The long history of Muslims and Christians killing people together

Jan 25, 2016

Photo credit: Battle of Vienna 1683 by Jerzy Kossak

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In 1683, a vast Ottoman army camped outside the gates of Vienna. For centuries thereafter, the siege and final decisive battle that took place would be cast as a defining moment in a clash of civilizations — that time the forces of Islam were halted at the ramparts of Christendom.

Yet look just a little bit harder, and that tidy narrative falls apart. The Ottoman assault had been coordinated in league with French King Louis XIV. And perhaps more than half of the soldiers seeking to capture the Austrian capital were Christians themselves. There were Greeks, Armenians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, all fighting alongside Arabs, Turks, Kurds and others in the Ottoman ranks.

One of the main figures joining the Turkish campaign was Imre Thokoly, who was a Protestant born in what’s now Slovakia and an avowed Hungarian nationalist. Tens of thousands of Hungarian peasants who were angry at the rapacious behavior of the Catholic Church, and the imperial Habsburg dynasty in Vienna had rallied to Thokoly’s banner. His alliance with the Ottomans enabled the rapid Turkish march toward the Austrian capital.

It reflected, writes British academic Ian Almond in his 2009 book “Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched With Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds,” how “little use terms such as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian’ are to describe the almost hopelessly complex web of shifting power-relations, feudal alliances, ethnic sympathies and historical grudges” that shaped much of European history.


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8 comments on “The long history of Muslims and Christians killing people together

  • History is full of odd alliances, mercenaries, subject peoples serving their imperial masters, armies assembled from the colonised.

    You only have to consider the vast numbers of Irish who served in the British armies, from the Restoration right up until the present day. The famous 36 Ulster Division was made up of Unionist Protestants, but even that included many Catholics in its ranks, and there were vast numbers of Irish patriots who served under the crown in both world wars. The Indian army stood at one million during the Second World War, when the entire Indian political leadership was locked up in gaol. British West African troops fought in Burma, Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar was 25% Irish, and included even French sailors.

    All empires do the same, stretching right back into ancient history, so the composition of Kara Mustafa Pasha’s army comes as no surprise, and the fact that it was composed of a multiplicity of races and religions doesn’t amount to much. The interesting question is what would have happened if they had won? Vienna would have been instantly Islamised, as Constantinople was in 1453, and Muslim people would have flooded into the region. Germany in particular would have been very different!



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  • @OP – Tens of thousands of Hungarian peasants who were angry at the rapacious behavior of the Catholic Church, and the imperial Habsburg dynasty in Vienna had rallied to Thokoly’s banner. His alliance with the Ottomans enabled the rapid Turkish march toward the Austrian capital.

    Religious groups making passing alliances with some religious groups and against others, while pandering to, and conspiring with, ruthless empire builders! – Nothing new about that in history!

    The historic “respect” of Ottoman, and other Muslim rulers for Xtians, is well known!

    The rules of “Islamic State” are also nothing new!

    https://secularafrican.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/european-slaves-in-the-islamic-empire/

    The prerequisite for being enslaved in Islam for domestic or industrial labour; sex slavery and concubinage; or chattel, is not based on race but on being a non-Muslim war captive. As the Islamic Empire expanded out of Arabia via North Africa and into Europe, war captives of all shades – brown, yellow, black and white – were relegated to slave status.

    European slaves were in special demand for serving as concubines, in the royal army and palaces, and in establishments of the rich in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. According to Giles Milton’s White Gold and Robert Davis’ Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, since the 1530s, North African Muslim pirates raided European coastal towns and villages from Sicily to Cornwall as well as European ships for some three centuries and enslaved over one million Europeans (including many American seamen). British humanist author Christopher Hitchens queries on this enslavement: ‘How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780? …what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by ‘corsair’ raiders in a single night?



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  • This article is again a bit of historical re-writing and wishful thinking. The Turkish Ottoman Empire was the most powerful Islamic state for the longest time stretching from the Balkans all the way down to today’s Saudi Arabia. To say some of its conquered peoples also had to fight in its wars of conquest is hardly surprising. The author pulls Imre Thokoly out of a hat and tries to imply these many ethnic groups were enthusiastic backers of the Ottoman Empire. Sorry, complete fail. The Ottomans had a sophisticated system of taxation to exploit their captive peoples, and they often held the sons of local elites as hostages in Turkey, ostensibly to teach them Ottoman ways, but in reality they were real hostages. No, Western Civilization was damn lucky the Turks didn’t win at Vienna back then.



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  • “There were Greeks, Armenians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, all fighting alongside Arabs, Turks, Kurds and others in the Ottoman ranks.”

    All forced in one way or another.Either bought as mercenaries , or commanded as vassals.



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  • Correspondingly, dogmatic religious faithism is an apt tool for motivating violence (for God, King, and Country) and always has been.

    Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam are still all determinedly bigoted against unbelievers.

    Ironic perhaps that theistic dogma based faiths with supernaturalist objective moral tenets can’t be secularised.

    [Links to user’s website removed by moderator.]



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  • Ah! The “religion of peace” settling matters in a traditional manner!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-35484187

    Police are investigating allegations that prominent Muslims at Scotland’s largest mosque have been threatened amid an ongoing internal dispute.

    Seven members of Glasgow Central Mosque executive committee resigned, saying their efforts to make reforms had been opposed by traditionalists.

    They also said they and their families were subjected to threats and abuse.

    No-one from the mosque was available for comment. Police said they were looking into the allegations.

    The resignations from the executive committee were announced on the mosque’s website.

    The statement said: “A number of people have been undermining day-to-day operations, meetings and even sabotaging mosque property, alongside threatening physical harm to executive members including their wives and children.

    “The following people are protesting against the backwardness displayed by a minority of people by resigning from the executive committee.”

    Commenting on the resignations, Glasgow-based lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “It is a real tragedy that those who bravely led the calls for equality and diversity at Scotland’s largest mosque have resigned.

    “The fact that they did so because of alleged threats of violence towards their families is abhorrent and criminal.”

    He said the committee had “the decency and courage to expose corruption, misogyny and racism” but certain people at the mosque had “tried to destroy them”.

    Mr Anwar said the situation at the mosque meant it was more difficult to tackle extremism.

    He added: “Today is an extremely sad and shameful day for Scotland’s Muslims, but it’s time the silent majority spoke up.”

    At the weekend, Mr Anwar wrote an article for the Sunday Herald in which he was highly critical of practices and attitudes of senior figures at the mosque.



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  • “The fact that they did so because of alleged threats of violence towards their families is abhorrent and criminal.”

    And purest Islamic theology in practice.



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