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    Default 5 things you didn’t know about Islam and Europe

    5 things you didn’t know about Islam and Europe

    by Tharik Hussain

    Tharik Hussain also known as ‘The Wandering Musulman’ has uncovered 5 Islamic Secrets of Europe. As he embarked on a unique trail of discovery to uncover the hidden Islamic secrets of Europe, he uncovered amazing and bizarre clues about the cultural interchange between Europe and Muslims. It has convinced him that his own identity as a modern European Muslim has as much to do with Europe’s history as it does with any other.
    Here are five lesser known little Islamic Secrets of Europe. Some of which are as funny as they are intriguing, whilst others will truly blow your mind.

    5. Continental Breakfast
    In Vienna, the capital of Austria, whilst listening to tales of how the Ottoman Empire twice laid siege to the city in the 16th and 17th century, I came across a curios tale about the humble croissant – today at the heart of what we call the ‘Continental (European) Breakfast’. According to legend, the pastry was designed by the famous bakers of Vienna after the failed efforts of the Turks to take the city.
    What do yo think, is this really about the Islamic Crescent?
    The croissant is said to represent the crescent on the banners of the Ottomans – and this is apparently where the name also comes from. The thick ring around the centre of the pastry, which appears to be clutching the main body is meant to show the ‘capturing’ of the crescent. Although this tale is often dismissed as fanciful, I find myself looking at my ‘Continental’ breakfast in a whole new light these days.

    4. Shampoo and Curry
    From Turkish influence to Indian. Look in any European bathroom and no doubt you will find sitting next to the shower a bottle of shampoo, completely oblivious to it’s role in connecting two worlds. The shampoo, or at least its ancestor, was actually brought to these shores by a Bengali-Indian ‘doctor’, known as Sake Dean Mahomed. A Muslim Bengali from Bihar, Mahomed arrived in Brighton in the 18th Century through his connections with the East India Dock Company. Upon reaching the imperial motherland, Mahomed opened up a kind of Victorian beauty salon, where the great and good of British Victorian society came for a treatment of Champi (the hindu word from which ‘Shampoo’ has been taken). Mahomed’s reputation grew to such a stature that he was quickly made the official ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to both King George IV and King William IV. This wasn’t Mahomed’s only contribution to English ‘culture’ as he was also opened the UK’s first ever ‘curry house’ in London called the Hindustani Coffee House – A plaque commemorating this can be found on George Street, in Westminster.

    3. Norman Arabs
    The influence on Europe by medieval Spanish Muslims is very well documented, yet few people know about what went on a few thousands miles south-west of the Iberian coast from about the 11th century onwards. There at the foot of Italy on the tiny Island of Sicily, a cultural renaissance just like the one in Andalusia reached great heights, the only difference being that it was not under the governance of Muslims, but fully Arabised Norman Christian Kings.
    One of the main reasons for this might be down to the lack of physical historical remnants from this period, like there are in Spain with the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba.
    However, whilst travelling through neighbouring Sardinia with my family, there is a possibility that we may have came across one such physical legacy. Tucked up in the hills of the park surrounding the town of Laconi, in the region of Oristano, there are the ruins of a castle known only as Castle Aymerich. Despite our best efforts we found very little information about this mysterious castle. Yet whilst walking amongst the few remaining crumbling walls, slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding woodland, we stumbled upon undoubtedly ‘Moorish’ window arches. Given the apparent date of the building, it will not come as a surprise to me if later evidence surfaces suggesting architectural influence by neighbouring Islamic Sicily. For a more fascinating legacy of Islamic Sicily keep reading.

