Every day radical Muslims make headlines in creating violence of one form or the other in one or the other part of the globe. They draw condemnation of the international community and the media and rightly so. But, this also creates two illusions, one that Islam may be associated with violence and that Christianity may be a benign religion, a religion of peace and of turning the other cheek. Various authors have tried to rescue the name of Islam from this false accusation; here my focus is to portray some genuine snapshots from the Christian history of the past and more recent times. I would not have drawn my pen to expose this illusion if it was only a matter of a false image without any practical or gory consequences. But, the plans of a notorious pastor from Florida to burn the Holy Quran on September 11, 2010, remind us that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, in slightly different forms and shades. The religious European wars of yesterday can find their expression in Islamphobia today! The warnings of Heinrich Heine’s are echoing and reverberating in my ears ‘Where books are burned, they will ultimately burn people also.’ There are countless precedents of this in not only Christian history but also in Muslim history.
It is with these concerns and dangers to the global village that I tabulate the Christian violence from Crusades, to inquisitions in Spain and elsewhere, to the Greek wars of the nineteenth century, to the laws against Unitarians, to the burning at stake of the Anabaptists, to the recent violence by the Serbians, to the conversion of the Barbarians on the point of sword by the Holy Emperors, to the history of the Dark ages, the cross of Christianity drips with blood, or shall we say pours blood. In fact it could be argued that the counter-intuitive dogma of Trinity and Original Sin can only be and were established by coercion of one form or the other, and often at the point of sword!
This Google Knol is a collection of various snapshots that prepares us against the extremist right wing agenda that can take a violent turn at any moment. The Golden words of George Santayana will be repeated enough in this Google Knol, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ until these words can offer some semblance of competition to the repeated attempts of national television medium to portray Islam as violent and Christianity as possible benign panacea!
In the Western world, at least in the national television media, we seem to be moving from the highest ideal of individual responsibility and freedom of religion to guilt by association and tribal guilt when it comes to Islam and the Muslims, the media seems to be creating negative stereotypes of the Muslims and Islam. If we distinguish the good from the bad and moderate from the extremist and judge the Muslims by the same criteria, as we will judge a Christian or a Jew, then we will have a peaceful global village.
The age of Islamophobia is in full swing in the Western hemisphere especially in Europe and is rooted in the negative emotion of hate and fear. Let it be noted that negative emotions have no creative value and have the potential of pulling down all involved. Islamophobia’s strategy lies in judging the 1.5 billion Muslims by the lowest common denominator among them and repeating the negative element over and over again until it finds a home in the minds of naive. It capitalizes on human vulnerability that has led to the modern field of advertisement. Even a lie has a potential of sticking if repeated enough, and half truths stand a better chance, as noted in the observation attributed to Adolf Hitler, “If you tell a lie long and loud enough, people will eventually start to believe it.” Whether Hitler said it or not, the fact of the matter is that almost every politician and media channel of modern times has drank from this cup. The right wing Islamophobes are certainly addicted to this beverage.
Unlike the Islamophobes, I do not want to be guilty of stereotyping. So, let me say at the very outset that most Christians are moderate, just and loving. I have scores of Christian friends whom I respect and love. As an American it is my civic duty not to stereotype and it is also my religious obligation as a Muslim not to assign guilt by association. The Holy Quran does not stereotype any people and states about the Christians: “And thou shalt assuredly find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ to be the nearest of them in love to the believers. That is because amongst them are savants and monks and because they are not proud.” (Al Quran 5:83)
This Knol is to set the historic record straight so that a rational dialogue can begin and we can achieve genuine solutions for international peace, and may be we do not have to reinvent the wheel, we have the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights and the principles of individual responsibility rather than the tribal guilt and guilt by association. So, I proceed cautiously, with these goals and objectives.
Some of the information that is presented here is known to the Christian audience and has been conveniently rationalized over the centuries, but what is not well known is ‘the Blasphemy Act 1698′ and like.
According to Wikipedia:
“A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades totals nine during the 11th to 13th centuries. This division is arbitrary and excludes many important expeditions, among them those of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. In reality, the crusades continued until the end of the 17th century, the crusade of Lepanto occurring in 1571, that of Hungary in 1664, and the crusade to Candia in 1669. The Knights Hospitaller continued to crusade in the Mediterranean Sea around Malta until their defeat by Napoleon in 1798. There were frequent ‘minor’ Crusades throughout this period, not only in the area the crusaders called Outremer but also in the Iberian Peninsula and central Europe, against Muslims and also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs.”
