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>Position Statements
>>Clash of Civilizations






























Controversy: Christianity vs. Islam
Position: -


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Moorish Spain

* Almond 2009 -32-33
"The phrase 'clash of civilizations' has been bandied about a great deal in recent years, often to describe some specific disagreement or cultural conflict in pan-global, geopolitical terms.  What a careful study of the cultural setting of eleventh-century Muslim Spain reveals, above all else, is the historical ignorance of such a term.  In a medieval society where Jewish viziers shared jokes with their Muslim dinner guests, where languages such as Arabic or Romance belonged equally to the church and the mosque, and could be found in a zajal or a hymn, even where Muslim and Christian criminals joined together in moving moments of inter-cultural co-operation to loot a village or steal sheep from their co-religionists, what emerges is how easily the inhabitants of Muslim Spain were able to put aside their religious identities when the occasion demanded." 

* Tallett & Trim eds. 2010 p34 (Kelly DeVries, "Warfare and the International State System," p27-49)
"For centuries, relations between the various Iberian kingdoms had been turbulent.  While the medieval military history of Spain usually focuses on the reconquista of Muslim sultanates, it could as easily be perceived as a series of civil wars between Christian principalities, punctuated with periods of Christian-Muslim conflict."


Ottoman Turks

* Almond 2009 p139, 140
"The story, for some people, goes like this: in 1526, the Turks marched into Hungary and held its free, Christian peoples captive for over a hundred and fifty years. The country was laid waste, its people either starved or massacred, held under the rule of the despotic Turk despite all the attempts of their Christian neighbours to free them. On two occasions the Muslim hordes even tried to march on Vienna -- the shadow of Islam was about to fall on the heart of Europe itself. On the second attempt, Christendom finally united itself before the Mohammedan foe and repelled the invaders, brefore going on to liberate Hungary and even drive the Ottomans back to Belgrade. Christian Europe had been saved, the Balkans practically re-conquered (in the most Spanish sense of the word), and the Turkish threat finally put to rest. All of Christianity -- Prostestant and Catholic, peasant and noble, Slav and German -- rejoiced.
[...] "...[T]he manner in which it [the Turkish March on Vienna, 1683] is enrolled into some form of East-West conflict between a Christian Europe and a Muslim Orient ... is, in the end, nothing more than a Disney version of history. On a variety of levels -- from international and diplomatic to local and military, from ambassadors and treaties to footsoldiers on the ground and peasants in the villages -- ... Christians and Christian countries were directly involved alongside the Turks in the attempt to take Vienna. From Louis XIV's alliance with the sultan to the 100,000-strong army of Hungarian Christians who assisted the Ottoman attack; from the thousands of Greeks, Armenians and Slavs in the Ottomans' own armies who loyally fought for the sultan to the Transylvanian Protestants and disaffected peasants who, tired of the Catholic Habsburgs' yoke (or of their own Hungarian aristocracy) moved over to the Turkish side; and culminating in the figure of Imre Thokoly, the Hungarian Protestant prince who first persuaded the grand vizier to try to take the city -- and whose army of Kuruzen fought alongside the Turks and the Tatars as far north as present-day Slovakia."

* Murphey 1999 p191-192
"The size of the Ottoman empire and the extensiveness of its resource base continued for the whole of the period 1500 to 1700 to serve as its main strength and protection.  It was simply too big for Europe or any of the Ottomans' Middle Eastern neighbours to confront single-handedly.  Without the effort, sacrifice, expense and risk involved in the creation of what often proved to be fragile anti-Ottoman alliances there was no hope of a successful military challenge against the Ottomans.  For most of the sixteenth as well as the seventeenth centuries the Ottomans were able to achieve their geopolitical objectives by mounting a military operation themselves, using less than their own full capacity, or by enlisting support (particularly in the naval sphere) from friends and allies.  On land it was the Tatars, Kurds and Caucasians who sometimes tipped the balance in the Ottomans' favour, especially by their lending of logistical, transport and reconaissance aid to the main body of Ottoman combatant forces in the field.  In the Mediterranean, when confronted by the combined fleets of its most redoubtable enemies, the Ottomans also relied on the invaluble help of their allies in the Barbary States and, for a brief period in the mid-sixteenth century, on France.  In the waging of limited warfare of the more usual sort carried out on a single front, however, the Ottomans operated throughout this period of international military challenges well within their own internal resource capabilities.  This is not to say that the Ottomans never experienced economic strain induced by military overextension or the unfortunate, but sometimes unavoidable necessity of waging war on two fronts simultaneously.  But barring such exceptional circumstances, the impact of Ottoman warfare, both in terms of its expense and its social costs, was kept within sustainable bounds.  The mobilization of men and resources for war in the seventeenth century Ottoman empire drew on a sufficently wide geographical domain, and war's aggregate costs were kept to modest enough proportions that the Ottomans' transformation into a 'near-perfect military society' was never threatened."

* Murphey 1999 p25-26 
"The Ottomans' Western contemporaries were so impressed with the discipline and valour in battle of the sultan's regular army that they were inclined to attribute Ottoman success to the superhuman efforts of Ottoman soldiers driven, or so they believed, by an irrepressible missionary zeal.  Such views still have their modern proponents, who are convinced that Ottoman military success can be explained by the extreme mental concentration inherent to soldiers with a 'fanatically pursued mission'.  While devotion to a higher cause cannot be altogether discounted as a contributory factor, the degree to which religious loyalties actually inspired battlefield performance can be questioned.  In an army made up of heterogeneous elements -- both devshirme recruits hailing for the most part from the European provinces and timariot forces drawn from diverse backgrounds and some of them recent converts -- forms of religious expression and practice spanned the whole spectrum of belief from crypto-Christianism to mainstream Sunnism, and from moderate Bektashism to the more extreme forms of heterodox Muslim sectarian practice.  Religion remained a highly personal matter in broadly tolerant Muslim Ottoman society and, as a consequence, shared belief was neither expected nor required for the Ottoman army to function as a cohesive whole.  In the main it is best to treat both religion and ideology as present but never predominating influences on Ottoman military practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The presumption that the Ottoman soldier's performance was guided principally by physical and material concerns implies no denial of the importance to each individual soldier of spiritual values or the strength and sincerity of religious belief.  But ascribing to Ottoman soldiers a paramountcy of spiritual over mundane concerns remains a problematic premise, since much of their observable behaviour contradicted this order of priorities."

* Brady 2009 p355
"It is a commonly repeated error that the Europeans in general and the Germans in particular regarded the Ottomans as simply a cruel, implacable, unfathomable, and mysterious 'Other.'  The images of the Ottomans that circulated in the German lands between the invasion of Hungary in 1526 and the beginning of the Thirty Years War in 1618 broadcast fantasies, to be sure, but also a good deal of knowledge about the Ottomans.  Four themes dominated their output.  One theme was ethnographic: the Ottomans as a semi-familiar, semi-exotic people.  The second theme was military and political: the Ottoman sultan was the most powerful warrior of the age, able by turns to make war and peace with the Christian rulers and occasionally to become their ally.  The third theme was moral: the Turk was a tyrant who cruelly misused, enslaved, or slaughtered his Christian captives.  The fourth theme was theological: Turk and pope were twin servants of the Antichrist, enemies of God sent to prepare the world in general and Christians in particular for these Last Days."