    2. Sheikh Dracula
    Bram Stoker did for Romania’s tourism what Walt Disney has done for Florida. At times it can seem like Stoker’s fictional vampire, inspired by Vlad III of the medieval ‘Dracul’ family from Transylvania, is the sole reason many travel to this far eastern European country.
    Yet I doubt any of these vampire tourists will know that Vlad III was actually versed in Arabic. That’s right, Dracula was an Arabist. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that he might have even been a Haafiz-ul-Qur’an – someonewho has memorised the Qur’an.
    I first came across this phenomenal possibility whilst researching ancient Ottoman mosques in towns like Mangalia and Constanta along Romania’s eastern coast. According to the history books Vlad’s father sends him and his brother Radu to the Ottoman courts of Istanbul, where they live with the Turkish Caliphs as part of a ‘hostage’ agreement – a kind of insurance for the Ottomans against an attack or breach of agreement. There the two boys were educated in the traditional Turkish way, which involved learning Arabic and mastering the Qur’an.
    Once they return home, it seems the truth continues to become even more fascinating than the fiction, for young Radu Dracul upon the death of his father Vlad II, announces his conversion to Islam and joins the Ottoman ranks.
    So there you have it, a Muslim Dracula. Not even Bram Stoker could’ve spun such a yarn.

    1. Latin Arabic
    It was always going to be difficult to top a Muslim Dracula story, especially in a list this short, but my top Islamic Secret of Europe does exactly that.
    To do so, we have to make our way to the little scorched island of Malta, the most southern country of Europe, where we find the Islamic legacy not in a book, ruin or even a tale, but on the lips of the natives. Just ask a Maltese to count to ten and you will hear everything you need to, for the Maltese numbers are virtually the same as the Arabic. Something my astonished daughter discovered when I made her ask for ‘tnej’n’ (two) apples at a market and she was promptly handed two apples by a smiling old man.
    Despite it’s proximity to north Africa, where Arabic is widely spoken, it is the little Italian Island at the foot of Italy that Malta has to thank for this. Maltese in its modern form is the only remaining example of Siculo-Arabic, the Sicilian form of Arabic that developed during the Fatimid and later Norman Arab period (Maltese also contains Italian, French and to a lesser extent, English).
    Siculo-Arabic actually died out in Sicily and was replaced by Italian Sicilian making Malta and Maltese people the possessors of the only living legacy of that ‘golden’ Islamic period of Sicily we mentioned before. In fact such is the dominance of Siculo-Arabic on the Malteselingua franca – between 32% and 40% – that it has the proud claim of being the only Semitic language written in Latin Script!
    So there you have it. First hand evidence of how in truth, we are all just distant relatives. Why not share this with some Europeans or Muslim friends of yours and watch the bridging of that fictionalized ‘gap’ between us?
    Visit the author’s blog for more articles like this: thewanderingmusulman.wordpress.com. Tharik may also be followed on Twitter: @_TharikHussain

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    England’s Forgotten Muslim History

    By JERRY BROTTONSEPT. 17, 2016

    Murad III, left, Elizabeth I, right. Credit Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images (left); The Print Collector/Getty Images (righ

    London — Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

    One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

    From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

    Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression, and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East. For good measure she also reached out to the Ottomans’ rivals, the shah of Persia and the ruler of Morocco.

    The trouble was that the Muslim empires were far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little island nation floating in the soggy mists off Europe. Elizabeth wanted to explore new trade alliances, but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit an obscure commercial innovation — joint stock companies — introduced by her sister, Mary Tudor.

    The companies were commercial associations jointly owned by shareholders. The capital was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages, and the profits — or losses — would also be shared. Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy Company, which traded with Persia, and went on to inspire the formation of the Turkey Company, which traded with the Ottomans, and the East India Company, which would eventually conquer India. [And commit genocide of 2 billion, 300 million Muslims]

    In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

    As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

    The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

    The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith.

    English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the east, but the Turks and Moroccans were decidedly less interested in English wool. What they needed were weapons. In a poignant act of religious retribution, Elizabeth stripped the metal from deconsecrated Catholic churches and melted their bells to make munitions that were then shipped out to Turkey, proving that shady Western arms sales go back much further than the Iran-contra affair. The queen encouraged similar deals with Morocco, selling weapons and buying saltpeter, the essential ingredient in gunpowder, and sugar, heralding a lasting craving and turning Elizabeth’s own teeth an infamous black.

