The Islamic Army Of Frederick II

Archeologists and historians are shedding new light on how medieval Holy Roman emperor Frederick II created an Islamic army to attack the pope. The German Historical Institute in Rome – together with universities of Foggia (Italy), Trier and Kiel (both in Germany) are investigating the southern Italian city of Lucera which, in the 13th century, was a major centre of Islamic culture and learning– and the cause of considerable papal anger.
The story started in 1222 when emperor Frederick II, faced with a Muslim rebellion in Sicily, started deporting Sicilian Muslims to the Lucera area of south-east Italy. By 1244, he had transferred up to 20,000 people – virtually entire Muslim population of Sicily. However, in order to keep the deportees loyal, he treated them well in their new homes and allowed mosques and an Islamic university to be built, and gave them land.
The pope – just 130 miles to the north-west – was furious and declared Frederick a heretic.  Soon war was raging between emperor and pope – and Frederick used his muslim Sicilian deportees as a purpose – made army to secure initial victory. Indeed it is probable that creating a Muslim army against the pope had been the ulterior motive behind the deportation in the first place.
The investigations so far suggest that Frederick settled his Sicilian Muslims in and around the city of Lucera – not inside town’s vast castle as had been thought until now. Settling them around the city would almost certainly have necessitated the forced removal of some of the pre-existing Christian communities, including the local bishop – a process which angered the pope still further.

Lion Of The Desert (Omar Mukhtar)

Starring: Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Irene Papas, Rod Steiger, Raf Vallone, John Gielgud.

Omar Mukhtar (Arabic: عمر المختار Omar Al-Mukhtār) (20 August 1858 – 16 September 1931), of the Mnifa, was born in the small village of Janzour, near Tobruk in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica) in Libya. Beginning in 1912, he organized and, for nearly twenty years, led native resistance to Italian colonization of Libya. Italian armed forces captured and hanged him in 1931.

Italian Invasion:

In October 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, an Italian naval contingent under the command of Admiral Luigi Faravelli reached the shores of Libya, then a territory subject to Ottoman Turkish control. The admiral demanded that the Turkish administration and garrison surrender their territory to the Italians or incur the immediate destruction of the city of Tripoli and Benghazi. The Turks and their Libyan allies withdrew to the countryside instead of surrendering, and the Italians bombarded the cities for three days, then proclaimed the Tripolitanians to be “committed and strongly bound to Italy.” This marked the beginning of a series of battles between the Italian colonial forces and the Libyan armed opposition in the East of Libya (Cyrenaica) under Omar Mukhtar for 22 years

Guerrilla Warfare:

A teacher of the Qur’an by profession, Mukhtar was also skilled in the strategies and tactics of desert warfare. He knew local geography well and used that knowledge to advantage in battles against the Italians, who were unaccustomed to desert warfare. Mukhtar repeatedly led his small, highly alert groups in successful attacks against the Italians, after which they would fade back into the desert terrain. Mukhtar’s men skillfully attacked outposts, ambushed troops, and cut lines of supply and communication. The Italian army was left astonished and embarrassed by his guerrilla tactics.

In the mountainous region of Ghebel Akhdar (“Green Mountain”) in 1924, Italian Governor Ernesto Bombelli created a counter-guerrilla force that inflicted a severe setback to rebel forces in April 1925. Mukhtar then quickly modified his own tactics and was able to count on continued help from Egypt. In March, 1927, despite occupation of Giarabub from February 1926 and increasingly stringent rule under Governor Attilio Teruzzi, Mukhtar surprised Italian troops at Raheiba. Between 1927 and 1928, Mukhtar reorganized the Senusite forces, who were being hunted constantly by the Italians. Even General Teruzzi recognized Omar’s qualities of “exceptional perseverance and strong will power.”

Pietro Badoglio, governor of Libya from January 1929, after extensive negotiations concluded a compromise with Mukhtar (described by the Italians as his complete submission) similar to previous Italo-Senusite accords. At the end of October, 1929, Mukhtar denounced the compromise and re-established a unity of action among Libyan forces, preparing himself for the ultimate confrontation with General Rodolfo Graziani, the Italian military commander from March 1930. A massive offensive in June against Mukhtar’s forces having failed, Graziani, in full accord with Badoglio, Emilio De Bono (minister of the colonies), and Benito Mussolini, initiated a plan to break the Cyrenian resistance: the 100,000 population of Gebel would be relocated to concentration camps on the coast, and the Libyan-Egyptian border from the coast at Giarabub would be closed, preventing any foreign help to the fighters and depriving them of support from the native population. These measures, which Graziani initiated early in 1931, took their toll on the Senusite resistance. The rebels were deprived of help and reinforcements, spied upon, hit by Italian aircraft, and pursued on the ground by the Italian forces aided by local informers and collaborators. Mukhtar continued to struggle despite increased hardships and risks, but on 11 September 1931, he was ambushed near Slonta.

