3 March

On this day, every year without fail, in commemoration of the dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate, a curious quotation misattributed to then Foreign Secretary George Curzon is regurgitated all over social media by people who should, by now, know better:

“The situation now is that the Islamic Caliphate in Turkey is dead and will never rise again, because we have destroyed its moral strength, the Caliphate and Islam. We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. As we have already succeeded in finishing off the Caliphate, so we must ensure that there will never arise again unity for the Muslims, whether it be intellectual or cultural unity.”

Though it was established long ago that there is no evidence the Foreign Secretary ever uttered these words either in the House of Commons or elsewhere, it has passed into folklore and has become fact, and no amount of appeals to the sciences of verification can do anything about it. When words become a weapon in the armoury of keen activists, truth becomes irrelevant. They may be legends, but at least they are our legends. In politics, fact and fiction are inextricably mixed, and ends justify means. Truth has no place in these battles of ours.

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