Bottesini accepted membership in the Imperial Order of the Medjidieh from the Sultan in Istanbul, an honor similar to knighthood, after many Turkish officials in Cairo became aware of him.

The award turned out to be controversial, because in accepting it, Bottesini signed a statement vowing he would "remain eternally faithful to Allah and fight ceaselessly against the enemies of Islam."

Bottesini shrugged off the inevitable criticism, saying, "Allah? Islam? I thought they were cafe owners in Alexandria ..."

Whether this was a clever evasion or a true statement of ignorance is unknown, though it apparently spared him criticism from the Pope.

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"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (