitors and champions of Islam, and hinted
that its decline came from military dynasties who did not understand it, notably the Turks.3

This view is echoed by many Arabs, putting emphasis on language and its instrumentality
in the understanding of religion. Liberals of the Arab enlightenment, such as Taha Hussein,
advanced another version of blaming the Turks. In his Future of Culture in Egypt, published
in 1937, Hussein emphasized the significance of Hellenism in rationality and progress in
Europe and the Middle East.4 He argued that the Muslim Arabs played a central part in
European rationality and progress by introducing Greek philosophy and logic into Europe.
This rationality marked both European and Muslim progress until the fifteenth century, at
which point Turkish occupation and dominance stifled this spark in Egypt and the region.
Europe progressed and prospered as it escaped this burden, while Egypt and the rest lan-
guished. Hussein saw the Arab enlightenment of his time as the beginning of the resump-
tion of this rationality and progress for Egypt, which must now look back to its Pharaonic,
Hellenic, as well as Muslim past, and forward to its modern and Mediterranean destiny.
Hussein’s naïve optimism was widely controversial and largely rejected by subse-
quent generations of nationalists and Islamists. His brand of enlightenment and liberalism
was overtaken first by Marxist and nationalist ideologies and programs, such as those of com-
munism, Nasserism and the Ba‘th, which emphasized distinct Arab essences combined with
leftist third world rhetoric, and then by Islamists, insistent on total difference from the West.
Islamic ideologies of the later twentieth century also gave a different and more
positive (and mythologized) evaluation of the Ottoman heritage. The Ottoman state was
the last caliphate, the bastion of Muslim unity and strength. Arab nationalism in this ver-
sion was part of a Western conspiracy to destroy Islamic unity. The proponents of this view
point to the central participation of Christians (such as Jirji Zaydan, George Antonius, and
Michel Aflaq) in Arab nationalist ideologies and movements as evidence of this covert con-
spiracy against Islam and its caliphate. One radical preacher, Abdallah Azzam, proclaimed
that “Arab nationalism was conceived in sin and born in corruption and dissolution,” with
the specific function of dividing and weakening the Islamic umma.5
Turkish nationalism, in its Kemalist form, was foremost in the search for authen-
ticity. Zia Gokalp laid the foundations in his distinction between culture and civilization.
Turkish culture, which sprung up among the original Turks of the Steppes, preceded Islam
and survived it. At one point in its history this organic culture was articulated to Islamic
civilization, and this articulation was fruitful for a time. By the early twentieth century,
Turkish culture had outgrown its link to Islam and became re-articulated to European civi-
lization—to modernity and progress. While Islam as a religion remained the ethical cement
of the nation (in line with Gokalp’s Durkheimian attachment), it was no longer viable as a
civilizational dimension. Turkish culture, in the Kemalist project, was to be restored to its
original purity, purged from the oriental accretions of Arabs and Persians. In its pure form,
the Turkish nation could assume its march to progress alongside the modern nations of
Europe.6 In practice, the birth of the Republic put an end to Ottoman cosmopolitanism
and severely limited the diversity of population and culture in Turkey. In theory, Kemalism
celebrated the supposed affinity of original Turkish culture to European modernity and
displayed its symbols. While celebrating secularism by subordinating religion to the state,
its continuing “ethnic cleansing” ensured the Muslim homogeneity of the population. Im-
plicitly, the ideal Turkish citizen became a Sunni Muslim of the Hanafi sect (madhhab).
Islamic resurgence in Turkey in recent decades has sparked a sharp ideological
and cultural conflict between the Kemalist insistence on the Turkic essence, and the Is-

lamic, no less nationalist, insistence on Turkey’s Islamic glory. This clash is illustrated in
the following anecdote:

On an afternoon in March 1994, two women, one veiled, the other not, encountered
one another in front of the Ayasofya museum in the old quarter of Istanbul. The short-
haired one, dressed in a skirt to her knees, a trimly fit blouse, and a short coat, asked the
other woman, who was wearing a black veil, whether this was the line for tickets to the
museum. The veiled woman was surprised. ‘You speak Turkish?’ she asked in amaze-
ment. ‘Yes, I am Turkish,’ asserted the short-haired woman, put off by the question. ‘Oh,
you don’t look Turkish. You look like a Westerner,’ said the veiled woman. ‘You don’t
look Turkish either,’ said the other. ‘I thought you were an Arab.’ ‘Oh!’ said the veiled
woman, ‘thanks to God, we are Turkish and Muslim.’ ‘Well, we are too,’ said the short-
haired woman.7

Law and Authenticity: Spheres in which the Game of Authenticity Is


The call for the application of the Shari‘a is a common slogan in modern Islamic politics.
Distinct from motives, there are two main rationales on the part of the advocates: one is
the strictly theological, the obligation to conduct the affairs of society in accordance with
what God has decreed. The other is the rationale of authenticity: a society is not itself if it
does not live by its own laws. Colonialism, by this logic, weakened and alienated Muslim
societies by imposing alien laws and foreign codes; to achieve authenticity, it was impor-
tant to reverse that aberration by restoring the national and religious essence of law. This
was the logic behind the early (1860s) codification of the civil law elements of the Hanafi
Shari‘a by the Ottoman reformer, Jawdat Pasha, architect of the Majalle, the codified ‘civil
law’ elements of the Shari’a. Faced with the project of translating and adopting the Napo-
leonic Code, which had already taken place in Egypt, Jawdat insisted on the adaptation of
the Ottoman heritage to the modern world. In his Memoirs he wrote:

Thus, certain persons took up the idea of translating French [civil] codes into Turkish for
judgement in the nizami courts. This idea was not acceptable because changing the basic
laws of a nation would entail its destruction. The ulama believed that those who had
gone astray to hold such Frankish ideas were unbelievers. The Franks, on the other hand,
used to say ‘bring forth your code; let us see it and make it known to our subjects.’ 8

The codified Shari‘a, however, resembled the Code Napoleon much more than
it did the traditional books of fiqh (jurisprudence). This search for authenticity is echoed
in the late twentieth century, after modern law codes modelled on Europe had been long
established, by an Egyptian jurist, who had this to say to his interviewer:

[The shari‘a] constitutes the spinal column of the Islamic civilizational project. If this
spinal column were to be shaken, then Islamic civilization will disappear and become a

transformed image of Western, Buddhist or some other civilization. No one in the world
has the right to prevent a community from founding its legal, educational and cultural
regime upon its heritage (turath). ...In our country it is colonialism which has, for a
hundred years, suppressed the law founded upon the Islamic shari‘a. ...As a community
which has a history and a heritage, we have the right to be governed and educated in
conformity with this heritage.9

These illustrate the problem of authenticity: in the process of maintaining or re-

storing legal authenticity in a modern context, the product looks much more modernist
than historical authenticity at least in the areas of the law of transactions and civil law. As
Judge Ashmawi, a critic of these enterprises, remarked: to insist on the Shari’a does not
affect the substance of civil law, but only its alfaz, vocabulary, which borrows from the
language of the fourteenth century10. It is in the areas of family law and the penal code that
Islamic law (depending on interpretation) is distinct from modern law codes, and at vari-
ance with modern social sensibilities and notions of human rights. These are the areas in
which the “fundamentalists” are most insistent on applying their literal interpretations of
the sacred sources. These are also the areas of greatest contest with liberals and “moderates.”
The contest is not just about orthodoxy and conformity to the divine commandment, but
also about authenticity as distinct from “the West.”

Musical Episodes

Music has posed interesting questions of authenticity. Whether music is forbidden or re-
stricted in religious law has been an issue of dispute, and the disapproval of music, song,
and dance has been widely disregarded throughout Muslim history, even by religious groups
themselves, as in the case of many Sufis (mystic orders). Interestingly, in the emergence of
modern art forms in the twentieth century, much of classical and folk music has come from
religious sources. Many of the renowned singers of the early twentieth century started their
careers as religious chanters; even the great diva Um Kalthum started her career dressed as
a boy singing in Mawlids (celebrations of the Prophet). Some even retained their religious
titles, like Shaykh Imam, the singer of radical political satire in 1970s Egypt. Many of the
perennially popular songs, such as zuruni bil-sana marra ‘pay me a visit at least once a
year’, (addressed to the beloved), were adapted by Sayyid Darwish from Mullah Uthman
al-Mousuli, a religious chanter and composer, who sang it as zur qabr al-habib marra (visit
the tomb of the beloved (the Prophet) at least once). Mulla Uthman was also the progeni-
tor of one of the most popular Iraqi songs, faug al-nakhal, faug (above the canopy of the
palm trees), which started as faug al-‘arsh, faug mi’raj abu-brahim, faug al-‘arsh faug ‘above
to the (divine) throne, above the mi’raj of the Prophet’, (the mi’raj being the episode of the
Prophet’s night transportation to the heavens).11 Two of the most popular early modern
female singers in Iraq started as chanters in women’s ceremonies: Sadiqa al-Mullaya and
Zuhur Hussein. Abdul-Muttalib, renowned Egyptian singer, famously used religious meta-
phor and sacred geography in his popular love songs of early 20th century Egypt: ya salat
al-zayn, followed by sakin fi hayy al-sayyida wa habibi sakin fil-hussein, wa ‘ala shan anul
kul al-rida yomat aruhlu marratayn (I inhabit the quarter of al-sayyida (Zaynab) and my

