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In my book Defeating Eurabia I have included a chapter entitled "Fourteen Centuries of War Against European Civilization," which deals with Islamic colonization of and attacks on the European continent since the seventh century AD. This part of history, when Europeans were victims of colonialism and slave raids, deserves much more emphasis than it currently receives, when the focus is almost exclusively on the briefer European colonial period.
In 2008, demands were made that France must make reparations for its colonial past in Algeria. I'm not an expert on French colonial history, but if I recall correctly, the French were at least partly motivated for establishing themselves in Algeria due to the Barbary pirates, who continued their evil activities well into the nineteenth century. The period of French rule is the only period of civilization Algeria has experienced since the Romans. Muslims have been raiding Europe, especially the southern regions but sometimes even north of the Alps, since the seventh century. In fact, the only period during more than 1300 years when they haven't done this was during the time of European colonialism. Moreover, there are now more North Africans in France than there ever were Frenchmen in North Africa. If non-Europeans can resist colonization and expel intruders, why can't Europeans do the same thing?
Even among countries in Western Europe, only a minority have a significant colonial history, and several of them like Spain and Portugal had themselves been colonized before. Spain, which did have an extensive colonial empire, was herself a victim of colonialism significantly longer than she was a colonizer. As Ibn Warraq says in his book Defending the West:
"Where the French presence lasted fewer than four years before they were ignominiously expelled by the British and Turks, the Ottomans had been the masters of Egypt since 1517, a total of 280 years. Even if we count the later British and French protectorates, Egypt was under Western control for sixty-seven years, Syria for twenty-one years, and Iraq for only fifteen and, of course, Saudi Arabia was never under Western control. Contrast this with southern Spain, which was under the Muslim yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381 years, and the splendid new Christian capital that eclipsed Rome Byzantium which is still in Muslim hands. But no Spanish or Greek politics of victimhood apparently exist."
Paul Fregosi in his book Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries calls Islamic Jihad "the most unrecorded and disregarded major event of history. It has, in fact, been largely ignored," although it has been a fact of life in Europe, Asia and Africa for almost 1400 years. As Fregosi says, "Western colonization of nearby Muslim lands lasted 130 years, from the 1830s to the 1960s. Muslim colonization of nearby European lands lasted 1300 years, from the 600s to the mid-1960s. Yet, strangely, it is the Muslims...who are the most bitter about colonialism and the humiliations to which they have been subjected; and it is the Europeans who harbor the shame and the guilt. It should be the other way around."
Islamic Jihad raids started in the Mediterranean in the seventh century AD. A proto-typical Muslim naval razzia occurred in 846 when a fleet of Arab Jihadists arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome, sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained. The reason why the Vatican became a "city within the city" in Rome with fortifications was due to repeated attacks by Muslims (Saracens). Here is a quote from the book Rome: Art & Architecture, edited by Marco Bussagli:
Leo IV's major building project is generally considered to be the fortification of the Vatican area. After the devastation wrought by the Saracens in St. Peter's, profoundly shocking to the Christian world, it was decided to fortify the area around St. Peter's tomb. Leo III had already made this decision, but little had been done because of the theft of the materials set aside for the job. Leo IV, who had already undertaken the repair of the Aurelian walls, gates, and towers, organized the work in such a way that within four years he saw it complete. On June 27, 852 the ceremony of consecration of the walls was performed, in the presence of the pope and clergy, who, barefoot and with heads smeared with ashes, processed round the entire circuit of the fortifications, sprinkling them with holy water and at every gate calling on divine protection against the enemy that threatened the inhabitants. The enclosed area was to take on the status of a city in its own right, which was both separate and distinct from the Urbe of Rome, despite its proximity to it.
Such attacks were the rule in many regions of Eurasia, not just in Europe. Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever Jihadists conquered a territory, "there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain, and populace of the place." When Muslim armies invaded India, "its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country."
While the Arabs dominated during the early centuries of the Islamic era, the Turks soon converted and surpassed them as a force. As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: "They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside." Turkish attacks on nearby European lands lasted well into the modern era.
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Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, author of the excellent book The Legacy of Jihad, has written about what he calls " America's First War on Terror." Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of Jihad piracy murder and enslavement emanating from the so-called Barbary States of North Africa, corresponding to modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Bostom notes that "By June/July 1815 the ably commanded U.S. naval forces had dealt their Barbary jihadist adversaries a quick series of crushing defeats. This success ignited the imagination of the Old World powers to rise up against the Barbary pirates."
Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, has developed new methodical enumeration which indicates that perhaps one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by Barbary Muslims just from 1530 through 1780 a far greater number than had been estimated before:
Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe," Davis said. "Most accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear.
Jihad piracy and slave raids were a fact of life in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions for the better part of a thousand years, if not more, occasionally with Christian retaliations. Italy was politically fragmented and therefore had weak territorial defenses. As late as the seventeenth century along the Adriatic coast, a zone said to be "continually infested by Turks," even a well-defended town such as Rimini could offer little by way of protection for the local fishermen and coastal farmers. Robert C. Davis explains in Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800:
Italy was among the most thoroughly ravaged areas in the Mediterranean basin. Lying as it did on the frontline of the two battling empires, Italy was known as 'the Eye of Christendom'...Especially in areas close to some of the main corsair bases (western Sicily is just 200 kilometers from Tunis) slave taking rapidly burgeoned into a full-scale industry, with a disastrous impact that was apparent at the time and for centuries to come. Those who worked on coastal farms, even 10 or 20 miles from the sea, were unsafe from the raiders harvesters, vine tenders, and olive growers were all regularly surprised while at their labors and carried off. Workers in the salt pans were often at risk, as were woodcutters and any others of the unprotected poor who traveled or worked along the coasts: indigents like Rosa Antonia Monte, who called herself 'the poorest of the poor in the city of Barletta [in Puglia],' and who was surprised together with 42 others, including her two daughters, while out gleaning after the harvest, 4 miles outside of town. Monasteries close to the shore also made easy targets for the corsairs.
Fishermen were especially at peril. During a period in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Muslim pirates set up semi-permanent bases for themselves at the mouth of the Bay of Naples, attacking small ships. Surrounded by hostile seas on all sides,
the seventeenth century represented a dark period out of which Spanish and Italian societies emerged as mere shadows of what they had been in their earlier, golden ages. For individuals themselves, we can see that the psychological traces of this trauma lasted beyond the time that the larger societies had rebuilt themselves as modern states, long after 'even the idea ha[d] been lost of these dogs that had brought so much terror.' It continued just below the surface of the coastal culture of the European Mediterranean even into the first years of the twentieth century, when, as one Sicilian woman put it, 'The oldest [still] tell of a time in which the Turks arrived in Sicily every day. They came down in the thousands from their galleys and you can imagine what happened! They seized unmarried girls and children, grabbed things and money and in an instant they were [back] aboard their galleys, set sail and disappeared....The next day it was the same thing, and there was always the bitter song, as you could not hear other than the lamentations and invocations of the mothers and the tears that ran like rivers through all the houses.'
Corsairs from cities in North Africa Tunis, Algiers etc. would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children. The impact was devastating France, England and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost abandoned by their inhabitants.
At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior. The lives of European slaves were often no better than the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, which later tapped into the preestablished Islamic slave trade in Africa. "As far as daily living conditions, the Mediterranean slaves certainly didn't have it better," Davis says. While African slaves did grueling labor on sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas, European slaves were often worked just as hard and as lethally in quarries, in heavy construction, and above all rowing the corsair galleys.
Young Englishmen risked being surprised by a fleet of Muslim pirates showing up at their village, or being kidnapped while fishing at sea. Thomas Pellow was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured by Barbary pirates as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716. He was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to "burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner."
Throughout most of the seventeenth century, the English alone lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers. One American slave reported that 130 American seamen had been enslaved by the Algerians in the Mediterranean and Atlantic just between 1785 and 1793 (which prompted the eventual military response from the Americans mentioned above). In his book White Gold, Giles Milton describes how regular Jihad razzias in Europe extended as far north as distant Iceland in the middle of the North Atlantic, where some local villagers in well-documented attacks in the seventeenth century were kidnapped and dragged off to North Africa as slaves.
