David Moshfegh received his PhD in European Intellectual History from U. C. Berkeley and is currently professor of History and Humanities at IE University in Madrid. His forthcoming volume, “Ignaz Goldziher and the Rise of Islamwissenschaft as a ‘Science of Religion’”, places the ‘Science of Islam’ within the nineteenth century context of Protestant and Jewish reformists who competitively historicized and idealized their respective traditions.
A German Jihad or an Ottoman Sonderweg: the World War I Jihad Debate in Islamwissenschaft
In 1915, one of the founders of Islamwissenschaft, the Dutch Orientalist and colonial administrator, C. Snouck Hurgronje, wrote a pamphlet, “Holy War ‘Made in Germany’”, that accused German colleagues of betraying their scholarship to unleash medieval fanaticism in backing the Ottoman Jihad call in WWI. The pamphlet led to a heated debate between Snouck and Islamicists on the German side, particularly his friend and disciple, C. H. Becker. Scholarship on the ‘German Jihad’ has largely functioned within Snouck’s framework: it has asked if Jihad ‘worked’ and reviewed the pitfalls of politicized scholarship or Orientalism as inherently political. I challenge existing scholarship by taking the debate seriously. I highlight Becker’s defense of the Ottoman Jihad, as culturally autonomous modernization on the model of the German Sonderweg, to argue the Jihad debate is one we continue to pursue about religion, politics and what it means to be modern. I thus confront the facile idea that the political character of Orientalism made it all part of the same dehumanizing, imperialist piece.