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środa, 7 grudnia 2011

Enlightened Europe and the Islamic World

in polish see:

What islam meant for Europeans of the 18th C. Was it familiar Or strange? Since the 16th C the Ottoman Empire was a constant factor in European policy and diplomacy, and already AT that time the spilit of crusades was extinct. The best proof of this was the joy of german protestants when the emperor Charles V was unable to overpower them becouse of the Turkish threat (Bues 1998).

It seems that for western Europeans of the early 18th century Turkey was no more ‘exotic’ than Russia (Chaunu 1989), which was seen as a small germanic (german-speaking officials of Curland) „principality of Petersburg” serrounded by bizantine-asiatic desert of superstition (Chaunu 1989). The Russians used to appear in eighteenth-century philosophical literature along with the Hurons, Persians, the Chinese and Indians. (Lettres persanes of Montesquieu, L’Ingenu by Voltaire’a etc.) (Montesquieu 1979, Voltaire, Powiastki filozoficzne 2003). A Turk could not appear in the character of the ‘good savage’, not because his country was better known, but becouse the fear from Turkey and its armies Tűrkenfurcht was only recently decreased .




The Turks and other islamic nations were commonly seen as highly moral and unaffected (Hen 1978). It was also believed that they were restrained, because it was said in the Coran that they should be and the reality wasn’t known to the Europeans. In spite of the memory about the atrocies commited by turkish armie in ekstern Europe, the Turks were rarely estimated as barbaric as were the Russian (Moscovites). The Turks were Rather seen as a kind of some ultra-civilized nation, and an effeminated one. Because they used to wear long clothes made of delicate materials. Such was the depiction of Turks and Russians on the ‘Table of Nations’ – Völkertafel printed in Augsburg about 1726. This table was made in such a way to praise the Spanish, French and German virtues about those of other nations, so the later had to be presented in less favorable light. As to the mentioned purity of Turkish charakter - David Hume in his: Of National Characters stated that Turkish gravity, honesty and bravery are a fine contrast to conceit and cowardice of modern (i.e. not ancient - those were ‘of course’ insuperable) Greeks. (Stanzel 1999).

Turkey which used to suffer from many administrative problems in the 18th C was called ‘ill Man of Europe’ (Reychman 1973), so it was concidered as a part of this continent. Today Turkey, in spite of reforms brought by kemalism is often believed to be an asiatic county. And many Europeans fear its presence in the EU although Turkey is much more euro pean than in 18th C. Some traces of Tűrkenfurcht are possibel to observe even today. In southern Italy children when being frightened by strange men of ten cry: mammina Turchi (Fallaci 2004), on the other hand we can cite Frederic the Great who many Times said that He would welcome diligent muslims in his Kingdom of Prussia exactly as warm as protestants.

Opinions about islam used to be very diverse. One of the admirers of this religion was the count Henri de Boulainvillers (1658-1722). In his printed pothumously (1731) biography of Mahomet – Vie de Mahomet, this philosopher depicted the prophet as a deistic free-thinker (Armour 2004) and was of the opinion that the original rationalistic doctrine of islam was in the course of centuries perverted by a group of islamie theologists (Cardini 2006). The most probable explanation is taht the cont used islam as a weapon against christian morals without trying to get more knowledge about islam itself. Even today we can percieve many adherents of islam who are in fact no admirers of this religion or of Mahomet but merely opponents of christian values. John Locke (1632–1704) suggested to other philosophers to search for ‘religion without a secret’, - some of them thought apparently that islam would fit.
The writers and intelectuals of the Enlightenment were familiar only with the Middle East-version of the islamie civilisation.

Voltaire has changed several times his opinion about islam. He was fighting etery kind of intolerance and religious fanatism, but also called the influentian madame de Pompadour as ‘sultan’s wife’ and it was a sign of his admiration for Her. Voltaire was author of the play: Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet (Voltaire, The Dramatic works of M. de Voltaire 1763) staged in Paris for the first time in 1741 was in fact no play about islam but about Christian religious intolerance. Voltaire has maliciously sent this play to the pope Benedict XIV (pontificate: 1740-1758). The Pope ‘revanged’ by sending his blessing to the philosopher.

