When it comes to a complete change in attitude concerning Islam, few Western cities stand out as much as Vienna, Austria. Its past and present are like day and night to one another.
Indeed, on this very day in history, in the year 1683, Vienna was on the verge of being captured by Islam, being relieved only in the final moment. That story is worth recounting — not least as it helps set the stage concerning where Vienna finds itself today vis-à-vis Islam.
The Siege of Vienna—Submission or Death
On July 15, 1683, the largest Islamic army ever to invade European territory — which is saying much considering that countless invasions preceded it since the eighth century — came and surrounded Vienna, then the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.
Some 200,000 Muslim combatants, under the leadership of the Ottomans, invaded under the same rationale that so-called “radical” groups, such as the Islamic State, cite to justify their jihad on “infidels.”
Because Vienna was perceived as the head of the infidel snake, Muslim logic required it to be laid low, so that “all the Christians would obey the Ottomans,” to quote the leader of the Muslim expedition, Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa.
This was no idle boast; sources describe this Mustafa as “fanatically anti-Christian.” After capturing a Polish town in 1674 he ordered all the Christian prisoners to be skinned alive and their stuffed hides sent as trophies to Ottoman Sultan Muhammad IV.
Even during the elaborate pre-jihad ceremony presaging the siege of Vienna, the sultan, “desiring him [Mustafa] to fight generously for the Mahometan faith,” to quote a contemporary European source, placed “the standard of the Prophet…into his hands for the extirpation of infidels, and the increase of Muslemen.”
Once the massive Muslim army reached and surrounded the walls of Vienna, Mustafa followed protocol. In 628, his prophet Muhammad had sent an ultimatum to Emperor Heraclius: aslam taslam, “submit [to Islam] and have peace.” Heraclius rejected the summons, jihad was declared against Christendom, and in a few decades, two-thirds of the then Christian world — including Spain, all of North Africa, Egypt, and Greater Syria and Mesopotamia—were conquered.
Now, more than a millennium later, the same ultimatum of submission or death had reached the heart of Europe. Although the Viennese commander did not bother to respond to the summons, graffiti inside the city — including “Muhammad, you dog, go home!” — captures the mood.
So it would be war. On the next day, Mustafa unleashed all h*** against the city’s walls; and for two months, the holed-up and vastly outnumbered Viennese suffered plague, dysentery, starvation, and many casualties — including of women and children — in the name of jihad.
Answered Prayers—For the Whole of Christianity
Then, on today’s date, September 12, when the city had reached its final extremity, and the Muslims were about to burst through, Vienna’s prayers were answered. As an anonymous Englishman explained:
After a siege of sixty days, accompanied with a thousand difficulties, sicknesses, want of provisions, and great effusion of blood, after a million of cannon and musquet shot, bombs, granadoes, and all sorts of fireworks, which has changed the face of the fairest and most flourishing city in the world, disfigured and ruined [it] . . . heaven favorably heard the prayers and tears of a cast down and mournful people.
The formidable king of Poland, John Sobieski, had finally come at the head of 65,000 heavily-armored Poles, Austrians, and Germans — all hot to avenge the beleaguered city. Arguing that “It is not a city alone that we have to save, but the whole of Christianity, of which the city of Vienna is the bulwark,” Sobieski led a thunderous cavalry charge — history’s largest — against and totally routed the Muslim besiegers.
Although a spectacular victory, the aftermath was gory: before fleeing, the Muslims ritually slaughtered some 30,000 Christian captives collected during their march to Vienna — raping the women beforehand. On entering the relieved city, the liberators encountered piles of corpses, sewage, and rubble everywhere.
It is, incidentally, this history of Islamic aggression that informs Eastern European views on Islam. As one modern Pole, echoing the words of Sobieski, said, “A religious war between Christianity and Islam is once again underway in Europe, just like in the past.”
The Great “Riddle” of Our Age
The irony of ironies, however, is that Vienna is today a hotbed of radical Islamic activity. Just recently, two young Muslim boys arrested before launching a terrorist attack on their Austrian school confessed that “We wanted to shoot all the Christians in the class!” Why? Because “Killing Christians takes us to paradise.”
“Austrians living in fear as violent migrant gangs carry out DAILY attacks in Vienna,” is the telling title of a 2017 report. Sex crimes against “infidel” women and children have skyrocketed, as have attacks on churches; crosses are everywhere broken, and Jesus and Mary statues beheaded. School textbooks whitewash Islamic history — including the aforementioned siege of Vienna — while demonizing Austria’s own “intolerant” Christian heritage.
When it comes to Vienna (as well as many other Western cities and nations), the words of historian Alan G. Jamieson ring true:
At a time when the military superiority of the West — meaning chiefly the USA — over the Muslim world has never been greater, Western countries feel insecure in the face of the activities of Islamic terrorists…. In all the long centuries of Christian-Muslim conflict, never has the military imbalance between the two sides been greater, yet the dominant West can apparently derive no comfort from that fact.
Such is the great “riddle” of our age. Until solved, things will only get worse.
Note: The historical portion of this article is excerpted from and documented in Raymond Ibrahim’s Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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