beloved lives in al-Hussein, and to achieve maximum merit I visit him each day twice).
Yet, music remained a field of social ambiguity. Performers were divided between
some respectable male vocalists who were, or were likened to, religious chanters, such as
the maqam (classical musical modes) reciters, qari’s, and the instrumentalists and female
singers who were morally suspect. In Iraq as well as the Maghreb, instrumentalists were
predominantly Jewish, and female performers considered prostitutes. It was in the emerg-
ing notion of “national culture” that the two merged in the first half of the twentieth cen-
tury, and the venue of this entity was the radio. Radio Baghdad started in 1936, and its first
orchestra was almost entirely Jewish, while the singers, still morally suspect, became the
practitioners of national culture.12
It was at the 1932 Cairo congress that the question of tradition and authenticity
was raised. Innovators, notably Muhammad Abdul-Wahab, were adapting Western forms
of orchestration to new Arab music. The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok reproached
the modernists with abandoning tradition, and the latter responded that without progress
and innovation traditions ossify and die.13 Abdul-Wahab’s ventures into synthesis led to
the following apocryphal story. It is related that when the Vienna Philharmonic played
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the Cairo Opera House, some in the crowd were indignant
at the apparent plagiarization of Abdul-Wahab!
It was this same Bartok who apparently played a part in the game of authenticity
in early Republican Turkey. Martin Stokes, in his The Arabesk Debate, gave a fascinating
account of the attempts by the Republican cultural regime to trace pure Turkish musical
forms, liberated from the oriental accretions of Arabs and Persians.14 Teams of research-
ers toured the Anatolian countryside collecting samples of folk-music, with the saz (long-
necked, stringed instrument) as the favored instrument. They concluded that the structure
of pure Turkish music was distinct from the oriental and akin to the European, especially
to Hungarian music, and this was confirmed by Bartok. Henceforth, “Oriental” music was
spurned from Turkish radio, which would only broadcast the pure Turkish classical and
folk. Many listeners tuned to Radio Cairo for their favored styles. In the later decades of the
century (from 1970s), coinciding with the rise of the Islamic current but distinct from it,
Oriental style music, termed “Arabesk,” emerged (in cassettes) as a popular genre, part of
a counter-culture defying the Republican norms. Singers like Ibrahim Tatlisi became folk
heroes, with colorful lives and amorous adventures. The Republican bourgeoisie of Istanbul
and Ankara reacted with alarm to the barbarian invasion from Anatolia sweeping their cities
with poor migrants, nouveau riches provincials and their cultural items of Islam, Arabesque
and lahmacun15 parlors. Eventually, all these items were granted official respectability with
the conciliatory genius of Turgut Ozal’s 1980s regime, befriending prominent Arabesque
practitioners, including the said Tatlisi, and partaking in their popular glamour.

Drink and Culture

The prohibition of drink is iconic for orthodox and political Islam, as a marker of authen-
ticity and distinction from the dissolute other. It has also contributed to the intrigue and
romance of drink throughout the history of Middle Eastern societies: in poetry, sufism and
belles lettres. The history and lore of Muslim lands are rich in drinking cultures, high and

