For Whom the Bell Tolls


553 years ago today, on 29 May 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire had been in decline for decades and the fall was inevitable. Some had tried to turn the tide. In 1374, when the Ottomans were only a nascent power, Prince Manuel, governor of Salonica and a son of the Byzantine Emperor, had tried to rally the inhabitants of his city against the Turks. But the Salonicans did not want to bear the high costs of defending their city and promptly threw him out. Out of fear of the Turks his father, Emperor John V, refused Manuel shelter within the walls of Constantinople and so did all the other Byzantine cities. Consequently the prince was forced to seek refuge with... the Ottomans, whom he served until 1394, when he became Emperor himself.

When the Sultan demanded a Byzantine princess from the Emperor, the latter gave away his daughter Theodora to spend the rest of her life in the Sultan’s harem. He also gave the Turks a church in Constantinople to convert into a mosque. All the appeasement was in vain, however, because in 1453 the Turks demanded that the Byzantines surrender Constantinople. This time the Byzantines refused. In their final hour they saved their honour. “They fought for the city as they had never fought for the empire,” writes Jason Goodwin in his history of the Ottoman Empire. After a siege of two months the city fell. Emperor Constantine XI, Manuel’s son, died with his sword in his hand.

I have been in Turkey for most of the past fortnight, attending a conference where I was invited to give a talk about my book. The trip, though planned long before, coincided with two hectic weeks in which the Belgian priest Father Leman, and politicians such as the Socialist Party leader Johan Vande Lanotte, demanded that I be prosecuted for allegedly inciting racial hatred.

Turkish (Muslim) friends who heard about this said I am always welcome in their country if the Belgian authorities should prosecute. They say they do not understand why the West European countries tolerate Islamist extremism to a degree that is not tolerated in a Muslim country such as Turkey, where female civil servants are not even allowed to wear headscarves to work.

On a tour of the town the daughter of our Turkish host showed me a banner by the gate of a local school, which bore a quote of Atatürk: “Nations who do not know their national identity will become the prey of other nations.” West Europeans would do well to bear this in mind. A young Turkish woman said that she is opposed to Turkey joining the EU because she fears that the Eurocrats will force her country to be “tolerant” towards Islamist fanatics, allowing them “rights” which in contemporary Turkey they do not have. Possibly an EU including Turkey would adopt more realistic, sensible and “tougher” policies with respect to Muslim extremism. Perhaps the current witch hunt in Western Europe, where everyone who worries about Islamism is branded as an “Islamophobe” and a “racist,” would stop if Turkish voices were heard.

During the past two weeks I also heard Turks expressing more sensible views on the relationship between church and state than I am used to hearing in Western Europe. Prof. Attila Yayla, one of Turkey’s most outspoken liberatarians, said there is nothing wrong with religious conservatism. The latter is not an enemy of the free society. On the contrary, “religious conservatives are our allies in the fight against state totalitarians,” says Yayla. I agree, as would most Americans (but not, unfortunately, most Europeans). Where morality is no longer upheld by religion, the state steps in to fill the void and the state becomes God, obliterating all morality. Today the welfare state, both at the national and at the European level (the “EUSSR”), is becoming increasingly totalitarian, confirming Vladimir Bukovsky’s warning in this respect. It is no coincidence, I think, that precisely the fanatic proponents of a complete secularisation of European society, such as Belgium’s leading politicians and intellectuals (including priests such as Father Leman) are harassing the so-called “islamophobes” and “racists.”

This weekend, upon my return from Turkey, I was in The Hague, where an American friend is trying to help Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Readers of this website know that I have been critical of Hirsi Ali, who tends to equate islamism with religion, while I believe that not religion but secularism is killing Europe. I have, however, always expressed admiration for Hirsi Ali’s courage. If ordinary Europeans had just a tiny bit of her courage, we would not be in the mess that we are in today. The Dutch authorities are no longer able or willing to guarantee Hirsi Ali’s safety, so she is forced to leave for America. She has been attacked by some of the Dutch leftist media in the most disgraceful way. Her Dutch passport has been taken from her, with the bureaucratic consequence that she currently cannot get an American visa. The Dutch seem set on making life hard for her, but I am sure the Americans will find a way to solve the problem.

Why have the Dutch turned against Hirsi Ali? Perhaps they are acting like the Salonicans in 1374 when they threw Prince Manuel out. Islamists threaten the Dutch with violence in response to what she says. And what do the Dutch do? They throw her out!

Last year Hirsi Ali was elected “European of the Year.” It is a bad omen for Europe when the “European of the Year” leaves for America. Let us hope and pray that history does not repeat itself and that Europe will not fall like Constantinople fell 553 years ago. Let us hope that Europe will save its honour and rediscover the will to defend the city, the way Constantine XI did. Many Dutch, however, do not seem to have much confidence in their country’s chances of survival. Last year a record number of 121,000 people emigrated from the Netherlands, the largest number ever, while only 92,000 immigrated in. This emigration figure is the highest figure in the entire history of the country so far. The Netherlands is today also the European nation with the highest proportion of emigrants. Since 2003 more people have been leaving the country than entering it. The numbers are rising. In the first quarter of this year 29,000 people left the Netherlands – 5,000 more than in the same period last year. Now Ayaan Hirsi Ali is leaving too. The bell tolls for the Dutch, and those who do not hear it must be deaf.

May the Lord bless you Mr. Belien

I'll echo the posts below, I'm very happy to see a new post from Mr. Belien.

