Eurabia's Morass Elicits Mythical 'Solutions'
After nearly three successive weeks of rioting in France by predominantly Muslim youths, the violence has ebbed, albeit to an uneasy level in considerable excess of the early October 'baseline' before the riots (for example, in terms of vehicles burnt per day see this graph).
The prevailing apologetics regarding these disturbances, which emanate from pundits across the political spectrum, denies or trivializes the role of Islam. For example, although twelve Christian churches were desecrated and/or burned by the overwhelmingly Muslim rioters in France during the intifada, these bigoted acts were barely reported by investigative journalists or bloggers, and ignored altogether by pontificating commentators.
Apologetic assessments further ignored the existence of ominous and influential Islamic entities such as the Arab European League (a hideous group which equates the assimilation of Muslims within a European context, to rape), or the European Fatwa Council, headed by Muslim Brotherhood 'spiritual' leader Yusuf Al—Qaradawi, who sanctions homicide bombings against Israeli non—combatants, and has stated publicly that 'Islam will conquer Europe'.
Also absent from such discussions were the alarming statements made by European Muslim leaders at a conference entitled, 'Islam in Europe' that accompanied the July 10, 2003 opening of the new Granada Mosque. The keynote speaker at this erstwhile 'ecumenical' conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, implored Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by switching to gold dinars, and ceasing to use Western currencies), while the German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told attendees not to adapt their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment ?) values.
Finally, none of the apologetic narratives acknowledged, let alone addressed the implications of disturbing survey results from British Muslims polled shortly after the 7/7/05 London bombings. These data revealed that one—third of British Muslims were brazen enough to admit, 'Western society is decadent and immoral and ...Muslims should seek to bring it to an end', expressing ostensibly, their desire to replace Britain's current liberal democracy with a Shari'a—based theocratic model .
French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut has noted, appositely, that it is a reductio ad absurdum to view the 'social dimension' of the riots in France exclusively (and obsessively), as,
...a revolt of youths from the suburbs against their situation, against the discrimination they suffer from, against the unemployment. The problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity....in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult—Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese—and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno—religious character.
Despite Finkielkraudt's salient observations, and others by the rare reporters Melanie Phillips aptly lauded for simply having '...their heads screwed on the right way', Phillips warned of the dominant mentality which sought to negate the truth through vilification, and replace reality with fantasy.
Amir Taheri has cited perhaps the most disturbing examples of this proclivity to indulge ahistorical and dangerous fantasy. Two mythical inventions of purported 'ecumenical' Islamic rule in Europe have been revived— the 'Andalusian paradise' of Muslim Spain, and the former Ottoman millet system (most relevantly, in Eastern Europe, primarily the Balkans). Taheri reports that Gilles Kepel, who (despite arguing prior to 9/11 that jihadism was a spent force within the global Muslim umma!) currently serves as an adviser on Islam to President Chirac, recommended the creation of a modern Andalusia,
'...in which Christians and Muslims would live side by side and cooperate to create a new cultural synthesis'.
Taheri, but unfortunately, not Kepel, Chirac's adviser, possessed the wisdom to ponder the critical matter of sovereign political power, asking '...Who will rule this new Andalusia: Muslims or the largely secularist Frenchmen?'. Other muddled thinkers, '...are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the 'millet' system of the Ottoman Empire: Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs', according to Taheri.
Andalusian 'Cultural Synthesis', and the 'Tolerant' Ottoman Millet System*
Andalusia' Without Camouflage
The Iberian peninsula was conquered in 710—716 C.E. by Arab tribes originating from northern, central and southern Arabia. A classical jihad, the conquest proceeded with enormous pillaging, enslavement, deportation, and massacre. Most churches were converted into mosques. Massive Arab and Berber immigration and colonization ensued. Toledo, which had first submitted to the Arabs in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. The town was punished by pillage and all the notables had their throats cut. In 730, the Cerdagne (in Septimania, near Barcelona) was ravaged and a bishop burned alive. In the regions under stable Islamic control, subjugated non—Muslim dhimmis —Jews and Christians— like elsewhere in other Islamic lands — were prohibited from building new churches or synagogues, or restoring the old ones. Segregated in special quarters, they had to wear discriminatory clothing. Subjected to heavy taxes, the Christian peasantry formed a servile class exploited by the dominant Arab ruling elites; many abandoned their land and fled to the towns. Harsh reprisals with mutilations and crucifixions would sanction the Mozarab (Christian dhimmis) calls for help from the Christian kings. Moreover, if one dhimmi harmed a Muslim, the whole community would lose its status of protection, leaving it open to pillage, enslavement and arbitrary killing.