Let us proceed with some details from individual crusades starting with the first one. The Jews and Muslims fought together to defend Jerusalem against the invading Franks. They were unsuccessfulthough and on 15 July 1099 the crusaders entered the city.
They proceeded to massacre the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and pillaged or destroyed mosques and the city itself.
One historian has written that the “isolation, alienation and fear” felt by the Franks so far from home helps to explain the atrocities they committed, including the cannibalism which was recorded after the Siege of Maarat
Fifteenth century painting of Pope Urban II
at the Council of Clermont
, where he preached an impassioned sermon to take back the Holy Land.
Read the account of the taking over of Jerusalem in the seventh century by Umar, may God be pleased with him, and reclaiming of the holy city by Urban II four centuries later and you will be convinced of the great enormity of what is called the First Crusade. I have examined the Treaty of Jerusalem signed by Umar in my other Knols and here I will give some account of the First Crusade mostly in the words Thomas Asbridge, a Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Queen Mary, university of London, from his recent book, The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam published by the Oxford Press in 2004. He writes in the first chapter:
“The image of Muslims as brutal oppressors corjured by Pope Urban was pure propaganda – if anything, Islam had proved over the preceding centuries to be more tolerant of other religions than Catholic Christendom. Likewise, the fevered spontaneity of Bohemond’s decision to take the cross, dutifully recorded by one of his followers, was almost certainly a facade masking calculated ambition.”
Asbridge starts his book by describing the horrific imagery and forceful exhortation that launched the First Crusade:
“A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame. These men have destroyed the altars polluted by their foul practices. They have circumcised the Christians, either spreading the blood from the circumcisions on the altars or pouring it into the baptismal fonts. And they cut open the navels of those whom they choose to torment with loathsome death, tear out their most vital organs and tie them to a stake, drag them around and flog them, before killing them as they lie prone on the ground with all their entrails out. What shall I say of the appalling violation of women, of which it is more evil to speak than to keep silent?
On whom, therefore, does the task lie of avenging this, of redeeming this situation, if not on you, upon whom above all nations God has bestowed outstanding glory in arms, magnitude of heart, litheness of body and strength to humble anyone who resists you.”
Asbridge gives us enough details in his very first chapter of his almost 400 page book, he writes:
”A central feature of Urban’s doctrine was the denigration and dehumanisation of Islam. He set out from the start to launch a holy War against what he called ‘the savagery of the Saracens’, a ‘barbarian’ people capable of incomprehensible levels of cruelty and brutality.
Their supposed crimes were enacted upon two groups. Eastern Christians, in particular the Byzantines, had been ‘overrun right up to the Mediterranean Sea’. Urban described how the Muslims, ‘occupying more and more of the land on the borders of [Byzantium], were slaughtering and capturing many, destroying churches and laying waste to the kingdom of God. So, if you leave them alone much longer they will further grind under their heels the faithful of God’. The pope also maintained that Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land were being subjected to horrific abuse and exploitation. While the wealthy were regularly beaten and stripped of their fortunes by illegal taxes, the poor endured even more terrible treatment:
‘Non-existent money is extracted from them by intolerable tortures, the hard skin on their heels being cut open and peeled back to investigate whether perhaps they have inserted something under it. The cruelty of these impious men goes even to the length that, thinking the wretches have eaten gold or silver, they either put scammony in their drink and force them to vomit or void their vitals, or – and this is unspeakable – they stretch asunder the coverings of all the intestines after ripping open their stomachs with a blade and reveal with horrible mutilation whatever nature keeps secret.’
These accusations had little or no basis in fact, but they did serve Urban’s purpose. By expounding upon the alleged crimes of Islam, he sought to ignite an explosion of vengeful passion among his Latin audience, while his attempts to degrade Muslims as ‘sub-human’ opened the floodgates of extreme, brutal reciprocity. This, the pope argued, was to be no shameful war of equals, between God’s children, but a ‘just’ and ‘holy’ struggle in which an ‘alien’ people could be punished without remorse and with utter ruthlessness. Urban was activating one of the most potent impulses in human society: the definition of the ‘other’. Across countless generations of human history, tribes, cities, nations and peoples have sought to delineate their own identities through comparison to their neighbours or own identities through comparison to their neighbours or enemies. By conditioning Latin Europe to view Islam as a species apart, the pope stood to gain not only by facilitating his proposed campaign, but also by propelling the West towards unification.”