I'm also impressed that I don't detect any sign of Mr. Belien softening his stance in the face of the very real persecution he faces. In fact, unlike the poster below, I see his approach as very confrontational -- that he is in effect forcing his European peers (and us, because we are on the same road behind them) to acknowledge ugly facts like the EU being more supportive of radical Islam than the Turks.  And other inconvenient facts, like the fact that although he believes Ayaan Hirsi Ali's view is incorrect (and I agree) he unlike the Dutch would not see her indirectly executed by effectively forcing her back into the hands of those that want her dead in her home country. In fact he brings up an impressive list of facts I'm sure his peers (and many of our American peers) would much rather ignore.

So for me, this post has made my day, I'll be saying more prayers for Mr. Belien in gratitude.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Will history repeat its' self? Are we so short sighted that we can not see today, in the past! What will it take to see what is going on around us? Where do we putt our hopes of the future, in church, state, family, neighbors, our jobs, our friends? Are we not changing for the worse? Can our children play unsupervised in front of our homes and we feel safe for them. Things are a changing, can you really say for the better? In who do you trust? Will we all be able sit together at a dinner table and talk of what our children have been doing and make plans for their future? Do we love one another? What will you believe in tomorrow? the same as today, the same as your parents and their parents? Change is coming and will you be proud to be part of it?

Frank Lee

Just a technical point: if the U.S. consular officials in the Netherlands want to issue Ms. Ali a non-immigrant visa, they can always do so on a separate travel document -- a single page to which they attach a photograph. This is a standard document they use for citizens of countries whose passports the U.S. governmnet does not recognize as valid for travel to the United States.

What a surprising,

What a surprising, surprising article. What a strange article.

I started off thinking that Belien was critiquing Manuel, but it ends up as though he is behaving just like him.

Just because your continent and your country is making the same error again, of rejecting warnings by an astute countryman – at one time this was yourself, but now I don’t know anymore - doesn't mean you have to repeat Prince Manuel’s mistakes again!!

And there you are with your Turkish (Muslim) [sic] friends!

Find a way to tell the Dutch and the Belge that the enemy is all around, and it is also in themselves, as it seems to be in you as well. Don’t go running to the enemy!

And after your brave analysis of the opportunistic, anti-Christian, anti-Dutch woman who masterminded both her entrance and her exit (yes, she planned her exit which caused the wrath of the Dutch minister), you prop her up as an exemplary European!

If you sleep with dogs, you get fleas, goes the saying. Belien is no exception it seems!

Unbelievable! You’re right back into the hands of those infamous Turks. Seduced, more like it. What a shame. What a shame!

Indeed, a pleasure...


It is indeed a pleasure to see another article by Mr Belien.  However, I fear that you are unduly 'projecting' his individual experiences with a small number of Turks on the broader canvas of "future alliances".   The broader societal trends in Turkey do not seem to support your vague suggestion (assuming that I interpret it correctly).  My Turkish acquaintances report an astonishing regression towards 'islamism' after their sporadic visits back 'home' over the past generation or so. 

It is more likely that Turkey in the future will be an integral part of the gradually emerging axis of China-Eurabia (where freedom of speech will be highly 'regulated' and power will not democratically 'alternate' among competing 'ideologies').  The emerging alliance of truly democratic nations will likely be centered around India-USA-Japan-Australia.  While it remains highly speculative to look into the future on the basis of current empirically-observable trends, it seems highly unlikely that Turkey wil end up on the democratic side in geopolitics.  Perhaps its 'Kurdish' nemesis will, but I wouldn't bet on it.     


Sorry, I didn't mean to simplisticly list Turkey as a future ally against radical Islamo-fascism. In fact, the Turks went far out of their way to provoke a serious disagreement with the US over the invasion of Iraq.
They did not stop the invasion, they lost a chance at substantial compensation, they lost a chance to have a voice in the post-war situation (which is quite important to them, no? due to the Kurds, and Turkmen residents of northern Iraq). Last but not least, they upset an old and useful alliance and got the attention of every American who follows world affairs. For such a thing to happen, one must posit strong feelings on the part of many Turks.
Of course, the clash of civilizations we all fear may not happen. But if a large conflict were to begin, one begins to suspect (for example) that there may be Euro nations who line up on the radical Islamist side (openly or de facto, embrace such an alliance or give in to intimidation). And the list of those on the side of liberal freedoms may hold surprises as well. Time will tell, and of course it is all empty words for now.



Thanks for your clarification on 'Turkey'.

I think the "clash of civilisations" has been already underway for some time, i.e. since the collapse of the Soviet Union. With regard to the future explicit 'division' of the world into (a)an intolerant China-Eurabia axis and (b)the next great democratic alliance (India+USA+Japan+Australia...), the side on which many individual countries will end up depends essentially on the ongoing internal struggles in those countries. For instance, in the islamic world it will depend on the struggle between 'moderates' and radicals, and in Europe it will depend on the ongoing struggle between 'statists' and 'respecters of freedom of expression'. These internal struggles are going on SIMULTANEOUSLY with the clash of civilisations.

The emerging division of the world may seem rather 'academic' at present, because it appears rather 'subterranean' or largely hidden and purely 'cultural' or in the minds of people. But it will become instantly 'real' and clear as soon as a major destabilizing event will occur, for instance an invasion of Taiwan by (totalitarian) China or the explosion of an ('islamic') nuclear devise in a 'western' city. As you say, "time will tell", but I do not doubt that western relativists and dreamers will not be able to sit on the fence for much longer. Real choices will have to be made.