Sunday, March 13, 2005
My fellow Australian bloggers Idle Thoughts bring to my attention a story in my daily paper, the "Courier Mail", which unfortunately doesn't seem to be in electronic form (although here you can read the shorter version), about some Turkish tour guides at Gallipoli turning this World War One battle which pitted the Turks against the Australians, New Zealanders and the Brits into a religious spectacle:
"[According to the 'Courier Mail':] 'There are no accounts of the fierce fighting on the day of the landings, Simpson and his donkey, or even the ferocious Turkish counter-attack on May 10 led by their [the Turks] inspirational commander Mustafa Kemal - better known as Ataturk - or the failed August offensive by the Allies that sounded the death knell of the campaign... The Allies were not defeated by poor planning, confused leadership, an impossible terrain or the brave and cunning Turkish army. Rather, the Turkish prevailed because they had God -, or, rather, Allah - on their side.'This is not really rewriting - or even Islamising - but de-historicizing history. Most sides in history, with the exception of the communist armies, have believed that God was on their side (even Wehrmacht soldiers wore belt buckles inscribed with "Gott mit uns", God is with us), and of course, everyone is entitled to acknowledge the role of their deity or supernatural in their military struggles (I imagine that tour guides at the site of the Milivian Bridge battle do mention Emperor Constantine's vision of a cross that led to his conversion to Christianity and, so the story goes, to his victory, just as tour guides at Mons would mention the story of the Angels of Mons), but you should expect mostly history out of your tour guides, whether their Muslim or Christian or neither. Never mind the Western visitors, who have some basic knowledge of the battle and will probably just shrug at the mention of Muslim saints catching artillery shells; what's far more worrying is the impact on the young generation of Turks, which I imagine are in any case the main target audience for the religious guides. The good news: the official Turkish tour guide body is challenging in the courts the current system which allows amateur tour guides to preach at historical sites after completing a basic three-day course.
"Tour guides linked to the ruling AK (Justice and Liberty) have said:
* British and Australian soldiers were swallowed by a 'green mist' brought down by the Caliph - the holy Islamic king
* Birds and insects eradicated Allied foot soldiers
* Allah brought his fist down on the British ships
* Muslim saints caught and destroyed Allied shells
* shouts of 'Allah, Allah' can still be heard in the trenches
* Islamic martyrs, not Turkish soldiers, defeated the invaders...
"Political observers say the AK party is using Gallipoli as a propaganda tool to Islamise the historically secular nation and downplay the role and ideals of Turkey's founder Ataturk."