The Ottoman Tales VI: Not Much for Victory, but the Eats Were Good

This continues a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

As Sultan Abdul Hamid raised the Banner Named Barack, his armies had one distinguishing feature:

In one, and only one thing, the Turkish soldier is not cheated. He is well fed, and gets his full allowance of the rations allowed him. The reasons for this are—first, because the contractors for food are almost invariably Moslems, who, whatever their faults may be, do not prey upon the Government in the same manner as do the foreigners, the Jews, and the native Christians of Constantinople. The second reason is, that seeing he is kept months in arrear with his pay, and when he wants a little ready money has to borrow from the regimental ” Svraff,” or paymaster, at the rate of ten per cent, per month—the authorities take care that the line must be drawn somewhere ; and they draw it at the food. Of this he gets his, or rather the Government’s, money’s worth. The contractors for it are nearly always provincials, and these are certainly more honest and honourable in their dealings than their fellow-countrymen on the Bosphorus. The Turkish soldiers, therefore, in ordinary times, are with few exceptions well fed. But to do the Turks justice, it must be said of them, that when by any chance—in a campaign, for instance—their food is not forthcoming, they neither growl nor grumble, but bear their misfortunes like men and soldiers. (H.M. Hozier, The Russo-Turkish War)

At the College of Engineering and Computer Science, our current Interim Dean is the Turkish Dr. Neslihan Alp, who has always kept the morale of the people under her up with food events.  Now we know, it’s the great Ottoman tradition.

Living in this country, she’s also had to deal with Americans who like to “growl and grumble”.  For someone like myself who was born and raised in this country, that’s an embarrassment.

Bullying is About Social Hierarchy

The things we find out when we investigate…

“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy,” Jennifer Wong, a criminology professor who led the study, told the Post. “When you’re in high school, it’s a very limited arena in which you can establish your rank, and climbing the social ladder to be on top is one of the main ways … Bullying is a tool you can use to get there.”

For me, that was yet another hard lesson I learned in Palm Beach, a town at the top of society which had a very stratified social hierarchy among adults and children alike.  And they didn’t wait for high school either: elementary school was fertile ground for bullying.

Stating the obvious always gets you in trouble, though:

Rob Frenette, co-founder of the advocacy and support group Bullying Canada, emphasizes that bullies usually have some sort of underlying issue, such as violence in the home , suggesting that bullying is triggered, not natural.

“This is kind of stepping backward and that’s concerning,” he told the Post, regarding Wong’s study. “I don’t want parents who have a child who is considered a bully to think, ‘Well, it’s something they’re born with and there’s nothing we can do to adjust their behavior.’ ”

Rubbish.  And I’ll throw in something else: as someone who’s been on the wrong end of bullying, I resent the implication of the LGBT leadership that bullying of their people is the only bullying that matters.  And I’ll also observe that it’s natural that people who have been on the receiving end of bullying adopt the tactics of their tormentors when they get the chance, and we see that everywhere these days.

One thing that would level the playing field is the idea that people have worth that comes from somewhere else.  The best somewhere else is God himself.  But as our society secularises, an eternal perspective on the value of this life’s status will decrease.  That raises the stakes on what happens here, and it will only get more brutal for the bargain.

Trump Opens the Club to Blacks and Jews? Not Quite

Ronald Kessler makes an interesting statement about Donald Trump and Palm Beach:

“When Donald opened his club in Palm Beach called Mar-a-Lago, he insisted on accepting Jews and blacks even though other clubs in Palm Beach to this day discriminate against blacks and Jews,” Kessler says.

“The old guard in Palm Beach was outraged that Donald would accept blacks and Jews so that’s the real Donald Trump that I know.”

As with many things in Palm Beach, it isn’t that simple.

With black people, he may be right; I’m not sure when clubs such as the Beach, Everglades and Bath & Tennis racially integrated.  The biggest hurdle is money.

But with the Jews…ah, that’s a different story.  Palm Beach’s club system has been rigidly segregated between Jewish and Gentile clubs for many years, as I found out growing up:

Anyone who lived on the north end of the island had to pass the Palm Beach Country Club, with its well manicured course and pristine clubhouse, to go anywhere. As we passed this place time and time again, I (a kid of nine or ten) wondered, “Why do we pass this place up to go to another club?” I grew up in a family where it wasn’t wise to ask too many questions, but eventually I was told that it was the “Jewish Country Club,” and since we were Gentiles, we belonged elsewhere.  (That “elsewhere” was the Breakers.)