As Murray Gordon writes in his book Slavery in the Arab World, the sexual aspects of slavery were disproportionate important in the Islamic world. "Eunuchs commanded the highest prices among slaves, followed by young and pretty white women." Usually, the high cost of white female slaves made them a luxury which only rich Muslims could afford:
"White women were almost always in greater demand than Africans, and Arabs were prepared to pay much higher prices for Circassian and Georgian women from the Caucasus and from Circassian colonies in Asia Minor. After the Russians seized Georgia and Circassia in the early part of the nineteenth century and, as a result of the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 under which they obtained the fortresses dominating the road into Turkey from Circassia, the traffic in Circassian women came to a virtual halt. This caused the price of Circassian women to shoot up in the slave markets of Constantinople and Cairo. The situation was almost completely reversed in the early 1840s when the Russians, in exchange for a Turkish pledge to cease their attacks on their forts on the eastern side of the Black Sea, quietly agreed not to interfere in the slave traffic. This unrestricted trade brought on a glut in the Constantinople and Cairo markets, where prices for Circassian women brought them in reach of many ordinary Turks and Egyptians."
After whites, Abyssinian (Ethiopian) girls were considered the "second best" alternative. Depending on lightness of skin, attractiveness and skills, they cost anywhere from a tenth to a third of the price of a Circassian or Georgian woman. As long as Circassian, Slavic, Greek and other white women were available at affordable prices, Arabs always preferred them to blacks. It is interesting to notice that this pattern was established long before the European colonial period. These days when everything bad in the world is attributed to Europeans, it is common to say that "racism" is a legacy of the European colonial period. In fact, there is a virtually universal preference for light skin, especially for women, in the Middle East, in Asia and in Africa itself, which was present long before European colonial rule in these countries.
According to Murray Gordon, "For a better part of the Middle Ages, Europe served as a valuable source of slaves who were prized in the Muslim world as soldiers, concubines, and eunuchs. It would not long compete with Africa in this trade if only because Christian Europe, with few exceptions, rejected the notion that its people could be enslaved, particularly for the despised Muslim world. In the greatest part of black Africa, by contrast, there were few governments or chiefs that could interpose their authority against the merchants who arrived by caravan and ship in quest of slaves. Lamentably, many African chiefs often became middlemen in the trade by rounding up inhabitants of nearby villages and exchanging them for an assortment of manufactured wares."
There are examples where some Europeans sold other Europeans as slaves. This could be done by Vikings or Slavs, but especially by certain Italians, above all the Venetians. Some shipowners from Venice loaded up with Russian and Georgian slaves in the Black Sea and sold them to the Turks or to Venetian sugar plantations in Crete and Cyprus. These kinds of activities, which were harshly condemned by both the Roman Catholic and the Byzantine Churches, should be mentioned for the sake of historical accuracy, but this was clearly of secondary importance compared to the extensive Islamic raids in Europe for many centuries.
Slavery never faced as powerful opposition in Muslim societies as it sometimes did in Christian ones. Toward end of the nineteenth century, questions about slavery were finally raised, but only due to Western influence and military pressure. Murray Gordon writes:
That slavery persisted as long as it did in the Muslim world it was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962 and as late as 1981 in Mauritania owed much to the fact that it was deeply anchored in Islamic law. By legitimizing slavery and, by extension, the sordid traffic in slaves (for which there was no legal sanction), Islam elevated these practices to an unassailable moral plan. As a result, in no part of the Muslim world was an ideological challenge ever mounted against slavery. The political structure and social system in Muslim society would have taken a dim view of such a challenge. The sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the potentates who ruled in other Muslim lands owed their thrones as much as to their being religious as well as secular leaders and were therefore duty bound to uphold the faith. Part of this obligation was to assure the normal functioning of the slave system which was an integral part of Islamic society that is embellished in the Koran.
Unlike the West, there never was a Muslim abolitionist movement since slavery is permitted according to sharia, Islamic religious law, and remains so to this day. When the open practice of slavery was finally abolished in most of the Islamic world, this was only due to external Western pressure, ranging from the American war against the Barbary pirates to the naval power of the British Empire. Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history and lasted longer than did the Western slave trade. Robert Spencer elaborates in his book A Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't:
Nor was there a Muslim abolitionist movement, no Clarkson, Wilberforce, or Garrison. When the slave trade ended, it was ended not through Muslim efforts but through British military force. Even so, there is evidence that slavery continues beneath the surface in some Muslim countries notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962; Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970; and Niger, which didn't abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals. There are even slavery cases involving Muslims in the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan al-Turki was sentenced in September 2006 to twenty-seven years to life in prison for keeping a woman as a slave in his Colorado home. For his part, al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias.
