Europeans as Victims of (Muslim) Colonialism

by Fjordman

In my book Defeating Eurabia[1] I have included a chapter entitled "Fourteen Centuries of War Against European Civilization," which deals with Islamic colonization of and attacks on the European continent since the seventh century AD.

This part of history, when Europeans were victims of colonialism and slave raids, deserves much more emphasis than it currently receives, when the focus is almost exclusively on the briefer European colonial period.

In 2008, demands[2] were made that France must make reparations for its colonial past in Algeria. I'm not an expert on French colonial history, but if I recall correctly, the French were at least partly motivated for establishing themselves in Algeria due to the Barbary pirates, who continued their evil activities well into the nineteenth century.

The period of French rule is the only period of civilization Algeria has experienced since the Romans. Muslims have been raiding Europe, especially the southern regions but sometimes even north of the Alps, since the seventh century. In fact, the only period during more than 1300 years when they haven't done this was during the time of European colonialism.

Moreover, there are now more North Africans in France than there ever were Frenchmen in North Africa. If non-Europeans can resist colonization and expel intruders, why can't Europeans do the same thing?

Even among countries in Western Europe, only a minority have a significant colonial history, and several of them like Spain and Portugal had themselves been colonized before. Spain, which did have an extensive colonial empire, was herself a victim of colonialism significantly longer than she was a colonizer. As Ibn Warraq says in his book Defending the West:[3]

"Where the French presence lasted fewer than four years before they were ignominiously expelled by the British and Turks, the Ottomans had been the masters of Egypt since 1517, a total of 280 years. Even if we count the later British and French protectorates, Egypt was under Western control for sixty-seven years, Syria for twenty-one years, and Iraq for only fifteen - and, of course, Saudi Arabia was never under Western control.

Contrast this with southern Spain, which was under the Muslim yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381 years, and the splendid new Christian capital that eclipsed Rome - Byzantium - which is still in Muslim hands. But no Spanish or Greek politics of victimhood apparently exist."

Paul Fregosi in his book Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries[4] calls Islamic Jihad "the most unrecorded and disregarded major event of history. It has, in fact, been largely ignored," although it has been a fact of life in Europe, Asia and Africa for almost 1400 years.

As Fregosi says, "Western colonization of nearby Muslim lands lasted 130 years, from the 1830s to the 1960s. Muslim colonization of nearby European lands lasted 1300 years, from the 600s to the mid-1960s. Yet, strangely, it is the Muslims...who are the most bitter about colonialism and the humiliations to which they have been subjected; and it is the Europeans who harbor the shame and the guilt. It should be the other way around."

Islamic Jihad raids started in the Mediterranean in the seventh century AD. A proto-typical Muslim naval razzia occurred in 846 when a fleet of Arab Jihadists arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome, sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained. The reason why the Vatican became a "city within the city" in Rome with fortifications was due to repeated attacks by Muslims (Saracens). Here is a quote from the book Rome: Art & Architecture, edited by Marco Bussagli:

Leo IV's major building project is generally considered to be the fortification of the Vatican area. After the devastation wrought by the Saracens in St. Peter's, profoundly shocking to the Christian world, it was decided to fortify the area around St. Peter's tomb. Leo III had already made this decision, but little had been done because of the theft of the materials set aside for the job.

Leo IV, who had already undertaken the repair of the Aurelian walls, gates, and towers, organized the work in such a way that within four years he saw it complete. On June 27, 852 the ceremony of consecration of the walls was performed, in the presence of the pope and clergy, who, barefoot and with heads smeared with ashes, processed round the entire circuit of the fortifications, sprinkling them with holy water and at every gate calling on divine protection against the enemy that threatened the inhabitants.

The enclosed area was to take on the status of a city in its own right, which was both separate and distinct from the Urbe of Rome, despite its proximity to it.

Such attacks were the rule in many regions of Eurasia, not just in Europe. Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever Jihadists conquered a territory, "there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain, and populace of the place." When Muslim armies invaded India, "its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country."

While the Arabs dominated during the early centuries of the Islamic era, the Turks soon converted and surpassed them as a force. As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: "They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside." Turkish attacks on nearby European lands lasted well into the modern era.

Dr. Andrew G. Bostom,[5] author of the excellent book The Legacy of Jihad, has written about what he calls " America's First War on Terror."[6] Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja.

These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of Jihad piracy - murder and enslavement emanating from the so-called Barbary States of North Africa, corresponding to modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Bostom notes that "By June/July 1815 the ably commanded U.S. naval forces had dealt their Barbary jihadist adversaries a quick series of crushing defeats. This success ignited the imagination of the Old World powers to rise up against the Barbary pirates."

