Dutch ship flying Ottoman flags. Impression by Arie Zuidhoek.
By Abdul Haq Compier
Source: Alislam-eGazette January 2010
Prince William of Orange ruled the Netherlands in name of the Spanish king Philip II, but experienced moral difficulty in the execution of the persecution laws. Orange appealed many a time to Philip to moderate the persecution bills, but when this proved unsuccesful, he allied with the Protestants in a war of independence against the Spanish Empire.
Just after the ‘Beeldenstorm’, in October 1566, Joseph Nasi, a Jewish friend of Orange from Antwerp who had fled from the Inquisition and now worked for the Sultan, arranged for a letter from Süleyman I promising the Netherlands financial and military support. Due to the demise of Süleyman I at the end of the same year, and the attack on the Ottoman Empire by the Ivan the Terrible in 1568, the aid had to wait until 1574.
In that year, Sultan Selim II sent a special agent to establish communication between the Dutch, the Moriscos of Spain, and the Turkish corsairs in Algiers. In October, the Dutch attacked the Spanish in Leiden, wearing the crescent medallions and flying Ottoman flags on their ships, to terrify the Spanish into thinking the Turks had come all the way North. At exactly the same time, Selim II attacked Tunis, leaving Philip in the panic of a war on two fronts. The collaboration was succesful, as both battles were won.
Later that year, Selim II was attacked by the Persians, and had to establish an agreement with Philip II which lasted until 1590. Despite this, Queen Elisabeth of England urged Sultan Murat III to attack Philip’s giant Armada in 1588, but Jerry Brotton has in my view still to supply evidence for his tempting assertion that ‘Ottoman fleet movements in the eastern Mediterranean fatally split Philip II’s Armada’. In any case, the Armada was defeated by the breath of the Almighty: a fierce storm wrecked the entire fleet on the coasts of Northern Europe.
The Dutch were in 1610 again negotiating with Morocco for a joint attack on Spain by Morocco, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Sultan. Philip III refers to the contacts between the Moriscos and his ‘enemies in the North’ in the Edict of the Expulsion of the Moors, of 1609.
This is an excerpt from the article ‘Let the Muslim be my Master in Outward Things’, on Islamic influences on the emergence of tolerance in Europe. Download the complete article with references here Islam in Christian tolerance – Al-Islam eGazette, January 2010. There are certain interesting stories not included here, e.g. presence of Turkish soldiers in the battle near Sluys (Zeeland); they can be read here in Dutch.