low, with the sumptuous wine tables of the rich and the taverns of the soldiery and awbash
(the rabble). Typically, the respectable drank in private, though we do find tales of judges
in taverns. In some Middle Eastern cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, male
drink cultures became respectable and open and a sign of modernity. As such, alcohol be-
came an issue in the contests of identity and authenticity. Consider the example of a classic
book of medicine, Kitab manafi’ al-aghdhiya wa daf ’ madhariha (The Book of the Benefits
of Foodstuffs and the Avoidance of their Harm), by Al-Razi (d. 932). Like many medical
treatises it contained a chapter on wine and its qualities with respect to humoral balances
and health, without reservation about its religious prohibition. The book was printed in
Bulaq in 1888, and subsequently in many editions. It was only in a Beirut printing in 1985
that the editor, in his introduction, reproached the author for writing on forbidden wine,
then excised the offending chapter, lest the reader should fall into doubt on the subject.16
This episode illustrates the heightened significance of alcohol for the game of authenticity:
the Islamic heritage, turath, invoked as ancestry, must not be sullied. We may also reflect
that in the modern age of mass literacy, such a book and its transgressions have become
‘public,’ in a sense in which it was not when restricted to the literate elite of al-khassa (liter-
ally, “the private”). Vani Effendi, hoca (religious teacher) to the Sultan in the seventeenth
century, rationalized his drinking by arguing that the prohibition was meant for the com-
mon and the rough, for whom drink would aggravate their delinquency and disorder, and
not for the wise who were in control of their actions.17 This is an argument which stretches
the rationale of maqasid al-shari‘a (the intentions of Shari‘a), speculating on the real pur-
pose of divine decrees.
François Georgeon has written a fascinating account of the symbolic significance
of alcohol for notions of modernity and civilization in Turkey from the nineteenth century.
Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-39) was the first reforming ruler who made a serious impact.
He modeled himself on other European rulers, and included alcohol as a feature of public
occasions, such as official dinners and receptions. Champagne, which was not new to the
Ottoman court, then came out in public. Over the course of the century, and among the
modern elites and the official classes, drink came to be associated with being modern and
with “civilization,” madaniyat. Husrev Pasha, serasker (head of the army), “[would drink]
champagne with an influential European, [even though he did not like it and preferred
water], to show how he had shed completely the prejudices of the old Turkey: he knows full
well that the fact will be noted in a newspaper article.”18 Later in the century the state class
of the Tanzimat became the vanguard of the drinking classes. To cater to them, a new type
of refined and opulent tavern or meyhane came into existence, with a professional guild of
tavern keepers and their assistants trained in the arts of serving drink and its accompani-
ments of mezze, and in the skills of nursing a nargila. Among the consumers, a new adab, or
etiquette and lore of drink determined a kind of savoir boire.
Much of this new culture of drinking revolved around raki/arak, a newly fashion-
able liquor, replacing the traditional wine. It became an identity marker as a specifically
native drink in contrast to the more cosmopolitan and European wine. It acquired the
honorific description of arslan sutu, lion’s milk, and in Arabic (at least in Iraq) as halib sba‘.
It became the drink of choice in the cafes, clubs, and salons of intellectuals and reformers,
which included the poet Namik Kemal and the statesman Midhat Pasha. Later in the cen-
tury, under the more religious and authoritarian reign of Abdul-Hamid II (r. 1875-1908)

· 10 ·

there was a backlash against this drinking culture, both religious and medical, but not with
much effect. Raki was to feature again as part of the culture of the Turkish Republic under
Ataturk, himself a noted devotee of the beverage. It is said that old Kemalists were still to
be seen until recent times at the bar in Sirkeci railway station in Istanbul at sunset raising a
glass to the memory of their hero, accompanied by the classic and austere mezze preferred
by the Pasha: the beyaz maza, white table, of white cheese, melon, and yogurt/cucumber.
Drink and drink culture became an issue of authenticity and identity. In the aftermath of
municipal elections which brought the Islamic Refah Partisi to power in Istanbul in 1994,
one of the first issues that arose between the Islamic mayor and the Kemalist bourgeoisie
was that of drink. The bars and restaurants of Beyoglu, the cosmopolitan center of the city,
were targeted by the mayor, who did not dare to ban alcohol but made rules restricting the
visibility of drink. Establishments were requested not to allow drinking on terraces and
street tables, and to hide their drinkers behind curtains. An outcry by the modern bourgeoi-
sie, with demonstrations of street drinking, soon obliged the order to be withdrawn.19
On the subject of mezze—the variety of small dishes accompanying drink in Mid-
dle Eastern cultures, we should note its influence on the structure of the meal. Middle
Easterners, like most people, eat very fast. We may say that fast food is universal; even in
banquets, elaborately prepared food is eaten in great hurry. Typically, drinkers lingered over
their drink and the mezze, then proceeded to a fast supper. The modern trend, however, is
for the mezze to become the supper, now eaten at leisure in conviviality and conversation,
inebriation permitting. In this respect it begins to approximate the wine–fueled meal of
Latin Europe (France, Italy, Spain), with its slower pace of consecutive courses. The combi-
nation of alcohol and food may have a “civilizing” effect on the consumption of both.20

