The Star and the Crescent is one of the most identifiable symbols of Islam, even appearing on the flags of some Islamic countries, yet this image appeared years before the birth of Islam. This symbol was used in the ancient Byzantine and Sumerian societies, as well as in the Christian faith to represent the Virgin Mary, and has been prominent in Turkish culture for centuries. The Ottomans adapted the image of a crescent moon from the Byzantines in the 15th century, after they conquered Constantinople, and spread the use of this symbol as their empire grew into much of Northern Africa and the Middle East. While this symbol eventually incorporated itself into many Islamic nations and traditions, it is not exclusively, nor universally, associated with Islam. Although prominent on flags and in mosques, the symbol of the star and the crescent remains controversial among Muslims to this day.
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