Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

The Clash of Civilizations in the Time of Shakespeare, Part 1

Anyone with only a passing interest in Islamic affairs will be aware of the term "Caliphate." The last Caliphate, that of the Ottomans, was officially abolished on March 3, 1924, on the orders of the secular government of Turkey. Islamists glamorize the Caliphate as something "good," but in its last years, the Ottoman Caliphate was bloated and corrupt. It gave rise to the Armenian genocide under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. From the early 16th Century onwards, the Sultan of the Ottomans was also the Caliph. On November 1, 1922 the Sultanate was officially abolished and the deposed Abdul-Hamid lost his title of Caliph. 18 days later Abdul-Hamid’s cousin was inaugurated as Abdulmecid II the very last Caliph.


A year earlier the Topkapi Palace, which had formerly been the seat of the Ottoman Sultans, had been turned into a museum. A color photograph taken for Albert Kahn's "Archive of the Planet" project, using the Lumiere brothers' autochrome process, was taken on November 24, 1922 in the palace. It features the gigantic throne upon which the Sultans had sat.


The Ottoman Sultanate lasted from 1299 until the start of the 20th Century, but it reached its peak of prosperity and power in the 16th Century. The ruler who schemed to invade Christian European territory was the second Ottoman Caliph, Suleiman I. In 1521 Belgrade, capital of Serbia, was captured by the Turks, and in August 1526 southern Hungary became a Turkish dependency after the Battle of Mohacs. Three years later, the Siege of Vienna took place. Suleiman's forces failed to take the city, and apart from a second attempt to invade Vienna in 1683, this was the furthest that the Turks pushed into the European heartland.


Suleiman I was the tenth Sultan of the Ottomans. He ruled from 1520 until he died, aged 72, in 1566 while leading a war campaign against Austria. Suleiman was called "The Magnificent" by Westerners, while his Muslim subjects called him "Kanumi" or "Lawgiver." During his reign, Suleiman conquered Baghdad, and briefly took control of Persia.


In 1536 he signed a treaty with Francis I of France against the (German) Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Under the pseudonym "Muhibbi", Suleiman was also an accomplished poet. He was the second Ottoman ruler to be called "Caliph." Suleiman's father, Selim I, who ruled from 1512 to 1520, conquered Egypt and adopted the title "Caliph". Selim I assumed power by forcing his father to abdicate and he murdered his own brothers to secure his position. He saw potential in Suleiman and had assisted his claim to the throne by killing Suleiman's brothers (his own sons) and other male relatives. Selim I was, understandably, called "The Grim."


Suleiman I inherited some of his father's cruelty. When he saw rivalry between two of his sons, Bayezid and Selim, he ordered that Bayezid be killed. After Suleiman's death, Selim II became ruler and Caliph, but he was a drunkard and a womanizer who was unable to harness the military gains made by his father and grandfather. He never led his army on a campaign, and left most of the governing of the empire to Pashas. Selim II died on December 5, 1574 in Istanbul.


Selim II's son Murad III ascended the Sultan's throne. Murad’s mother Afife Nur Banu Sultana was Venetian in origin. His wife Safiye had also come from Venice and had belonged to a noble family. She was captured in her youth by Turkish pirates, and become a slave. Sultana Safiye was Murad III's favorite wife, and wielded some power.


Trading and Diplomacy


Under the rule of Murad III, Safiye assisted in softening the role of the Ottoman Sultanate towards the nations of Western Europe. Skilled in diplomacy, she seems to have had a special affinity for the England of Queen Elizabeth I. Perhaps the Protestantism of the English monarch was seen as a beneficial ally against the "United Europe" represented by the Catholic Holy Roman Empire.


Elizabeth saw Spain as a threat at this time, with good reason. Philip II of Spain (ruled from 1556-1598) had been married to Mary, Elizabeth's Catholic half-sister. Mary ruled from 1553 to 1558 and had returned England to Catholicism. Until his death, Philip II saw England as his rightful territory and inheritance. In 1581, Philip annexed Portugal. England had conducted trade with the East overland through Russia, but this route could not be guaranteed to stay open.


Following a diplomatic mission to Constantinople in 1575 by the agents of two wealthy London traders, an emissary was sent to Ottoman capital. This individual, William Harborne of Norfolk, arrived in October 1578 after a three month voyage overland. He took up residence in the "Porte" and traded under the French flag. His presence was initially to act for the traders, Edward Osborne and Richard Staper. This arrangement was soon extended by both Elizabeth and Murad III.