So, it was different political and other sinister motivations that launched the First Crusade four centuries after Jerusalem had been taken over by the Muslims in an almost bloodless siege and unprecedented Treaty known as the Treaty of Jerusalem.
Urban II died in Rome in 1099. He was beatified in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII.
As we judge Urban II so would be the verdict for the whole of the Catholic Church, from 11th till the 16th century. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Crusades, military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by Western Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion. Their objectives were to check the spread of Islam, to retake control of the Holy Land, to conquer pagan areas, and to recapture formerly Christian territories; they were seen by many of their participants as a means of redemption and expiation for sins. Between 1095, when the First Crusade was launched, and 1291, when the Latin Christians were finally expelled from their kingdom in Syria, there were numerous expeditions to the Holy Land, to Spain, and even to the Baltic; the Crusades continued for several centuries after 1291, usually as military campaigns intended to halt or slow the advance of Muslim power or to conquer pagan areas. Crusading declined rapidly during the 16th century with the advent of the Protestant Reformation and the decline of papal authority.”
As long as the papal authority lasted the Crusades of one form or the other continued. Here in is a lesson for the moderate and well meaning Christians to be continually vigilant against the hate-mongers or the Islamophobes among their ranks, lest eventually they lose their own religious freedoms. The lesson from history that need to be remembered in this regards is the testimony of Martin Niemoeller, titled they came after the Jews:
“As the Nazis fetched communists
I remained silent
I wasn’t a communist
As they jailed social-democrats
I remained silent
I wasn’t a social-democrat
As they targeted trade-unionists
I remained silent
I wasn’t a trade-unionist
As they got the Jews
I remained silent
I wasn’t a Jew
As they came to get hold of me
There wasn’t anyone left who could protest”
Because the First Crusade was largely concerned with Jerusalem, a city which had not been under Christian dominion for 461 years, and the crusader army’s refusal to return the land to the control of the Byzantine Empire, the status of the First Crusade as defensive or as aggressive in nature remains controversial.
of the Crusades reflects attempts made by different historians to understand the Crusades’ complex causes and justifications. An early modern theory, the so-called “Erdmann thesis”, developed by German historian Carl Erdmann
, directly linked the Crusades to the 11th-century reform movements.
This first theory claimed that the exportation of violence to the east, and the assistance to the struggling Byzantine Empire were the Crusaders’ primary goals, and that the conquest of Jerusalem was more a secondary, popular goal. Thomas Asbridge
argues that the First Crusade was Pope Urban II’s attempt to expand the power of the church, and reunite the churches of Rome and Constantinople, which had been in schism since 1054.
Here is a revealing fact about the real objectives of the First Crusade. Wikipedia states under the term Concordat of Worms:
“Gregory VII appeared to have succeeded when the emperor Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor was humiliated at Canossa in 1077. There, Henry begged in the snow to be let back into the good graces of the Church, having been excommunicated the year before by Gregory. The penitent and humbled emperor did not remain in that state. Soon Henry IV took his revenge. He named his own pope Antipope Clement III in the old manner of the Holy Roman Emperors. Pope Urban II, more prudent than Gregory sidestepped the issue using a Crusade to gather Christian Europe together under his authority.”
Here Wikipedia is referring to the book, A History of Medieval Europe: From Constantine to Saint Louis by R. H. C. Davis.
The Spanish Inquisitions
Encyclopedia Britannica describes these events:
“With its large Muslim and Jewish populations, medieval Spain was the only multiracial and multireligious country in Western Europe, and much of the development of Spanish civilization in religion, literature, art, and architecture during the later Middle Ages stemmed from this fact. The Jews had served Spain and its monarchs well, providing an active commercial class and an educated elite for many administrative posts.”
The subsequent paragraphs in Encyclopedia Britannica focus on the Jews but the Muslims had the exactly same fate in Europe of the fifteenth century:
“The first inquisitor general, Tomás de Torquemada, himself from a converse (Jews converted to Christianity) family, at once started a propaganda campaign against the Jews. In 1492 he persuaded the Catholic Monarchs to expel all Jews who refused to be baptized. Isabella and most of her contemporaries looked upon this expulsion of more than 160,000 of her subjects as a pious duty.”
