Why Are Islamists Claiming Non-Muslim Land?

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by Uzay Bulut

  • The government of Turkey has threatened to invade and annex Greek islands in the Aegean Sea for at least the past five years.
  • [T]he Turkish media continues to falsely and repeatedly to claim that “152 Greek islands and islets in the Aegean belong to Turkey”. These islands historically and legally… belong to Greece.
  • Since its inception in Arabia in the seventh century, Islam has been spread throughout the world by means of the sword. According to the Islamic law, the entire world is divided into the “dar al-Islam” (territory of submission to Allah — the word “Islam” is Arabic for “submission”), which denotes regions where Islam prevails, and the “dar al-harb” (territory of war), which refers to non-Muslim lands, yet to be conquered.
  • Islamists believe that once a land has come under Islamic occupation and colonialism, the land conquered is forever Islamic… Islamic supremacists such as Erdogan believe that because Thessaloniki was once under the occupation of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, it is a Muslim land eternally and must be returned to its rightful owner.
  • Jerusalem was under Ottoman occupation for four centuries (1517-1917). The Jewish people, however, reversing that pattern of Islamic colonialism and imperialism, re-established their homeland, now Israel, in 1948. Islamic supremacists still have not healed from the perceived affront by Israel’s indigenous Jewish people to Islamic conquest.
  • Islamists therefore say they want to reconquer Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. According to doctrine, the only religion that should rule over these lands — or any lands, for that matter — is Islam. Christians and Jews could be only dhimmis, second-class, tolerated subjects of an Islamic state where they are only allowed to stay alive on sufferance by paying a high “protection” tax, the jizya.
  • Theologically, according to Islamic scriptures, Judaism and Christianity are merely distorted versions of Islam. In the Islamic view, originally there was only Islam, which the Jews and Christians later distorted into Judaism and Christianity. All history, in this mindset, is therefore originally Islamic history and all major figures of Biblical history, from Adam and Eve, are therefore Muslim. According to Islam, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus are also Muslim. So, any place related to them, in that view, is Muslim territory.
  • Many others see these events as the Jews, who were the indigenous population of what is now Israel, having had their land “stolen” by the Ottomans, similarly to how the Turkish military invaded the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, or how the Christian Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was “stolen” by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II and his troops on May 29, 1453 when they stormed Constantinople and triumphantly entered the Cathedral of the Hagia Sophia, after besieging the city for 55 days.
  • Many Islamists are therefore obsessed with conquering Israel, Spain and Portugal (Muslim-occupied al-Andalus), Greece, Cyprus and India for Allah — then the rest of the non-Muslim world.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps increasingly referring to places outside Turkey as “our lands.” In his statement following the presidential cabinet meeting on November 20, Erdogan said:

    “Karabakh [in the South Caucasus] has the same place in our hearts as Gaza. Just as we do not distinguish between Bosnia and Aleppo [in Syria]; Tripoli [in Libya]; Balkh [in Afghanistan]; Thessaloniki [in Greece] and Mosul [in Iraq], we see our own ancient cities and Jerusalem as the same.”

    “Karabakh” is the Armenian Republic of Artsakh, currently occupied by Azerbaijan after it – with the help of Turkey – seized it in September after a genocide against the indigenous Armenians there, that lasted from 2020-2023.

    On November 17, Erdogan once again announced his government’s expansionist goals. “Whoever says ‘We do not care about Syria, Iraq, Karabakh, Libya, Bosnia, and Jerusalem’ is either intentionally or unintentionally impeding Turkey’s great march,” he stated.

    On October 28, at a demonstration condemning Israel’s war against Hamas, he also said that a century ago, Gaza was what Adana [a city in Turkey] was for Turks:

    “Edirne [in Turkey] was the same [to us] as Skopje [a city in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia]; Kırklareli [in Turkey] was the same as Thessaloniki [in Greece]; Mardin [in Turkey] was the same as Mosul [in Iraq]; and Gaziantep [in Turkey] as Aleppo [in Syria]. Just like Gaza, they were all part of our homeland that we thought was inseparable from us. Look what we have become now…

    “They [the West] unfortunately separated the Turkish nation from all these lands that belong to [Turks] as much as their blood, life and love. They not only separated us [from those cities] physically; they also used all kinds of tricks to remove them from our hearts and minds.”