This segregation was strictly enforced. There were “Jewish clubs,” there were “Gentile clubs,” and n’er the twain met. This enforcement could be brutal. In the early 1960’s a member of another of Palm Beach’s exclusive clubs (the Everglades Club) made the mistake of bringing her Jewish friend for lunch. She was asked to resign her membership.

Jews have been able to join the club in Palm Beach for many years, but their own clubs.  Bernie Madoff used this to his advantage when he began his scheme to defraud both his fellow Jews and the club they belonged to.

Donald Trump’s idea at Mar-a-Lago was that Jews and Gentiles could belong to the same club, and for that idea he deservedly gets credit.

Those Undiverse Episcopalians, and Others

They talk a good game, but as a recent Pew report notes, those purveyors of same-sex marriage bomb in the racial diversity department.   Even with the choice of Presiding Bishop Curry, the Episcopal Church is whiter than–horrors–the Southern Baptist Convention!

It’s hard to blame non-white people from avoiding the Episcopal Church; in fact, it’s hard to blame anyone from avoiding it these days.

Some other observations:

  1. Although “nothing in particular” religiously is better spread out, if you’re a declared atheist or agnostic, chances are you’re white.  And that’s TEC’s (and other liberal churches) prime demographic.  It’s an uphill battle.
  2. Pentecostal churches and the Roman Catholic Church hover around the racial distribution of the population at large.  That’s one reason (I think it’s the big reason) why Pentecostal churches continue to grow and the RCC can offset their weak pastoral system and perennial “back door problem”.  My experience in the Church of God is that this church in particular doesn’t take full advantage of its racial diversity, particularly in its leadership structure, which is why the Assemblies of God are growing faster.
  3. It’s interesting that the Seventh-Day Adventist church and its errant progeny, the Watchtower, lead the pack in racial diversity.  On the other end are the Mormons, who (justifiably) struggle with this issue.
  4. It’s probably a little unfair to compare religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism because their main adherents are immigrants from non-white parts of the world.
  5. The Anglicans are actually ahead of the Episcopalians they left in the racial diversity department, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

I’m not one of those people who think that racial diversity is important for “politically correct” reasons but because a) like it or not, our population is increasingly non-white and b) non-white people are less likely to secularise (and militantly so) than their white counterparts.  It’s a simple matter of church growth.

I’ve dealt with issue re TEC before.

Jihadi John, Your Services Are No Longer Required

The infamous ISIS video star is on the run:

British terrorist Mohammed Emwazi – known as Jihadi John – has fled the IS terror network and gone on the run in Syria, according to sources…

Emwazi is also believed to fear his unmasking had diminished his value as an IS killer and also that jealous fellow jihadists might plot against him.

Revolution is a tough business.  When Ernst Roehm, that gay blade who led Hitler’s Brown Shirts, became more of a rival than a help to Germany’s’ new leader, same disposed of him and many of his colleagues in the Night of the Long Knives.  And Leon Trotsky, who consigned his anti-Bolshevik opponents to the “ash heap of history”, ended up murdered in Mexico by Joseph Stalin.

As Kevin Ayers would say, “nice guys, meet ’em anywhere…”

What Discrimination Gets Punished Depends Upon Who's Doing the Punishing

This post is inspired by a friend of ours who told a very interesting story from her growing up in a neighbouring Southern state.  (And when you live in Tennessee, that doesn’t mean much, because most of the Southern states and some of the border ones too are neighbours.)  She grew up in the 1980’s, and was up for one of these “Governor’s schools” for exceptional young people.  In her case the guy who was in charge was gay, and she came from an Independent Baptist family.  Needless to say, she was turned down for the school, and to keep his perfect record her brother was turned down too.

The gay man didn’t discriminate much longer; he died of AIDS.  But after the ball anti-discrimination legislation (and before, as was the case in Miami) has been a major push of the LGBT community.  It’s back in front of Congress, although the executive decision to extend the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes that effort a waste of political capital.  And here in Chattanooga the city, while we grieve over the shooting of five servicemen, passed one of these ordinances.

The whole concept of anti-discrimination legislation is to enforce fairness in our society.  The tricky part is twofold.  First, which groups benefit from “fairness”?  And second, who does the enforcing?

