Since the nineteenth century, the notion of conforming to the West while preserving our identity has faced a set of objections and claims that the price of catching up with modernity is giving up our identity. They only left a belief in the possibility of achieving this, and they were seen as naive and detached from reality.
In fact, the arguments on which this realistic thought is based are mainly related to the wide gap that has come to separate us from our civilization, in the context of our endeavor to keep up with modernity.
We no longer stand at the point from which this discussion was launched, and we have motives and goals that differ greatly from those who launched these ideas many years ago, and modernity has become prevalent in all institutions and dominates the ways of thinking, we have created a new position for ourselves within this modernity. Perhaps the only mistake is that we continue to ask the same questions without looking at the experiences that we have gone through during these years, and the changes that have occurred.
Who were the pioneers who posed these questions about modernity and originality? Can they be called naive and unrealistic? We can attribute the beginning of these ideas to Namik Kemal, one of the most prominent Ottoman thinkers and statesmen, writer and poet Dia Pasha, who later crystallized them in the most concise and eloquent terms of Muhammad Akef Arsoy, then the publications of Sabil al-Rashad magazine at the beginning of the 19th century.
After those defeats suffered by the Islamic world, including Turkey, the modernist ideology was imposed in its most extreme version, and inserted with its advantages and disadvantages. During that period, the Muslim world was denied even the right to organize elections in line with its interests
But what is the main difference between the perception of the self in the perception of these thinkers, and our perception of ourselves in the current era? They were in a position of alert and defense of the Ottoman state and society, and they represented a live political front in the face of the Western threat, which tried to expand day by day. In this context, they considered that it is possible to take the sciences and technologies that have made the West strong, by isolating this knowledge from the culture, religion and ideology surrounding it, in order to win the challenge before the West.
Muhammad Akef was famous for his poetic verses, in which he calls for taking science and artifacts from the West, diligence in work, and considering that arts and knowledge do not belong to a specific nation. Some later Islamic thinkers mocked and mocked these ideas. Because they considered it impossible to separate science from culture, and technology from ideology. The main argument on which they are based is precisely what we live in today, as Muslims have taken Western technologies, and with them they have taken culture and ideology.
But this modern vision ignores many important details, and includes a confusion between causes and consequences. Muslims today, especially Turkey, have not been reached by Western ideology and culture through the gate of science and technology. On the contrary, these elements were imposed through political coercion, and the Islamic world completely lost its right to self-determination after World War II.
After those defeats suffered by the Islamic world, including Turkey, the modernist ideology was imposed in its most extreme version, and inserted with its advantages and disadvantages. During that period, the Islamic world became deprived of even the right to organize elections in line with its interests, and thus the Western lifestyle did not reach Muslims spontaneously as an ideology accompanying science and technology. Rather, it was imposed by force, and these events are ignored by the thinkers, who attack Akef without looking at these differences.
Likewise, the thinkers of that era felt the burden of responsibility towards the Islamic world, unlike those who came after them from the Republicans. So Akef and his friends felt the gravity of the situation and the threats that their country and the Islamic world faced before Western imperialism, and they were looking for solutions to this dilemma. Therefore, they developed Islamic jurisprudence and legalized the permissibility of taking science and making use of any source or country, even if it is the West or China, to exempt Muslims from the embarrassment that they may feel about seeking knowledge from foreign countries.
In addition, there are many examples of scholars and thinkers who borrowed Western sciences and technologies, without this preventing them from adopting their own positions and ideas, and among those Muslim thinkers mentioned above, and therefore access to these sciences does not necessarily mean denial of self and abdication of positions, Modernity and Western science is not a road without an exit or an inevitable catastrophe; But we can do well with it as long as we believe in ourselves.