By the end of the eighth century, the rulers of North Africa and of Andalusia had introduced rigorous Maliki jurisprudence as the predominant school of Muslim law. Thus, as Evariste L i—Provençal, observed, three quarters of a century ago:
The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.
Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq provides these illustrations of the resulting religious and legal discriminations dhimmis suffered, and the accompanying incentives for them to convert to Islam:
...the freedom of the 'infidels' was constantly at risk. Non—payment of the head—tax by a dhimmi made him liable to all the Islamic penalties for debtors who did not repay their creditors; the offender could be sold into slavery or even put to death. In addition, non—payment of the poll—tax by one or several dhimmis — especially if it was fraudulent — allowed the Moslem authority, at its discretion, to put an end to the autonomy of the community to which the guilty party or parties belonged. Thus, from one day to the next, all the Christians in a city could lose their status as a protected people through the fault of just one of them. Everything could be called into question, including their personal liberty...Furthermore, non—payment of the legal tribute was not the only reason for abrogating the status of the 'People of the Book'; another was 'public outrage against the Islamic faith', for example, leaving exposed, for Moslems to see, a cross or wine or even pigs.
...by converting [to Islam], one would no longer have to be confined to a given district, or be the victim of discriminatory measures or suffer humiliations...Furthermore, the entire Islamic law tended to favor conversions. When an "infidel" became a Moslem, he immediately benefited from a complete amnesty for all of his earlier crimes, even if he had been sentenced to the death penalty, even if it was for having insulted the Prophet or blasphemed against the Word of God: his conversion acquitted him of all his faults, of all his previous sins. A legal opinion given by a mufti from al—Andalus in the ninth century is very instructive: a Christian dhimmi kidnapped and violated a Moslem woman; when he was arrested and condemned to death, he immediately converted to Islam; he was automatically pardoned, while being constrained to marry the woman and to provide for her a dowry in keeping with her status. The mufti who was consulted about the affair, perhaps by a brother of the woman, found that the court decision was perfectly legal, but specified that if that convert did not become a Moslem in good faith and secretly remained a Christian, he should be flogged, slaughtered and crucified...
Al—Andalus represented the land of jihad par excellence. Every year (or multiple times within a year as 'seasonal' razzias [ghazwa]) raiding expeditions were sent to ravage the Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, the Basque regions, or France and the Rhone valley, bringing back booty and slaves. Andalusian corsairs attacked and invaded along the Sicilian and Italian coasts, even as far as the Aegean Islands, looting and burning as they went. Many thousands of non—Muslim captives were deported to slavery in Andalusia, where the caliph kept a militia of tens of thousand of Christian slaves, brought from all parts of Christian Europe (the Saqaliba), and a harem filled with captured Christian women.
Society was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines, with the Arab tribes at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Berbers who were never recognized as equals, despite their Islamization; lower in the scale came the mullawadun converts and, at the very bottom, the dhimmi Christians and Jews. The Andalusian Maliki jurist Ibn Abdun (d. 1134) offered these telling legal opinions regarding Jews and Christians in Seville around 1100 C.E.:
No...Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual; on the contrary they must be detested and avoided. It is forbidden to [greet] them with the [expression], 'Peace be upon you'. In effect, 'Satan has gained possession of them, and caused them to forget God's warning. They are the confederates of Satan's party; Satan's confederates will surely be the losers!' (Qur'an 58:19 [modern Dawood translation]). A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them in order that they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace.
Another prominent Andalusian jurist, Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064), wrote that Allah had established the infidels' ownership of their property merely to provide booty for Muslims.
In Granada, the Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela, and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, followed by the annihilation of the Jewish population by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to five thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade. The Granada pogrom was likely to have been incited, in part, by the bitter anti—Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq a well known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote:
Bring them down to their place and Return them to the most abject station. They used to roam around us in tatters Covered with contempt, humiliation, and scorn. They used to rummage amongst the dungheaps for a bit of a filthy rag To serve as a shroud for a man to be buried in...Do not consider that killing them is treachery. Nay, it would be treachery to leave them scoffing.' [The translator then summarizes: 'The Jews have broken their covenant (i.e., overstepped their station, with reference to the Covenant of Umar) and compunction would be out of place.]