On March 15, 1579, Murad wrote to Elizabeth of Harborne's mission: "In most friendly manner we give you to understand, that a certain man hath come unto us in the name of your most excellent Regal Majesty, commending unto us from you all kindness, courtesy, and friendly offices on your part, and did humbly require that our Imperial highness would vouchsafe to give leave and liberty to him and unto two other merchants of your kingdom..."


In early June 1580, Murat IIII granted a charter of privileges to English traders in Turkey. At that time the charter was made, only the French and Venetians had been allowed to trade.


On September 11, 1581, Queen Elizabeth granted exclusive trading privileges to 16 individuals, including Staper and Osborne. This agreement led to the founding of the Levant Company.


Letters from Sultana Safiye to Queen Elizabeth were pleasant, if over-written: "I send your Majesty so honorable and sweet a salutation of peace that all the flock of Nightingales with their melody cannot attain to the like, much less this simple letter of mine. The singular love which we have conceived one toward the other is like to a garden of pleasant birds..."


On June 26, 1581, Elizabeth wrote to Murad III to reassure him that the actions of a rogue Englishman, Peter Blake of Ratcliffe, would meet with severe punishment. In his ship the Roe, Blake had committed acts of piracy against Ottoman subjects at sea. The Sultan was addressed as "the most renowned and imperious Caesar, Sultan Murad Can, Emperor of all the dominions of Turkey, and of all the East Monarchy chief above all others whosoever, most fortunate years with the success of all true happiness."


William Harborne traveled to Turkey as official ambassador for Queen Elizabeth in a tall ship, the Susan. The ship arrived at Constantinople on March 26, 1583. It would be some time before Harborne would be granted a personal audience with Murad III. Gifts were brought in to the Sultan, carried by 12 men. These included cloth, gilded silverware, bottles and ceramics and even hunting dogs dressed in coats of silk. The gift which seems to have impressed Murad most was a clock.


This clock was described by an anonymous commenter in Richard Hakluyt's travel anthology "Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation". The item is described as "one clock  valued at five hundred pounds sterling: over it was a forest with trees of silver, among the which were deer chased with dogs, and men on horseback following, men drawing of water, others carrying mine ore on barrows: on the top of the clock stood a castle, and on the castle a mill. All these were of silver. And the clock was round beset with jewels."


Until his retirement in 1588, William Harborne persuaded Murad III not to side with the Spanish against Britain, and English trade with the Ottomans flourished. Harborne was replaced by Edward Barton who acted as ambassador until December 1597 when he died of dysentery. His successor was Henry Lello, an individual whose air of constant worry gave rise to his nickname "Fog."


Thomas Dallam's Organ


Harborne's presentation of the clock appeared to have inspired the next proposed gift to the Sultan – a large organ. This instrument, covered in baroque embellishments, was to be manufactured by Thomas Dallam, one of the leading organ manufacturers in the country. Dallam came from a village near Warrington in Lancashire, and was commissioned to design and construct the instrument.


Unfortunately, the Sultan died on January 7, 1595. Murad III had suffered all his life from epilepsy and was killed by a severe grand mal fit, probably combined with a stroke. The news was sent back to Elizabeth's court by the ambassador, Edward Barton, in his fortnightly dispatches. He wrote on January 11: "105 (the embassy's code for Murad III, while Elizabeth was called 9) is extreame sick, some say deade and his sonne sent for out of Magnesia in Natolia."


Murad III was succeeded by Mehmed III, his son by the Sultana Safiye. Murad III had reputedly sired a total of 103 children. Mehmet strangled 16 (some say 19) of his brothers) to ensure his claim to the Ottoman throne. Shakespeare made an allusion to this custom of fratricide in Henry V, when the king addresses his own brothers at his coronation:

“This is the English, not the Turkish court;

Not Amurath an Amurath succeeds,

But Harry, Harry.”

The Sultana, now the Queen Mother, continued to play an important role in Ottoman political life. It was decided that the organ should be sent to the new Sultan. Accompanying it would also be a coach, worth £600, for Safiye, the Queen Mother.


The organ – special gift to the new Sultan, Mehmet III – was presented to Queen Elizabeth in November 1598 for her to inspect. As well as being able to be played normally, the organ was also an automaton - which could play pieces of music automatically. It contained a clock that chimed a carillon of bells, and small ornaments on the instrument would move.


Thomas Dallam was to travel with the instrument, which was dismantled and packed into cases with straw. He ordered clothes for himself, and also two virginals, so he could amuse himself on the voyage by practicing his musical and keyboard skills. The ship he traveled on was The Hector. This left Gravesend on Tuesday February 13, 1599. On Wednesday August 15, the Hector reached Constantinople.


