Some narratives of the recent terror attack in Christchurch imply that even though conflicts, battles, and invasions among various warring empires ravaged Europe throughout its history, somehow the Ottoman invasion and regime is singled out as worse in the non-Muslim world as if Communist, Nazi, and Fascist Empires were somehow much better, or in other words, are more acceptable than the Ottomans. Also, genocides of Bosnia are not much talked about, as if that was not enough of a price for Muslims to pay.

This is like saying, "Even if he killed 6 million Jews or 2 million Ukrainians or a few thousand Bosnians, he is our homeboy. So, just forget that."

One point could be: Ottomans never either accepted or paid the price for their atrocities. They might have never accepted but neither did the Russians or Serbs or Croatians. On the other hand, Ottoman empire was invaded and split, and modern Turkey was a de facto ally of the Allied forces during the WW2.

It is not true that this narrative is limited only to some extremist groups, not the mass population. This is proven by going through comment sections of various social media platforms, news sites, and so on. Also, the rise in minority persecution in various developed countries.

So, my question is, What is the origin of this narrative?

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    I think that it's not as common as you say, at least in North America. Prejudice against Islam is very common, yes, but I think most prejudice against Muslims doesn't come from historically knowledgeable people: I doubt the average Islamophobe knows that that an Ottoman is anything but a couch. The Crusades are what marginally informed anti-Muslim folks like to talk about. – Obie 2.0 Mar 16 '19 at 2:20
  • Calling this "a public narrative" in the West (citing Turkish gov't-linked sources) is like citing islamophobes saying that ISIS ideology is "a public narrative" in Turkey because they have some such terrorists in their midst. – Fizz Mar 13 at 16:19
  • By the usual def "Public narratives (rather than personal or family narratives) are narratives that many people share." – Fizz Mar 13 at 16:37

One way to understand the Christian Europe is to look at all the cultural divides: North–South, East–West, Catholic–Protestant–Orthodox, Germanic–Romance–Slavic, and so on. A large part of European history can be summarized as Christian Europeans killing other Christian Europeans across one or more of these divides. The one thing all these groups have in common is the part of their cultural heritage that can be traced back to the Roman Empire.

In some sense, Communists, Nazis, and Fascists were business as usual. They were Christian Europeans killing other Christian Europeans. While the Communists were atheists, they were Christian atheists. Their culture was mostly familiar to anyone from the Christian Europe.

The Ottomans, on the other hand, were outside this framework. They were the last major culturally non-European power in Europe. They were not just some ancient history like the Fall of Constantinople or various sieges of Vienna. They still controlled large parts of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean in the 19th century, when nationalism rose and national identities were formed.

In many cases, the struggle against the Ottomans was a large part of the foundation of the national identity, and this keeps affecting current politics. While Greece and Turkey are nominally allies, their relations are strained and occasionally hostile. The Yugoslav Wars were largely fought across religious divides introduced during the centuries of Ottoman rule.

When a Christian European extremist needs an outsider threat that is acceptable to other Christian European extremists from different cultures, the threat must come from outside the Christian Europe. Jews were the traditional choice, but seeing them as the enemy is no longer acceptable in the society at large. When a more acceptable enemy is needed, digging a bit into history reveals Muslims in general and the Ottomans in particular.

  • This. But one thing I think would be worth adding to the answer is that this is probably more common in Europe. I don't think the casual anti-Muslim people in North America know much about this (i.e. the people who think Obama wasn't born in the US, a Muslim shouldn't be Prime Minister, etc., as opposed to the hardcore conspiracy theorists). – Obie 2.0 Mar 16 '19 at 5:16
  • This answer sounded the most plausible one to me. – user25524 Mar 16 '19 at 14:04
  • Erdogan once said that he knows from some insiders in European diplomat circles that the reason why Turkey is still not a member of the European Union is because of its Muslim demography and culture. That would back your answer even more. – Javiator Nov 8 '20 at 22:10

I largely disagree with your premise.

Communism, to some degree fascism and in particular Nazism are ideologies that are on the agenda very frequently and in people's minds all the time in Europe. Nazi atrocities and the communist iron wall are taught in schools from a young age, and communism is in very recent memory of the entire Eastern Europe. Try to do the Nazi salute in public and you'll see the feelings surface and scars burst wide open - and not just in Germany, France, UK or Poland, but anywhere around Europe from Norway, Italy and Greece to Hungary, Ukraine and the Baltic... That salute is still today illegal by law in Germany and so is denial of the holocaust all across Europe.

Claiming Hitler to be a "homeboy" and Nazis to be "much [more] acceptable than the Ottomans" in the minds of Europeans (and in the minds of the general "non-Muslim world") is absurd. I cannot speak for non-Muslims in Asia and Africa, but it is surely not a World-wide thing, as this is not a general trend in Europe, and as I doubt that many Americans nor Australians have much knowledge or care of the Ottomans as it is not within their geographical histories.

The Ottoman empire on the other hand is something that is almost never brought up - something I have almost never heard mentioned. I doubt the majority or even significant minority of Europeans can mentions the time period of the Ottoman empire - it is in many people's minds as ancient as the Old Egyptians. There may be historic divides tracing back to the Ottomans between immediate neighbouring countries - but not in Europe as a whole.

