Letter to Charlene Law continued….)
The Arab era of the Crusades ended with the fading of the Fatimid Caliphate and a new force, already mentioned, the Turks became the driving force in Islam. Until the 20th century, the terms Turk and Muslim were pretty much interchangeable.
After the Crusades, Christianity had its own divisions. The eastern Christian Roman Empire which we usually call the Byzantine Empire shrank away under the onslaughts of the Turkish Muslim invaders until it was just a few sections of Greece, some Greek islands and the enclave immediately surrounding Constantinople and its massive walls. In 1453 Constantinople finally became part of Dar al Islam.
The Turkish Muslims had succeeded where the Arab Muslims had failed. The Turkish Muslim invaders swept through the Balkans into Austria and Dar al Islam embraced what today are Greece, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Macedonia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia, Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes and many of the other Mediterranean islands were all part of the Islamic Empire. Vienna stood alone as the gateway to the final Muslim conquest of Europe.
In 1529, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna, the weather turned, the Austrians and their few allies held fast and the Turks had to retreat. One hundred fifty years of intermittent war ensued and the Turkish Sultan amassed a great fleet and army for the invasion of Italy and the final conquest of Rome, weakened by the Reformation. Luther had said that life under the Muslims would be easier for Protestants than life under the Pope.
The fleet was gathered just across the narrow Adriatic in the Gulf of Corinth, at Lepanto. On October 7, 1571 a meager force of Christians had gathered, led by Don Juan of Austria. They sailed to what seemed certain doom, the picture of Our lady of Guadalupe placed prominently on Don Juan’s flagship. The wind turned, the Muslim fleet defeated, and the sea power of Dar al Islam was broken and to this day the Islamic world is not a naval power.
Vienna was once again put under siege by the Muslim invaders in 1683. On September 11, 1683. September 11th.... where have I heard that date? The Islamic Empire in Europe reached its high water mark. There were two battles happening simultaneously. Armies of Turks were trying to tunnel under the walls, but it is said that the bakers of Vienna, the first ones up in the morning heard the sound of scraping under their shops and realized that they were being tunneled under! The tunnelers were defeated, Meanwhile above ground, King Jan Sobieski and the Polish army came to the relief of the Christians, and on September 12, routed the Turkish armies, which began the steady retreat of Dar al Islam in the Christian west, at least until our own times.
Dar al Islam has never been so extensive as it was on Sep. 11, 1683. Every time you eat a croissant, French for crescent, you may be eating a commemoration of the great battle of Vienna, one of the many times Poland saved Christianity, because as the old story goes the bakers made crescent rolls to give thanks for the defeat of the Turks whose battle flag bore the crescent moon of Islam. The steady retreat of the (Muslim Turkish) Ottoman Empire continued until it vanished like a soap bubble in 1922, having already lost most of its European possessions.
The myth says that the Crusades were a failure. All that killing for nothing, and there certainly was killing, and mismanagement and excesses on the part of the Christians. What did it accomplish?
It accomplished plenty. In the year 1000 it was a foregone conclusion on the part of Christian and Muslim alike that Christianity was over. The heartlands of Christianity, Egypt, Syria, North Africa were all lost to Christendom. Muslims had invaded the heart of Christendom and they wouldn’t and they won’t stop. Ever. The Crusades stopped the steady drumbeat of Muslim invasion and took back at least some of the lands stolen by the armies of Islam. The Muslim invader is nothing if not persistent. The initiative was lost by the Arab founders of Islam, but was picked up the Turks who lost it in turn.
Now the Ayatollahs of Iran and the Wahabi sheiks of our Saudi Arabian allies seem ready to try again. We like to think that the world has changed. In the unending war between the House of Islam and the rest of the world nothing has changed and we are wishful; fools if we believe things are better now.
We slaughtered them. They slaughtered us. Nothing much here to be proud of for Christians, but it is sheer stupidity to believe that Islam was the victim and Christendom the aggressor. Clearly Christians in their attempts to defend themselves did not always live up to the tenets of their faith. In this there is nothing to be proud of.
The chilling thing is that while one side failed on occasion to live up to expectations, one side was true to its founder in the midst of conquest and slaughter.
Next week: more slaughter.