Globalization, Transnational Formations, and the Question of


Globalized population movements, communications, and trade have led to social and cul-
tural trends with diverse implications for the game of authenticity: hybridity, some cosmo-
politanism, but above all intensified transnational ethnic and religious solidarities. Hybrid-
ity, say in music, or literature, or food, plays with authenticity: consider the trans-national
Indian or Muslim characters in Salman Rushdie’s novels or those of Hanif Qurayshi. Con-
sider the combination of Arab tunes and lyrics with rock rhythms in Rai (modern Algerian
urban music, in Algeria and France), or any number of fusion forms. In Spain, explorations
of the Arab connections have spawned interesting combinations of Spanish and Moroccan
music, such as the group Radio Tarifa (Tarifa being the Spanish town nearest to Morocco)
riding on the thriving world music movement. Restaurants, cafes and supermarkets suc-
cessfully push fusion food, with creations such as “chicken tikka Kiev!” The “Mediterranean
diet” is a popular invention which plays on an indeterminate regional authenticity21.
Diasporic communities of exiles and migrants exhibit different tendencies. So
much of Arab and Middle Eastern intellectual and cultural production is now based in
London and Paris, and for the Iranians, Los Angeles. Some of this production is xenophobic
and tied to notions of authenticity, while some is more cosmopolitan, oriented to world

· 11 ·

culture and literature, and produced in the context of cosmopolitan networks (consider,
for instance, the activities of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris). This is in contrast to
the insistence on cultural, ethnic and religious particularism emanating from so many of
the transnational networks.22
Exiles and diasporas seem to foster and incubate nationalist and religious quests
for authenticity, and act as breeding grounds for the inventions of authentic features. It is
notable that some of the leaders of the nationalist forces in the former Yugoslavia hailed
from long exile in the US, and that many of the most ardent Jewish settlers in Palestin-
ian territory speak with American accents. Islamic networks and associations—from Salafi
preaching from Arabia, to revived Sufi orders from Turkey, to rival Barelvi and Deobandi
factions of Indo-Pakistani Muslims, to the missionaries of the Tabligh (missionary) sect—
all flourish in European and American centers of migrant communities. Many of these are
xenophobic and preach separation from the unbelievers, while others are outward–looking,
such as the advocates of Euro-Islam. Some, we are told, are more sinister, such as the Jihadi
groups plotting violence, benefiting from the liberties and facilities of the West. Bizarre
occurrences, such as the fights between North African Muslim youth gangs against Jewish
youths in France, are waged in the name of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when neither of
the groups has any connections to Palestine or Israel.
The intensification of global movements, population growth, communication,
trade, travel, and tourism has often been conceived as leading to cultural uniformity: the
“McDonaldization” of the world! Yet, apart from leading to the cultural hybridities already
noted, these changes also sharpen the quest for authenticity. National, regional, and ethnic
cultures are paraded on a world stage and their practitioners are compelled to define their
authentic culture to others, so they have to invent, embellish, and construct. It is interesting
to note the effect of travel, tourism, and TV shows on notions of authentic national cuisine,
for instance. While ordinary tourists may seek pizza and McDonald’s, up-market and so-
phisticated travelers seek the typical and authentic, and they are increasingly accommodated
by the prominent hotel chains of Hiltons and Sheratons, all featuring “authentic” traditional
restaurants. In Turkey you are offered “Ottoman cuisine” and in Egypt authentic village
foods. The breakfast buffets in the modern hotels now include the common ful, or fava beans
dish, but also the revived belila, a porridge of boiled wheat with sugar and dried fruit.
In conclusion, we may say that our globalized capitalist world is a good example of
what Max Weber called “the disenchantment of the world:” secularization, commercializa-
tion, and the loosening of bonds of family and community all stimulate the search for roots,
for markers of identity, hence the search for authenticity. Note the decline of universalist
ideologies of liberalism or Marxism in favor of ethnic and religious particularities in so
many parts of the world. It is an attempt at “re-enchantment” of the world. Are these at-
tempts, however, merely romantic appendages to the inexorable logic of capitalism? g

· 12 ·

On the Young Ottomans, see Serif Mardin, The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought:
A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas, Princeton NJ: Princeton University
Press 1962. On Afghani, Abdu and Rida, see Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal
Age 1798-1939, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983.

On the Muslim Brotherhood, see Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of Muslim
Brothers, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969, and Giles Kepel, The Prophet and the Pha-
raoh: Muslim Extremism in Egypt, London: Dar Al-Saqi.

See Tariq al-Bishry, Bayna al-Islam wal-Uruba: Fil-Mas’ala al Islamiya al-
Mu’asirah (Between Islam and Arabism: on the contemporary Islamic question), Cairo:
Dar al-Shuruq 1998.