The events of the Spanish Inquisitions led to formation of a ‘Spanish Wall’ that will separate the Muslims from the Christians for several centuries. The trend has continued not only in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century but also raised its ugly head in the Balkans in the twentieth century. In the words of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal, the first British Muslim:
“One remembers that not a Muslim is left alive in Spain or Sicily of Apulia. One remembers that not a Muslim was left alive and not a mosque left standing in Greece after the great rebellion in 1821. One remembers how the Muslims of the Balkan peninsula, once the majority, have been systematically reduced with the approval of the whole of Europe.”
The Spanish Inquisition was motivated in part by the multi-religious nature of Spanish society following the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims (Moors). Much of the Iberian Peninsula was dominated by Moors following their invasion of the peninsula in 711 until they were expelled by means of a long campaign of reconquest. However, the reconquest did not result in the full expulsion of Muslims from Spain, but instead yielded a multi-religious society made up of Catholics, Jews and Muslims. Granada to the south, in particular remained under Moorish control until 1492, and large cities, especially Seville, Valladolid, and Barcelona, had large mixed populations.
In 1212, a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of Alfonso VIII of Castile drove the Muslims from Central Iberia. The Portuguese side of the reconquest ended in 1249 with the conquest of the Algarve (Arabic الغرب — Al-Gharb) under Afonso III, the first Portuguese monarch to claim the title King of Portugal and the Algarve.
However, the Moorish Kingdom of Granada continued for three more centuries in the southern Iberia. This kingdom is known in modern times for magnificent architectural works such as the Alhambra palace. On January 2, 1492, the leader of the last Muslim stronghold in Granada surrendered to the armies of a recently united Christian Spain (after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs). The remaining Muslims and Jews were forced to leave Spain, or convert to Roman Catholic Christianity or be killed for not doing so. In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Inquisition in Spain, as one of many changes to the role of the church instituted by the monarchs. The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly – called respectively marranos and moriscos. The Inquisition also attacked heretics who rejected Roman Catholic orthodoxy, including alumbras who practiced a personal mysticism or spiritualism.
Here is a brief quote from Wikipedia about Medieval Inquisition.
The Medieval Inquisition is a series of Inquisitions (Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy) from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184-1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). It was in response to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow.
The Medieval Inquisitions were in response to growing religious movements, in particular the Cathars first noted in the 1140s and the Waldensians starting around 1170, in southern France and northern Italy. Individual “Heretics”, such as Peter of Bruis, had often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass heretical organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church. This article covers only these early inquistions, not the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century onwards, or the somewhat different phenomenon of the Spanish Inquisition, which was under the control of the Spanish monarchy, though using local clergy. The Portuguese Inquisition and various colonial branches followed the same pattern.
Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to offer:
“In 1184 Pope Lucius III required bishops to make a judicial inquiry, or inquisition, for heresy in their dioceses, a provision renewed by the fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Episcopal inquisitions, however, proved ineffective because of the regional nature of the bishop’s power and because not all bishops introduced inquisitions in their dioceses; the papacy gradually assumed authority over the process, though bishops never lost the right to lead inquisitions. In 1227 Pope Gregory IX appointed the first judges delegate as inquisitors for heretical depravity—many, though not all, of whom were Dominican and Franciscan friars. Papal inquisitors had authority over everyone except bishops and their officials. There was no central authority to coordinate their activities, but after 1248 or 1249, when the first handbook of inquisitorial practice was written, inquisitors adopted common procedures.
In 1252 Pope Innocent IV licensed inquisitors to allow obdurate heretics to be tortured by lay henchmen. It is difficult to determine how common this practice was in the 13th century, but the inquisition certainly acquiesced in the use of torture in the trial of the Knights Templar, a military-religious order, in 1307. Persecution by the inquisition also contributed to the collapse of Catharism, a dualist heresy that had great influence in southern France and northern Italy, by about 1325; although established to defeat that heresy, the inquisition was assisted by the pastoral work of the mendicant orders in its triumph over the Cathars.”
In 1553 Michael Servetus was burnt on the stake for preaching his views against Trinity. It did create a moral outrage in medieval Europe. However, what did not touch the conscience of the masses was regular burning of the Anabaptists on the stake for their views, considered to be heretical by both the Catholics and the Protestants. Who are the Anabaptists, what was their crime?
