Who says empires are bad? The multi-ethnic Ottoman Turkish Empire, like the coeval multi-ethnic Hapsburg Austrian one, was more hospitable to minorities than the uni-ethnic democratic states that immediately succeeded it. The Ottoman caliphate welcomed Turkish, Kurdish, and other Muslims with open arms, and tolerated Christian Armenians and Jews. The secular-minded, modernizing "Young Turk" politicians who brought down the empire did not. They used Kurds as subcontractors in a full-scale assault on Armenians, which scholars now argue about calling genocide. Ottoman toleration was built on territorial indifference. Because the same loosely administered imperial rule extended from the Balkans to Mesopotamia, and as far south as Yemen, minorities could live anywhere within this space without provoking issues of sovereignty. Violent discussions over what group got to control which territory emerged only when the empire came to an end, after World War I.
The collapse of the Ottoman sultanate continues to haunt geopolitics: it gave birth to questions about the territorial status of Christians in Lebanon and of Jews in Palestine, and about whether Kurds north of Baghdad should live in the same polity as Mesopotamian Arabs to the south. Moreover, it changed the direction of Muslim thought. For 850 years—from 1071, when the Seljuks defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert, in eastern Anatolia, to the end of World War I—the House of Islam had drawn its spiritual direction from Turkey, not from Arabia or Iran. But with the official abolition of the Constantinople-based caliphate, in 1924, there was no longer any universally accepted authority for the interpretation of Muslim law. In the competition for doctrinal legitimacy that has followed, the most radical interpretations have won out.