The discriminatory policies of the Berber Muslim Almoravids, who arrived in Spain in 1086, and subsequently those of the even more fanaticized and violent Almohad Berber Muslims (who arrived in Spain in 1146—1147) caused a rapid attrition of the pre—Islamic Iberian Christian (Mozarab) communities, nearly extinguishing them. The Almoravid attitude towards the Mozarabs is well reflected by three successive expulsions of the latter to Morocco: in 1106, 1126, and 1138. The oppressed Mozarabs sent emissaries to the king of Aragon, Alphonso 1st le Batailleur (1104—1134), asking him to come to their rescue and deliver them from the Almoravids. Following the raid that the King of Aragon launched in Andalusia in 1125—1126 in responding to the pleas of Grenada's Mozarabs, the latter were deported en masse to Morocco in the Fall of 1126.
The Almohads (1130—1232) wrought tremendous destruction upon both the Jewish and Christian populations in Spain and North Africa. This devastation—massacre, captivity, and forced conversion—was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud, and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim 'inquisitors' (i.e., antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators. Maimonides, the renowned philosopher and physician, experienced the Almohad persecutions, and had to flee Cordoba with his entire family in 1148, temporarily residing in Fez — disguised as a Muslim — before finding asylum in Fatimid Egypt. Indeed, although Maimonides is frequently referred to as a paragon of Jewish achievement facilitated by the enlightened rule of Andalusia, his own words debunk this utopian view of the Islamic treatment of Jews:
..the Arabs have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us...Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they...
The 'Tolerant' Millet System—From Ottoman Jihad to Ottoman Dhimmitude
The contemporary Turkish scholar of Ottoman history, Halil Inalcik, has also emphasized the importance of Muslim religious zeal—expressed through jihad—as a primary motivation for the conquests of the Ottoman Turks:
The ideal of gaza, Holy War, was an important factor in the foundation and development of the Ottoman state. Society in the frontier principalities conformed to a particular cultural pattern imbued with the ideal of continuous Holy War and continuous expansion of the Dar ul Islam—the realms of Islam— until they covered the whole world.
Incited by pious Muslim theologians, these ghazis were at the vanguard of both the Seljuk and Ottoman jihad conquests. A.E. Vacalopoulos highlights the role of the dervishes during the Ottoman campaigns:
...fanatical dervishes and other devout Muslim leaders...constantly toiled for the dissemination of Islam. They had done so from the very beginning of the Ottoman state and had played an important part in the consolidation and extension of Islam. These dervishes were particularly active in the uninhabited frontier regions of the east. Here they settled down with their families, attracted other settlers, and thus became the virtual founders of whole new villages, whose inhabitants invariably exhibited the same qualities of deep religious fervor. From places such as these, the dervishes or their agents would emerge to take part in new military enterprises for the extension of the Islamic state. In return, the state granted them land and privileges under a generous prescription which required only that the land be cultivated and communications secured.
The Islamization of Asia Minor was complemented by parallel and subsequent Ottoman jihad campaigns in the Balkans. Vacalopoulos, commenting on the initial Ottoman forays into Thrace during the mid 14th century, and Dimitar Angelov, who provides an overall assessment highlighting the later campaigns of Murad II (1421—1451) and Mehmed II (1451—1481), elucidate the impact of the Ottoman jihad on the vanquished Balkan populations:
From the very beginning of the Turkish onslaught [in Thrace] under Suleiman [son of Sultan Orchan], the Turks tried to consolidate their position by the forcible imposition of Islam. If [the Ottoman historian] Sukrullah is to be believed, those who refused to accept the Moslem faith were slaughtered and their families enslaved. 'Where there were bells', writes the same author [i.e., Sukrullah], 'Suleiman broke them up and cast them into fires. Where there were churches he destroyed them or converted them into mosques. Thus, in place of bells there were now muezzins. Wherever Christian infidels were still found, vassalage was imposed on their rulers. At least in public they could no longer say 'kyrie eleison' but rather 'There is no God but Allah'; and where once their prayers had been addressed to Christ, they were now to 'Muhammad, the prophet of Allah'.'