The answer to the first has traditionally been driven by the American obsession with identity politics: race, gender, and now sexual orientation.  (The transgender movement has complicated all of this in ways that are not fully understood, but then again so have multi-racial people).  The truth is that class background and status are more important, but that would force too many people to eat crow around here.

The second depends upon who is running the show.  Same social class distinctions bring up the issue of income inequality, something which people talk about but don’t act upon.  It’s understandable: most of the people doing the talking would have to step down in the zero-sum society and let others move up, which they’re certainly not ready to do.

The LGBT community has shown a talent for getting the rich and powerful on their side.  They are the ones which ultimately arbitrate who gets what in a society where power becomes more centralised by the day.  Coupled with the weakening rule of law, what we end up with is simple: a society where those who rule make the rules and change them when it suits them, irrespective of what the “people’s representatives” might have to say in the matter.

Some think that SCOTUS’ ruling on same-sex civil marriage was the turning point.  It was not; it was in the tradition of Roe vs. Wade where SCOTUS dug up rights that no one else had found.  It’s one thing to create law ex nihilo; it’s quite another to contradict its plain meaning when it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to.  That’s what happened with King vs. Burwell, the Obamacare decision.  The people who came up with the scheme knew perfectly well what they  anticipated would happen: they figured that, in the absence of subsidised health care on exchanges, they would have people howling at the states to give them.

But, strange thing, that didn’t happen.  The American political dynamic didn’t work the way they thought it would.  There were no unwashed masses howling for health care; the masses took a bath and howled against Obamacare.  So SCOTUS fixed the problem by letting the Feds go on with exchanges which the law had not provided for.

Such blatant rewriting of the law is a clear sign that we have passed beyond the rule of law; we have rule by elites.  That’s a big reason the current Occupant has been busy pushing his branch left; he figures that the judiciary, of like mind and class, will go along with him at least half the time, maybe more.

Breaking down the rule of law in this country will have two effects.

The first, short-term one, is that elite opinion will drive whose discrimination gets redressed and whose does not.  The results will be similar to those experienced by my friend, only on a wider scale.  (And it’s a lot easier to discriminate and get away with it than you think; our bureaucratised system makes it easier to trash people than to lift them up).

The second, long-term one, is that people will realise that the rule of law is out.  That revelation would change the way people interact with the government–and with each other–in ways that only people from outside the U.S. understand.  The big casualty will be the moral force of the law; the state will be seen as a big protection racket for itself and its patrons and the population will respond accordingly.

And then things will really get interesting.

The Ottoman Tales V: Facing Reality on the Armenians

This continues a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

The question of the massacres of the Armenians during the Ottoman Empire is one of those poisonous issues that never seems to go away.  But what can we learn from it? To find that out, we need to go back to where it all started.

The decline of the Ottoman Empire was a long one that started with the death of Suleiman I and ran all the way until the last Sultan abdicated in 1922.  One of those countries which took advantage of decline was Russia.  In 1774 one of those wars ended with the Treaty of Kainardji, where the Ottomans almost lost control of the Crimea (the drama over that little peninsula never ends, does it?) But more relevant to the present discussion was the following treaty provision:

Turkey promises to protect constantly the Christian religion and churches and allow the ministers of Russia at Constantinople to make representations on their behalf.

What this basically did was make a large part of the Sutan’s subjects agents of a foreign power.  The broad term for this kind of thing, which could also be judicial and economic, is “concessions,” and other European powers, especially the British and French, would pile on the Empire in similar ways.  The Ottoman Empire was the first major non-European power to be subjected to this kind of thing, basically colonialism without a colony.  The Europeans were so enamoured with the results that they repeated it elsewhere, especially in China, where the Chinese kicked back hard, first with the Boxer Rebellion and ultimately with the People’s Republic.