Robert Davis,[7] professor of history at Ohio State University, has developed new methodical enumeration which indicates that perhaps one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by Barbary Muslims just from 1530 through 1780 - a far greater number than had been estimated before:

Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who travelled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe," Davis said.

"Most accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear. Jihad piracy and slave raids were a fact of life in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions for the better part of a thousand years, if not more, occasionally with Christian retaliations. Italy was politically fragmented and therefore had weak territorial defences.

As late as the seventeenth century along the Adriatic coast, a zone said to be "continually infested by Turks," even a well-defended town such as Rimini could offer little by way of protection for the local fishermen and coastal farmers. Robert C. Davis explains in Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800:[8]

Italy was among the most thoroughly ravaged areas in the Mediterranean basin. Lying as it did on the front line of the two battling empires, Italy was known as 'the Eye of Christendom'...Especially in areas close to some of the main corsair bases (western Sicily is just 200 kilometers from Tunis) slave taking rapidly burgeoned into a full-scale industry, with a disastrous impact that was apparent at the time and for centuries to come.

Those who worked on coastal farms, even 10 or 20 miles from the sea, were unsafe from the raiders - harvesters, vine tenders, and olive growers were all regularly surprised while at their labors and carried off. Workers in the salt pans were often at risk, as were woodcutters and any others of the unprotected poor who travelled or worked along the coasts: indigents like Rosa Antonia Monte, who called herself 'the poorest of the poor in the city of Barletta [in Puglia],' and who was surprised together with 42 others, including her two daughters, while out gleaning after the harvest, 4 miles outside of town. Monasteries close to the shore also made easy targets for the corsairs.

Fishermen were especially at peril. During a period in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Muslim pirates set up semi-permanent bases for themselves at the mouth of the Bay of Naples, attacking small ships. Surrounded by hostile seas on all sides, the seventeenth century represented a dark period out of which Spanish and Italian societies emerged as mere shadows of what they had been in their earlier, golden ages. For individuals themselves, we can see that the psychological traces of this trauma lasted beyond the time that the larger societies had rebuilt themselves as modern states, long after 'even the idea ha[d] been lost of these dogs that had brought so much terror.'

It continued just below the surface of the coastal culture of the European Mediterranean even into the first years of the twentieth century, when, as one Sicilian woman put it, 'The oldest [still] tell of a time in which the Turks arrived in Sicily every day.

They came down in the thousands from their galleys and you can imagine what happened! They seized unmarried girls and children, grabbed things and money and in an instant they were [back] aboard their galleys, set sail and disappeared....The next day it was the same thing, and there was always the bitter song, as you could not hear other than the lamentations and invocations of the mothers and the tears that ran like rivers through all the houses.'


Corsairs from cities in North Africa - Tunis, Algiers etc. - would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children.

The impact was devastating - France, England and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost abandoned by their inhabitants.

At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior. The lives of European slaves were often no better than the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, which later tapped into the pre-established Islamic slave trade in Africa.

"As far as daily living conditions, the Mediterranean slaves certainly didn't have it better," Davis says. While African slaves did grueling labor on sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas, European slaves were often worked just as hard and as lethally - in quarries, in heavy construction, and above all rowing the corsair galleys.

Young Englishmen risked being surprised by a fleet of Muslim pirates showing up at their village, or being kidnapped while fishing at sea. Thomas Pellow was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured by Barbary pirates as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716.

He was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to "burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner."

Throughout most of the seventeenth century, the English alone lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers. One American slave reported that 130 American seamen had been enslaved by the Algerians in the Mediterranean and Atlantic just between 1785 and 1793 (which prompted the eventual military response from the Americans mentioned above).

In his book White Gold,[9] Giles Milton describes how regular Jihad razzias in Europe extended as far north as distant Iceland in the middle of the North Atlantic, where some local villagers in well-documented attacks in the seventeenth century were kidnapped and dragged off to North Africa as slaves.

As Murray Gordon writes in his book Slavery in the Arab World,[10] the sexual aspects of slavery were disproportionate important in the Islamic world. "Eunuchs commanded the highest prices among slaves, followed by young and pretty white women." Usually, the high cost of white female slaves made them a luxury which only rich Muslims could afford:

"White women were almost always in greater demand than Africans, and Arabs were prepared to pay much higher prices for Circassian and Georgian women from the Caucasus and from Circassian colonies in Asia Minor.

