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Lessons From the Past: Why Eastern European Nations Reject Muslim Migrants

(Editor’s note: All quotes and historical facts appearing in the following article are documented in the author’s new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.)

What accounts for the stark difference between how Western and Eastern European nations respond to Muslim migrants? The former -- including Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia -- have been welcoming, whereas the latter -- including Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia -- have not, and vociferously so.

The answer, which may surprise some, revolves around awareness of regional history: Eastern European nations have a long and intimate history with Islam, and thus understand the religion better than Western European nations.

Consider Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s logic for rejecting Muslim migrants:

Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity. … We don’t want to criticize France, Belgium, any other country, but we think all countries have a right to decide whether they want to have a large number of Muslims in their countries. If they want to live together with them, they can. We don’t want to and I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country. We do not like the consequences of having a large number of Muslim communities that we see in other countries, and I do not see any reason for anyone else to force us to create ways of living together in Hungary that we do not want to see ...

The prime minister went on to invoke history:

I have to say that when it comes to living together with Muslim communities, we are the only ones who have experience because we had the possibility to go through that experience for 150 years.

Orbán was referring to Islam’s conquest and occupation of Hungary from 1541 to 1699. Then, persecution and terrorism were rampant.

Nor was Hungary alone. Muslims conquered, occupied, and terrorized most of southeastern Europe -- often in ways that make ISIS atrocities seem tame.

In 1354, the Ottomans -- who were more committed to the principles of jihad than any of their Muslim predecessors -- first crossed the Dardanelles and established a foothold in Eastern Europe. Immediately, “[w]here there were churches he [Suleiman, son of Sultan Orhan] destroyed them or converted them to mosques,” writes an Ottoman chronicler: “Where there were bells, Suleiman broke them up and cast them into fires. Thus, in place of bells there were now muezzins.”

Before long, the Balkans were conquered in the name of jihad. The atrocities committed before, during, and after these conquests are well-documented.