Vital Signs

The Ghost of Islam in the Balkans

In the historical memory of Central and Eastern European peoples, the words “Muslim” and “Islam” often evoke images of terror and violence.  Derided by leftist and liberal intellectuals as “xenophobic,” these negative images are still associated with the Turks and their centuries-long military incursions into the heart of Europe.  Even the verbal derivatives of the word “Turk” in Slavic and Germanic languages often carry pejorative meanings.  In Austrian Carinthia, Turks are remembered as Renner und Brenner (“runners and fire-setters”), who, while burning their way into the Alps, left terror and destruction in their wake.  Far worse was the case of the Northern Italian region of Furlany, whose ransacking was depicted by the late Italian filmmaker and writer Pietro Paolo Pasolini.  Shortly before the Croatian catastrophe on the field of Krbava in 1477, from the top of St. Mark’s in Venice, observers could witness the flames and smoke billowing all the way to the town of Udine.  In their incendiary incursions, the Turks used the Balkan Wallachs, Albanians, and scores of marauding gypsies as front-line ethnic cleansers.

Even the recent war in the Balkans and the killings of Bosnian Muslims cannot be understood unless we take into account the centuries of Turkish terror in the Balkans.  The onslaught of Islam resulted in massive...

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