...the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula accomplished by the Turks over the course of about two centuries caused the incalculable ruin of material goods, countless massacres, the enslavement and exile of a great part of the population — in a word, a general and protracted decline of productivity, as was the case with Asia Minor after it was occupied by the same invaders. This decline in productivity is all the more striking when one recalls that in the mid—fourteenth century, as the Ottomans were gaining a foothold on the peninsula, the States that existed there — Byzantium, Bulgaria and Serbia — had already reached a rather high level of economic and cultural development....The campaigns of Mourad II (1421—1451) and especially those of his successor, Mahomet II (1451—1481) in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and in the Byzantine princedom of the Peloponnesus, were of a particularly devastating character. During the campaign that the Turks launched in Serbia in 1455—1456, Belgrade, Novo—Bardo and other towns were to a great extent destroyed. The invasion of the Turks in Albania during the summer of 1459 caused enormous havoc. According to the account of it written by Kritobulos, the invaders destroyed the entire harvest and leveled the fortified towns that they had captured. The country was afflicted with further devastation in 1466 when the Albanians, after putting up heroic resistance, had to withdraw into the most inaccessible regions, from which they continued the struggle. Many cities were likewise ruined during the course of the campaign led by Mahomet II in 1463 against Bosnia — among them Yaytzé, the capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia...But it was the Peloponnesus that suffered most from the Turkish invasions. It was invaded in 1446 by the armies of Murad II, which destroyed a great number of places and took thousands of prisoners. Twelve years later, during the summer of 1458, the Balkan Peninsula was invaded by an enormous Turkish army under the command of Mahomet II and his first lieutenant Mahmoud Pasha. After a siege that lasted four months, Corinth fell into enemy hands. Its walls were razed, and many places that the sultan considered useless were destroyed. The work by Kritobulos contains an account of the Ottoman campaigns, which clearly shows us the vast destruction caused by the invaders in these regions. Two years later another Turkish army burst into the Peloponnesus. This time Gardiki and several other places were ruined. Finally, in 1464, for the third time, the destructive rage of the invaders was aimed at the Peloponnesus. That was when the Ottomans battled the Venetians and leveled the city of Argos to its foundations.
In examining how the non—Muslim populations vanquished by the Ottoman jihad campaigns fared, it is useful to begin with the Jews, the least numerous population, who are also generally believed to have had quite a positive experience. Joseph Hacker studied the fate of Jews during their initial absorption into the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. His research questions the uncritical view that from its outset the, '..Jewish experience' in the Ottoman Empire '..was a calm, peaceful, and fruitful one..'.Hacker notes:
...It would seem to me that this accepted view of consistently good relations between the Ottomans and the Jews during the 15th century should be modified in light of new research and manuscript resources.
The Jews, like other inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire, suffered heavily from the Ottoman jihad conquests and policies of colonization and population transfer (i.e., the surgun system). This explains the disappearance of several Jewish communities, including Salonica, and their founding anew by Spanish Jewish immigrants. Hacker observes, specifically:
...We possess letters written about the fate of Jews who underwent one or another of the Ottoman conquests. In one of the letters which was written before 1470, there is a description of the fate of such a Jew and his community, according to which description, written in Rhodes and sent to Crete, the fate of the Jews was not different from that of Christians. Many were killed; others were taken captive, and children were [enslaved, forcibly converted to Islam, and] brought to devshirme...Some letters describe the carrying of the captive Jews to Istanbul and are filled with anti—Ottoman sentiments. Moreover, we have a description of the fate of a Jewish doctor and homilist from Veroia (Kara—Ferya) who fled to Negroponte when his community was driven into exile in 1455. He furnished us with a description of the exiles and their forced passage to Istanbul. Later on we find him at Istanbul itself, and in a homily delivered there in 1468 he expressed his anti—Ottoman feelings openly. We also have some evidence that the Jews of Constantinople suffered from the conquest of the city and that several were sold into slavery.