Taha Hussein, Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr (The Future of Culture in Egypt),
Cairo: Dar al-Kutub 1937.

Quoted in Emmanuel Sivan, “Arab Nationalism in the Age of Islamic Resur-
gence,” in James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab
Middle East, New York: Columbia University Press 1997, 207-228.

On Gokalp, see Andrew Davison, “Secularization and Modernization in Turkey:
the Ideas of Zia Gokalp,” Economy and Society 24:2, 1995.

Related in Yael Navaro-Yashin, Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in
Turkey, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2002, 19.

Quoted from the Memoirs of Jawdat Pasha in Niyazi Berkes, The Development of
Secularism in Turkey, London: Hurst 1998 (original 1964). On legal reforms in the Ottoman
and post-Ottoman world, see Sami Zubaida, Law and Power in the Islamic World, London:
IB Tauris 2003, 121-157.

Baudoin Dupret, Au nom de quel droit? Paris: Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
2000, 210.

See William E. Shepard, “Muhammad Sa’id al-‘Ashmawi and the Application of
the Shari’a in Egypt,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28: 1996, 39-58.

Lecture by Hamid Al-Sa’di, Iraqi Maqam singer, reported in Al-Mutamar news-
paper, 20-26 June 2003.

See Sami Zubaida, “Entertainers in Baghdad, 1900-50” in Eugene Rogan, ed.,
Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East, London: IB Tauris 2002, 212-230.
A brief account of the Congress and some of the debates appears in a booklet
accompanying some of the recordings, Congres du Caire 1932, Edition Bibliothèque Na-
tional-France, n.d., 33-37. Also mentioned in AJ Racy, Making Music in the Arab World: The
Culture and History of Tarab, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003, 3.

Martin Stokes, The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey, Ox-
ford: Oxford University Press 1992.

Lahmacun (from Arabic lahm b‘ajin, meat in dough) is a pizza-like pastry popu-
lar in south and east Anatolia, but new to Istanbul.

This is related in David Waines, “Abu Zayd al-Balkhi on the Nature of Forbid-
den Drink: a Medieval Islamic Controversy,” in Manuela Marin and David Waines, eds., La
Alimentacion en las Culturas Islamicas, Madrid: Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Interna-
cional 1994, 111-126.

Related in Francois Georgeon, “Ottomans and Drinkers: the Consumption of
Alcohol in Istanbul in the Nineteenth Century,” in Eugene Rogan, ed., Outside In: On the
Margins of the Modern Middle East, London: IB Tauris 2002, 7-30, 13. The following section
draws largely on this work.

Quoted in Georgeon, as above, p. 17.

Personal observation and press reports of the time.

For an elaboration on this theme, with historical examples, see Sami Zubaida,
“Drink in the Structure of the Meal: Middle Eastern Patterns,” in Harlan Walker, ed., The
Meal, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2001, Blackawton:
Prospect Books 2002, 265-270.

“The Mediterranean diet” has become a popular idiom to indicate healthy food
based on olive oil, salads and pulses. It is celebrated in cookbooks, broadcasts, ready foods
and restaurants. It is, however, a modern invention, as the regions of the Mediterranean
have a wide range of different foods and food cultures, many of them based on meat and
animal fats.

See Sami Zubaida, “Middle Eastern Experiences of Cosmopolitanism,” in Steven
Vertovec and Robin Cohen, eds., Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Contest and Practice,
Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002, 32-41.

Dual Containment: The Demise of a Fallacy

Hisham Melhem (1997)

The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam

Talal Asad (1986)

Imperialism, Globalization and Internationalism: Some Reflections on their Twin Impacts on

the Arab Middle East in the Beginnings of the Arab Middle East in the Beginnings of the Twen-
tieth and Twenty-first Centuries
Roger Owen (2004)

Islam, Jerusalem and the West

Walid Khalidi (1996)

Islamists and the Challenge of Pluralism

Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad (1995)

Religion and Political Development: Comparative Ideas on Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli
Barbara Freyer Stowasser (1983)

Rethinking Islam Today

Mohammed Arkoun (1987)

Saudi Arabia: One Hundred Years Later

CCAS Conference Proceedings (1999)

The US and the Challenge of Democratization in the Arab World

Guilain P. Denoeux (1996)

A View on Islamic Economic Thought

Ibrahim M. Oweiss (2002)

CCAS Occasional Papers are essays, lectures, research notes, and other items of interest to
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Studies. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

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