No, it was secular nationalism that killed them, the pseudo-religion that exalts the Turkish nation. ~Morning’s Minion
Undoubtedly pan-Turanism and Turkish nationalism masquerading as Ottomanism were profoundly significant ideological factors in driving the genocide, and I wouldn’t even object to allowing that they were the most significant factors for the architects of the genocide. In addition to pointing to the basic Muslim identity of the irregulars, both Turkish and Kurdish, who carried out most of the actual looting and killing, I would point to an important feature of the ideology of the CUP leadership that is very often glossed over in many traditional accounts of this group. Taner Akcam, who will probably not be mistaken for a “right-wing culture warrior” (though I might fairly be described as such), wrote in his masterful A Shameful Act on the Islamic background to the genocide:
In addition to the general subjugation of all its subjects, the Ottoman state specifically oppressed and discriminated against non-Muslims. Indeed, in the course of Ottoman rule, long-standing assumptions of Muslim superiority evolved into the legal and cultural attitudes that created the background for genocide. This is not to say that the Ottoman Empire rested only on violence, but that without a grasp of the particular circumstances of the Muslim-non-Muslim relationship, we cannot understand the process that led to a decision for a “final solution” to the Armenian question….The Muslim-Christian clashes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the Armenian genocide must be considered against this background. Accordingly, the view that relative peace prevailed prior to the emergence of nineteenth-century nationalism, [sic] is not only incorrect but also misleading. (p.19-20)
Solidarity among the empire’s Muslims, no matter what, was the psychological product of decline and disintegration coupled with the belief of being surrounded by hostile forces desiring the state’s elimination. Thus Pan-Islamism was transformed into state ideology.
For this reason the attacks, mainly against the Armenians, had the nature of pogroms. The state unleashed its attacks on the slightest provocation, calculating that this would bind Muslims more closely to the empire. The Austrian ambassador to the Porte reported that Muslims were being armed and set into action against Christians, calling this a policy a “Muslim Crusade.” From reportss of the various diplomatic missions in Istanbul and eyewitness accounts, it is clear that the massacres of 1894-96 were centrally planned. (p.44)
And again Dr. Akcam wrote:
For all their differences, these divergent currents–Ottomanism, Islamism, Turkism, and Westernism–shared one core premise: the nationalism of a dominant ethnic group, which was understood to mean the Turks. (p.49)
Elsewhere he stresses the flexibility of the CUP in stressing different aspects of their ideology according to perceived need; when it helped to speak of jihad, they spoke of jihad, and when it helped to speak in racialist terms, they spoke as racialists. Whichever way you slice it, this was a nasty bunch. They were motivated by a number of different senses of their rightful superiority over Armenians and other minorities, one of which in this case was Islam, albeit an Islam as mediated through a particularly Turkist filter.
Speaking of “right-wing culture warriors” and the Armenian genocide together is notable for another reason, since relatively few “right-wing culture warriors” over here have any familiarity with the genocide and even fewer care very much. I have noticed that almost the only people who have shown any interest in what I have had to say about the genocide have been on the left or center-left. It is not for nothing that it is the Democrats who consistently push for recognition of the genocide, if only because Armenian-Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Christian conservatives, who might theoretically be natural allies for the Diasporan Armenians in this area, seem to be generally uninterested in the question.
Depressingly, any sense of solidarity with Armenian Christians that one might think Christians in this country would or ought to have is virtually non-existent. For obvious reasons, American Jews are much more aware of the genocide and they tend to be more involved in promoting knowledge about the Armenian genocide. Likewise, the slaughter of the Assyrians undertaken at around the same time is also largely unknown to American Christians, just as the sorry fate of today’s Assyrians is overshadowed by an unfortunate commitment to Mr. Bush’s War. This deplorable neglect of Near Eastern Christians is repeated time and again across much of the American right. The response tends to be one of ignorance, indifference or some mixture of the two, so I would be very interested to see more “right-wing culture warriors” at least paying some lip service to remembering the Armenian genocide.