Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oriana Fallaci's Ripping Yarns

The quotation from Oriana Fallaci which I used to introduce the previous post got me thinking about this High Priestess of Islamophobia and the incredible liberties she takes with the historical record, an unforgivable crime in my book and the reason for this post.

You may remember her reference to Kara Mustafa, Grand Vizier to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV and commander of the 1683 Turkish siege of Vienna, as the first link in a supposed Islamo-fascist chain leading all the way to the likes of Yasser Arafat, Bin Laden and Islamist suicide bombers. Such great leaps forward (and backward) are, of course, characteristic of Zionists and Islamophobes, who blithely manipulate history to suit their agenda. Such has been the fate of Kara Mustafa and the siege of Vienna.

Hence the Islamophobic blog Gates of Vienna, which carries the following masthead: "At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war."

War? War? How very Anders Behring Breivik, alleged by the New York Times to have been a contributor to the site. No surprise then to learn that Gates of Vienna held Fallaci in the highest esteem, posting the following tender tribute on the occasion of her death in 2006: "All of us in the Counter-Jihad mourn her passing. All of us will have to work that much harder now that she is gone. Shame on the government of Italy for prosecuting her for telling the truth. Rest in peace, Oriana Fallaci."

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I thought it might be interesting to compare Fallaci's brief but colourful account of 1683 with the historical record. Here, then, is the paragraph which precedes the Fallaci rant I posted yesterday:

"The fact is that in 1683 Europeans were more intelligent than they are today. And apart from the French who also at that time liked to fornicate with Islam (consider the Treaty of Alliance signed by Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil) but had promised the Austrians to remain neutral, they all rushed to defend [Vienna] by now seen as the bulwark of Christianity. All of them, yes. English, Spanish, Germans, Ukrainians, Poles, Italians. (Meaning Genovese, Venetians, Tuscans, Piedmontese, subjects of the Papal State). On September 12 they scored the extraordinary victory that compelled Kara Mustafa to flee abandoning his camels and his elephants, his buffaloes and his mules, his corn and his coffee, his ostriches and his peacocks, his wives and his concubines... Worse: to prevent his wives and his concubines from falling into the hands of the infidel-dogs, Kara Mustafa had to slit their throats one by one." (The Force of Reason, 2004, pp 50-51)

The inventor of the term 'Eurabia' is obviously a go-to if it's a ripping Islamophobic yarn you're after, but if it's the history of the 1683 siege of Vienna you want, try Andrew Wheatcroft's The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans & the Battle for Europe (2008).

First, the myth of a Christian Europe united against a threat to its very existence:

"[Holy Roman Emperor] Leopold [I] could not even instruct his own subjects and be sure they would obey his command. To get support from the states of the Holy Roman Empire, an Emperor had to cajole, persuade or even bribe a set of prickly, argumentative and self-interested electoral princes, local rulers and assemblies. The fundamental rift - between Catholic and Protestant - still influenced Europe's internal politics, and Protestant states felt no natural inclination to come to the aid of a Catholic Emperor. That was within the Holy Roman Empire, over which Leopold had some power. The possibility of rallying Europe as a whole - including the arch enemy France - to follow the Habsburgs' lead was infinitesimal." (p 18)

Second, Kara (That's no way to treat a lady!) Mustafa:

"As he heard the small group of husars charge home, Kara Mustafa left his tent to rejoin the fight, charging into the flank of Jablanowski's column. Most of his bodyguard was killed, and he had been told that if he were captured the sacred standard entrusted to him by the sultan would fall into infidel hands. He returned to his tent for the last time, wrapped the standard in its cover, took his private treasure chest and rode off with a few sipahis towards the safety of Hungary. His final official act was to order the troops besieging Vienna to leave their posts, destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy, and to slaughter all captives. All 3 orders were carried out as far as was possible in the final chaotic hour." (p 186)

Hm... no mention of those unfortunate ladies. Anything in Wheatcroft on Mustafa's presumed harem?:

"[He] was enough of a courtier to pay attention to the sultan, and to take an interest in the young princes, Mustafa and Ahmed; his reward was the hand of an Ottoman princess in marriage, for whom he divorced his first wife." (p 83)

Divorce? Strewth, how is this guy ever going to get the numbers to satisfy Fallaci and the mob over at Gates of Vienna?

OK, let's see what Raphaela Lewis' Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey (1971) has to say:

"[A] Muslim was permitted as many as 4 wives on the condition that he provided each with a separate and equal establishment... In fact, among certain classes, it was more common to marry and divorce frequently than to suffer the expense of a full quota of 4 wives at once, each with her separate dwelling." (p 104)

Do I really need to go on?

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