Three summary conclusions are drawn by Hacker: (i) Strong anti—Ottoman feelings prevailed in some Byzantine Jewish circles in the first decades after the fall of Constantinople. These feelings were openly expressed by people living under Latin rule and to some extent even in Istanbul.; (ii) Mehmed II's policies toward non—Muslims made possible the substantial economic and social development of the Jewish communities in the empire, and especially in the capital — Istanbul. These communities were protected by him against popular hatred, and especially from blood libels. However, this policy was not continued by Bayezid II and there is evidence that under his rule the Jews suffered severe restrictions in their religious life.; (iii) The friendly policies of Mehmed on the one hand, and the good reception by Bayezid II of Spanish Jewry on the other, cause the Jewish writers of the sixteenth century to overlook both the destruction which Byzantine Jewry suffered during the Ottoman conquests and the later outbursts of oppression under both Bayezid II and Selim I.
Ivo Andric analyzed the 'rayah' (meaning 'herd', and 'to graze a herd') or dhimmi condition imposed upon the indigenous Christian population of Bosnia, for four centuries. Those native Christian inhabitants who refused to apostasize to Islam lived under the Ottoman Kanun—i—Rayah, which merely reiterated the essential regulations of dhimmitude originally formulated by Muslim jurists and theologians in the 7th and 8th centuries C.E. Andric's presentation
...a wealth of irrefutable evidence that the main points of the Kanun, just those that cut the deepest into the moral and economic life of Christians, remained in full force right up to the end of Turkish rule and as long as the Turks had the power to apply them...[thus] it was inevitable that the rayah decline to a status that was economically inferior and dependent
Andric cites a Bosnian Muslim proverb, and a song honoring Sultan Bayezid II, whose shared perspectives reflect Muslim attitudes toward the Christian rayahs:
[proverb] 'The rayah is like the grass,/Mow it as much as you will, still it springs up anew'
[song] 'Once you'd broken Bosnia's horns/You mowed down what would not be pruned/Leaving only the riffraff behind/So there'd be someone left to serve us and grieve before the cross'
These prevailing discriminatory conditions were exacerbated by Bosnia's serving as either a battlefield or staging ground during two centuries of Ottoman razzias and formal jihad campaigns against Hungary. Overcome by excessive taxation and conscript labor,
Christians therefore began to abandon their houses and plots of land situated in level country and along the roads and to retreat back into the mountains. And as they did so, moving ever higher into inaccessible regions, Muslims took over their former sites.
Moreover, those Christians living in towns suffered from the rayah system's mandated impediments to commercial advancement by non—Muslims:
Islam from the very outset, excluded such activities as making wine, breeding pigs, and selling pork products from commercial production and trade. But additionally Bosnian Christians were forbidden to be saddlers, tanners, or candlemakers or to trade in honey, butter, and certain other items. Countrywide, the only legal market day was Sunday. Christians were thus deliberately faced with the choice between ignoring the precepts of their religion, keeping their shops open and working on Sundays, or alternatively, forgoing participation in the market and suffering material loss thereby. Even in 1850, in Jukic's 'Wishes and Entreaties' we find him beseeching 'his Imperial grace' to put an end to the regulation that Sunday be market day.
Christians were also forced to pay disproportionately higher taxes than Muslims, including the intentionally degrading non—Muslim poll—tax.
This tax was paid by every non—Muslim male who had passed his fourteenth year, at the rate of a ducat per annum. But since Turkey had never known birth registers, the functionary whose job it was to exact the tax measured the head and neck of each boy with a piece of string and judged from that whether a person had arrived at a taxable age or not. Starting as an abuse that soon turned into an ingrained habit, then finally established custom, by the last century of Turkish rule every boy without distinction found himself summoned to pay the head tax. And it would seem this was not the only abuse...Of Ali—Pasa Stocevic, who during the first half of the nineteenth century was vizier and all but unlimited ruler of Herzegovina, his contemporary, the monk Prokopije Cokorilo, wrote that he 'taxed the dead for six years after their demise' and that his tax collectors 'ran their fingers over the bellies of pregnant women, saying 'you will probably have a boy, so you have to pay the poll tax right away...The following folk saying from Bosnia reveals how taxes were exacted:
'He's as fat as if he'd been tax collecting in Bosnia'
The specific Kanun—i—Rayah stipulations which prohibited the rayahs from riding a saddled horse, carrying a saber or any other weapon in or out of doors, selling wine, letting their hair grow, or wearing wide sashes, were strictly enforced until the mid—19th century. Hussamudin—Pasa, in 1794 issued an ordinance which prescribed the exact color and type of clothing the Bosnian rayah had to wear. Barbers were prohibited from shaving Muslims with the same razors used for Christians. Even in bathhouses, Christians were required to have specifically marked towels and aprons to avoid confusing their laundry with laundry designated for Muslims. Until at least 1850, and in some parts of Bosnia, well into the 1860s, a Christian upon encountering a Muslim, was required to jump down from his (unsaddled) horse, move to the side of the road, and wait for the latter to pass.
