Source: Lost Islamic History
The evolution of Turkey in the early 1900s is one of the most baffling cultural and social changes in Islamic history. In a few short years, the Ottoman Empire was brought down from within, stripped of its Islamic history, and devolved into a new secular nation known as Turkey. The consequences of this change are still being felt today throughout the Muslim world, and especially in a very polarized and ideologically segmented Turkey.
What caused this monumental change in Turkish government and society? At the center of it all is Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatürk. Through his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, modern secular Turkey was born, and Islam took a backseat in Turkish society.
The Rise of Atatürk
The decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter the First World War in 1914 turned out to be a horrible mistake. The empire was run by a dictatorship led by the “Three Pashas” who unilaterally entered the war on the German side, against the British, French, and Russians. The Ottoman Empire was invaded from the south by the British, from the East by the Russians, and by the Greeks in the West. By 1918 when the war ended, the empire was divided and occupied by the victorious allies, leaving only the central Anatolian highlands under native Turkish control.
It was in central Anatolia where Mustafa Kemal would rise to become a national hero for the Turks. As an Ottoman army officer, he displayed great leadership in battle, especially at Gallipoli, where the Ottomans managed to turn back a British invasion aimed at the capital, Istanbul. After the war, however, Kemal made clear what his priorities were. His main goal was the establishment of Turkish nationalism as the unifying force of the Turkish people. Unlike the multi-ethnic and diverse Ottoman Empire, Kemal aimed to create a monolithic state based on Turkish identity.