Slavery involving peoples of all races, Germans, Saxons, Celts and some black Africans, was widely practiced in the Greco-Roman world. The most famous slave rebellion during the Roman era was led by Spartacus, a gladiator-slave from the Thracian people who dominated Bulgaria and the Balkan region close to the Black Sea in early historic times. His rebellion was crushed in 71 BC, and thousands of slaves were crucified alongside the road to Rome as a warning to others. The retreat of slavery in Europe followed the spread of Christianity.
All the way back to the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, slavery was an important component of Africa's trade to other continents. However, according to Robert O. Collins and James M. Burns in A History of Sub-Saharan Africa, "The advent of the Islamic age coincided with a sharp increase in the African slave trade." The expansion of the trans-Saharan slave trade associated with the Sahelian empire of Ghana was a response to the demand in the markets of Muslim North Africa:
"The moral justification for the enslavement of Africans south of the Sahara by Muslims was accepted by the fact they were 'unbelievers' (kafirin) practicing their traditional religions with many gods, not the one God of Islam. The need for slaves, whether acquired by violence or by commercial exchange, revived the ancient but somnolent trans-Saharan trade, which became a major supplier of slaves for North Africa and Islamic Spain. The earliest Muslim account of slaves crossing the Sahara from the Fezzan in southern Libya to Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast was written in the seventh century, but from the ninth century to the nineteenth there are a multitude of accounts of the pillage by military states of the Sahel, known to North African Muslims as bilad al-sudan, ('land of the blacks'), of pagan Africans who were sold to Muslim merchants and marched across the desert as a most profitable commodity in their elaborate commercial networks. By the tenth century there was a steady stream of slaves taken from the kingdoms of the Western Sudan and the Chad Basin crossing the Sahara. Many died on the way, but the survivors fetched a great profit in the vibrant markets of Sijilmasa, Tripoli, and Cairo."
The spread of Islam with Arab contacts did bring literacy to sub-Saharan West Africa, but otherwise Muslims stimulated the slave trade from East Africa to the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and some African slaves were shipped as far as Central Asia and India. When Europeans began to arrive in force in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa north of the Sahara and the Red Sea coast was known to the ancient Mediterranean world, but sub-Saharan Africa was not. The Portuguese made planned expeditions along West Africa in the fifteenth century, which required decades of improvements in navigation and shipbuilding before they could round the Cape of Good Hope and reach the Indian Ocean.
While the extensive Portuguese participation in the transatlantic slave trade is widely known, not everybody knows that Cristóvão da Gama (1516-1542), son of the great Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (ca. 1460-1524), fought in Ethiopia in support of local Christians in the early 1540s, and died there. The Ethiopians were the only literate African nation not under Islamic rule; they had been Christianized via the Egyptian Copts already in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, but had been virtually cut off from direct contact with the Mediterranean Christian world after the Islamic conquests. Portuguese mercenaries arrived to prevent the Ethiopian kingdom from being overwhelmed by Muslims from the plains of Somalia. Robert O. Collins and James M. Burns explain in A History of Sub-Saharan Africa:
Its monarchy had captured the last Muslim stronghold in Portugal in 1249 and in 1385 had initiated a stable political system under the new dynasty, the house of Avis, isolated on the western coast of Europe with a powerful and suspicious Spain as its neighbor to the east. The gold of Africa would provide the resources to defend the kingdom and finance Portuguese expeditions around Africa to the Indian Ocean and Asia in order to reap the wealth from the spice trade. Moreover, beyond the Sahara Desert lived the non-Muslim peoples of West Africa who perhaps could be converted to Christianity and enlisted in the crusade against the Muslims....And then there was the compelling legend of Prester John, which ignited the desire of medieval European monarchs to succor this beleaguered Christian king surrounded by Muslim enemies somewhere in the East. By the fifteenth century the legend of Prester John had come to be associated with Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in northeast Africa; his Christian subjects were said to be defending the faith against the jihad (holy war) of Islam. No Portuguese king, noble, or peasant could neglect their Christian responsibility to come to the aid of Prester John and his people.