Like many things, it took a while for the ramifications of this to kick in.  And the Armenians within the Empire did their best to be the loyal, productive subjects they were through Ottoman history.  Even when the Sultan raised the Banner named Barack and declared jihad on the Russians in 1876, the Armenian religious leadership responded as follows:

Shortly after the declaration of war Monsignor Narses, Patriarch of the Armenian Church, also addressed to his flock a pastoral, in which he called upon them to show, as in the past, their unalterable fidelity to the Ottoman throne. He recalled to their memory how the Armenians had worked for the good of the Fatherland, and had contributed to it by agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, and even by participation in administrative reforms. Pie summoned them to remain, as a Christian people, faithful to their traditions, to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” The Patriarch exhorted his people to give an example of fraternal love, whether to fellow-believers or otherwise, and, above all, to pray that God ” may deliver us from the implacable enemies who come to our attack.” His Eminence further inculcated the duty of assisting by every possible aid and contribution the Ottoman Government, to which they were bound to furnish every moral and material support. His Eminence also directed the Armenians to pray for the success of the Sultan’s arms, ” so that our ecclesiastical liberties, our language, and the free administration of our scholastic and religious establishments, may be preserved to us.” (H.M. Hozier, The Russo-Turkish War, Vol 1)

However, not all Armenians were under the Sultan’s rule.  Some had been lost to conquest, but others to emigration, driven by the “Turkification” process (which included military service) and the uninspiring economic state of the Empire.  Many of these Armenians, inspired by European nationalism, began to agitate for either their own state or more rights under the one they had.

That played into the paranoia of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.  In 1894, following some outbreaks of rebellion, he decided to “give them a box on the ears.”  What that meant was the first of the Armenian massacres, which were carried out with precision and direction from the Sultan himself, with help from any non-Armenian population which would join in the slaughter.  This included the elimination of the Christian population of Trebizond and the burning of the cathedral in Urfa, which was packed with refugees from the slaughter and who perished with the building.

The massacres went off and on for three years.  It helped to wreck the Sultan’s reputation among his own people and earned him the moniker “Abdul the Damned.”  It seriously aided the push to do something drastic about the Sultan’s rule.  That something came in 1908, when the “sons of donkeys,” led by the Young Turks, forced Adbul Hamid to abdicate and set up a constitutional monarchy–of sorts.

The Young Turks–soon lead by the triumvirate of Enver, Talaat and Jemal after a coup in 1913–found out quickly that taking charge of a nation and making it work were two different things.  They actually came to an agreement to reform the Armenian provinces, one worked out with Russian leadership.  But having come to power in the midst of the Balkan Wars, they found themselves in the middle of a much great conflict–the First World War–on the side of Germany.

That put them back into war with Russia.  Enver Pasha, a parade ground general if there ever was one, decided to invade the Caucasus Mountains at the start of winter, where Turkish armies froze to death and which was a military disaster for the Ottomans.  Unable to achieve victory against the Tsar’s armies, and incensed that some of these armies were Armenian volunteers, the “progressives” decided that genocide was in order.

With no more use for Armenians than Woodrow Wilson had for black people, Talaat boasted that “I have accomplished more towards solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in three years.”  Talaat had the brass to ask American Ambassador Morgenthau the names of the dead Armenians with American life insurance policies so that the Empire could collect the death benefits.  Enver even brushed off the Ambassador’s diplomatic attempt to let him shift the blame to his underlings; Enver stated that “…I am entirely willing to accept the responsibility for everything that has taken place.”  That, of course, was the death of three-quarters of a million Armenians.

The impending loss of World War I likewise was the end of the rule of Enver, Talaat and Jemal, who left Constantinople in a German torpedo-boat.  Turkey stumbled through several years of further conflict and suffering until Kamal Ataturk, who was the military genius Enver was not, deposed the last Sultan and make Turkey a secular republic.

At this point it’s time to pause and attempt to learn some things from this horrific history.  A good place to start would be another observation by Thomas Sowell in Black Rednecks and White Liberals:

Past grievances, real or imaginary, are equally irredeemable in the present, for nothing that is done among living contemporaries can change in the slightest the sins and the sufferings of generations who took those sins and sufferings to the grave with them in centuries past.  Galling as it may be to be helpless to redress the crying injustices of the past, symbolic expiation in the present can only create new injustices among the living and new problems for the future, when newborn babies enter the world with pre-packaged grievances against other babies born the same day.  Both have their futures jeopardized, not only by their internal strife but also by the increased vulnerability of a disunited society to external dangers from other nations and from international terrorist networks.

To be relevant in our times, history must not be controlled by our times.  Its integrity as a record of the past is what allows us to draw lessons from it.

One of the most chilling lessons of the history of the twentieth century is how deceptive domestic tranquillity can be in a multi-ethnic society, when it takes only the right circumstances and the right demagogue to turn neighbour murderously against neighbour.