Both Voltaire and Diderot contributed to the birth of orientalism in European literature which consists in such elements like: cruelty, tyranny (despotic power of sultans), refined erotism (harems). Diderot in his: Les bijoux indiscrets from 1748 (Diderot 1992) used an attractive oriental scenery to smuggle some his philosophic ideal which had nothing in common with islam or the power of sultans. Giacomo Casanova in his Memoires gave himself airs that he menaged to seduce a Turkish woman taking advantage of Her husbands absence. Casanova’s biographer Roberto Gervaso finds the whole story highly improbable (Gervaso 1990).

Gotthold Ephreim Lessing (1729-1781) in his theatrical play: Nathan Der Weise (1779) (Lessing 2002) had presented a vison of medievel Palestine in the era of crusades. Dramatis personae of this play are both christians and muslims and also Jews. The Jews were depicted most favorably, the chistians as the most fanatic and uncivilised group, becouse one of Lessing’s goals was to criticise the idea of crusades. Islam in the play is represented among others by the Turkish prudent and tolerant leader Saladin (d. 1193), but islam itself was not much praised.

The famous british historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gibbon 2002), in which book he blamed chistianity for this fall, metioned islam as an important era of the human history but in the same time called Coran as a mixture of ridiculous and useless tales.

Islam was an inspiration also to the eighteenth century composers. We can mention a famous concerto by Antonio Vivaldi; Grosso mogul (RV 208), the Tanz persischer Soldaten) in the operatic work: Croesus (1711) by Reinhard Kaiser (1674-1739), the director of the Hamburg opera-house, and of course Mozarts turkish opera: Entführung aus dem Serail and a famous march alla turca. The sounds of the janissary military orchestras was well known in Austria already in the 16th Century, because of the Turkish agressive foreign Policy. One of the composers who aplied the popular musical form of turcaria was the austrian baroque composer Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741), who composed several turcarie.

Islam used to inspired also the European painters, but they rarely knew anything about the moral part of islamic doctrine. For ex ample the Spaniards gave to the sultan of Morocco Mohammed Ben Abdallah (reigned 1757–1790) a nice chariot with painted ornaments depicting naked human bodies. The sultan used this chariot only when they were removed (Dziubiński 1977).

In the 18th C European scholars started to conduct serious researches about islamie civilisations. German travelers and archeologist Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815) was sent in 1761 by the king of Denmark Frederic V to the Middle East. When reached Yemen in 1762 the expedition wandered through the entire arabian peninsula and Persia (1763-1767). Back in Denmark Niebuhr has written Reisebeschreibung von Arabien (1772) printed in two volumes in 1774 and 1778 (Scurla 1961). In this work we can find not only archeological reports but also very interesting informtions about eighteenth century Ottoman Empire and Persia. Niebuhr has mentioned for instance the very inquisitiv Arabian (Ottoman) customs officials who have searched the entire baggage of the expedition even running their knifes through each mattress.

On the Mediterranean sea European ships used to become victims of Moroccan, Tunesian and Algierian corsairs. Even such exotic from Moroccan point of view countries like Sweden or Denmark prefered to sent gifts to North African leaders to secure paece for their ships than to sedt armed convoys to protect them. Generous Frenchmen and Spaniards used to have far better relation with Morocco than saving Britons or Americans (Dziubiński 1977). On the Indian Ocean pirates working for the Angria family used in the first Tyree decades to attack the Bitish WIC’s ships. Menwhile in 1697 one of british pirate captains has plundered the fleet belonging to the Great Mogul and heading to Mecca. After this the Indian ruler thought about repealing All English commercial piviligies (Cordingly 2006).

The Mediterranean islamie corsairs used to kidnapp Christian travelers of both sexes. The Dutch woman Maria ter Meetelden live as a slave in the harem of Moroccan sultan. Her memoirs are a vital Skurce of informations about the sultans, even more import ant because Morocco hasn’t had its own archives in this period. She has notice that most of the Rother women in harem suffered from obesity, what is contradicting with the orientalistic myth about the unique beauty of All sultan’s wifes (Dziubiński 1977). Maria was living in Morocco against Her will, but escaping to Morocco or Turkey was an almost typical move of political adventurers who were ‘burnt’ in Europe. The fact that they were thinking about such an escape and finaly escaping, proofs that living in Morocco or Turkey was not unimmaginable for christian Europeans in the 18th C (Dziubiński 1977).