After the Russians seized Georgia and Circassia in the early part of the nineteenth century and, as a result of the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 under which they obtained the fortresses dominating the road into Turkey from Circassia, the traffic in Circassian women came to a virtual halt.

This caused the price of Circassian women to shoot up in the slave markets of Constantinople and Cairo. The situation was almost completely reversed in the early 1840s when the Russians, in exchange for a Turkish pledge to cease their attacks on their forts on the eastern side of the Black Sea, quietly agreed not to interfere in the slave traffic. This unrestricted trade brought on a glut in the Constantinople and Cairo markets, where prices for Circassian women brought them in reach of many ordinary Turks and Egyptians."

After whites, Abyssinian (Ethiopian) girls were considered the "second best" alternative. Depending on lightness of skin, attractiveness and skills, they cost anywhere from a tenth to a third of the price of a Circassian or Georgian woman. As long as Circassian, Slavic, Greek and other white women were available at affordable prices, Arabs always preferred them to blacks.

See Muslim Wars Against Abyssinia.

It is interesting to notice that this pattern was established long before the European colonial period. These days when everything bad in the world is attributed to Europeans, it is common to say that "racism" is a legacy of the European colonial period. In fact, there is a virtually universal preference for light skin, especially for women, in the Middle East, in Asia and in Africa itself, which was present long before European colonial rule in these countries.

According to Murray Gordon, "For a better part of the Middle Ages, Europe served as a valuable source of slaves who were prized in the Muslim world as soldiers, concubines, and eunuchs. It would not long compete with Africa in this trade if only because Christian Europe, with few exceptions, rejected the notion that its people could be enslaved, particularly for the despised Muslim world.

In the greatest part of black Africa, by contrast, there were few governments or chiefs that could interpose their authority against the merchants who arrived by caravan and ship in quest of slaves. Lamentably, many African chiefs often became middlemen in the trade by rounding up inhabitants of nearby villages and exchanging them for an assortment of manufactured wares."

There are examples where some Europeans sold other Europeans as slaves. This could be done by Vikings or Slavs, but especially by certain Italians, above all the Venetians. Some shipowners from Venice loaded up with Russian and Georgian slaves in the Black Sea and sold them to the Turks or to Venetian sugar plantations in Crete and Cyprus.

These kinds of activities, which were harshly condemned by both the Roman Catholic and the Byzantine Churches, should be mentioned for the sake of historical accuracy, but this was clearly of secondary importance compared to the extensive Islamic raids in Europe for many centuries.

Slavery never faced as powerful opposition in Muslim societies as it sometimes did in Christian ones. Toward end of the nineteenth century, questions about slavery were finally raised, but only due to Western influence and military pressure. Murray Gordon writes:

That slavery persisted as long as it did in the Muslim world - it was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962 and as late as 1981 in Mauritania - owed much to the fact that it was deeply anchored in Islamic law. By legitimizing slavery and, by extension, the sordid traffic in slaves (for which there was no legal sanction), Islam elevated these practices to an unassailable moral plan.

As a result, in no part of the Muslim world was an ideological challenge ever mounted against slavery. The political structure and social system in Muslim society would have taken a dim view of such a challenge. The sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the potentates who ruled in other Muslim lands owed their thrones as much as to their being religious as well as secular leaders and were therefore duty bound to uphold the faith.

Part of this obligation was to assure the normal functioning of the slave system which was an integral part of Islamic society that is embellished in the Koran.

To continue:



[2] ?id=1.0.2452294966

[3] Ibn-Warraq/e/9781591024842

[4] Paul-Fregosi/e/9781573922470/


[6] readArticle.aspx?ARTID=4574

[7] archives/022872.php

[8] Christian-Slaves-Muslim-Masters-Mediterranean/dp/0333719662/

[9] 0312425295/brusselsjournal-20/ref=nosim

[10] Slavery-Arab-World-Murray-Gordon/dp/0941533301/

[11] Robert-R-Spencer/e/9781596985155/

[12] History-Sub-Saharan-Africa-Robert-Collins/dp/052168708X/

[13] Norman-Davies/e/9780060974688/

[14] Suicide-Reason-Radical-Islams-Threat/dp/046500203X

Fjordman is a Norway-based writer and essayist. He appears in Brussels Journal, Gates of Vienna, Faith Freedom International, Jihad Watch and Think-Israel, amongst other websites. He is the author of Defeating Eurabia.

This appeared May 28 2009 on the Gates of Vienna website and is archived at europeans-as-victims-of-colonialism.html

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