Christianity's loud and most arresting symbol, church bells, Andric notes, always drew close, disapproving Turkish scrutiny, and, 'Wherever there invasions would go, down came the bells, to be destroyed or melted into cannon'. Predictably,
Until the second half of the nineteenth century, 'nobody in Bosnia could even think of bells or bell towers.' Only in 1860 did the Sarajevo priest Fra Grgo Martic manage to get permission from Topal Osman—Pasa to hang a bell at the church in Kresevo. Permission was granted, thought, only on condition that 'at first the bell be rung softly to let the Turks get accustomed to it little by little'. And still the Muslim of Kresevo were complaining, even in 1875, to Sarajevo that 'the Turkish ear and ringing bells cannot coexist in the same place at the same time'; and Muslim women would beat on their copper pots to drown out the noise...on 30 April 1872, the new Serbian Orthodox church also got a bell. But since the...Muslims had threatened to riot, the military had to be called in to ensure that the ceremony might proceed undisturbed.
The imposition of such disabilities, Andric observes, extended beyond church ceremonies, as reflected by a 1794 proclamation of the Serbian Orthodox church in Sarajevo warning Christians not to
...sing during ...outings, nor in their houses, nor in other places. The saying 'Don't sing too loud, this village is Turk' testifies eloquently to the fact that this item of the Kanun [— i—Rayah] was applied outside church life as well as within.
...for their Christian subjects, their [Ottoman Turkish] hegemony brutalized custom and meant a step to the rear in every respect.
Paul Ricaut, the British consul in Smyrna, journeyed extensively within the Ottoman Empire during the mid—17th century, becoming a keen observer of its sociopolitical milieu. In 1679 (i.e., prior to the Ottomans being repulsed at Vienna in September, 1683; see later discussion of Ottoman 'tolerance'), Ricaut published these important findings: (i) many Christians were expelled from their churches, which the Ottoman Turks converted into mosques; (ii) the 'Mysteries of the Altar' were hidden in subterranean vaults and sepulchers whose roofs were barely above the surface of the ground; (iii) fearing Turkish hostility and oppression, Christian priests, particularly in eastern Asia Minor, were compelled to live with great caution and officiate in private obscurity; (iv) not surprisingly, to escape these prevailing conditions, many Christians apostasized to Islam.
The phenomenon of forcible conversion, including coercive en masse conversions, persisted throughout the 16th century, as discussed by Constantelos in his analysis of neomartyrdom in the Ottoman Empire:
...mass forced conversions were recorded during the caliphates of Selim I (1512—1520),...Selim II (1566—1574), and Murat III (1574—1595). On the occasion of some anniversary, such as the capture of a city, or a national holiday, many rayahs were forced to apostacize. On the day of the circumcision of Mohammed III great numbers of Christians (Albanians, Greeks, Slavs) were forced to convert to Islam.
Reviewing the martyrology of Christians victimized by the Ottomans from the conquest of Constantinople (1453), through the final phases of the Greek War of Independence (1828), Constantelos indicates:
...the Ottoman Turks condemned to death eleven Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople, nearly one hundred bishops, and several thousand priests, deacons, and minks. It is impossible to say with certainty how many men of the cloth were forced to apostasize.
However, the more mundane cases illustrated by Constantelos are of equal significance in revealing the plight of Christians under Ottoman rule, through at least 1867:
Some were accused of insulting the Muslim faith or of throwing something against the wall of a mosque. Others were accused of sexual advances toward a Turk; still others of making a public confession such as 'I will become a Turk' without meaning it.
The story of the neomartyrs indicates that there was no liberty of conscience in the Ottoman Empire and that religious persecution was never absent from the state. Justice was subject to the passions of judges as well as of the crowds, and it was applied with a double standard, lenient for Muslims and harsh for Christians and others. The view that the Ottoman Turks pursued a policy of religious toleration in order to promote a fusion of the Turks with the conquered populations is not sustained by the facts.
