Showing posts from March, 2017

Following in refugee footsteps

Three years ago, from a roadside in Kabul, I witnessed one of many refugee camps clinging to the outskirts of the sprawling city. The people inside were the survivors of another freezing winter in which young an old alike had frozen to death due to the hard choices between buying wood, food or clothing. They were the ‘internally displaced’ of southern Afghanistan, fleeing from fighting in Helmand between Taliban, local groups, and troops from my own country. Without means of provision, without employment, without hope and without freedom of movement, they, like the many others, were confined to scratching out a survival as best they could. Without security, and concerned about how justifiably unwelcome and Englishman might be, the nearest I got to the camp was to briefly walk to the circumference, where a group of kids were gleefully playing with a plastic yellow duck in a dirty open sewer. The innocence of children, who know no better than to keep playing is something I would see aga…

British Authors on Ottoman Tolerance

There is a famous routine in Monty Python’s The life of Brian that might be equally applied to the Ottoman Empire:

Q: So, what have the Ottomans ever done for us?
A: Coffee drinking. They give us that, and algebra.
Degree granting universities, the camera...
Preservation and translation of ancient Greek philosophy and other major contributions to the age of enlightenment...
Q: Well, all right, all right, apart from coffee drinking, algebra, degree granting universities, the camera, preservation and translation of ancient Greek philosophy and other major contributions to the enlightenment, what did the Ottomans ever do for us?
A: There was religious tolerance, what about religious tolerance? 

When reading certain Christian religious histories of the Balkans today one could be forgiven for thinking that the days of the Sultans were only filled with decline, decay, darkness and the unbearable burden of the ‘Ottoman Yoke.’ While recognising human suffering – and all empire building dyn…