The implications of Omar’s “present” vote.
Earlier this week the House voted overwhelmingly (405-11) in favor of formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide, which was perpetrated by Ottoman Turks. Among those miniscule few to vote “present,” thereby abstaining from voting, was Minnesotan Democrat, Ilhan Omar. Her logic was expressed in a tweet:
A true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country.
Such a statement is disingenuous on several levels. For starters, since when did resolutions that deal with specific events—in this case, the Armenian Genocide—need to chronicle “earlier mass slaughters” throughout history?
One also wonders if the resolution was about, say, condemning the transatlantic slave trade or treatment of Natives—or anything else that depicts Americans negatively—would Omar have then abstained, arguing that a “true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity must include” the Armenian Genocide? (This is a rhetorical question.)
Incidentally, whatever America did to African slaves and Natives in the past, it has at least since tried to make reparations to both—not to mention was part of the Western drive to abolish slavery altogether. This is much more than can be said about the Muslim world: it still persecutes its natives (Christians)—those exposed in Omar’s Somalia are instantly slaughtered—and was forced by Western powers to (formally) abolish slavery.
But the main point is this: if, as Omar contends, “earlier mass slaughters” should be mentioned, surely it should be those that are connected to the one highlighted in the resolution—in this case, ones that may possibly show patterns and precedents concerning the events surrounding the Armenian Genocide. What’s to be learned from a resolution that includes a myriad of unrelated atrocities throughout the millennia other than that “all people are equally guilty”? (Which, of course, is one of Omar’s objectives, to relativize Islamic atrocities.)
As it happens, one need look no further than to the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide—Ottoman Turks—for an endless litany of atrocities that do indeed offer more context and meaning for the topic of the recent resolution. After all, of all Islamic states throughout history, none were as devoted to the concept of jihad as the Ottoman Turks. As historian Roger Crowley puts it, the “spirit of militant Islam suited the Turkish fighting spirit perfectly; the desire for plunder was legitimized by pious service to Allah.”
During the Ottoman conquests of Christian Anatolia (now Turkey), the Balkans, and elsewhere, the dictates of Islamic law and jihad were closely followed. “They live by the bow, the sword, and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil,” wrote Gregory Palamas, an Orthodox metropolitan captured by the Ottomans: “and not only do they commit these crimes, but even—what an aberration—they believe that God approves them!”
While there are several aspects to the atrocities committed by the Ottomans over their 600 year history, since Omar brought slavery up, let’s focus on just that institution:
The Ottomans enslaved and brutally treated 10 million Europeans. According to the eyewitness testimony of Bartolomeo de Giano, hundreds of thousands of Christians from Hungary were “carried off in just a few days” sometime in 1438, to “serve their [masters’] wicked and filthy pleasures,” and/or to be forced into becoming “Saracens [Muslims] who will later be enemies of the Christians.” Young and old everywhere were seen being “led away in iron fetters tied to the backs of horses,” and “women and children were herded by dogs without any mercy or piety. If one of them slowed down, unable to walk further because of thirst or pain, O Good Jesus! she immediately ended her life there in torment, cut in half.”
This sort of thing continued for centuries—and to some 10 million Europeans—right up to (and therefore giving context to) the Armenian Genocide, which similarly saw “women and children … herded by dogs without any mercy,” not to mention raped and mutilated, during their death marches.
Moreover, whereas the transatlantic slave trade was conducted as a matter of cold business, slavery under Islam was further imbued with hate and cruelty. This comes out regularly in the sources: When French priest Jerome Maurand, who as part of the then Franco-Ottoman alliance, witnessed the Turks’ conquest of the tiny Mediterranean island of Lipari in 1544, he failed to comprehend why the Muslims so wantonly tortured the now enslaved population—including by slowly gutting the old and weak with knives “out of spite.” Unable to hold his tongue, he “asked these Turks why they treated the poor Christians with such cruelty, [and] they replied that such behavior had very great virtue; that was the only answer we ever got.” (The dumbfounded clergyman apparently failed to realize that “the honor of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs [non-Muslims],” as prominent Indian cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Sirhindi (d. 1624) once said.)
Such sadism was less an Ottoman phenomenon and more a Muslim one. In his Book of Martyrs, John Foxe (d. 1587) wrote, “In no part of the globe are Christians so hated, or treated with such severity, perfidy and cruelty, as at Algiers”; there more than one million Europeans were enslaved, so that “it became a common saying that a Christian slave was scarce a fair barter for an onion.” Centuries later, Robert Playfair (d. 1899) agreed: “In almost every case they [European slaves in Algiers] were hated on account of their religion.”
There; now we have some meaningful context—in a word, Hate—for the new resolution dealing with the Armenian Genocide. Instead of considering a number of unrelated atrocities throughout world history, or simply bashing America, both of which the disingenuous Omar would have us do, we can home in on the phenomenon of Islamic hate for non-Muslims. In so doing, we not only understand why the Armenian Genocide occurred, but why the world’s most recent genocide from just a few years ago was also by Muslims in the guise of the Islamic State. In short, we connect the dots.