Those scholars who continue to adhere to the roseate narrative of Ottoman 'tolerance', the notion that an '...easy—going tolerance, resting on an assumption not only of superior religion, but also of superior power', which it is claimed, persisted in the Ottoman Empire until the end of the 17th century (i.e., after the Turks were repulsed at Vienna in 1683), must address certain basic questions. Why has the quite brutal Ottoman devshirme—janissary system, which, from the mid to late 14th, through early 18th centuries, enslaved and forcibly converted to Islam an estimated 500,000 to one million non—Muslim (primarily Balkan Christian) adolescent males, been characterized exclusively as a benign form of social advancement, jealously pined for by 'ineligible' Ottoman Muslim families? For example,
The role played by the Balkan Christian boys recruited into the Ottoman service through the devshirme is well known. Great numbers of them entered the Ottoman military and bureaucratic apparatus, which for a while came to be dominated by these new recruits to the Ottoman state and the Muslim faith. This ascendancy of Balkan Europeans into the Ottoman power structure did not pass unnoticed, and there are many complaints from other elements, sometimes from the Caucasian slaves who were their main competitors, and more vocally from the old and free Muslims, who felt slighted by the preference given to the newly converted slaves.
Scholars who have conducted serious, detailed studies of the devshirme—janissary system, do not share such hagiographic views of this Ottoman institution. Speros Vryonis, Jr. for example, makes these deliberately understated, but cogent observations,
...in discussing the devshirme we are dealing with the large numbers of Christians who, in spite of the material advantages offered by conversion to Islam, chose to remain members of a religious society which was denied first class citizenship. Therefore the proposition advanced by some historians, that the Christians welcomed the devshirme as it opened up wonderful opportunities for their children, is inconsistent with the fact that these Christians had not chosen to become Muslims in the first instance but had remained Christians...there is abundant testimony to the very active dislike with which they viewed the taking of their children. One would expect such sentiments given the strong nature of the family bond and given also the strong attachment to Christianity of those who had not apostacized to Islam...First of all the Ottomans capitalized on the general Christian fear of losing their children and used offers of devshirme exemption in negotiations for surrender of Christian lands. Such exemptions were included in the surrender terms granted to Jannina, Galata, the Morea, Chios, etc...Christians who engaged in specialized activities which were important to the Ottoman state were likewise exempt from the tax on their children by way of recognition of the importance of their labors for the empire...Exemption from this tribute was considered a privilege and not a penalty...
...there are other documents wherein their [i.e., the Christians] dislike is much more explicitly apparent. These include a series of Ottoman documents dealing with the specific situations wherein the devshirmes themselves have escaped from the officials responsible for collecting them...A firman...in 1601 [regarding the devshirme] provided the [Ottoman] officials with stern measures of enforcement, a fact which would seem to suggest that parents were not always disposed to part with their sons.
'..to enforce the command of the known and holy fetva [fatwa] of Seyhul [Shaikh]— Islam. In accordance with this whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janissaries, he is immediately hanged from his door—sill, his blood being deemed unworthy.'
Vasiliki Papoulia highlights the continuous desperate, often violent struggle of the Christian populations against this forcefully imposed Ottoman levy:
It is obvious that the population strongly resented...this measure [and the levy] could be carried out only by force. Those who refused to surrender their sons— the healthiest, the handsomest and the most intelligent— were on the spot put to death by hanging. Nevertheless we have examples of armed resistance. In 1565 a revolt took place in Epirus and Albania. The inhabitants killed the recruiting officers and the revolt was put down only after the sultan sent five hundred janissaries in support of the local sanjak—bey. We are better informed, thanks to the historic archives of Yerroia, about the uprising in Naousa in 1705 where the inhabitants killed the Silahdar Ahmed Celebi and his assistants and fled to the mountains as rebels. Some of them were later arrested and put to death..