Though he had not been formally educated to any high level, Dallam wrote down his experiences of the journey in a diary. This journal is housed in the British Museum (Additional Manuscript 17,480). The diary was finished too late to appear in Richard Hakluyt's anthology of travel manuscripts, nor did it appear in Purchas’ "His Pilgrimes". Samuel Purchas continued to publish Hakluyt's documents posthumously. From the time Dallam’s diary was completed in 1600 until the late 19th Century its history is unknown.


In 1893, the Hakluyt Society published the text in a book entitled Early Voyages and Travels in the Levant which included extracts from the journal of Dr. John Covel (1638-1722) who worked for the Levant Company in Constantinople as a chaplain.


Dallam's account of his journey is lacking in pretension. His spelling follows no order. The Hector had set its anchor beside the Seven Towers at Constantinople, the Ottoman state prison. Dallam would not inspect his cargo on the Sunday, as he was a devout Christian. He wrote:

"The twentieth day (of August 1599), being Monday, we began to look into our work: but when we opened our chests we found that all gluing work was clean decayed, by reason that it had lain above six months in the hold of the ship, which was but newly built, so that the extremity of the heat in the hold of the ship, with the working of the sea and the hotness of the country, was the cause that all the gluing failed; likewise divers of my metal pipes were bruised and broken."

William Aldridge, consul at Chios, was present, and said the organ was not worth two pence. Dallam deliberately avoided mentioning his response to Aldridge. The chests were taken to the consul's house at Vines of Pera, the diplomatic quarter. Dallam and his assistants set to work restoring the organ, spurred on by an offer from Aldridge of a £15 bonus.


On August 28th the Hector, now situated outside the Sultan's palace, saluted Mehmed III with its 27 cannon. This led to a fatal accident. Dallam wrote that while one of the toughest seaman "was ramming in his cartridge of powder, some fire being left in the breech of the piece, the powder took fire and blew that man quite away in the smoke; about 3 days after all his lower part, from his waist downward, was found two mile from that place, and his head in another place."


In early September, the Sultan was visiting his mother Safiye at one of her residences. The restoration and repairs were complete, and on September 11th the organ was carried into the Sultan's palace. This was called the seraglio – a name which referred to the harem quarters where Mehmed's concubines were housed – but was the main palace of the Ottoman rulers. Close to the Topkapi Palace was housed the main seat of the "Sublime Porte" – a name for the Ottoman government.


The building of the Topkapi Palace in Constantinople commenced in the mid 15th Century under the supervision of Mehmed II. The palace would be the main residence of Sultans and their retinues until the 19th Century. At the start of the 20th Century, the palace became a museum. In the time of Mehmed III, it was the home for the concubines, and also Sultana Safiye, as well as other staff, including Mehmed's dwarfs, who would dress in gold brocade with swords at their sides, and also his deaf-mutes.


Dallam wrote: "At every gate of the seraglio there always sits a stout Turk, about the calling or degree of a justice of the peace, who is called a ‘chia’; not withstanding, the gates are fast shut, for there passes none in or out at their own pleasure."


He described the various courtyards and gardens he and his associates had to pass through, before reaching a building where the organ was to be reassembled. On the same day, the coach was delivered by Paul Pinder, ambassador Henry Lello's secretary, to the Sultana Safiye.


Lello wrote a letter around this time to Sir Robert Cecil, in which he mentioned Safiye's gift. He wrote that "the coach must of necessity be given to the old Sultana because it hath been brutted (announced) here long agone by some out of England that her Highness had ordained the same for her." The Sultana had already instructed that two horses from her own stables to draw the coach when it was ready. Lello made no specific mention of the organ.


Dallam would make the journey into the Topkapi Sarayi (palace) on several occasions as he reassembled and fine-tuned the organ. Lello told Dallam that the Sultan was "a monarch but an infidel, and the grand enemy to all Christians. What we or any other Christians can bring unto him he doth think that we do it in duty or in fear of him, or in hope of some great favor we expect at his hands." Lello warned Dallam that Mehmed III would give him no greater reward than the fee he had already been paid by the English government. He also suggested that Mehmed had no intention of seeing the creator of his gift.


