The Ghost of Islam in the Balkans
by Tomislav Sunic
In the historical memory of Central and EasternEuropean peoples, the words "Muslim" and "Islam" often evokeimages of terror and violence. Derided by leftist and liberal intellectuals as"xenophobic," these negative images are still associated with theTurks and their centuries-long military incursions into the heart of Europe.Even the verbal derivatives of the word "Turk" in Slavic and Germaniclanguages often carry pejorative meanings. In Austrian Carinthia, Turks areremembered as Renner und Brenner ("runners and fire-setters"), who,while burning their way into the Alps, left terror and destruction in theirwake. Far worse was the case of the Northern Italian region of Furlany, whoseransacking was depicted by the late Italian filmmaker and writer Pietro PaoloPasolini. Shortly before the Croatian catastrophe on the field of Krbava in1477, from the top of St. Mark's in Venice, observers could witness the flamesand smoke billowing all the way to the town of Udine. In their incendiaryincursions, the Turks used the Balkan Wallachs, Albanians, and scores ofmarauding gypsies as front-line ethnic cleansers.
Even the recent war in the Balkans and thekillings of Bosnian Muslims cannot be understood unless we take into account thecenturies of Turkish terror in the Balkans. The onslaught of Islam resulted inmassive transfers of populations. It was pure historical coincidence thatHungary and Croatia did not become part of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to foreignvolunteers from all parts of the Holy Roman Empire, including large numbers ofKrajina Serbs and Danubian Germans, these regions still preserve their CentralEuropean and Catholic heritage. Still, it is a great shame that the role ofPrince Eugene of Savoy, the liberator of Central Europe, is widely ignored inpolitically correct school syllabi and by the European media. After theexpulsion of the Turks from the Panonian fields and the Danubian basin, the HolyRoman Empire decided to repopulate these devastated but fertile European regionswith hundreds of thousands of German settlers who, until 1945, were known inHungary and monarchic Yugoslavia as Donauschwaben. During World War II, manyDanubian Germans volunteered for the Prinz Eugene Division of the Waffen SS,named after their patron hero. On May 18, 1945, 1,600 disarmed Germanlegionnaires were swiftly executed by Tito's victorious Communist partisans; therest were shipped to the zinc mines in Bor.
In monarchic and conservative circles in modernEurope, Prince Eugene remains a Christian hero. Born in France, Eugene strayedvery early into the intrigues of Louis XIV's corrupt court. The French kingmocked Eugene's flat nose, shrunken body, and huge head (and homosexualinclinations), and suggested to his royal coterie that Eugene was cut out lessfor a military career than for the life of a village priest. Out of hatred forLouis XIV, Eugene, who originally came from Italian-speaking Savoy, left Franceand offered his services to her mortal enemy: The Holy Roman Empire. In 1683, heparticipated in the defense of Vienna against the Turkish siege, and in thefollowing decades, he liberated the entire Danubian region-including Belgrade,in 1717. Thus, the armed empire halted the anti-Christian invasion and theTurkish destruction of European civilization. Unfortunately, Eugene failed toliberate Sarajevo and to chase the Turks out of Europe for good. Battle alongthe Rhine forced him to pull back his troops to defend the empire against theFrench. The Islamic Sublime Porte maintained close ties with Catholic France,whose age-old obsession was to disrupt German-controlled access to the Black Seavia the Danube. He who controls the Danube, it is often said, controls Europe.
Despite their Asian origin, Turks absorbed manyethnic Europeans, particularly through the importation of white slaves fromTurkish-occupied Central European regions to the Anatolian Peninsula. TheOttoman regime provided excellent career opportunities to young IslamicizedEuropeans-a development encouraged by the Turks in the Balkans and exemplifiedby the Bosnian Muslims. Suspicion lingers today among Catholic Croats andOrthodox Serbs in Bosnia toward the Slavic Muslim government in Sarajevo. It isentirely possible that some type of reconciliation will take place between theSerbs and Croats despite a century of mutual enmity. Such a development seemsmuch less likely between either of these groups and the Slavic Muslims.
The founding father of modern secular Turkey,Kemal Pasha Ataturk, resembled a German patriarch more than an Asian despot. Hisplace of birth in the Balkans suggests that he was either of Slavic or Albaniandescent. No insult can be worse to a Turk than to call him an "Arab."By contrast, Turkey has close ties to modern Israel. After Isabella II expelledthe Jews from Spain in the 15th century, many Sephardic Jews took refuge in thevast Ottoman Empire, which encompassed not only the Balkans but a solid chunk ofArabic North Africa. The state of Israel closely cooperates with Turkey'smilitary intelligence. Turkey's appalling human-rights record is usuallyoverlooked, and the European Union, pressured by the United States, must go togreat lengths to accommodate the never-ending Turkish bid to enter the union.
For the United States, both Israel and Turkeyare important allies in the NATO-controlled eastern Mediterranean. Turkey isvital for access to the Central Asian basin, and she serves, with her powerfulhalf-a-million man army, as the chief arbiter of "hydropolitics,"controlling the main water routes to the Middle East.
During the war in the Balkans, with the fullblessing of the United States, Turkey provided covert support to Bosnian Muslimsand Albanians. Turkey's memories of her lost European "glacis" arevivid, and she still longs to restore the past glory that once stretched to thedoors of Vienna. Despite the prominent role of the Turkish military apparatusand the high prestige of the Turkish military in public life, Turkey has beenplagued for decades by the separatist Kurds, who make up approximately 15million of Turkey's population and whose goal is secession. Turkey is oftenannoyed by Armenian and Greek lobbies in France and America who openly demand apublic apology for the Turkish genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.Without exception, Turkey's political and intellectual class rejects anyallegation of genocide. While Germany must publicly demonstrate atonement forher sins in World War II, Turkey seems to be light years away from apologies forher genocidal practices against Slavs and Armenians.
Over eight million Muslims live in the Balkanstoday, an autochtonous population that once converted to Islam, either out ofopportunism or sheer terror. Well over ten million Muslims reside in the statesof the European Union, mostly immigrants from North Africa and Turkey. Germanyalone boasts three million Muslims, mostly immigrant Turks and Kurds. In theUnited Kingdom, there are over 2.5 million Muslims, mostly immigrants fromPakistan and Arabic countries, and France has a staggering four million Muslims,mostly immigrants from North and Central Africa.
Modern liberalism preaches racial tolerance andmulticultural conviviality. Yet after the terrorist strikes against the UnitedStates, and in the wake of the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan, themulticultural utopia is beginning to show its dark side. It is a great irony ofhistory that national socialists and fascists had many supporters and avidmilitary volunteers in the Balkans and in the Middle East during World War II.In hindsight, Croatian fascist and Catholic leader Ante Pavelic appears the trueadvocate of liberal multiculturalism. In the center of Catholic Zagreb, he builta large mosque-whose minarets were pulled down and destroyed by the victoriousYugoslav Communists in 1945.
Tomislav Sunic, a writer and former Croatdiplomat, resides in Europe.