The Anabaptists were separatists who rejected infant baptism and believed that the outward, external church should consist only of saved and baptized believers. They would rebaptize those who professed Christ who had previously been baptized as infants. The preposition ana means “again,” thus Anabaptists were those who “baptized again.” The Mormons and the Mennonites are part of the Anabaptist group.
The Anabaptist movement officially began around 1522 in Zurich, Switzerland, when certain men wanted the Reformation to proceed more quickly and to be patterned more along New Testament lines than along those pursued by Ulrich Zwingli. Thus, there was a break between Zwingli and these more radical reformers.
It is very difficult to classify the Anabaptists as a single group, for there was wide diversity among them. Some were fanatics and heretics who brought great shame to the work of the Reformation, but others were not nearly so extreme and fanatical. Some were pantheistic, some extremely mystical, some anti-Trinitarian, some extreme millennialists, while others were quite biblical in most areas of their theology. A good majority of the Anabaptists were spiritual people, dedicated to Christ. They were devoted students of the Bible who felt the Reformers were not purifying the church quickly enough or properly applying the principles taught in the New Testament. The original Anabaptists were called “Brethren” or “The Company of the Committed.”
The Anabaptists were probably the least understood and most persecuted of all the groups of the early Reformation era. The Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists opposed them violently. Thousands were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and Protestants. To avoid this persecution many fled to the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. Here began the Amish tradition of farming and holding their worship services in homes rather than churches.
Many Amish and Mennonites accepted William Penn’s offer of religious freedom as part of Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance. They settled in what later became known as Pennsylvania. The first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720′s or 1730′s.
Today, the Amish can be found in 23 states here and in one Canadian province. Their settlement in and around Lancaster County is their second largest. Because of their large families, the total Amish population has more than doubled since 1960 to over 85,000.
The Blasphemy Act 1698
The Blasphemy Act 1698 (which applied to England and Wales) declared it illegal for any person, educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion, by writing, preaching, teaching or advised speaking, to state the following:
A denial that the members of the Holy Trinity were God.
An assertion that there is more than one god.
A denial of the truth of the Christian religion to be true.
A denial of the Holy Scriptures to be of divine authority.
The first offence resulted in being rendered incapable of holding any office or place of trust. The second offence resulted in being rendered incapable of bringing any action, of being guardian or executor, or of taking a legacy or deed of gift, and three years imprisonment without bail.
The act was directed against apostates at the beginning of the deist movement in England, particularly after the 1696 publication of John Toland’s book Christianity Not Mysterious.
It was rarely applied: an excessively short statute of limitations allowed for a very short time after the offence for lodging a formal complaint; a similar limitation applied to bringing the case to trial. As a result, existing common law process continued to be the first line against heterodoxy in England.
The Trinitarian provision was amended by the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 to remove the penalties from Unitarians.
The act was repealed by the Criminal Law Act 1967.
Act of Toleration 1689 UK
The Act of Toleration was an act of the English Parliament (24 May 1689, citation 1 Will. & Mar. c. 18), the long title of which is “An Act for Exempting their Majestyes Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the Penalties of certaine Lawes”.
The Act granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists who had taken the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and formally rejected transubstantiation, i.e. Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists and Congregationalists but not to Catholics. It allowed Nonconformists their own places of worship and their own teachers and preachers, subject to acceptance of certain oaths of allegiance.
It deliberately did not apply to Catholics and non-trinitarians and continued the existing social and political disabilities for Dissenters, including their exclusion from political office and also from universities.
Dissenters were required to register their meeting locations and were forbidden from meeting in private homes. Any preachers who dissented had to be licensed.
Between 1772 and 1774, Rev Dr Edward Pickard gathered together dissenting ministers in order that the terms of the Toleration Act for dissenting clergy could be modified. Under his leadership parliament twice considered a bill to modify the law. Both were unsuccessful and it was not until Pickard and many had lost interest that a new attempt was made in 1779.
The Act was amended (1779) by substituting belief in Scripture for belief in the Anglican (doctrinal) articles, but penalties on property remained.
Penalties against Unitarians were finally removed in the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813.