    The cities in Turkey that Erdogan referred to (such as Edirne, Adana, Kirklareli, Mardin, and Antep) were built and enriched by Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and other indigenous peoples thousands of years ago. These cities were later wiped of their indigenous Christian residents as a result of centuries-long Islamic oppression that culminated in the 1913-23 genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

    Meanwhile, the Turkish media continues to falsely and repeatedly to claim that “152 Greek islands and islets in the Aegean belong to Turkey”. These islands historically and legally (mainly through the 1924 Treaty of Lausanne, 1932 Turkish-Italian Agreements and 1947 Paris Treaty) belong to Greece.

    In October, Greek media reported that Turkey annexed an Aegean Greek islet rock (Zourafa, or Ladoxera).

    According to the Turkish media, Turkey sent a “notam” [notice to airmen] that “the region [waters surrounding Zourafa] where the Turkish Army recently started a drill is under Turkey’s sovereignty”.

    The government of Turkey has threatened to invade and annex Greek islands in the Aegean Sea for at least the past five years.

    Meanwhile, Turkish troops continue to violate the UN-controlled buffer zone in the Republic of Cyprus, 36% of which the Turkish army has illegally occupied since 1974. The Cypriot media reported that on November 27, “around 40 Turkish soldiers entered a two-story residence [in the buffer zone]… The mayor of Agios Dometios, Kostas Petrou, said that ‘there has been intense activity in the area by the Turkish Army for about 1.5 months….”

    Territorial expansionism is apparently a major part of Erdogan’s government’s foreign policy agenda. Unfortunately, political Islam is an ideology of conquest and dominance.

    Since its inception in Arabia in the seventh century, Islam has been spread throughout the world by means of the sword. According to the Islamic law, the entire world is divided into the “dar al-Islam” (territory of submission to Allah — the word “Islam” is Arabic for “submission”), which denotes regions where Islam prevails, and the “dar al-harb” (territory of war), which refers to non-Muslim lands, yet to be conquered.

    Islamists believe that once a land has come under Islamic occupation and colonialism, the land conquered is forever Islamic. The Greek city of Thessaloniki, for instance, was once under Ottoman Muslim occupation. According to the official website of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, while it was under Ottoman rule (1430-1912), almost all Christian churches, parishes and monasteries were converted into mosques. Thessaloniki was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in 1912.

    Islamic supremacists such as Erdogan believe that because Thessaloniki was once under the occupation of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, it is a Muslim land eternally and must be returned to its rightful owner.

    From the mid-15th century until the proclamation of the first Hellenic Republic in 1822, the territory constituting modern Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan has been open about his goal of resurrecting the Ottoman Empire, which would include expanding Turkish territory considerably. In 2016, he said:

    “There are physical borders and there are borders in our hearts.

    “Some people ask us: ‘Why do you take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Crimea, Karabakh, Azerbaijan, the Balkans, and North Africa?’… None of these lands is foreign to us. Is it possible to divide Rize [in Turkey] from Batumi [in Georgia]? How can we consider Edirne [in Turkey] to be separate from Thessaloniki [in Greece]? How can we think that Gaziantep [in Turkey] has nothing to do with Aleppo [in Syria]; Mardin [in Turkey] with Al-Hasakah [in Syria]; or Siirt [in Turkey] with Mosul [in Iraq]?

    “From Thrace to Eastern Europe, with every step you take, you will see traces of our ancestors… We would need to deny our true selves for us to think Gaza, with whom we speak the same language and share the same culture, is separate from us, as far away as Siberia. To take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Crimea, Karabakh, Bosnia and other brotherly regions is both the duty and the right of Turkey. Turkey is not just Turkey. The day we give up on these things will be the day we give up on our freedom and future.”

