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Emet m'Tsiyon

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Even Clothing Was Used to Humiliate Non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire

Wayne Vucinich, a specialist in Ottoman history, described how the empire used clothing to humiliate non-Muslims, called dhimmis. In fact, humiliation by clothing was a feature of  the dhimma rules in Muslim dominions before the Ottoman Empire.

This is Vucinich:
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Clothing. After the Ottoman conquest there was a gradual "Turkification" of clothing in many parts of the Empire. The dress worn by different Ottoman subjects, however, was not always a mere copy of Turkish styles. Often it represented either a local adaptation of that dress or an entirely indigenous creation. Nonetheless, the "Turkification" of clothing was extensive, and a large Turkish or Persian or Arabic nomenclature enriched the vocabulary of many non-Turkish subjects.

Turkish influence on the clothing of the subject peoples was the result of both voluntary imitation and official regulations [emph. added]. The Turks did not like to see Christians  copy their clothing and forbade them to wear expensive and brightly colored clothes as well as garments in the "sacred" color of green.  To a good Muslim, an acceptance [by Muslims] of infidel [infidels wearing Turkish] headgear implied social degradation [of the Muslims] and religious betrayal [by the dhimmis of the Muslims]. The insistence on clothing that distinguished Muslim from non-Muslim encouraged similar tendencies among the Christians. If, in the nineteenth century the Muslims made the fez a mark of their faith, the Montenegrins did the same with their zavrata. Nonetheless, many a non-Turk had a suppressed desire to dress like a Turk and to free himself of regulated clothing. . . . .

As Ottoman rule weakened and Christians gained a greater degree of freedom, some Christians gradually proceeded to copy the Turks in clothing and jewelry. One of the first things the Serbs did after the liberation of 1804 was to don Turkish dress --- the fancier clothes of their rulers. Later, as political and cultural contacts with the West expanded, everything associated with the Turks came to be regarded as backward and alien. . . . .

Though by 1860 the condition of the Christians had improved, they continued to suffer from unequal treatment. R Davison observes that "They still protested the general prohibition of bells on their churches, the frequent rejection of their testimony in Turkish courts, occasional rape of Christian girls or forced conversions, and other sorts of personal mistreatment."
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Wayne Vucinich, The Ottoman Empire: Its Record and Legacy (New York: Van Nostrand 1965),  pp 65-66.

See a previous blog post with quotes from an 18th century source on the Muslim mania to control the clothing of non-Muslims, the dhimmis  [here].

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