Building of Synagogues in the 18th and the 19th century USA
Jonathan Sarna writes for forward.com:
Stuyvesant’s superiors in Holland overruled him, citing economic and political considerations. He continued, however, to restrict Jews to the practice of their religion “in all quietness” and “within their houses.” Being as suspicious of all Jews as some today are of all Muslims, he never allowed them to build a synagogue of their own.
In 1685, with the British in control of the city, 20 Jewish families petitioned to change Stuyvesant’s precedent so that they might establish a synagogue and worship in public. They were curtly refused. “Publique worship,” New York City’s Common Council informed them, “is Tolerated… but to those that professe faith in Christ.”
Eventually, around the turn of the 18th century, Jews in New York won the right to worship in public, and Congregation Shearith Israel opened America’s first synagogue. Subsequently, in Rhode Island, what is today known as the Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue building still extant in North America, was dedicated in Newport in 1763.
Elsewhere Jews were not so fortunate.”
The Catholic Church
Phillip Cary (born June 10, 1958) is a philosophy professor at Eastern University with a focus on Saint Augustine. He received his Ph.D. from Yale Divinity School, he describes the long history of religious intolerance in the Catholic Church:
The state, like the church, has no right to make laws restricting the inner freedom of the conscience, and thus Protestantism from its very beginning is, in principle, committed to freedom of religion, freedom of conscience. How well it keeps that principle is another matter, but this is, by the way, in contrast to Catholicism, which until Vatican II in the 1960s was, in principle, opposed to religious liberty. The church has changed its mind about that at Vatican II, and at present, the Catholic Church is one of the greatest advocates of religious freedom, but that was not true for most of the modem period.
Present day Islamphobia
Islamophobia is rooted in the negative emotion of hate and fear and negative emotions have no creative value and has the potential of pulling down all involved. Islamophobia’s strategy lies in judging the 1.5 billion Muslims by the lowest common denominator among them and repeating the negative element over and over again. It captilazes on human vulnerability that has led to the modern field of advertisement. Even a lie has a potential of sticking if repeated enough, and half truths stand a better chance, as noted in the observation attributed to Adolf Hitler, “If you tell a lie long and loud enough, people will eventually start to believe it.” Whether Hitler said it or not but, the fact of the matter is that almost every politician and media channel of modern times has drank from this cup. The right wing Islamophobes are certainly addicted to this beverage.
After the unfortunate publication of the Danish Cartoons, intending to slander the holy character of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Karen Armstrong wrote:
“But equally the cartoonists and their publishers, who seemed impervious to Muslim sensibilities, failed to live up to their own liberal values, since the principle of free speech implies respect for the opinions of others. Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as any other form of prejudice. When 255,000 members of the so-called “Christian community” signed a petition to prevent the building of a large mosque in Abbey Mills, east London, they sent a grim message to the Muslim world: western freedom of worship did not, apparently, apply to Islam. There were similar protests by some in the Jewish community, who, as Seth Freedman pointed out in his Commentisfree piece, should be the first to protest against discrimination.
Gallup found there was as yet no blind hatred of the west in Muslim countries; only 8% of respondents condoned the 9/11 atrocities. But this could change if the extremists persuade the young that the west is bent on the destruction of their religion. When Gallup asked what the west could do to improve relations, most Muslims replied unhesitatingly that western countries must show greater respect for Islam, placing this ahead of economic aid and non-interference in their domestic affairs. Our inability to tolerate Islam not only contradicts our western values; it could also become a major security risk.”
In the last century the Western civilization has overcome its anti-Semitism. But the Islam-phobia persists, in its fullest glory, at least in some circles. Dr. Maurice Bucaille writes in the introduction section of his book the Bible the Quran and Science:
“In what contempt the Muslims are held by certain Christian circles! I experienced this when I tried to start an exchange of ideas arising from a comparative analysis of Biblical and Quranic stories on the same theme. I noted a systematic refusal, even for the purposes of simple reflection, to take any account of what the Quran had to say on the subject in hand. It is as if a quote from the Quran were a reference to the Devil!”
“Western writers have mostly been prone to believe the worst of Muhammad,” according to Montgomery Watt. Here is a detailed confession in his words:
“Since Carlyle’s (1795 – 1881) lecture on Muhammad in Heroes and. Hero worship, the West has been aware that there was a good case to be made out for believing in Muhammad’s sincerity. His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement — all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad. Western writers have mostly been prone to believe the worst of Muhammad, and, wherever an objectionable interpretation of an act seemed plausible, have tended to accept it as fact. Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all; if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past, we must in every particular case hold firmly to the belief in his sincerity until the opposite is conclusively proved; and we must not forget that conclusive proof is a much stricter requirement than a show of plausibility, and in a matter such as this only to be attained with difficulty.”
