After winning the majority of seats in the recent election, Geert Wilders, a prominent Dutch anti-Islam politician, expressed his determination to become the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Known for his controversial views on immigration and Islam, Wilders has been under constant armed police protection since 2004.
This raises curiosity about whether Wilders is aware of the historical ties between the Netherlands and the last Islamic Empire during the Dutch Revolt against Catholic Spain.
Faced with desperate circumstances, the Dutch sought assistance from various quarters, even reaching out to the Ottoman Empire.
In 1566, diplomat Joseph Nasi discussed the Ottoman offer of help with Protestants in Antwerp.
In 1569, William of Orange secretly sought Ottoman support against the Spanish.
The Dutch closely observed Ottoman successes against the Habsburgs, seeing them as potential relief. The phrase “Liever Turks dan Paaps” emerged, expressing a preference for life under the Ottoman Sultan over the Catholic King of Spain.
Despite the Ottoman Empire’s negative reputation in Europe, it was also perceived as having religious tolerance. Sultan Selim II promised support to the rebels in the Netherlands, citing their commonality in not worshipping idols, belief in one God, and opposition to the Pope and the King.
Additionally, religious refugees, including Huguenots and Anglicans, migrated to the Ottoman Empire. The slogan “Liever Turks dan Paaps” (Rather Turkish than Papist) not only implies a serious consideration of Ottoman suzerainty but also reflected the Dutch antipathy towards the Catholic regime they resisted.
In 1604, Prince Maurits renamed the village to express gratitude to Turkish sailors for their support during the Dutch War of Independence against the Spaniards.
Türkeye, situated in Sluis, a municipality in the west of Zeelandic Flanders, Netherlands, was originally named Türkeye.
Approximately 350 years later, another Ottoman sultan, Mehmed Reshad, helped the Netherlands in 1916.
The document indicates that it was deemed appropriate to notify the Ministry of Finance about the issue of allocating 25 thousand kuru from the extraordinary fund to the Dutch flood victims and to inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Despite the challenging conditions of World War I, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed Reshad extended a helping hand to the distressed Dutch people.
Following this humanitarian gesture, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a telegram expressing the Queen’s gratitude.
The Dutch Ambassador in Istanbul was instructed to visit the Sublime Porte and convey sincere appreciation for the assistance provided by Sultan Reshad.
Documents related to this humanitarian aid from Mehmed Reshad can be obtained from the Ottoman State Archives.
In conclusion, I kindly remind Mr Wilders of the Dutch phrase, “Liever
Turks dan Paaps”, meaning that the Dutch population would even prefer to live under the rule of a Muslim Sultan than the Catholic King of Spain.
Ottoman tolerance came from Islamic tradition because Islam is the only monotheistic religion that accepts Christianity and Judaism and their believers as people of the book.
Mr Wilders should learn this from his history before passing judgement on Islam.
* Halim Gençoğlu
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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