Moreover, what was to become in ensuing centuries a worldwide European expansion and exploration of the seas started in Portugal in the fifteenth century with the initiatives of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460). Incidentally, the exploration of the African coasts began with the Portuguese in 1415 capturing the North African port of Ceuta, which had been used as a base for Muslim Barbary pirates in their attacks on the coasts of Portugal, capturing the locals as slaves and depopulation several regions because of repeated attacks.
One of the most important reasons for this early European overseas expansion was the desire to get away from the iron grip Muslims had enjoyed over the European continent for so long. Norman Davies in his massive book Europe: A History elaborates:
Islam's impact on the Christian world cannot be exaggerated. Islam's conquests turned Europe into Christianity's main base. At the same time the great swathe of Muslim territory cut the Christians off from virtually all direct contact with other religions and civilizations. The barrier of militant Islam turned the [European] Peninsula in on itself, severing or transforming many of the earlier lines of commercial, intellectual and political intercourse. In the field of religious conflict, it left Christendom with two tasks to fight Islam and to convert the remaining pagans. It forced the Byzantine Empire to give lasting priority to the defence of its Eastern borders, and hence to neglect its imperial mission in the West. It created the conditions where the other, more distant Christian states had to fend for themselves, and increasingly to adopt measures for local autonomy and economic self-sufficiency. In other words, it gave a major stimulus to feudalism. Above all, by commandeering the Mediterranean Sea, it destroyed the supremacy which the Mediterranean lands had hitherto exercised over the rest of the Peninsula.
No European peoples suffered more from Islamic colonialism than those in the Balkans. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the pre-eminent historian of Mughal India, wrote this about dhimmitude, the humiliating apartheid system imposed upon non-Muslims under Islamic rule: "The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of the Muslim State. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil, and for a transitional period only....A non-Muslim therefore cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (dhimma) with the State....In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property made subservient to the cause of Islam."
This "modified form of slavery" is now frequently referred to as the pinnacle of "tolerance." If the semi-slaves rebel against this system and desire equal rights and self-determination, Jihad resumes. This happened with the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, who were repressed with massacres, culminating in the genocide by Turkish and Kurdish Muslims against Armenians in the 20th century.
The Balkans, with its close connections to Byzantium, was a reasonably sophisticated region in medieval times, until the Ottomans Turks devastated much of the area. One of the most appalling aspects of this was the practice of devshirme, the collecting of boys among the Christians who were forcibly converted to Islam and taught to hate their own kin. Andrew G. Bostom quotes the work of scholar Vasiliki Papoulia, who highlights the continuous desperate 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.
The Christian subjects tried for centuries to combat this evil practice:
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.
Lee Harris in his book The Suicide of Reason describes how this practice of devshirme, the process of culling the best, brightest and fittest "alpha boys," targeted the non-Muslim subject populations:
The bodyguard of Janissaries 'had the task of protecting the sovereign from internal and external enemies,' writes scholar Vasiliki Papoulia. 'In order to fulfill this task it was subjected to very rigorous and special training, the janissary education famous in Ottoman society. This training made possible the spiritual transformation of Christian children into ardent fighters for the glory of the sultan and their newly acquired Islamic faith.' Because the Christian boys had to be transformed into single-minded fanatics, it was not enough that they simply inherit their position. They had to be brainwashed into it, as we would say today, and this could be done most effectively with boys who had been completely cut off from all family ties. By taking the boys from their homes, and transporting them to virtually another world, devçirme assured that there would be no conflict of loyalties between family and duty to the empire. All loyalty would be focused on the group itself and on the sultan.
This practice drained the strength of the Christian populations. Harris again:
The culling of these alpha boys had two effects, both of them good for the Ottoman Empire, both bad for the subject population. By filling the critical posts in the Ottoman Empire with boys who had been selected on the basis of their intrinsic merit, and not on their family connection, the Empire was automatically creating a meritocracy if a boy was tough, courageous, intelligent, and fanatically loyal, he was able to work his way up the Ottoman hierarchy; indeed, as we have seen, he become a member of the ruling elite, despite having the formal title of being the sultan's slave. The Ottoman Empire was both strengthening itself through acquiring these alpha boys, and weakening its subject population by taking their best and brightest. Thanks to the institution of devçirme, the more 'fit' Christian boys who would be most likely to be the agents of rebellion against the Empire become the fanatical Muslim warriors who were used to suppress whatever troubles the less 'fit' Christian boys left behind were able to cause.
