its religious head, concentrated on its own affairs. The leader of each melet was, understandably, primarily concerned with the survival of his community and with achieving the best relations possible with the Ottoman authorities. Those authorities were extraordinarily tolerant of the ancient Christian communities so long as nobody attempted to change the status quo. This toleration was remarked upon by western Christian writers, both Catholic and Protestant, who visited the Ottoman Empire. It was also commented on favourably by various sceptical and deist writers, like Voltaire, who sought to draw attention to the intolerance of Christianity. In the case of these latter writers, their complimentary remarks about Islam have sometimes been seen as part of a positive response to Islam, which, in the case of Voltaire and most others, it was not.3
As Protestant missionary concerns grew from small beginnings early in the eighteenth century to a significant movement in its last decades and the first decades of the nineteenth century, they did not produce any significant or creative encounters with Islam. Protestant Christianity had had little direct contact with Islam. What encounters there were involved travellers or diplomats rather than anyone with theological training. The one important Protestant theological writer ofthe period who dealt with Islam was the Dutch theologian and man of letters, Hugo Grotius, in his De veritate religionis Christianae, the first Latin edition of which appeared in 1627. This book was, however, of great importance because ofthe prestige ofthe author and its wide distribution. The book was translated into English and French and reprinted a number of times in the eighteenth century in both languages. Grotius, who had no knowledge of Arabic nor had had any direct contact with Islam, created for the Protestant public a profoundly distorted image of that faith. He asserted that the Muslim 'laity' were not allowed to read their holy books and that Islam was a religion of violence which only expanded by war. Further, like the Catholic writers of the time, he denigrated the private and public life of the Prophet.
The other widely influential book written by a Protestant and dealing with Islam, was James Porter's Observations on the religion, law, government and manners of the Turks of 1768. Porter had been the British Ambassador at Constantinople and was a distinguished linguist whose work on Islamic civil law was both accurate and groundbreaking in terms of western understanding of that aspect of Islam. Yet Porter's writing did not contribute anything meaningful to a religious encounter between Christianity and Islam. He dismissed the Quran as religiously unhelpful, a meaningless jumble of Jewish and Christian ideas, and he treated the Prophet as a licentious charlatan. In the writings of Porter and the few other Protestant writers of the time who had
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