About this blog

I plan to collect historical documents and articles by various authors in this blog, usually without comments. Opinions expressed within the articles belong to the authors and do not always coincide with those of mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ottoman Turks According to Foreigners

The following observations by Westerners were written in French by Ahmet Cevat:

"If Turks had behaved like Christians to use force to convert to Islam the nations which they brought under their power, to which no one could have opposed, today there would be no Eastern problem. But Turks did not do so. They obeyed the word of the Koran to permit everybody "to worship in their own way" centuries before Frederick the Great pronounced his famous dictum. Thus, in an age when the Christian Europe itself shed Christian blood and when people in Europe enjoyed inflicting inhuman tortures upon those whose beliefs differed from theirs, the Ottoman Empire became the sole country where the inquisition did not exist, where deaths at the stake were unheard of and where accusations of witchcraft were not made. And the barbarian (!) Turkey was the only country where the Jews persecuted and chased away everywhere by the Christians, could find asylum. These facts demonstrate that Muslim countries provided spiritually far better living conditions than Christian countries."[1]

"The Turks, who are a conquering nation, did not Turkify the nations that came under their rule; instead, they respected their religions and traditions. It was a stroke of luck for Romania to live under Turkish rule instead of Russian or Austrian rule. Because otherwise there would not have been a Romanian nation today" (Popescu Ciocanel).

"Turks rule over people under their administration only externally, without interfering with their internal structures. On account of this, the autonomy of minorities in Turkey is better and more complete than any in the most advanced European countries."[2]

"...human beings hate each other on account of religious differences. This flaw is older than Islam and Christianity. But there has never been any examples of this adjuration in Turkey because Turks never oppress anybody on account of his religion. If enmity on the basis of religion had been such a case of simple contempt among us too, or if it did not keep translating itself into action, many nations in our Europe would probably have considered themselves happy!" (A. de Mortraye).[3]

"Turkey never became a scene for religious terror or for the cruelty of the inquisition. On the contrary, it served as an asylum for the unfortunate victims of Christian fanaticism. If you look into history, you will see that in the fifteenth century thousands of Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal found such a good asylum in Turkey that their descendants have been living there very calmly all through these approximately three hundred years, and are only forced to defend themselves in some countries against the cruelty of Christians, especially that of the Orthodoxes. No Jew is able to appear in public during Easter celebrations in Athens, even today. In Turkey, however, if the Israelites are insulted by the Greek and Armenian communities, local courts immediately take them under their protection."

"In that vast and calm country of the sultan, all religions and nations are living together peacefully. Although the mosque is superior to the church and the synagogue, it does not replace them. Because of this, the Catholic sect is more free in Istanbul and Smyrna compared with Paris and Lyon. In addition to the fact that no law in Turkey prohibits the open-air ceremonies of this sect, neither does any law imprison its cross in the church. While the dead are being taken to the graves, a long line of priests bear processional candles and chant Catholic hymns. When all the priests in all the churches in the Galata and Beyoglu districts go into the streets and form clerical processions during the Eucharist celebrations, chanting hymns and bearing their crosses and religious banners, a detachment of soldiers escorts them which forces even the Turks to stand in respect around the group of priests." (A. Ubicini).[4]

[1] Ah. Djevat, Les Turcs d'aprés les auteurs célébres-Divers témoignages et opinions (Yabancılara Göre Eski Türkler), 3rd ed. (Istanbul, 1978), pp. 70-71.
[2] Ibid., p.91.
[3] Ibid., pp. 214-215.
[4] Ibid., pp. 215-216.

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