[...] An important venue for this Ottoman cosmopolitanism were the Masonic lodges. Ottoman Muslims were admitted into these lodges in the 1860s and many intellectuals and public figures embraced Masonry with enthusiasm. The lodges they favoured followed the French Grand Orient, which, unlike its British counterparts, jettisoned the references to a Supreme Being, and the Immortality of the Soul, the deistic principle of earlier Masonry. It also embraced the slogan of the French Revolution of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity (to which the later Young Turks added Justice). In effect, those lodges favoured secular positivism and rationality, which was part of its attraction to Ottoman liberals. Membership included Greeks, Armenians and Jews, as well as European residents. Turkish was introduced as one of the languages of proceeding in some lodges. Many Ottoman intellectuals combined Masonry and positivism with heterodox Muslim mysticism, notably Bektashism, a historic Turkish Sufi order, outlawed in the 1820s and organised in secret societies. Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), the main reference of Muslim mysticism, was embraced alongside Herbert Spencer and Auguste Comte. What the two strands had in common was the rejection of religious authority and institutions. Masonry was equally prevalent in Egypt, where the Muslim reformer Jamal-ad-Din Al-Afghani (1838-1897) was the master of a lodge, which also embraced some of his followers, including Muhammad Abdu (1849-1905). It played an important part in the politics of the elites. The Iraqi poet, Ma`ruf al-Rusafi (d.1945) was recruited into a lodge when in Istanbul, but renounced that affiliation in statements in later life as an Iraqi and Arab nationalist.
The conspiracy which culminated in the Young Turk revolution of 1908 took place within the Italian Masonic lodge in Salonica. The legal immunities of the foreigners and their homes in that city offered protection for the military conspirators from Hamidian police and spies. In 1909 there was a counter-revolution in Istanbul, in support of the Sultan and the Islamic shari`a, led by religious figures. This was put down by army contingents from Salonica, and culminated in the deposition of the Sultan. The four member delegation which went to the Palace to inform Abdul-Hamid of his deposition were all from minority communities, including the Jew Emmanuel Karasso, a prominent Mason. Of course this fed into later conspiracy theories about Masons and Jews plotting to end the last Islamic caliphate. Karasso, in fact, was an Ottomanist, and explicitly rejected Zionist claims.
Posts Tagged ‘Bektashi’
“[The Bektashi] are even said to be affiliated to some of the French Masonic Lodges. One thing is certain; the order now consists almost exclusively of gentlemen of education, belonging to the Liberal, or Young Turk party.”
- Richard Davey, The Sultan and His Subjects  (Gorgias Press LLC, 2001), p. 65.
I’m not that familiar with the Bektashi Order, but it turns out that this politico-mystical secret society - directly or indirectly - was the inspiration behind the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
Freemasons Dr. Walter M. Fleming, 33°, and William J. Florence, 32°, founded the Shriners in 1870. And in recounting the origins of their Order, Florence and Fleming corroborate the above statement by Richard Davey.