Saturday, 27 February 2010

Byzantium Falls

"Surely, Allaah will collect the hypocrites and disbelievers all together in Hell" al-Nisaa' 4:140
"O Prophet! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be severe against them; their abode will be Hell, and worst indeed is that destination" al-Tahreem 66:9 (1)

I know it is the norm to criticise Christianity for the Crusades, and rightly so, but the historical poem below explores the bloody side of Islam, which could be just as cruel in its way. Byzantium is now Istanbul, part of modern day Turkey.

At present Christians in Turkey "are prevented from constructing, and even from restoring, their places of worship, from possessing buildings and land, and from opening schools. Christians are forbidden from taking up some offices and professions, particularly in the military."(2). Of course, it is not just Christians who suffer discrimination - the Alevis are also suffer - "It is illegal for the Alevis to build their own place of worship, called a cemevi. The government systematically refuses building permits and the Alevis are obliged to perform their rites in secret." (4). I have tried in vain to see what the position is with any Pagan groups in Turkey; there is no evidence that any exist, but the murder of the atheist and former imam Turan Dursan in 1990 suggests it would be difficult for them. Certainly, modern Turkey does not have:

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief.

It is little wonder that discrimination remains present when such inflammatory quotations as those which began this piece are still very much part of present day Islam, even here in Jersey, which is where I found them (on an official website (1)). Where that kind of intolerance is fostered, the spirit of Mehmet is not far behind.

Byzantium Falls

In Fourteen Fifty-Three, Mehmet attacked;
His armies numbered many, odds stacked
Against the defenders of the City. That day
Constantinople fell, defenders held no sway,
As troops poured in, with mighty blood lust;
Mehmet let them kill, where he might be just,
And stay his hand, instead encouraged these
Till blood ran in rivers. Like a dread disease,
They slaughtered, leaving bodies to adorn
From heights of Petra to the Golden Horn;
In Saint Sophia, they were singing, prayers
Offered for deliverance, but all their fears
Were realised, when doors battered down,
Mehmet's forces broke in. Such is renown
That Sophia became a Mosque, to assuage
That day when soldiers in a berserker rage
Tore into women and children. Do they still
Haunt this place, with melancholy sobs fill
The void of time, and the vaults of space,
Here where bloody Islam fell from grace?
Does the endless ritual of daily prayer atone
For the way that Mehmet seized the throne?
The walls seem mute, but listen, and hear
As Byzantium falls, they cry in despair.

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