To analyze and understand the modern Islamophobia one has to understand the psychology of the crusades from the medieval times. The psyche and the atmosphere of the crusades have been well described by writers like Karen Armstrong and Dr. Maurice Bucaille. Karen Armstrong writes in the first chapter of her book Muhammad: A biography of the Prophet, titled Muhammad the enemy:
“In 1242, for example, King Louis IX of France, a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church, condemned the Jewish Talmud as a vicious attack on the person of Christ. The book was banned and copies were publicly burned in the presence of the King. Louis had no interest in discussing his differences with the Jewish communities of France in a peaceful, rational way. He once claimed that the only way to debate with a Jew was to kill him ‘with a good thrust in the belly as far as the sword will go. It was Louis who called the first Inquisition to bring Christian heretics to justice and burned not merely their books but hundreds of men and women. He was also a Muslim-hater and led two crusades against the Islamic world. In Louis’ day it was not Islam but the Christian West which found it impossible to coexist with others. Indeed, the bitter history of Muslim-Western relations can be said to have begun with an attack on Muhammad in Muslim Spain.”
After Muslims had taken control of Jerusalem in 638 A.D., had built two splendid mosques on the Temple Mount, which was a desolate place after the destruction of the second Temple, and did indeed seem to rule the world. Even though the Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw had lived after Christ, when there was according to the Christian dogma no need for a further revelation, as a result of his prophethood many Christians had apostatized and joined the new religion. The Christian faith was shaken to its very core not only politically but spiritually and theologically. Something needed to be done to shore up the imploding religion. The recipe was a slanderous biography of the Prophet of Islam. This late eighth century Western biography of Muhammadsaw had been produced in the monastery of Leyre near Pamplona on the hinterland of the Christian world, which trembled before the mighty Islamic giant. Besides the political threat, the success of Islam raised a disturbing theological question: how had God allowed this impious faith to prosper? Could it be that He had deserted His own Christian people? What should the Christian masses believe? Where should they find refuge against the rationality and beauty of Islam? How would the Christian clergy defend their ill founded dogmas? Only possible strategy was to distort the picture of Islam and its founder. To explain Muhammad’s success, the legends claimed that he had been a magician who had concocted false ‘miracles’ to take in the credulous Arabs and destroy the Church in Africa and the Middle East.
Over the next 13 centuries the crusader writers like Salman Rushdie and Sherry Jones would reproduce this fantastic portrait of Muhammad with uncanny fidelity. But, of course they will mix some realities with their fictions and tailor their writings to suit the tastes of the time. Before 1100 there was practically no interest in Muhammad in Europe, but by 1120 everybody knew who he was. At about the same time as the myths of Charlemagne, King Arthur and Robin Hood were being evolved in the West, the myth of Mahound, the enemy and shadow-self of Christendom, was firmly established in the Western imagination. As Richard William Southern explains in his monograph Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages:
“There can be little doubt that at the moment of their formation these legends and fantasies were taken to represent a more or less truthful account of what they purported to describe. But as soon as they were produced they took on a literary life of their own. At the level of popular poetry, the picture of Mahomet and his Saracens changed very little from generation to generation. Like well-loved characters of fiction, they were expected to display certain characteristics, and authors faithfully reproduced them for hundreds of years.”
According to Karen Armstrong, “Mahound’s fictional status in the West has perhaps made it even more difficult for people to see him as an historical character who deserves the same serious treatment as Napoleon, or Alexander the Great. The fictional portrait of Mahound in The Satanic Verses resonates deeply with these established Western fantasies.”