First: the Turks need to simply admit the truth of these massacres.  They were bad.  To some extent there is a disconnect because the Ottoman Empire was superseded by the Republic of Turkey.  The Turks’ ancestors did not pick the Sultan or really the Young Turks for that matter.

Second: the Armenians need to realise that some of the “payback” they seek has already been done. Armenian nationalists assassinated Talaat and Jemal (the Bolsheviks dispatched Enver in combat).  And obsessively nursing grievances about this is unworthy of one of the most enterprising people on God’s earth.

Third: we need to realise that the combination of European nationalism and the centralising tendencies of the modern state are, together, poison, a poison that transcends the Armenian tragedy.  We live in a world where it’s possible for a variety of people can live the way they want to, especially with the technology we have.  But instead we see democratic institutions being used to force a uniformity on society based upon the possible effects that certain groups might have on the rest of society.  In that context what could be means of liberation become tools of enslavement.

If we could learn that last lesson, the Armenians who perished in the desert–and all of the other groups who have experienced persecution, suffering and mass death–would not have died in vain.

The Ottoman Tales IV: Islamic States, Then and Now

This continues a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

It should be obvious from this post that the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic state.  In fact, in its day it was the Islamic state in the Middle East and anywhere else.  Yet it’s different in many ways from ISIS.  How is this so?  And why?

The first thing to remember is that the Ottoman Empire was Turkish, not Arabic.  Given the fact that the Qur’an is considered non-translatable (something I agree with) and that Arabic culture permeates the Islamic world, it’s easy to conflate the two.  But in fact many of the important Islamic countries today–Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even Arabic-speaking (sort of) countries like Algeria are not Arabic.  So things can be different.

The Ottomans, as was the case in previous caliphates, imposed a dhimmi system on their non-Islamic subjects (primarily but not exclusively Christian, as the bloodbath in Iraq and Syria reminds us).  And the Ottomans could be brutal, although brutality in war was the common currency of the Middle East then and still is now.  But once things settled down and they established their control the Ottomans did not wipe out their non-Muslim populations, but sequestered them in their millet system, where they were ruled by their own authorities who in turn answered to those of the Sultan.  They lived in divided cities and of course the countryside.  And they experienced many restrictions; they had, for example, to dismount from a horse when a Muslim passed.

And the rulers could be reasonable.  Grand Vizier Ahmed Kiuprili granted permission to rebuild some churches.  When one of his people pointed out that an old law required that they be rebuilt using original stones, he brushed him off with the following:

They were fools who invented that formula and greater fools still are they who follow it.  These people desire to repair their temple; if it is so dilapidated that to repair it is impossible, let them build a new one.  All that we need care about is, that they do it at their own expense, and not with the money of Muslims; and provided they pay their tribute regularly, the rest does not concern us.

(Egypt has a similar law, probably an Ottoman inheritance; they could use this Grand Vizier, who also laid down the principle of free trade based on the silence of the Qur’an.)

And the Sultan Mahmud II stated that “I distinguish among my subjects Muslims in the mosque, Christians in the church, Jews in the synagogue, but there is no difference among them in any other way.”

So how did we get from this state to, say the tragedy of the Armenians?  The answer comes from Europe.

The Ottomans divided up their population into their respective groups which lived to varying degrees under their own laws and customs.  In a society where the locus of power is at the centre and autocratically held, various groups are useful to the power holder because they can be used as counterweights to other possible power challengers in the society.  In this way the religious and ethnic lack of “purity” can be used by the ruler as a way of perpetuating his or her control.

The Enlightenment established the principle that all people should be equal under the law and that the law should apply uniformly to everyone.  This concept was central to both the American and French Revolutions, but it spread to other parts of Europe, both before, during and after Napoleon’s time.  An example from the Christian side of the Balkan border is instructive.

In 1781 the Austrian Emperor Joseph II issued an edict of toleration for the Jews, but at the same time began the process of bringing the Jews into a legal, social and educational system where the special authority of their own religious leadership was no longer recognised.  The idea was that the Jews would be more useful to the Empire, albeit in a way different from before.   The Ottoman Empire went through this same process, albeit with lags both in time and in the depth of penetration of progress.

Parallel with that was the spread of European nationalism, the idea that people groups should have their own national expression.  With the spread of more universal education, this resulted in a gradual “Turkification” process in the Ottoman Empire, which didn’t sit well with many of the ethnic and religious groups which lived there.  The beginning of the modern exodus of Christians from the Middle East can be traced to this process, coupled with the desire for economic opportunity.