    The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed. Words such as “candy” and “turquoise” (from “Turkish stone”) became commonplace. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing “Othello” shortly after the first Moroccan ambassador’s six-month visit.
    Despite the commercial success of the joint stock companies, the British economy was unable to sustain its reliance on far-flung trade. Immediately following Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the new king, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain, ending England’s exile.

    Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion, transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.
    It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated.


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    The Forgotten Stories of Muslims Who Saved Jewish People During the Holocaust

    Jan 27, 2017

    Even in the darkest times, there are heroes—though sometimes they may be the people we least expect.

    That’s the message a global nonprofit group hopes to spread Friday on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when it displays a small exhibit in a New York synagogue highlighting the little-known stories of Muslims who risked their lives to rescue Jewish people from persecution during World War II. Though the two religious groups are often presented in opposition, this exhibit is a reminder that they have also shared an important history of cooperation and mutual assistance.

    The tales include those of Khaled Abdul Wahab, who sheltered about two dozen Jews in Tunisia, and Abdol Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat who is credited with helping thousands of Jews escape Nazi soldiers by issuing them passports.

    The group also recognizes the Pilkus, a Muslim family in Albania who harbored young Johanna Neumann and her mother in their home during the German occupation and convinced others that the two were family members visiting from Germany. “They put their lives on the line to save us," Neumann, now 86, told TIME on Friday. "If it had come out that we were Jews, the whole family would have been killed."

    “What these people did, many European nations didn’t do," she added. "They all stuck together and were determined to save Jews."

    The collection of 15 stories shows how people organically came to protect one another, even in extreme environments of war and conflict, organizers said. “Those stories are very powerful together because they show a different side to humanity. It shows that we can have hope even at a time like the Holocaust,” said Mehnaz Afridi, a Manhattan College professor who specializes in Islam and the Holocaust.

    Though the narratives are being exhibited on a day observed by remembering the past, they are also vital to remember in today's world, "given the rise of hatred,” said Dani Laurence Andrea Varadi, co-director of I Am Your Protector, the organization behind the exhibit.

    The New York City-based group encourages societies and people to stand up to injustices, and Varadi points as an example to the climate faced by many Muslims around the world and in the U.S. as an example of what can happen when a group of people are seen as a monolith rather than as individuals. Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. soared 67% in 2015 from 154 in 2014 to 257, the latest figures from the FBI show. During his campaign, President Donald Trump pledged to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Just this week, Trump’s administration announced new immigration plans, and the White House is expected to order that the U.S. temporarily stop issuing visas to people from several majority-Muslim countries.

    “It makes people think it’s legitimate to hate,” Varadi said. “It is natural and normal to be scared and to think that we have to resist or fight, but we can also have a mechanism where we can catch ourselves and say, ‘OK, there are some people who might be problematic, and we can look at them one on one.’”

    She added that the historic tales of courage show the impact that can be made when people protect targets of hate in climates of rising fear, suspicion and hatred. Varadi hoped the stories inspire others to follow suit.

    “We can speak up, stand up for the other when we witness something, raise our voices in a peaceful, nonviolent way,” she said. “Whenever people think, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I cannot make a difference,’ this is the most dangerous thing to think because it is not true.”

    The exhibit debuted in the headquarters of United Nations in Geneva a few weeks ago. I Am Your Protector will revive the display for a one-day commemoration event Friday at New York City's Temple Emanu-El. However, organizers hope the stories have a lasting effect.

    “I think history shows that people stand up for each other—and those were the ones who created change. And if there’s enough people who do that, then the whole reality changes,” Varadi said. “When communities come together with that mindset, whether it’s small or big, it becomes a huge force that can basically change the course of history.”


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    Central London


    Really nice post. Thank you.


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