Since there was no possibility of escaping [the levy] the population resorted to several subterfuges. Some left their villages and fled to certain cities which enjoyed exemption from the child levy or migrated to Venetian—held territories. The result was a depopulation of the countryside. Others had their children marry at an early age...Nicephorus Angelus...states that at times the children ran away on their own initiative, but when they heard that the authorities had arrested their parents and were torturing them to death, returned and gave themselves up. La Giulletiere cites the case of a young Athenian who returned from hiding in order to save his father's life and then chose to die himself rather than abjure his faith. According to the evidence in Turkish sources, some parents even succeeded in abducting their children after they had been recruited. The most successful way of escaping recruitment was through bribery. That the latter was very widespread is evident from the large amounts of money confiscated by the sultan from corrupt...officials. Finally, in their desperation the parents even appealed to the Pope and the Western powers for help.
...there is no doubt that this heavy burden was one of the hardest tribulations of the Christian population.
Why did the Tanzimat reforms, designed to abrogate the Ottoman version of the system of dhimmitude, need to be imposed by European powers through treaties, as so—called 'capitulations' following Ottoman military defeats, and why even then, were these reforms never implemented in any meaningful way from 1839, until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I ?
Edouard Engelhardt made these observations from his detailed analysis of the Tanzimat period, noting that a quarter century after the Crimean War (1853—56), and the second iteration of Tanzimat reforms, the same problems persisted:
Muslim society has not yet broken with the prejudices which make the conquered peoples subordinate...the raya [dhimmis] remain inferior to the Osmanlis; in fact he is not rehabilitated; the fanaticism of the early days has not relented...[even liberal Muslims rejected]...civil and political equality, that is to say, the assimilation of the conquered with the conquerors.
A systematic examination of the condition of the Christian rayas was conducted in the 1860s by British consuls stationed throughout the Ottoman Empire, yielding extensive primary source documentary evidence. 197. Britain was then Turkey's most powerful ally, and it was in her strategic interest to see that oppression of the Christians was eliminated, to prevent direct, aggressive Russian or Austrian intervention. On July 22, 1860, Consul James Zohrab sent a lengthy report from Sarajevo to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Bulwer, analyzing the administration of the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, again, following the 1856 Tanzimat reforms. Referring to the reform efforts, Zohrab states:
The Hatti—humayoun, I can safely say, practically remains a dead letter...while [this] does not extend to permitting the Christians to be treated as they formerly were treated, is so far unbearable and unjust in that it permits the Mussulmans to despoil them with heavy exactions. False imprisonments (imprisonment under false accusation) are of daily occurence. A Christian has but a small chance of exculpating himself when his opponent is a Mussulman (...) Christian evidence, as a rule, is still refused (...) Christians are now permitted to possess real property, but the obstacles which they meet with when they attempt to acquire it are so many and vexatious that very few have as yet dared to brave them...Such being, generally speaking, the course pursued by the Government towards the Christians in the capital (Sarajevo) of the province where the Consular Agents of the different Powers reside and can exercise some degree of control, it may easily be guessed to what extend the Christians, in the remoter districts, suffer who are governed by Mudirs (governors) generally fanatical and unacquainted with the (new reforms of the) law..
Throughout the Ottoman Empire, particularly within the Balkans, and later Anatolia itself, attempted emancipation of the dhimmi peoples provoked violent, bloody responses against those 'infidels' daring to claim equality with local Muslims. The massacres of the Bulgarians (in 1876), and more extensive massacres of the Armenians (1894—96), culminating in a frank jihad genocide against the Armenians during World War I, epitomize these trends. Enforced abrogation of the laws of dhimmitude required the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. This finally occurred after the Balkan Wars of independence, and during the European Mandate period following World War I.
Writing in 1978, Dufourcq (d. 1982), one of the preeminent scholars of European Islam, worried (even then) that historical and cultural revisionism of the established legacy of jihad in Medieval Western Europe might precipitate a recurrence of,
...the upheaval carried out on our continent (i.e., Europe) by Islamic penetration more than a thousand years ago
It is a bitter, tragic irony that the foundational myths of 'symbiotic' Andalusian ecumenism and Ottoman 'tolerance', which were central to the genesis of the Eurabian pathology currently on display in Europe, are now also being invoked as salvational fantasies, in the wake of the French riots. Denying any Islamic etiology for the major problems confronting Europe, thus begets more Islam as the 'solution', and accelerates Europe's seemingly inevitable trajectory towards complete Islamization, with implementation of the Shari'a.
(*This section is drawn from Andrew G. Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2005, pp. 56—75.)
Dr. Bostom is the author of the recently published, The Legacy of Jihad, www.andrewbostom.org