In relatively homogeneous countries like the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy, this process was considerably smoother than in multi-ethnic and religious amalgams such as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.  The first major rush for the exits in the latter was the Greek revolt, which resulted in the re-establishment of that nation.  (I wonder if Europeans are now sorry they helped that…) From then to World War I there was a procession of nations outgoing: Bosnia (which got scarfed up by the Austrians, fatally for many,) Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, and finally Albania.

The European Union, formed as it was after the two bloodbaths of the World Wars, is a tacit admission that European nationalism is poison.  The break-up of another attempt at multi-ethnic union, Yugoslavia, made the point at its worst, and Europe’s nations still struggle with separatist movements, especially the Catalans and the Scots.  Although Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were rickety edifices that ultimately collapsed, finding a better way has proven a difficult process.

Part of the downside of European nationalism are attempts to “clean up” ethnic diversity.  The best known of these is the Holocaust that the Nazis perpetrated, although the mass migrations resulting from border shifting weren’t pretty either.  But before most all of this was the tragic massacre of the Armenians, and to this we will turn in our next post.

It Really Does Matter What You Believe

I mulled long and hard what I’d put up as a reflection of the terrorist shootings here in Chattanooga last Thursday.  Given that the shooter was an electrical engineer and graduate of the same institution where I teach, I think it proper to repost–with a few updates–my piece Coming Home from Heathrow, which I first posted nine years ago.  The title refers to the return from the month long trip I took to the UK the summer before I graduated from Texas A&M.  Although it focuses on the air transport system, it’s just as applicable to terrorism on the ground, too.

Any time terrorism or its threat strikes our air travel system, things turn into a mess, with long lines, cancelled flights, and a lot of precious cargo ending up as rubbish. Our security agencies keep “moving the goalposts” on what’s contraband on board and what’s not in response to the latest threat, successful or not. Because of the drastic change in security wrought by 9/11, we’re conditioned to start our “security clocks” at that date.

In reality, things really got going on airport security in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in response to two events. In North America, people were hijacking planes and taking them to Cuba. In Europe and the Middle East, the Palestinians were hijacking planes and blowing them up. Zero Halliburton tried to capitalise on this: their advertisements showed their aluminium luggage surviving the plane’s demolition. So, when it was time for me to make my first overseas jaunt to the UK, I trotted off with Zero Halliburton case.

I spend some time—probably too much—on this site about my first trip to the UK. From going atop Hergest Ridge (the photos from which now enjoyed by the Goths) to watching a film about Mohammed with a theatre full of his followers, the trip was fabulous. But it was also at an important point in my walk with God. I had grown up in a church and society which tended to set definite limits on how transforming the power of Jesus Christ in one’s life could be, and now those limits could be discarded without retreating into a monastery.

In this quest I was not alone. As an engineering student, I had many friends who were experiencing the same kind of thing. Some experienced renewal; others were simply reborn in Jesus Christ for the first time. For me, I had concluded that ridding our country of those who were destroying it was beyond the existing political process. (That turned out to be right, but fixing it is beyond the limits the New Testament sets for the followers of Jesus).  Living in love with fellow Christians deflected my thinking from that. Many of those watching us thought we had gone off of our individual and collective rockers. But the aftermath has been singularly boring: most have married and raised families in the intervening years, complete with gloriously bourgeois careers in industry or government.

Thinking about engineering students in the 1970’s should make a person think about one in particular. The scion of a successful family, he wandered about his native region as a student, visiting various places of sin on the way (sangria at the Mexican restaurant was about as far as most of us got in that.) At one point, this engineering student had a religious experience that changed his life and catapulted him in a trajectory that ended up crediting him with a well-publicised “engineering” feat: the destruction of two of the world’s tallest buildings. The student, of course, is Osama bin Laden, and the buildings were the World Trade Centre, destroyed on 9/11. The religion is Wahhabi Islam.

Liberals, of course, would be unhappy with both of the courses taken on either end of the oil patch (they weren’t happy with the oil patch either.) But they need to have a serious, collective reality check and come to the understanding that all religion isn’t the same. There’s a significant difference between people who’s most potent political weapons are prayer and the ballot box and those who are willing to kill themselves if they can take enough “infidels” with them. Christianity has, in some ways, been too kind to its mortal enemies. Think, for example, what the result of l’affaire Dreyfus would have been in an Islāmic state and not Catholic-secular France? Dreyfus wouldn’t have made it to Devil’s Island, let alone back.

