On September 11, 1683 — 335 years to the day before the Twin Towers of New York came crumbling down — another Western city, Vienna, stood between life and death, also against the jihad.
Two months earlier, the largest Islamic army ever to invade Europe — 200,000 combatants under Ottoman leadership — had come desiring “to fight generously for the Mahometan faith … for the extirpation of infidels, and the increase of Muslemen,” as quoted by a contemporary.
Having surrounded the walls of Vienna on July 14, Ottoman grand vizier Kara Mustafa followed protocol. In 628, his prophet Muhammad had sent an ultimatum to Emperor Heraclius: “Aslam taslam” — “submit [to Islam] and have peace.” Heraclius rejected the summons, jihad was declared against Christendom (as enshrined in Koran 9:29), and in a few decades, two-thirds of the then Christian world — including Spain, all of North Africa, Egypt, and Greater Syria — were conquered.
Over a thousand years later, the same ultimatum of submission to Islam or death had reached the heart of Europe. Although Starhemberg, the Viennese commander in charge, did not bother to respond to the summons, graffiti inside the city — including “Muhammad, you dog, go home!” — captured its mood.
On the next day, Mustafa unleashed all hell against the city’s walls. For two months, the holed-up and vastly outnumbered Viennese suffered plague, dysentery, starvation, and many casualties.
Then, sometime around September 11, as the Muslims were about to burst through, the desperate commander fired distress rockets into the night sky to give “notice to the Christian army” — that is, the relief force Vienna had beyond all hope been counting on — “of the extremity whereto the city was reduced.” Understanding exactly what these rockets signified, cries of “Allahu Akbar!” followed them, as the Ottomans implored their deity to “obliterate the infidels utterly from the face of the earth!”