When considering Muslim-Christian relations, there are typically two things that come to mind: the Crusades of the Middle Ages and the 20th-century conflicts in the Middle East that helped spawn ISIS. Both trails end divisively, pitting one religion against the other and suggesting that they are incompatible world views.
When you look deeper into European warfare, clashes like the Battle of Vienna in 1683 have long been used to support this narrative. The conflict is usually explained along these lines: the Holy Roman Empire allied with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in order to block the Muslim Ottoman Empire’s campaign into Austria. Sound familiar? However, as the Washington Post reports, the reality of the composition of the parties involved in this conflict, and many others, is far more mixed:
Yet look just a little bit harder, and that tidy narrative falls apart. The Ottoman assault had been coordinated in league with French King Louis XIV. And perhaps more than half of the soldiers seeking to capture the Austrian capital were Christians themselves. There were Greeks, Armenians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, all fighting alongside Arabs, Turks, Kurds and others in the Ottoman ranks.
"Today, words such as 'Islam' and 'Europe' appear to have all the consistency of oil and water," writes British academic Ian Almond in his 2009 book Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched With Christians Across Europe's Battlegrounds. But, he goes on, "the fact remains that in the history of Europe, for hundreds of years, Muslims and Christians shared common cultures, spoke common languages, and did not necessarily see one another as 'strange' or 'other.'"
Head over to the Washington Post to read more.