'Religious hatred shall disappear from the land' – Iraqi Jews as Ottoman Subjects, 1864–1913

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Abstract:

The essay discusses the ways in which Jewish-Iraqi cultural production of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century responded to processes initiated by the Ottoman state. Iraqi Jews, I argue, wished to integrate into both the Ottoman state and Iraqi society. Thus, Iraqi Jewish intellectuals gradually shifted from writing in Judeo-Arabic into writing in Arabic and Ottoman-Turkish, and this shift signified their commitments to both the Ottoman state and the Iraqi community. The publications of leading Jewish Baghdadi Rabbis, the accounts of Jewish travellers to Iraq and publications of Iraqi Jews in the Hebrew, Arabic and Turkish presses regarding Ottoman reforms and the constitutional revolution (1908) reveal how these Ottoman Jewish subjects advanced secular, non-sectarian politics in modern Iraq. The types of relationships that they hoped to maintain with the state and the cultural choices they adopted in order to integrate into it changed their self-perceptions and their perceptions of their Muslim and Christian neighbours. In the years following the 1908 revolution, in particular, Jewish intellectual production put forth the notion that the political community included more than the members of a particular religious community. The fact that the Jewish community was a small religious group did not engender a sense of cultural isolation, but rather generated processes of modification of certain imperial and local discourses into the Jewish community. This anti-sectarian approach further suggests that the Iraqi Hashemite kingdom had roots dating back to the Tanzimat and the Young Turk periods, and that state-building and nation-building efforts aimed at constructing non-religious civil affiliations predate the Hashemite monarchy.
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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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