Getting liberals to see daylight isn’t easy. In the meanwhile we must go on, hoping that our civilisation has enough grit to stand down its most serious rival this century without throwing Christians into jail to satisfy their leftover hatred from the last one. The stakes are high because, if the West fails, all of these baubles we count as necessities will vanish and there will be no coming home from Heathrow—or anywhere else.

If you want to see the message that made the difference, click here.

The Ottoman Tales III: The Banner Named Barack

This continues a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

When Benito Mussolini broke with the Socialists and began his journey towards Fascism and taking over Italy, his newspaper, The People of Italy, screamed with this headline for its first issue in 1914:

The Banner of the Prophet in the Wind: All of Islam in Arms!

The Ottoman Empire was the last great Islāmic state lead by a Caliph, something we will discuss in due course.  But the immediate question is this: what was this “Banner of the Prophet”?

The answer to that can be found in the following dispatch from the Daily Telegraph, probably posted by Drew Gay, the Telegraph’s man in Constantinople at the time.  It has a decidedly contemporary feel to it, but since both Ottoman Turkish and Arabic have variable spellings in English, I have clarified these and other things in parentheses, along with the citations of the Qur’an.  It appeared in–of all places–the July-December 1877 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, which happens to be the last issue under Godey’s direction.

On April 25 (1877), the Sultan Abdul Hamid (II), addressing the Turkish army, said: ‘The fatherland is in danger. It is my duty to take in my hand the banner of the Caliphate and go into the midst of my soldiers—to sacrifice, if necessary, my life for the independence of the Empire, and the honor and life of our women and children.’ Many of the readers of the Daily Telegraph would like, perhaps, to know some details of this banner, and of its wonderful influence upon the mind of those who believe in Mohammed and his ‘Koran.’ It might interest them, therefore, if I give here some observations on the subject.

The banner of the Caliphate, to which the Sultan alludes in his speech, is that which the Turks call ‘the Heavenly Standard,’ and, in their language, ‘Bairack.’ (Barack) Its color is green, and they believe it to have been the banner of the Prophet Mohammed, delivered to him by the angel Gabriel, through the medium of Ayesha, as an indubitable token of victory over their enemies. This standard was formerly laid up in the Treasury of the Sultan of Constantinople, but Is now kept in the Mosque at Eyoob (Eyub), where the new Sultans on the day of their coronation gird on the sabre of the Caliphate. In case of any serious struggle, a religious duty compels the Sultan to give orders to the ‘Mullas,’ (Mullahs) or Mohammedan clergy, to display the Prophet’s standard before the people and army, and proclaim ‘Al Jehad,’ (Jihad) or the holy war, by exhorting the Moslems to be faithful to their religion and defend their Kingdom. ‘This is the Prophet’s banner,’ the Sheikh-al-Islam exclaims: ‘This is the standard of the Caliphate: it is set up before you, and displayed over your heads, oh, true believers, to announce to you that your religion is threatened, your Caliphate in danger, and your life, wives, children, and property exposed to be the prey of your cruel enemies! Any Moslem, therefore, who refuses to take his arms and follow this holy Bairack, Is an infidel, and must, therefore, suffer ‘condemnation.’ Such an expedient has always produced wonderful effects among those who profess the Mohammedan religion. All good Moslems are considered as being divorced from their wives, ipso facto, if they refuse to make haste, take up their arms, follow the banner of the Caliphate, and light against the enemy of their religion and Kingdom. It is confirmed by trustworthy historians that the standard of the Caliphate has been always kept with extraordinary care and reverence—that even the Janissaries, who were often disrespectful to the Sultans, trembled at the sight of this holy ensign. Only one instance of disrespect to the heavenly standard Is related in the Turkish annals. This happened in 1658, when Hassan Pasha, at the head of a seditious faction, waged war with his legitimate sovereign. The Sultan gave orders, as usual, to display the banner of the Caliphate, with a view to induce Hassan Pasha and his parties to obey and respect the Head of Islam. Hassan Pasha seems to have been of little faith, inasmuch as when he saw the sacred banner displayed he turned his back to It and to the exhorting Mullas, and gave orders to his soldiers to light fiercely and carry on the war to the end.

