Columbus knew the dangers of the Muslim tax man

October 11, 2010

Time for a short Columbus Day history lesson. 

Christian Constantinople fell to the Muslim Ottoman Empire in 1453.  The Ottomans had also gained control of the vital Silk Road to the Far East.  What did this mean for Christian Europe and the soon-to-be discovered Americas?  Prof. Cynthia Smith of the University of Hawaii describes it very well:

There is one final consequence of Ottoman expansion and control, perhaps the most important from the perspective of world history. The Ottoman Empire, by the end of the 15th century, controlled the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean region. This meant control of the land routes linking the Silk Road connections between Asia and the Mediterranean. Control of East/West trading connections enabled Ottoman leaders to levy taxes on all goods moving East and West through their territory. Thus, strategic control resulted in staggering wealth for the Ottoman Empire – wealth they enjoyed for centuries.

This control was, not surprisingly, a source of growing resentment on the part of the Europeans, especially after the 14th century, as commerce and trade became increasingly important to Europeans.  European merchants and leaders resented the loss of revenue due to heavy taxes, and European consumers of Asian goods resented the high prices. There was also religious strain felt by Christians who had to follow Muslim laws and policies to maintain their trading connections with the East. This resentment of what some Europeans called the “stranglehold” of the Ottoman Empire on international trade was a primary reason why political leaders, commercial interests, invested money in efforts to find sea routes to the markets and goods of the East – launching the epic changes brought about by European exploration and expansion in the late 1400’s and 1500’s.

In other words, the voyages that resulted in the European “Age of Discovery” or “Age of Expansion” were launched primarily by the desire to go around the Ottoman Empire.  The expansion of European global control and power that resulted from these early expeditions changed world history. Ottoman regional dominance, and European attempts to avoid that economic control, were the catalysts for European sea dominance, colonization, Western “discovery” of the American continent and the further increase of global interactions.

Whenever you pass through the jurisdiction of an ‘ashir, you pay taxes.  If you’re a foreign Muslim trader in a Muslim land you pay low customs duties.  When you’re a non-Muslim trader in a Muslim land, you pay the highest customs duty rates.  Vital European interests were incompatible with sharia extortion during the Age of Discovery.  How is it that we’ve forgotten what Columbus recognized 518 years ago?


  1. what is the connection betwen moslem and tax?? i think it is different base.

    • The connection is that Muslims have taxed the snot out of “infidels” throughout history.

  2. […] an accurate account of history in public schools we would not be in the hot mess we are now in. Columbus knew the dangers of the Muslim tax man Money Jihad blog (hat tip her royal […]

  3. […] Columbus Knew the Dangers of the Muslim Tax Man […]

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