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▣ My Essay     Ryan's Warehouse 2018.03.22. 12:43 (2018.03.22. 12:26)

Islam in Europe

Historically speaking the Islamic faith was the third largest religious body in Europe; following Christianity and Judaism. But the Muslims were a significant presence, threat, and influence in classical Europe. Muhammad founded a prosperous religion that became one of the most tolerant but aggressive and powerful religious states of the middle aged world. By the time the renaissance hit, the first chapter in our European history course, the Muslims had already reached the peak of their expansion in Spain. They were in firm control of the Iberian Peninsula and the remnants of the Byzantine Empire. They were more than capable of posing a significant threat to Christian Europe.
 
The Islamic faith was founded by the prophet Mohammed, who believed in the all-powerful Christian and Jewish god but saw Jesus as another prophet opposed to the son of god. He used this as the basis for a relaxed and tolerant faith which unified the Arabic people under one common religious government. Mohammed did not live to see the finished foundation of his great empire but it was not the less born. With such a large group of people sharing a strong belief in both their religion and their nation it created an intensified sense of nationality and made it possible to look favorably on the concept of expansion. The Islamic religion had pro-war beliefs, such as those who die in battle will be forgiven, and those who lose limbs in life will gain wings in death; this made them fierce and eager warriors. The Muslims were able to conquer many of their neighbors, namely the Byzantine holdings in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, as well as Persia and the remnants of the Sassanid Empire. The Arabs were especially effective at controlling their new subjects because they exercised a policy of tolerance; choosing to allow their people to follow their own customs instead of forcing foreign notions on them. The Muslims proceeded to March closer and closer to Europe, capturing more of the Byzantine Empire and eventually landing in Spain from the sea. They captured and held much of what is now Spain and Portugal, gaining a strong foothold in Europe. The Arabic empire grew so widespread and powerful that it was no longer effectively ruled by centralised government and parts of the empire fell apart. This led the Islamic states in modern day Spain and Portugal under separate rule; but the empire had succeeded in spreading the Islamic faith throughout the medieval world.
 
The Muslims in Europe established an empire in the Iberian Peninsula; modern day Spain and Portugal. The Peninsula was under complete Islamic control from the early eighth century into the eleventh and twelfth centuries, they were able to hold onto the kingdom of Granada for more than 700 years. In comparison, parts of Spain were Islamic for three times as long as Canada has been an independent nation. Unfortunately like many nations of the time, the Islamic empire in the Iberian Peninsula became troubled with internal depute and revolt. The government fell apart and Christian nations in the surrounding regions took the chance to invade in what is remembered as the Reconquista; often classified as a crusade. By the end of the Reconquista Islamic control in Spain had been supressed to the state of Granada. It was another three hundred years before Granada was conquered by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who unified the rest of Spain against the Muslims. This gradual Islamic defeat led to integration and a widely mixed population. Initially King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were tolerant towards their Muslim subjects, and allowed them to continue practicing their religion and culture within Spain. After an Islamic revolt they revised the policy of tolerance, making Islamic culture and faith illegal. They gave Muslims the choice between expulsion and conversion. This massive wave of converted Arabic Christians merited the creation of the Spanish inquisition, which terrorized the European population for centuries, often resorting to torture in order to judge faith and condone heresy indiscriminately. The end of the wars in the region left Spain and Portugal with excessive militaries and no localised enemy as well as new sailing methods adapted from the Muslim sails. The unused man power present in the Iberian Peninsula is factored in as a cause of early exploration and eventual conquest in America.
 
Meanwhile in the Middle East, the rest of the Islamic empire was subjected to a series of crusades, holy pilgrimages intent on recapturing the holy lands in Palestine from the Arabs. Although European nations where able to capture some Muslim cities, establishing crusader states in the holy land, the overall success was minimal. By the late 13th century the Muslims had reclaimed their lands, exercising extreme measures against the Christians. The crusades are often thought to be a possible origin for plagues in Europe, but also the inspiration for medical advances and increased trade between the allied crusader states in Europe.
 
The Muslim states of Eastern Europe and Asia were fractured, similar to the nation states of Germany. Like Prussia and Austria, the Muslim state of Turkey became a major player in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Under the reign Mehmed II, the Turks conquered the last holdout of the influential, Christian, Byzantine Empire; Constantinople. The city was rebuilt as the capital for the growing empire of Turkey, more often referred to as the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire became the sole Muslim superpower, easily rallying support for the Muslim cause from surrounding regions, gradually turning their eyes to conquest in Europe. For the next century Mehmed’s successors continued to make the Ottoman Empire a nation to be reckoned with. They conquered vast tracts of land on all sides pushing the empires borders into Eastern Europe, North Africa and the vast Middle East. When Sultan Selim I came to power he claimed to be descended both from the emperors of the Byzantine Empire, and the emperors of the old Arabic Empire. Wirth his claim to hereditary power he expanded the empire to include even more lands absorbing nations such as Syria, Egypt and the regions surrounding mecca, an especially sacred place.
 
The Ottoman Empire reached its pinnacle during the reign of Suleiman I who rallied the Muslim people against their common enemy in Christian Europe. Suleiman was the son of Selim I who had all of his other heirs put to death to assure Suleiman would have a smooth assentation to the thrown Suleiman rallied his troops and marched on Europe, he defeated and conquered Austrian Hungary, and made it far enough to besieged Vienna. Although he could not capture the heart of Austria he did force Austria into signing the treaty of Constantinople which acknowledged the Ottoman emperor as the sole emperor, and Hungary as an Ottoman state. The ottomans where able to maintain control over their new acquisitions in Hungary and also in regions surrounding the Mediterranean because the Muslim superpower continued to exercise traditional policies of tolerance, allowing their subjects to continue with their cultural practices, even though they themselves practicing something else entirely. Unfortunately for the Ottoman-Turks the pinnacle of their empire did come to an end.
 
The policy of toleration implemented by the Ottomans made it easy for a sense of Christian nationalism to slip back into defeated European states. When the Ottomans besieged Vienna for a second time Austria lashed back with full force, launching a crusade to reclaim Hungary; which they did. The Austrians continued waging their war on the Ottomans, conquering Transylvania. Over the next century the leaders of the great empire lost control, allowing Russia to capture territories around the black sea and European nations to chip away at the eastern borders. Political unrest grows and a weakness spread over the empire. The once superior Ottoman Empire fell behind the rest of Europe both politically and economically which is geographically evident even in more recent history. The Ottoman Empire was able to rally each time the heart was directly threatened and remained an empire until early in the 20th century. Even now the state of Turkey remains, although it bears little resemblance to the empire it was under the greater Ottoman leaders.
 
The presence of Muslim nations in Europe is charred by a history of war and unfriendliness. But it is often taken for granted that the more tolerant religion was more technologically advanced for a time. Interactions with Islamic states, even though hostile, influenced the science, astronomy, navigation, architecture and medicine in Europe that has been a direct focus of European history studies. From the holy wars to more localised interactions in Spain and Hungary the Islamic people were a religious a stress taken into political considerations of the time, and are therefore an important part European history.
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