European diplomatic relations with Turkey date back to 16 th C (Venice, Poland, Moscow, France, England, Austria). Sultans of Turkey were convinced that European ambasadors were the proof of Turkish supriority over other countries. Ambassadors used to let this ilussion to live on, although not All of them were billing to participate in a Rather humiliating procedure during the audiencje in the sultan’s palace. (Dyplomaci w dawnych czasach 1959). In the meantime European monarchs were embarassed to see Turkish or Moroccan ambassadors crawling before them. In the 18th century all European powers had an embassy in Istanbul. Some of them, like Goethe’s friend Prussian ambasador (from 1784-to 1791) Heinrich Friedrich von Diez (1750-1817) were famous orientalists.

Algieria was nominalny Turkish but in fact controlled by Algierian pirate leaders. Morocco in the West was the second important islamic partner of Europe. In 1605 the Duch sent Pieter Coy to this country. The British Got interested in Morocco when they conquered the Spanish Gibraltar. Becouse of the undersandable Spanish hostility it was vital to have good relations with Morocco. The sultans were suppling the fortress surrounded by Spanish troops. Gibraltar (1704). The whole matter was first discussed with Moroccans in 1707 by George Delaval (1667-1723), British envoy to Lisbon.

France used to have a consulate in Morocco Since the 16th century (1577 monsieur Bérard) In 1693 the French ambassador François Pidoux de Saint-Olon came to the sultan. Than it was a long brake of relations, till 1767 when the next ambassador count de Breugnon, negotiated a commercial treaty. To gain better conditions the French government run by the duke Étienne-François de Choiseul (1758-1770) bombarded moroccan towns which were situated close to the coastline. Here we can percieve the huge difference between French and Moroccan way of thinking. Sultan Mohammed III ibn Abdullah (reigned 1757–1790) informed about the cost of French military expedition declared to the ambasador the have Louis XV given half of this amount to him, he wolud have those towns destroyed himself (Dziubiński 1977). Mohammed III was an inteligent ruler, far more interested and orientated in the European problems than his predecesors and succesors, thanks to his long conversations with ambassadors, envoys and consuls. He signed commercial treaties with Denmark (1751-1765), Great Britain (1790), Sweden (1773), France (1773) and Portugal. In 1767 concluded a treaty with Spain, which county was theoreically continuing the Policy of anti-islamic reconquista. In 1766 Spanish ingeneur and diplomat Jorge Juan y Santacilia (1713-1773) came as the first Spanish ambassador to the Moroccan court of Meknes. It was an end of a certain era. Spanish Primero Secretario de Estado (1776-1792) José Moniño, hrabia Floridablanca (1728-1808) has said that ‘one should talk to the Moroccans like to Italians or the British’. Religion ceased to be important as a political factor. In 1777 Morocco as the first nation in the world recognized the independance of the USA.

It is worth mentioning the fictious persian embassy to Paris in 1715. We can read about it in the Memoires of the duke de Saint-Simon (Saint-Simon 1984). Louis XIV didn’t know that had to do with impostors. The real Persia became a factor in European Policy only when its ruler Karim Khan (ruled 1750-1779) let the British WIC to establish a settlemet in the southern part of his country.

During the reign of the imam Said Ibn Hamad (1783-1786) the British WIC helped him to fight revolting tribes. In this way Oman become more and more dependent on Britain. Very similar process we can obseve in India. (Hansen 1972). It appears that the British applied double standards in realtions with islamic states. Wherever they were strong they treated them with respekt, but when they were weak, they talked to them from the position of the superior power.

Turkish sultan Ahmed III (rule 1703-1730) was eager to imitate European fashions especially in baroque architecture. Uniforms were introduced in the Turkish army (the sultans of Morocco failed in introducing them)and the first Turkish printing house was opened in Istanbul, but the books printed by it were in no relation to the European enlightened thought. The Turkish ‘era of tulips’ remained merely an episode (Reychman 1973).

Turkish and Moroccan diplomats sent very irregularly to Europe were as pragmatic as the Mount of Floridablanca, althoughed much embarassed when seeing decolletage of European Coourt ladies (Dziubiński 1977). Turkish diplomats were sometimes annoing to European officaials (most often – Austrians) because of their noisy behaviour (Arenth 1864).

We can assume that tere were no such Hing as the general European and Enlightened attitude towards islam and islamie countries. They were no more seen as thread to the Europe but some of the prehudices lasted and are alive also today. Orientalism invented by Voltaire, Rousseau, and Chateaubriand (Said 1991) is alive as well. From the other hand when we see defenders of islam among the European world we must always ask ourselfs if they are really friends of this religion like Hume was, or are they merely oppponents of traditional Christian values as Boulainvilliers or Lessing, although their own ideas wouldn’t be acceptable in the muslim world.



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