Sharp Blue: A brief comment on Islam then and now


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Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings recently pointed out a post at OPFOR about the defeat of the Ottoman attack on Malta on September 11, 1565. The conclusion of that article was the same sort of anti-Islamic sentiment I’ve seen in plenty of other places:

The lessons for us today, almost five centuries hence, are equally important. The same enemy exists today. Instead of galleys he uses airliners, and instead of Janissaries he uses suicide bombers. He hates and fears western civilization, and seeks to convert or enslave us. We have to meet him and engage him everywhere he is, just as the Knights did. What it will take to win against him is what it took to win at Malta: preparation, skill at arms, leadership, and above all faith and an iron will.

But we don’t face even remotely the same enemy today. Back then, the Ottoman Empire, for all its many flaws, was the meritocratic, open, tolerant and efficient side. Today, we’re facing an Islamic enemy that seeks to build a closed, intolerant, backward and dismal society. Only a fool with side with the forces of modern extremist Islam, but back then many of the most talented Europeans left Christendom for a brighter, better life under the Caliphate. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire even offered a sanctuary for many of the Jews expelled from Spain, who then made Ottoman Thessalonica into a thriving commercial centre.

Why the Ottoman Empire later stagnated and disintegrated (or was dismembered) while Christian Europe flourished is an interesting question. Certainly nobody in the 16th century really expected such an outcome. It seems to me that the key factor is the shift in trade routes associated with the discovery of North America and the rise of mercantile, maritime powers in western Europe. European merchants with oceangoing ships could cut out the Muslim middlemen and trade directly with the east Indies. This in turn fatally undermined the basis of Ottoman prosperity (and also, although less drastically that of the great Italian trading cities, whose fortunes were tied to the same trade routes through the Levant).

I've just been staying at home waiting for something to happen, but I don't care. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I can't be bothered with anything recently.

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