The next day, Dallam did encounter the Sultan when Mehmed arrived with his retinue slightly earlier than expected. He wrote:

"The Grand Senior, being seated in his chair of estate, commanded silence. All being quiet and no noise at all, the present began to salute the Grand Senior; for when I left it I did allow a quarter of an hour for his coming thither. First the clock struck 22, then the chime of 16 bells went off, and played a song of four parts. That being done, two personages which stood upon two corners of the second storey, holding two silver trumpets in their hands, did lift them to their heads and sounded a tantara (drum roll). Then the music went off, and the organ played a song of 5 parts twice over."

At the top of the organ was a model of a holly bush filled with blackbirds and thrushes. At the end of the automatic organ-playing, these "did singe and shake theire wynges". Dallam noted that the Sultan was enthralled by the gift. Mehmed asked his vizier if the machine would ever repeat the performance. When told it would do the same an hour later, the Sultan decided to stay and witness the performance.


The organ was designed to automatically play only once every six hours, but Dallam had told the adviser where there was a pin in the machine. When the organ's clock chimed on the hour, all he had to do was touch the pin and the carillon, drum rolls and musical mechanics would start again. This was done.


The Sultan sat by the keys, watching them move. When he was told that the organ could be played by hand, Dallam was summoned back into the room. He wrote: "I stood there, playing such thing as I could until the clock struck, and then I bowed my head as low as I could, and went from him..." Dallam's performance was well-rewarded. Mehmed took 45 pieces of gold from behind him, and ordered the gate-keeper to give it to the organ-maker.


Within days, someone tampered with the organ, and Dallam was summoned to return to reset the mechanisms. Shortly after this, Dallam was invited by one of the Sultan's officials to have a special tour of the "privy chambers" at the palace. Over three days Dallam was shown around parts of the palace no outsider had seen. He saw the Sultan's bed-chamber, the private bath-houses and archery butts, and the rooms where royal gifts were stored.


On one occasion at a marble-paved courtyard, his guide indicated a grille set into a large wall. The guide urged Dallam to look through it. "When I came to the grate the wall was very thick, and grated on both sides with iron very strongly, but through that grate I did see thirty of the Grand Senior's concubines that were playing in another court."


Dallam was transfixed. The women were "verrie prettie ones in deede." They wore small satin jackets and their lower parts were clad in white drawers so thin that "I could discern the skin of their thighs through it."

"I stood so long looking upon them that he which had showed me all this kindness began to be very angry with me. He made a wry mouth, and stamped with his foot to make me give over looking; the which I was very loathe to do, for that sight did please me wondrous well."

Thomas Dallam was treated well by the Sultan and his officials. Apart from his brief glimpse of the concubines, he obeyed the rules which were ordered. He would look downward in the presence of the Sultan or a senior official, and when leaving the noble's presence he walked backwards.


In England there was ambivalence towards the Turkish Empire at this time, even though trade was being encouraged with the Ottomans. Shakespeare (156 -1616) would call the Ottomans "Ottomites" in his play Othello, first performed in 1606: "Are we turned Turks, and to ourselves do that

Which Heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?" (II.iii.169-70)


For most people in Europe, even when trade was taking place, the Turks were feared. The concubines in Mehmed III's harem were mostly Christians who had been abducted by corsairs (pirates). The coasts of Europe from the 15th Century onwards were prey to the marauding of corsairs from North Africa. The rulers of these nations – Morocco, Tripoli, Algiers, Libya, were vassals of the Ottomans. Entire populations of some coastal towns were abducted into slavery.


The Ottomans themselves encouraged such plunder and slavery. The "Barbary corsairs" would attack targets in Ireland, Scandinavia and even attack whaling vessels off Newfoundland. The Ottomans would plunder ships and take crew members to work as galley slaves.


On October 15, 1579, in a response to Murad III concerning the future ambassador William Harborne, Queen Elizabeth herself expressed concern about the English sailors who had been taken as galley slaves by the Ottomans. She addressed the Sultan as "the most imperial and invincible prince" and wished him "many happy and fortunate years, with abundance of the best things." She nonetheless was obliged to end her letter with the following:

"Moreover the signification and assurance of your highness' great affection to us and our nation, doth cause us also to entreat and use mediation on the behalf of certain of our subjects, who are detained as slaves and captives in your Galleys…."

The lives of galley slaves were both arduous and humiliating. Those forced to work the oars on the galleys were stripped naked. Few had any chance of improving their status with their captors or gaining their freedom.


The Ottoman Empire was so dependent upon slavery that it relied upon slaves for its defense. It instituted an elite infantry force called Janissaries. Their name came from Turkish – "yeniceri" or "new army." These soldiers were slaves, abducted mostly in childhood, and then intensively trained.


