Why September 11th is important to Muslims, and not for what you may think.


September 11th is a day that will remain infamous in the lives of many around the world. On that date in 2001 a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda took place on American soil. The subsequent attacks resulted in a death tole of nearly 3000 with over 6000 injured. Whether you lived in the United States or not, the events that took place on September 11th, 2001, will forever remain in the history books of the west.

Over this past summer, I have been working as a research assistant for a former professor of mine. This job includes the process of editing an upcoming textbook on the historical relationship between Christianity and Islam. While I was going through a number of chapters I noticed a pattern, the date of September 11th kept arising as a significant one in Islamic history for reasons completely unrelated to 2001. And the obviously set up "911" abbreviated date aside, (as I looked into it further) there are reasons that some have posited as other possibilities as to why al-Qaeda could have chosen the date to carry out their attacks on that day in particular. Here are three prominent examples: 


                                            The Siege of Malta

                                                          Sep. 11, 1565
 

The Turkish Ottoman Empire was founded by the Oghuz Turks under Osman I of northwestern Anatolia. After conquests in the Bulkans by Murad I (between the years of 1362 and 1389) the rule of the Ottoman's was transformed from a small territory ruled by a Sultan to a transcontinental empire and claimant to the title of Islamic caliphate (which lasted into the 1920s). The event now known as "The Great Siege of Malta" took place between May and September in 1565, when the Ottomans tried to invade the island of Malta, then ruled by the crusaders known as the Knights Hospitaller. 

The battle, which the Turks anticipated only taking weeks, spanned over months and proved to be far more brutal and bloody than either side anticipated. However, after a long and lengthy siege, which carried a death tole of well over 40 000, the Turks proved unsuccessful. The battle came to a close as a small army from Sicily joined the Maltese knights and overwhelmed the Turkish forces on the morning of September 11th. The Siege of Malta in 1565 was a battle of unimaginable brutality, one of the bloodiest and yet most overlooked battles in history. It was a hugely significant win for Christian Europe, and likewise, a significant blot on the history of Islamic expansion. If the Turks had taken Malta it would have only been a matter of time before Sicily was attacked, Italy was taken, and the potential fall of Rome and European Christendom as a whole took place.


                   The Islamic Expulsion from Spain

                                                          Sep. 11, 1609

Islam was the religion of what is now known as Spain and Portugal for nearly nine centuries. The Islamic Umayyad Caliphate held control of the area from the eighth to the fifteenth century, finally losing power to the native Spanish in 1492. However, upon its defeat, the native Spanish had to figure out what to do with the Muslims who had been part of Spain for centuries. However, Spain at this point in time seemed stretched; between fighting wars in the Americas, and feeling the pressure from Turkish raiders along the coast, post Islamic Spain felt the stress of decades-long internal strife. In the end it was resolved that due to the deceptive practice known as taqiyya (lying about one's faith and allegiances to that faith), along with their repulsion towards Christian attempts at conversion and continued unrest, that a more hard-lined solution was in order.


In April of 1609, King Philip II of Spain attempted to remedy the situation by signing a decree that called for the removal and ejection of all Muslims from the country. A fleet of ships were secretly prepared, and on September 11th, 1609, the expulsion notice was read aloud by criers in all major city centers. This started a mass movement of what some historians have estimated to be nearly 300 000 Muslims from Spain that took place over the course of 15 years.

                            The Battle of Vienna

                                                          Sep. 11, 1683

                                                    

The last great Islamic threat to Christian Europe happened at the gates of Vienna on September 11th, 1683. While the Ottoman Turkish armies continued their push north they met great opposition in Italy, where the Hadsberg Monarchy, the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Holy Roman Empire (under the command of King John III) were waiting for them. The battle is likewise noted for including the largest recorded cavalry charge in history. This battle commemorated the last true great threat that the Islamic Turks would pose to the Christianized West.

The Capture of Vienna had been the strategic aspiration of the Ottoman Turks for centuries, the city marked a crossroads that led both into Western Europe through the Black Sea, as well as into Germany and Southern Europe through the Mediterranean. Many historians suggest this battle marked the beginning of the end to the wars that lasted for nearly 300 years between the Holy Roman Empire and the Muslim Ottomans. 
 
To celebrate the historic defeat of the Turks, the bakers in Italy baked crescent shaped pastries, representing the crescent moons on the Turkish banners. This they called the "croissant," to commemorate the victory of the Christian forces over the Muslim Turkish jihadists. The soldiers famously noting that they, "had the Turks for breakfast." It was Vienna born Queen Mary Antoinette who introduced the pastry to France in 1770.


                                         Conclusion

 

Although it is impossible to know for sure how much groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda put stock into this type of history, one thing remains for certain: September 11th is an important date in Islamic history. That date played a significant role as a turning point at a number of key junctures in history between the Eastern (primarily Muslim) and Western (primarily Christianized) Worlds. Some, like Raymond Ibrahim, the editor and translator of The Al Qaeda Reader, have hypothesized that a resurgent Islam does indeed look to dates of importance to their quest to right past wrongs, and that very well may be what we see in the events of September 11th, 2001. 


 



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