BOOK REVIEW: News Weekly
ISLAM AT THE GATES: How Christendom Defeated the Ottoman Turks, by Diane Moczar
, April 3, 2010
Christendom's narrow escape
ISLAM AT THE GATES:
How Christendom Defeated the Ottoman Turks
by Diane Moczar
(Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press)
Paperback: 256 pages
Rec. price: AUD$35.90
Reviewed by Joseph Poprzeczny
Diane Moczar's incisive study could just as appropriately have been titled, "How Christendom narrowly averted conquest by the Ottoman Turks".
Moczar stresses that, although the relentless 500-year-long Ottoman threat to southern and eastern Europe was eventually halted, the outcome to this enduring bloody confrontation was far from a foregone conclusion.
Had certain military engagements - most especially Vienna's two Ottoman sieges (1529 and 1683) and the epic naval Battle of Lepanto (1571) - ended differently, central Europe - that is, Austria, Bavaria, Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia (today's Czech Republic) - would now demographically and culturally resemble Muslim Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Furthermore, beyond such a Central European Islamised hub, lands including Switzerland, France, Germany and Italy would have, by the early 1800s, been well down the path of full Islamisation.
Moczar argues that Islam must be viewed not merely as a religion but as an ideology or doctrine of conquest, which aims at nothing less than the permanent occupation of all non-Islamic lands.
Moczar, of course, is not the first scholar to assert this. In 1883, the French philosopher Ernest Renan, in his essay, L'Islam et la Science, declared: "Islam is the seamless union of the spiritual and the temporal. It is the reign of dogma; it is the heaviest chain mankind has ever borne. ... As soon as Islam had a mass of ardent believers at its disposal, it destroyed everything in its path."
Islamist scholar Dr Isma'il al-Faruqi of Philadelphia's Temple University, and author of Islam (1985), was even more explicit. He said: "The Islamic state is ideological. It does have a world purpose which it is to pursue with all the power as its disposal. This purpose is the extension of itself to envelop the world. ...
"The Islamic state is therefore not really a state but a world order, with a government, a court, a constitution and an army. ... The Islamic state cannot rest until it succeeds in establishing this world order."
Moczar focuses on the history of the expansion of the Ottoman empire (resulting in forced conversions and the seizure of new lands). This was in a sense a continuation of the jihadist conquests the Muslim Arabs had inaugurated in the eighth century, which eventually overran the hitherto Christianised Middle East, North Africa and Spain, as well as the peoples of Central Asia.
From the middle of the 14th century until well into the 18th century, Europeans, invariably disunited, faced a formidable stand-off with Islam similar to Western Europe's Cold War confrontation with the menacing Soviet bloc from 1945 to 1990.
Moczar sees the year 1354 as the starting point of this 400-year-long threat. It was then that Turks first settled Thrace - lands east of the Balkans and north of the Aegean Sea.
Between then and the second siege of Vienna in 1683, the Balkans were largely Islamised as well as depopulated as Christians were either slaughtered by the Ottomans for refusing to convert or else were forced to flee into exile.
These years saw treachery and treason aplenty by Europeans but also heroic defence and resistance by Christian saints and warrior-monks who heeded the pleas of farsighted popes.
Thereafter the Catholic Habsburg empire launched a long-term campaign to recapture Muslim-occupied European lands.
This commenced with the saving of Vienna, especially by Poland's King Jan III Sobieski, and was continued by the brilliant French-born soldier, Prince Eugene of Savoy, who began settling Germans, primarily German farmer-soldiers, on re-conquered and de-populated territory formerly under Ottoman rule.
The ongoing Habsburg-led defence of Christian Europe involved the creation of the now forgotten "military frontier" that extended from the Adriatic to the Carpathians. (In some ways, it was a prototype for the Maginot Line, the elaborate defensive fortifications the French built along its border with Germany between the wars.)
The Habsburg "military frontier" consisted of a network of settled districts. All able-bodied men in these districts stood in readiness to be mobilised to resist the Ottomans.
According to one historical source, by 1790 - nearly a century after Vienna was narrowly delivered from Islamisation - some 400,000 Serbs, 325,000 Croats, 90,000 Romanians, 70,000 Hungarians and 44,000 Germans were serving as Christendom's eastern farmer-warrior frontiersmen.
One may ask why one of Europe's major empires felt it had to undertake such a massive and ongoing military and financial burden. Moczar answers - and drives home the point time and again - that, ever since the first siege of Vienna in 1529, the Habsburg empire justifiably feared a bloody tyrannical foe whose modus operandi included relentless warfare, the enslavement of millions of Christian families, and the kidnapping and conscription of their children into Muslim armies and harems.
The Ottomans had destroyed cities, including Constantinople (now Istanbul) - once the seat of Eastern Christianity - where they slaughtered citizens, seized treasure and destroyed sacred places.
Christians who refused to convert to Islam were enslaved or reduced to the status of dhimmitude, that is, generations of Christians were made to endure subservience and exorbitant taxing.
Moczar's last chapter, entitled "The 'so what?' question: relevance for today", applies these forgotten lessons of history to today's world and warns of the likely fate of Europe if they are not heeded.