As the 19th century entered its last decades, Germany—in contrast to France and Britain—had no colonies in the Arab world, and unlike either these powers or Russia, had no designs on the Ottoman empire’s territory. It therefore sought an alliance with the sultan, which, Wolfgang Schwanitz argues, would have long-lasting consequences.
Kaiser Wilhelm II . . . feared that Germany’s neighbors would import soldiers from abroad and use them in Europe against Germany. The Kaiser developed a new policy: align with the Ottomans, and, in case of an all-out war in Europe, turn Muslims against their colonial masters.
After the Kaiser’s trip to the Ottoman empire in 1898, [this evolved into an] “official Islam policy.” The Kaiser’s [challenge] was to avoid Islamist revolts in his own colonial areas while inciting them in his neighbors’ colonial territories. Germany did not have colonies in the Middle East, so his rivals would need to send colonial soldiers from Europe to put down any revolts overseas.
These ideas came to fruition when World War I broke out in 1914, and Germany found itself fighting Russia, France, and Britain simultaneously:
Oppenheim penned a plan for the Kaiser in early November 1914: The Revolutionizing of Islamic Areas of Our Foes. According to the text, the sultan would call for jihad against the Allies. Berlin would deliver money, experts, and guns. The Germans would seek to galvanize Muslims in British India, French North Africa, and Russian Asia, in addition to all Muslims in the enemies’ armies. The call to jihad would go out in their languages. Berlin would create an Oriental News Organization with up to 75 “reading halls” in the Ottoman empire. . . . Expeditions would be sent out to incite local jihad by fatwas that prepare for revolts from Kabul to India.
Now, 100 years later, the legacy of the German-Ottoman alliance and call for Islamist revolts endures.