“At the same time as Christians evolved the myths about Mahound and the Saracens, they also evolved terrifying fantasies about the Jews. Jews were said to murder little children and mix their blood in the Passover bread, to desecrate the Eucharist and to be engaged in a vast international conspiracy for the overthrow of Christendom. There was nothing like these anti-Jewish myths in the Islamic world; they reveal in the Western psyche an unhealthy disturbance and disease. But the conquests in Spain, southern Italy and Sicily meant that there were now tens of thousands of Muslims within the borders of Christendom. The only way that the establishment seemed able to cope with these aliens was by imposing an official policy of apartheid, forbidding Christians to have any contact with their Muslim and Jewish neighbors. Special Church legislation linked the two together as a common foe in the Lateran Councils of 1179 and 1215. Christians were forbidden on pain of excommunication and the consequent confiscation of their property to take service in the houses of Muslims and Jews, to look after their children, to trade with Muslims and Jews or even to eat with them. In 1227 Pope Gregory IX added the following decrees: Muslims and Jews must wear distinctive clothing; they must not appear on the streets during Christian festivals or hold public office in Christian countries; and the muezzin was forbidden to offend Christian ears by summoning the Muslims to prayer in the traditional way.
Pope Clement V (1305-14) declared that the Islamic presence on Christian soil was an insult to God. Christians had already begun to expunge this obscenity. In 1301 Charles of Anjou, King of France, exterminated the last Muslims of Sicily and southern Italy in the reservation of Lucera, which he had described as ‘a nest of pestilence . . . lurid in pollution . . . the stubborn plague and filthy infection of Apulia.’”
Making an independent opinion
George Santayana also said, ‘Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better,’ this means that national television media every so often can choose to give us advertisement rather than the news and arguments. Enlightened individuals need to avoid this trap by independent reading and making well thought out opinions.
I made a tall claim in the abstract of this article, ‘In fact it could be argued that the counter-intuitive dogma of Trinity and Original Sin can only be and were established by coercion of one form or the other, and often at the point of sword!’ My Exhibit number one to show that Trinity was forced upon human cosciousness is centuries of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and virulent opposition of the Unitarian Christians by the Trinitarians. The process started as soon as the Church had the state power, in the opposition of Aryanisms and semi-Aryanisms and the most recent manifestation was the burning in UK, of the home and laboratory of Joseph Priestly, a famous Unitarian, who also discovered oxygen and was the teacher of the President Thomas Jefferson.
The history of the Anabaptists is a testament that the counter-intuitive dogmas of Original Sin and early Baptism have also been inscribed on the human consciousness with sword dripping with blood!
Religious freedom means not to legislate in the domain of ‘Man and God.’ However, Governments should legislate in the domain of ‘man in relation to man,’ to promote civil societies, religious tolerance and pluralism. Overzealous enthusiasm by the devout in pursuing the followers of other religions, like the recent attempts to burn the Holy Quran and attempts at dehumanizing the ‘other,’ should be prosecuted as hate speech and actual preaching of violence against ‘others’ as hate crime. One should never forget the warning of Heinrich Heine, ‘Where books are burned, they will ultimately burn people also,’ and of George Santayana, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ These are the only prescriptions to prevent the wars between Protestants and Catholics in the past from finding a new life in wars between the Christians and the Muslims!
- Arab Historians of the Crusades, trans. F. Gabrieli, trans. E. J. Costello. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.
- Trumpbour, John. “Crusades.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. , edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article (accessed February 17, 2008).
- “Les Croisades, origines et consequences”, p.62, Claude Lebedel, ISBN 2737341361
- “Urban II.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Sep. 2010 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/619378/Urban-II>.
- “Spain.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 03 Jan. 2009 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/557573/Spain>.
- This was taken from a group of lectures given by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal in 1925. These were published by The Committee of Madras Lectures on Islam in 1927, under the title Cultural Side of Islam. We have reproduced it from 1976 reprinting by the Publisher, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore, Pakistan. The lectures were also published under the title Islamic Culture by the University of Michigan in 1929.
- “inquisition.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 10 Feb. 2010 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/288915/inquisition>.
- Prof. Phillip Cary. Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation. Teaching Company Course Transcript, 2004. Pages 158.
- Karen Armstrong. Muhammad: A biography of the prophet. Phoenix, 1081. Page 21.
- Karen Armstrong. Muhammad: A biography of the prophet. Phoenix, 1081. Page 26.
- Richard William Southern. Western views of Islam in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1962. Page 29.
- Karen Armstrong. Muhammad: A biography of the prophet. Phoenix, 1081. Page 26.
- Karen Armstrong. Muhammad: A biography of the prophet. Phoenix, 1081. Page 28.
- W Montgomery Watt. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford University Press, 1953. Pages 52.
- W Montgomery Watt. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford University Press, 1953. Pages 52.