People's fear or anger towards previous Ottoman nations presumably comes from their feelings about islam or other cultures at present day, since many such cultures are visibly different and thus easy to castigate. At the same time there have been recent incidents in the name of Islam that unjustifiably are easy to tie to the entire religion and thus lead to fear towards any Islamic nation and culture.

I doubt history has any role to play in present-day Islam-hatred. I blame it on much more recent as well as psychological effects and events. And I disagree with "the Ottoman invasion and regime [being] remembered and felt" more strongly by the general European public than European genocides and World Wars within the past century.

  • I think you are missing the point. Europeans often fear and hate other Europeans, because they are are also too different and because their group may have committed atrocities against your group in the past. The Ottoman narrative is a deliberately constructed external enemy that allows right-wing extremists from different European countries to work together instead of hating each other. – Jouni Sirén Mar 16 '19 at 9:00
  • @JouniSirén The Ottoman empire narrative is a "deliberately constructed external enemy"? I am not convinced of this but would like to see some sources confirming that. – Steeven Mar 16 '19 at 9:08
  • The counter-jihad movement movement has been going on for a while, and it has inspired right-wing terrorists such as Breivik. In their mythology, the Battle of Vienna was a turning point, when the Christian Europe was supposedly united to stop the advance of the Ottoman Empire. – Jouni Sirén Mar 16 '19 at 9:23
  • @JouniSirén Two things: Firstly, Anders Breivik was inspired by neo-nazi groups as well and calls himself a fascist. Secondly, your link never mentions the Ottoman empire and describes the organisation/movement as fairly recent and as most likely reducing in size over the past 6 years. Furthermore, this does not give proof of the claim in the question, that the Ottoman empire age is more vilified than European genocides and World wars – Steeven Mar 16 '19 at 10:01
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    @Gnudiff That is another argument against the premise that is set up. The average European mind is not more outraged about the Ottoman empirical history than about the Holocaust. Some may be, sure, but I do not agree that this is a general mindset. Thus, the premise is incorrect. – Steeven Mar 16 '19 at 10:52

Why is the Ottoman Empire mostly seen in a negative light in the non-muslim world?

I will concentrate on this question and avoid any comparisons with Fascism or Communism.

  1. Conquest: No foreign conquering power is perceived favorably. Conquest is bloody. The Ottoman Empire didn't expand because other countries wanted to join, through marriages or purchases of land, but through fire and sword. The Ottomans weren't conquering these territories to better the peoples' lives, but to gain power and money for themselves and their vassals. (There were certainly some better, official explanations - as always.) In particular, the nomad tribes that joined the Ottoman army in exchange for an opportunity to pillage and get some land had the reputation of being extremely atrocious. The inspiration of fear was also part of the strategy (taken to the extreme by an opponent of the Ottomans, who has entered legend as "Count Dracula"): There was little intention to win the new subjects' hearts. South-Eastern Europe succumbed and much of Western Europe feared that it would be next. The message of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 was a huge shock and inspired immense fear that Rome would be the following target. England and France ended their seemingly endless war, the Hundred Years' War, and the Habsburgs rose as a counterbalance. (The actual history of Ottoman expansion is often more nuanced.)

  2. Occupation: This topic is even more complex as the occupation lasted up to 500 years. The perception of the Ottoman Empire varied between regions and during time. The Ottoman Empire had its times, when it was feared, admired respected and despised. One feature that was perceived as particularly loathsome, was the recruitment of the Janissaries. People would come to your village to take some male children, indoctrinate them in another religion and make them fight your own people. The legacy of the Ottoman Empire is also shaped by its final years and not by its most glorious days. In the 19th century the Ottoman empire was considered irremediably backward and corrupt, each attempt at reform failing and only held together by oppression. After 500 years, the Ottoman Empire hadn't succeeded (or even tried) to create some kind of national identity to which people of all parts of the empire could adhere.

  3. Liberation: After liberation a newly created country needs its national heroes, myths and reason for existence. The worse the old system is depicted, the greater the contrast to what has been achieved. I think that this is an almost universal tendency, which may be moderated by persisting family ties, trade and new political necessities. Even if most citizens of the US considered themselves descendants of British emigrants, there had been a large aversion to England and fear of the redcoats in the first decades after independence.

You should also look at the light, in which the Ottoman Empire is seen in the Muslim world. Even if sentimentalism may be on the rise, the imperial days are not much beloved.

  • I have changed the title which was edited by some other user. – user25524 Mar 16 '19 at 17:07

Here's the reality: In the UK, people remember World War II, although mostly from TV. World War I was just old fashioned people doing old fashioned things. Anything before that, nobody knows. And the Ottoman Empire, that took over directly from the rule of the dinosaurs.

Same in other places. In Germany, they may remember Prinz Eugen (although it was really the Polish king John III Sobieski who saved the day) and Roland and Charlemagne 500 years earlier, but they don't remember who these were fighting really. It's prehistoric. In Austria, they still have some prehistoric coffee houses. Americans obviously have no connection to the Ottoman empire whatsoever.

So no, anything you might read about the Ottoman empire, is either done by people who are really deeply interested in history, and nowadays with people having an anti-muslim agenda. It maybe that on some social media the Ottoman empire is of more interest nowadays, but posting a link presenting the views of some homocidal nutcase doesn't prove anything.

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