Muslim aid for Irish Potato Famine

200px-Drogheda_United_FCsvg[2]In 1847, the worst year of the Irish potato famine, also known as The Great Hunger, an Irish physician at the Ottoman Royal Court beg Sultan Abdul Madjid Khan I (1839-1861) to help his starving countrymen. The Sultan pledged £10,000. However, the Sultan was informed that the ruler of England Queen Victoria donated a mere £2,000 to the victims of the famine. He , out of diplomatic politesse, reduce his donation to £1,000, but secretly dispatched three ships loaded with grain to call at the port of Drogheda north of Dublin. In gratitude, the city of Drogheda incorporated the Turkish Star and Crescent into its official municipal symbol that exists to this day. It also appears on the jerseys of Drogheda United PC.

The famine which lasted from 1845 to 1850 – killed between 500,000 to 1.5 million people.

The Topkapi Palace Museum displays a letter of thanks from the nobles of Ireland which reads: “We the noblemen, gentlemen and inhabitants of Ireland want to express our thanks and gratitude for the Ottoman Sultan’s munificent assistance due to the disaster of dearth. It is unavoidable for us to appeal the assistance of other countries in order to be saved from the enduring threat of death and famine. The Ottoman Sultan’s munificent response to this aid call displays an example to European States. Numbers were relieved and saved from perishing through this timely act. We express our gratitude on their behalf and hope that the Ottoman Sultan and his dominions will be saved from the afflictions which have befallen us.”

In 1995, the thank you letter of 1847 was capped by a memorial plaque which Mayor Godfrey unveiled in the Westcourt Hotel, formerly Drogheda’s City Hall. It was claimed that the Sultan’s Turkish seamen had stayed in this building when delivering their wares.

In 2007, Turkish magazine, The Fountain, wrote: “It is a case study that should be analyzed carefully, not only as historical evidence for the friendship between two nations, but also as a perfect example that differences of race, religion, or language should not prevent humanitarian aid. This generous charity from a Muslim sultan to a Christian nation is also important, particularly in our time when Muslims are often unfairly accused of human rights violations. Likewise, the appreciative plaque and overall reaction of the Irish society in return for this charity deserves to be applauded. We hope that the Turkish-Irish friendship sets a model for peace among different nations.”

Sa’adi Besalal a-Levi, a Jewish poet from Ottoman Salonica, in his Memoir praised the Sultan as follow:

He is a unique King, girded with a sword on his right,

Which his Creator granted him,

In whom his entire population put their trust,

Our Sovereign, our Master,

The victorious Sultan, Abdul Majid, Han,

amen …….

 

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