The most enduring legacy of the centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule in the Balkans is the presence of large indigenous Muslim communities. Srdja Trifkovic explains in Kosovo: The Score 1999-2009, a book dedicated to the anniversary of the NATO bombing of Serbia, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs by predominantly Muslim Albanians:
The Balkan Peninsula is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions in the world, especially considering its relatively small area (just over 200,000 square miles) and population (around 55 million). Of that number, Eastern Orthodox Christians mainly Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs and Slavic Macedonians have the slim majority of around 53 percent; Sunni Muslims (11 million Turks in European Turkey and a similar number of Albanians, Slavic Muslims and ethnic Turks elsewhere) make up 40 percent; and Roman Catholics (mainly Croats) are at around 5 percent. Those communities do not live in multicultural harmony. Their mutual lack of trust that occasionally turns into violence is a lasting fruit of the Turkish rule. Four salient features of the Ottoman state were institutionalized, religiously justified discrimination of non-Muslims; personal insecurity; tenuous coexistence of ethnicities and creeds without intermixing; and the absence of a unifying state ideology or supra-denominational source of loyalty. It was a Hobbesian world, and it bred a befitting mindset; the zero-sum game approach to politics, in which one side's gain is perceived as another's loss. That mindset has not changed, almost a century since the disintegration of the Empire.
Trifkovic warns that "The Christian communities all over the Balkans are in a steep, long-term demographic decline. Fertility rate is below replacement level in every majority-Christian country in the region. The Muslims, by contrast, have the highest birth rates in Europe, with the Albanians topping the chart. On current form it is likely that Muslims will reach a simple majority in the Balkans within a generation."
The wars in the Balkans are a direct result of the legacy of Turkish Muslim colonialism. So why does nobody demand that the Turks should pay reparations to their former subjects, starting with the Armenians, who suffered a Jihad genocide less than a century ago, and continuing with the Serbs, the Bulgarians, the Greeks, the Croatians and others who have suffered hundreds of years of abuse and exploitation at their hands?
There is a persistent myth that the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions happened only because Europeans "plundered" other continents. This is easily disproved since there is little correlation between which countries had extensive colonial empires and which developed sophisticated scientific-industrial economies. Portugal had several colonies and was an active participant in the transatlantic slave trade, yet it is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, in sharp contrast to Sweden, Switzerland or Finland which have no colonial histories.
The Spanish brought much silver and gold back from their colonies in Latin America, which had sometimes been extracted under very harsh conditions. Yet the Spanish never developed a leading role in European science and technology. The Italians were much more prominent in European science then the Spanish despite the fact that they had no colonial history, if for no other reason than because "Italy" as a state did not exist before the second half of the nineteenth century. The same can be said even more about Germany. The Germans outperformed the French and sometimes even the British at the dawn of the twentieth century in science and technology, despite the fact that the two latter had global colonial empires whereas the Germans held only a few, rather marginal colonies.
If we look at the post-Roman period as a whole, a picture emerges where Europe was under siege by hostile aliens for most of the time, yet succeeded against all odds. Already before AD 1300, Europeans had created a rapidly expanding network of universities, an institution which had no real equivalent anywhere else, and had invented mechanical clocks and eyeglasses. It is easy to underestimate the importance of this, but the ability to make accurate measurements of natural phenomena was of vital importance during the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. The manufacture of eyeglasses led indirectly to the development of microscopes and telescopes, and thus to modern medicine and astronomy. The network of universities facilitated the spread of information and debate and served as an incubator for many later scientific advances. All of these innovations were made centuries before European colonialism had begun, indeed at a time when Europe itself was a victim of colonialism and had been so for a very long time. Parts of Spain were still under Islamic occupation, an aggressive Jihad was being waged by the Turks in the remaining Byzantine lands, and the coasts from France via Italy to Russia had suffered centuries of Islamic raids.
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Fjordman is a Norway-based writer and essayist. He appears in
Brussels Journal, Gates of Vienna, Faith Freedom International,
Jihad Watch and Think-Israel, amongst other websites. He is the
author of Defeating Eurabia.
This appeared May 28 2009 on the Gates of Vienna website and is
This appeared May 28 2009 on the Gates of Vienna website and is
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