In part two, using contemporary and first-hand accounts where possible, I will describe how the Ottomans deliberately inspired dread in the cultures of Europe.



Additional Sources:


Richard Hakluyt: "The Principall Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation", London, 1589 Stanley Mayes: "An Organ For the Sultan", Putnam, London, 1956


Continued in Part two


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Adrian Morgan, aka Giraldus Cambrensis of Western Resistance, is UK-based writer and artist. He also writes for Spero News, Family Security Matters and He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

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Comments Notes: Keep comments short. Our system cannot separate paragraphs. Comments must be relevant to the topic of the article. We did not regulate the comments but if irrelevant comments, materials, adds of other websites etc. are being uploaded, we will have to regulate the comments and even ban the IP addresses of such nuisance posters.

Name: Tanstaafl
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 08:42:30 -0700


I look forward to the next installment. I note that the culture that supported such vanities still exists today in the palaces of Saddam Hussian and the Saudi nobility.

Name: Aaron
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 10:36:24 -0700


What Muslims should always remember that it was Islam who brought war to Europe, not the other way round. They refer to the West as Crusaders, well the Crusades had justification. Even Saladin feared Crusaders. Homage should always be paid to Charles Martel, were it not for him, its highly likely Europe would be in an Islamic time warp.

Name: Walter Sieruk
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 10:40:27 -0700


The obscene fiction fo a paradise with 72 virgins that the jihadists are brainwashed into believing is in reality a fusion of Arabic and Zorastrian mythology. In other words it's all based on religious fraud. Furthernore, it is written "For the time will come when they will not stand wholesome teaching, but will follow their own fancy and gather a crowed of teachers to tickle their ears. they will stop their ears to the truth and turn to mythology." Second Timothy 4:3,4. - THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE

Name: Tree
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 11:37:34 -0700


Very interesting article and I very much look for the second part. The crusaders were wrong and bad. Period. However, one thing that I do not understand is this; they say the crusaders were invaders but then were they not trying to re take what was once theirs?

Name: JO
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 12:15:44 -0700



Name: To the Webmaster
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 15:18:19 -0700


Please block the IP of this muslim freak Akhter who either pastes unrelated long rants or uses filthy language to attack non muslim commenters. He has also been kicked away from FFI. While at it give his IP to FBI as a possible AlQueda cell.

Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 15:23:20 -0700


Have you had enough, baby is crying to mummy, the webmaster for censorship, is there such thing?, i did not think so, you say what you want about Islam, Mohammad, Allah, i do not mind, and you will never hear me cry to the webmaster, as far as you reporting me to your lords at fbi, go do it ,i am a belier, i love my country, and if it needs me i will die for my country, which happens to be GREAT BRITAIN!!!!

Name: Editor -- Banning issue
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 18:02:25 -0700


We have undertaken a policy of not banning anyone, which of course we may have to change. We hope that comments will be topical. Posting materials from other sites are not acceptable either. If topical, a short summary can be published as a comment, not the whole article.

Name: cjk
Date: Friday May 02, 2008
Time: 21:55:00 -0700


Excellent article, it's always very interesting to read personal accounts of history when they appear to be honest.

Name: Challenge to all infidels from Akhter
Date: Saturday May 03, 2008
Time: 12:46:34 -0700


I challenge you to write even one verse like Quran. For example you can try writing one like aya 33.50 which says, "Mohammed you are allowed to have sex with your wives, your slave girls, your captured women, your first cousins and any woman who offers herself to you".

Name: cjk
Date: Saturday May 03, 2008
Time: 13:35:56 -0700


Yes akter, I'm an Infidel to satan otherwise known by the alias 'Allah'. I will die before I submit to such evil. In case you hadn't already guessed, the term Infidel when spoken by a devil worshipper to a normal person is a compliment just as being called a yankee or janqui is indeed a compliment to an American.

Name: cjk
Date: Saturday May 03, 2008
Time: 13:39:50 -0700


You guys put out some real quality articles at this website, but some real weird creeps seem to try to filibuster your comment sections.

Name: Challenge to all infidels from Akhter
Date: Saturday May 03, 2008
Time: 22:13:41 -0700


I challenge you to write even one verse like Quran.

Name: Dane
Date: Sunday May 04, 2008
Time: 08:05:22 -0700


Well, Akhter, I accept your challenge. What about this: Mohammed you are allowed to have sex with your wives, your slave girls, your captured women, your first cousins and any creature that offers itself to you. It's more generous, more immoral and more inhuman. You are outdone, Akhter

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