Mukhtar’s final adversary, Italian General Rodolfo Graziani, has given a description of the Senusite leader that is not lacking in respect: “Of medium height, stout, with white hair, beard and mustache. Omar was endowed with a quick and lively intelligence; was knowledgeable in religious matters, and revealed an energetic and impetuous character, unselfish and uncompromising; ultimately, he remained very religious and poor, even though he had been one of the most important Senusist figures.”

Capture and Execution:

Mukhtar’s struggle of nearly twenty years came to an end on 11 September 1931, when he was wounded in battle near Slonta, then captured by the Italian army. The Italians treated the native leader hero as a prize catch. His resilience had an impact on his jailers, who later remarked upon his steadfastness. His interrogators stated that Mukhtar recited verses of peace from the Qur’an.
In three days, Mukhtar was tried, convicted, and, on 14 September 1931, sentenced to be hanged publicly (historians and scholars have questioned whether his trial was fair or impartial). When asked if he wished to say any last words, Mukhtar replied with a Qur’anic phrase: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” (“To God we belong and to Him we shall return.”). On 16 September 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the POW camp of Suluq at the age of 73 years.

[Info via: Wikipedia]

Islamic Prayers To Be Held At Vatican

Islamic Prayers To Be Held At Vatican

From Al Arabiya news…

For the first time in history, Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran will be heard at the Vatican on Sunday, in a move by Pope Francis to usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Francis issued the invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas, Peres, and Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, a statement released by Peres’s spokesperson said, according to the Times of Israel.

Holy See officials on Friday said the evening prayers would be a “pause in politics” and had no political aim other than to rekindle the desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace at the political and popular level, according to the Associated Press.

And from the Times of Israel…

President Shimon Peres will head to the Vatican on Sunday to participate in an interfaith peace prayer event at the invitation of Pope Francis.

Francis issued the invitation to Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.

According to a statement released by Peres’s spokesperson, Abbas, Peres, and Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders.

The event will feature readings about peace by the clergy from the Tanach, the New Testament and the Quran. Francis will then read religious verses with Peres and Abbas, which the three will have selected for the ceremony.

Israel’s delegation, which the Chief Rabbinate helped to select, will include members of the local Jewish, Druze and Muslim communities.

And most importantly, the official statement from the Vatican…

Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Friday, the head of the Holy See’s press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, announced details of a prayer encounter to be held on Sunday with the presidents of Israel and Palestine. Also attending the event will be the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the encounter on May 25th during his brief but intense visit to the Holy Land.

“Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment.” Those were Pope Francis’ words to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents when he invited them to come to the Vatican to join him in “heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” Both leaders immediately accepted that invitation and will be arriving in the Vatican around 6.30pm on Sunday evening, accompanied by delegations of about 20 people representing the different faith communities present in both states. Also taking part in the Vatican delegation will be the Orthodox Patriarch who played such a central role in the Pope’s recent pilgrimage to Jerusalem to recall a similar encounter between their predecessors exactly half a century ago.

Following a brief welcome in the Casa Santa Marta where he lives, Pope Francis will accompany the two presidents and the patriarch through the Vatican gardens to a specially prepared venue surrounded by two tall hedges between the Pontifical Academy of Sciences building and a wing of the Vatican museums.

Fr Lombardi explained that each faith community will present a piece of music, then thank God for the gift of creation, ask forgiveness for sins committed and pray for the gift of peace.

Pope Francis and the two presidents will add their own calls for peace in the region, before exchanging greetings, planting an olive tree as a visible symbol of their desire for an end to the conflict and sharing a moment of private conversation together.

Answering journalists’ questions about the aim of the encounter, Fr Pizzaballa said it is a purely religious event designed to provide space for people to stand back from the conflict and “recreate a desire for change”. While the meeting will not lead to any overnight solutions to the complex problems of the Middle East, Fr Pizzaballa said he hoped it might just reopen a path of dialogue and allow people to dream of a world where peace really is possible.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

By Katrina Fernandez