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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

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Joseph Attard, 'The Knights of Malta'

An excellent appraisal [2nd edition 2010].

by Ferdinand III



Attard is a Maltese historian and his book is an accurate and intensive account of the history of the Knights of Malta or St. John. In today's demented upside-down world view, Islam and its never-ending Jihad, is portrayed as holy, civilized and superior. Not so to the men and women of the vital 16th century who had to endure the Ottoman rape and devastation of large parts of Europe. To them, the cult of Islam, was simply the cult of Mohammed, and was viewed as anti-thetical to European and Christian civilization. Many saw Islam as the anti-Christ. Given the number of Christians murdered, killed and enslaved such a view was entirely practical.

Attard is detailed and exact. There is much material which could be commented upon and displayed but I will only present a few of his main ideas which are relevant or novel and which underlie the greater theme that I have long maintained which is that the Knights of St. John or Malta, were one of history's most important organizations. At least if you believe that European and modern civilization was, or is important. The basis of Attard's thesis is that the Knights of St. John were born out of necessity. Islam's perpetual war against the 'other' mandated a response from Europe and one that combined higher Christian ideals [hospice care] and baser military requirements:

But, with the approach of the eleventh century and the advent of new Muslim rulers, the position changed. There began the harassing and ill-treatment of pilgrims, which was climaxed the the Fatimite Caliph Hakim, a fanatical and demented tyrant who in 1009 razed the Holy Sepulchre to the ground and destroyed all Christian property.”

Islam never was concerned with tolerating or respecting the 'other'. This base fact makes such orders as the Templars or the Knights of St. John's a necessity. The Knights of St. John were formed as a hospital order in about 1070 and were reorganized as a military order with hospice duties in 1113, to support the Latin conquests in the Holy Land. The Hospitallers as they were called, were instrumental in helping the under-manned, disunited and politically fractious Frankish states last until 1291 when they were finally and utterly ejected by the Mamelukes from the Levant and forced to move to Cyprus and then to Rhodes.

When the Knights moved to Malta and reorganized the territory, the small island became after some time, one of the best governed and most prosperous in Europe. A fact still true today, with many of the cultural, social and even economic creations of the Knights [such as low taxes and free ports]; still much in evidence today:

....the Order began to take them in employment, training them as clerks, storemen and tradesmen....They took quickly to Italian, the only language in which they could speak to most of the knights, spiced no doubt by their own semitic language....This provided the Maltese not only with a better standard of living but also with a higher level in society. It created a middle class of citizens which never existed, and began to produce artificers and craftsmen that were to become second to none.”

Though the Maltese were perhaps at best indifferent to their 'masters', there can be no dispute that they were fundamentally and irrevocably better off under the rule of the Order.

The most famous episode of the Knightly Order of Malta, and indeed of the island itself, was of course their improbably defeat of the Turkish Jihad during 1565 in which more than 40.000 Muslims were killed. Attard's account is detailed and fast moving. I found this particular quote from La Valette in Attard's account to be of particular interest for its masculinity, surety of faith, and expression of the obvious. I doubt that many if any, could make the same expostulation in such a time of fear and war:

It is the great battle of the Cross and the Koran, which is now to be fought. A formidable army of infidels is on the point of invading our island. We for our part, are the chosen soldiers of the Cross, and if Heaven requires the sacrifice of our lives, there can be no better an occasion than this.”

Attard makes the claim that technology and its application was vital in the defeat of the Turks. Though the Turks possessed more and bigger cannons, the Knights and Maltese demonstrated a greater penchant and skill in the use of ideas and technology to inflict horrible casualties on the massed rank of the Turks – many of whom who stoned on Hashish:

....the pots could be thrown to a distance of between 20 and 30 yards with the pot bursting when the fuse reached the explosive and covering a large area with flames. They could be considered as a cross between a hand-grenade of our time and a flame thrower. There were other similar gadgets like the trump which besides belching furious flames also contained a mechanism which fired two small cylinders of iron or brass loaded with gunpowder which in turn discharged bullets.”

Beyong 1565 Attard does a commendable job – all within 200 pages – of describing the last 250 years of the Order's formal existence. He goes through the Inquisition; the Holy Wars of 1618-1648 which denuded the Order of much of its property and income [and which forced the Knights to raise revenues from trade, exports and corsairing]; the Baroque era and its impact on Knight and Maltese architecture which makes Malta a wonder of charms and constructions; the Order's building of massive and impregnable fortifications and fortified cities; the high standard of living and culture including hospital services which so impressed mainland Europeans; Napoleon's conquest of the island due to inside collaborators; the ejection of the French 3 years later by the British; and the ending of the Order when the British formally took control in 1814.

Attard is a Maltese and he must feel a special pride in the history of the island and the long tenure of the Knights of St. John. His book is a must read for anyone who has a curiosity about one of Europe's most important organizations. The Order for all its faults and mistakes was a hallmark of belief, skill, indomitable spirit, rationality, realism and prosperity. I think Attard would agree that the Europe of today needs a lot more of what the Order represents, especially its iconic and unshakable conviction of confidence and civilized progress – even in the face of the unrelenting Muslim Jihad.



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