Dan McPeek has very kindly suggested – some time ago – a link to a HuffPo article by an atheist Muslim. It’s entitled “An Atheist Muslim’s Perspective on the ‘Root Causes’ of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia,” and it gives good reasons for thinking that Islamism is not a product of American imperialism, as is often suggested. It refers to a treaty between the United States and the Muslim Barbary states of North Africa signed into law in 1797, based on original negotiations by Thomas Jefferson, then American Ambassador to France. This is, just to put it in a historical context, before Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, the building of the Suez Canal, the British and French carving up of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War: events which are often thought to be flashpoints for the current relationships between the Muslim world and the West. It’s worth reading just to get things into perspective.
It is also only fair to point out (in a bit of potted history) that Imperial Islam engaged in capturing and selling European slaves in the slave markets of North Africa and the Middle East, and had a lively trade in African slaves long before Europeans became embroiled in the slave trade. Whole villages from parts of the British Isles, including Ireland, were captured and sold in the slave markets of Algiers. According to Wikipedia, the Crimean Khanate had a brisk slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. In a process known as “the harvesting of the Steppes” Slav people were captured and sold in Muslim slave markets. (Memories of these markets still exist in the Yemen, where recently it was proposed that captured women be sold for use as concubines, which would solve the problem of infidelity by Muslim husbands! It would be hard to make this stuff up!) Thousands were taken from Moscow itself for use in this trade.
The frequent accusation that European colonialism is responsible for the present evils of the world ignores completely the fact that for hundreds of years Muslim imperial ambitions gobbled up the entire territory of Eastern Christianity in the Middle East, as well as Persia, Afghanistan and India, Christian North Africa, Spain, and Sicily, and, eventually, Constantinople and the Balkans (including Greece), before Muslim imperial adventures were halted in France (at the Battle of Tours in 762), and at the very gates of Vienna (in 1529!), and that Imperial Islam engaged freely, not only in colonial expansion, but in the capture and use of slaves from conquered peoples, as well as from raiding parties in continental Europe as well as the British Isles.
While not justifying the bitter hatreds and the genocides in the former Yugoslavia, it must be remembered that for centuries Muslims comprised the dominant power in the Balkans, to whom the Serbs and others were subservient. Indeed, an example of this subservience can be seen in the practice of scouring the Sultan’s Christian subjects for strong boys who would, at the age of 12, be given to Muslim families, where they were indoctrinated into Islam and trained as Janissaries, an elite corps of the Sultan’s bodyguards. Many Janissaries rose to high position in the Ottoman Empire, but they were still a sign and symbol of subservience and the status of Christians and other religious minorities as al-Dhimma, the people of the Dhimma, that is, contract status as tolerated aliens in return for payment of a tax (essentially, protection money). The bitterness of the war in Chechnya is partly the result of the long period during which Russians paid tribute money and provided slaves for the Muslim Tatars, and their eventual victory over them and their subjection to Russian rule. Such historical memories run very deep.
Foregoing added on Friday, 24th May, at 20.36 Atlantic Time ——————-
I was going to ignore the outrageous beheading of a British
officer soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby, on the streets of London by Muslim fanatics, a form of “individualised” jihad which seems to be becoming more attractive to Muslim radicals who seem no longer to have large jihadi organisations able to organise and carry out more ambitious attacks on infidels. However, Medhi Hasan — he of the encounter with Richard Dawkins who scoffed at Hasan’s belief in winged horses (or mules) and Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem and then through the seven heavenly realms — who is now the political director of Huffington Post UK, decided to weigh in with the declaration that the men who carried out the atrocity in Woolwich were acting contrary to Muslim teachings. For it says, Hasan tells us, in the Qur’an, that he who kills one man is as if he had killed all mankind, and he cites chapter and verse in doing so, concluding with the ringing pronouncement that:
Thus, the two supposedly Muslim men suspected of killing and mutilating an unarmed, off-duty soldier in the middle of a London street, while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”), were violating the injunction of their own holy book.
Hasan goes on to approve Prime Minister Cameron’s declaration that
Wednesday’s barbarism was “a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country”.
But we have a right, I think, to ask whether it is plausible to suppose that what these “barbarians” did was in fact contrary to the teachings of Islam, a religion which, historically, is blighted by events such as this, and continues to issue in barbarously cruel acts designed (so it seems) to terrify people into submission to the dictates of God’s last messenger.