I will not encroach upon your time with tiresome discussions on the genuineness of this green banner of the Caliphate. I only observe that, in the first place, all the biographers of Mohammed, and also the reliable historians of Islamism, both Orientals and Occidentals, make no allusion, whatever, to a green banner used by Mohammed in his military engagements. Elmacin mentions only two flags, which were constantly carried before Mohammed in the 25 campaigns in which he was personally engaged. One was black, and was called ‘ Al ‘Okab,’ i. e., the Eagle ; the other was white, and was called ‘ Al-Lewa,’ i. e., the standard par excellence In the second place, the banners used In former times during the Sultans wars as the standard of the Caliphate were of different colors, and had different mottoes inscribed on them. Several banners of the Caliphate have been also taken in different wars by the Christians. One of these was captured by the King of Poland in the year 1683, and sent to Rome to be presented to the Pope. The centre-piece was of gold brocade upon a red ground, and its borders were of silver brocade upon a green ground. Upon one side was embroidered in Arabic the Mohammedan formula, ‘There is but one God, and Mohammed is his apostle.’ On the other side was the following motto In Arabic, ‘Have confidence in God, oh faithful, and strengthen your faith.’ Another standard of the Caliphate was captured by the Venetians in the year 1685, with 17 other banners, 300 horses, 28 guns, and other spoil. This standard was, by the order of the Venetian Senate, exposed in the church of the Theatin Monks at Venice. On one side of it the following words were inscribed in Arabic: ‘In the name of God, the Most High and Almighty, God the Lord of all things, and the honorable prophets and saints, Mohammed. Abu-bekir, Omar, Othman, and Ali.’ On the other side was written, also in Arabic: ‘There is but one God, and Mohammed is his apostle. O God. our Lord Thou are great In Goodness, and Thou art the Lord of all nations.’ It appears, therefore, from these historical facts, that the green standard now in the Mosque of Eyoob, at Constantinople, is not the same one used by Mohammed in his military engagements. And this accords with the tradition that says that when the Prophet was dying, Ayesha, his favorite wife, tore down the green purdah from the door of the death chamber, and, giving it to the assembled chiefs, bade them make it the flag of future victory. The Moslems, therefore, call this green banner ‘Bairack-un-nabi,’ as being used as the standard of the Kingdom and the religion of Mohammed.

Notwithstanding all historical facts with regard to the non-genuineness of the ‘green’ banner, the Moslems have always believed, and still believe, that the green banner which they possess is the true’ Lowa,’ or standard, delivered to Mohammed by Divine ordinance as an ‘indubitable token of victory.’ This strong faith compels them In conscience to carry their arms, and follow it whenever they see it displayed; nay, the Sultans themselves are bound, as good Moslems and successors of Mohammed, to accompany the banner of the Caliphate, and go into the midst of their troops to light against their enemies. War is, indeed, not only a political expedient to the Moslems, as it is to the Christians, but it is a religious duty enjoined upon them by the precepts of the Koran. I beg to quote here only a few texts from the book of Mohammed, to show that the Mohammedans are not only allowed to wage war with their enemies but are even commanded by the Koran to do so. In the 47th chapter, entitled ‘Mohammed,’ it is said: ‘Oh, true believers, if you assist God by fighting for his religion, he will assist you against your enemies.’ (47:7) In the 11th chapter, entitled ‘The Cow,’ it is also said : ‘ War is enjoined to you against those who fight against you. . . . Fight for the religion of God.’ (2:190) And in the chapter entitled ‘The Spoils,’ ‘O Prophet, stir up the faithful to war!’ (8:65) etc. Thus, the Koran knows nothing of protocols, but enjoins Moslems to wage war and light against their enemies: hence they are justified by the precepts of their religion in displaying the banner of the Caliphate, and in stirring up the nation to war.


  1. The event that occasioned this call to Jihad was Russia’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire the day before, something the Ukrainians will appreciate.
  2. The closest flag now in use to the “banner called Barack” is the flag of Saudi Arabia, which has what Gay called the “Mohammedan formula” emblazoned on it along with a sword.
  3. Evidently ISIS didn’t think the Ottoman banner was right either, because they adopted a black flag for their caliphate, as Wal-Mart found out the hard when they made a cake with the flag on top, having rejected the Confederate flag as hateful.