REVIEW of REVIEWS

Western Ideas Invade the East

SIR E. DENISON ROSS March 15 1929
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Western Ideas Invade the East

SIR E. DENISON ROSS March 15 1929

Western Ideas Invade the East

But the Westernization is Only Outward, Says Orientalist.

SIR E. DENISON ROSS

CHANGES in fashion and the mode of living which have recently been brought about in Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey, are westernizing the unchanging East—externally. But, asks Sir E. Denison Ross, Director of the London School of Oriental Studies, in an article to the Daily Mail, “will the wearing of perfectly creased trousers and bowler hats and gowns fresh from London and Paris really change the Eastern mind?” His answer is in the negative. The East is changing outwardly because its peoples and governments hope thereby to secure equality of opportunity with the Western world, and remove superficial differences that hamper free intercourse between them.

“The latest step in this direction,” says he, “is Mustapha Kemal’s desire for a common weekly feast-day in his country. The Muslims’ Sunday is Friday and the Jews keep Saturday. This is very inconvenient from a business point of view, so it is now proposed that everybody shall observe the same day as Christians.

“With regard to clothes, westernization began with the abolition of the fez, for the eason that it was a particularly characteristic relic of the bad old days of the Ottoman Empire. Mustapha Kemal’s special objection to the fez was that it was not characteristically Turkish.

“While taking from the West whatever he thinks is best in its institutions, Mustapha Kemal is determined to preserve the national identity of Turkey. His purpose in availing himself of Western examples is to give the Turks a new standard of life—not to make the East West.” Some recent changes, religious and constitutional, are almost revolutionary in scope, and nothing but public confidence in Mustapha Kemal’s statesmanship could have made them possible. The Muslim law which is based on the Koran as interpreted by medieval theologians, offered a most formidable barrier to reform. But “recognizing the absolute immutability of this system, he has not attempted to tamper with it. Instead, he has introduced the Swiss code almost in its entirety. This is extremely important, for it affects the status of women enormously. It has emancipated them and rendered them no longer subject to the primitive divorce laws of Islam.”

Another change in the cause of progress is the adoption of the Roman alphabet which has now displaced the traditional usage of Arabic script. “Great difficulties attended the learning of Turkish through the medium of this script—difficulties which will altogether disappear when the perfected adaptation of the Latin alphabet to Turkish has been arrived at.”

In Sir Edward’s opinion, westernization will have no effect on Turkish art but may bring influence to bear on its architecture. “Whatever happens, Turkey’s mosques will, I am fairly convinced, never disappear in favor of Western cathedrals. At the present time there is a fast-growing tendency among the people of Turkey to admire their architectural and other antiquities—and it is a strange fact that this is due to the increasing interest shown in those antiquities by European archaeologists and explorers. The westernizing movement in Afghanistan is similar to that which is going on in Turkey.

“The aim of Amanullah is the same as that of Mustapha Kemal—to eliminate from his country those conditions and things which prevent its taking its part in world progress.”