    Erdogan also referred to the Misak-ı Milli (“National Pact”), a set of decisions made by the Ottoman Parliament in 1920 concerning the borders of the future Turkish state. The National Pact is commonly referenced by Turks when calling for Turkish territorial expansion.

    The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet wrote in 2016:

    “Some historians say that according to the National Pact, the Turkish borders include — in addition to the current borders of Turkey — Cyprus, Aleppo [in Syria], Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk [in Iraq], Batumi [in Georgia], Thessaloniki [in Greece], Kardzhali, Varna [in Bulgaria], and the Aegean islands.”

    In the 13th century, the Turkic tribe known as Ottomans formed a state in western Anatolia, on land they invaded and captured from the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. They conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 15th century, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire.

    For more than 600 years, from its founding in 1299 in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) to its end in 1922, the Ottoman Turks invaded and occupied nations across three continents. These nations included, among others, most of the Balkans, (such as Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Romania), Hungary, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and Israel (then called Palestine), Lebanon, Syria, some of Arabia and a considerable amount of North Africa. During this period, many crimes were systematically committed against non-Muslims, including:

    • The ghulam system: the enslavement, conversion, and training of non-Muslims to become warriors and statesmen;
    • The devshirme system: the forced recruitment of Christian boys who were taken from their families, converted to Islam and enslaved for service to the sultan in his palace and to join his janissaries (“new corps”);
    • Compulsory and voluntary Islamization: the latter resulting from social, religious and economic pressure;
    • The sexual slavery of women and children, deportations and massacres.

    Jerusalem was under Ottoman occupation for four centuries (1517-1917). The Jewish people, however, reversing that pattern of Islamic colonialism and imperialism, re-established their homeland, now Israel, in 1948. Islamic supremacists still have not healed from the perceived affront by Israel’s indigenous Jewish people to Islamic conquest.

    Islamists therefore say they want to reconquer Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. According to doctrine, the only religion that should rule over these lands — or any lands, for that matter — is Islam. Christians and Jews could be only dhimmis, second-class, tolerated subjects of an Islamic state where they are only allowed to stay alive on sufferance by paying a high “protection” tax, the jizya.

    In 2018, during a rally, Erdogan said, “For us, Jerusalem is what Çanakkale is.” (Also, where Troy was.)

    In 2020, Erdogan opened the Turkish parliament’s legislative session with a long speech that again addressed Jerusalem: “Jerusalem is our city, a city from us.”

    Theologically, according to Islamic scriptures, Judaism and Christianity are merely distorted versions of Islam. In the Islamic view, originally there was only Islam, which the Jews and Christians later distorted into Judaism and Christianity. All history, in this mindset, is therefore originally Islamic history and all major figures of Biblical history, from Adam and Eve, are therefore Muslim. According to Islam, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus are also Muslim. So, any place related to them, in that view, is Muslim territory.

    Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, calls these views the “Islamization of history” and “Islamization of geography”.

    Philip Carl Salzman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, noted:

    “Israel exists on territory once governed and dominated by Arab and later Turkish Muslims. The Arab invasions in the 7th century displaced and replaced the Jews who were the majority population, those who survived the wars of the Romans against the Jews. Almost a thousand years later, the Ottoman Turks became the rulers of the Holy Land. According to Islamic law, land once governed by Muslims is owned by Muslims forevermore. Notwithstanding the Jews’ prior occupation of the Holy Land, Muslims regard the region as theirs and theirs alone and Israel as having stolen their land.”

    Many others see these events as the Jews, who were the indigenous population of what is now Israel, having had their land “stolen” by the Ottomans, similarly to how the Turkish military invaded the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, or how the Christian Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was “stolen” by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II and his troops on May 29, 1453 when they stormed Constantinople and triumphantly entered the Cathedral of the Hagia Sophia, after besieging the city for 55 days.

    Many Islamists are therefore obsessed with conquering Israel, Spain and Portugal (Muslim-occupied al-Andalus), Greece, Cyprus and India for Allah — then the rest of the non-Muslim world.

  • Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, a research fellow for the Philos Project, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/20203/slamists-claiming-and

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