US President Barack Obama says the US is “not at war with Islam – we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam.” (BBC website, February 18th)
The President continued to explain that socio-economic factors are behind extremist terrorism. If more could be done to help young people in the Mideast find jobs, it would lessen the terror threat. However, this conveniently overlooks the fact that major terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by affluent jihadists. The idea that it’s all due to poverty and unemployment is a throwback to sixties liberalism. Unfortunately, millions of people still think that way, endangering the rest of us.
This comes at a time when ISIS is wiping out Christians across the Middle East, determined to establish “Christian free zones.”
For an alternative view, let’s do something few politicians ever seem to do – look at history.
Muhammed died in 632 AD. At the time of his death, the new religion he started was confined to the Arabian Peninsula. By the end of the seventh century it had conquered the whole of North Africa and a great deal of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch, pushing back the Byzantine and Persian empires. Of course, it’s always possible that the young soldiers of Allah went far afield simply looking for jobs, but that’s not a conclusion you will find in the history books.
Once they had conquered North Africa, they crossed over into Europe, taking over the Iberian Peninsula and remaining there for a few hundred years, ruling what are now Spain and Portugal. In 732 they reached the gates of Paris but were halted in their tracks by a military force led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne. If this decisive victory had not taken place, there would be no problem between the West and Islam today, as we would all be Muslims!
Move forward 350 years. By the end of the eleventh century, the Turks were a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. In 1065, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and massacred 3,000 Christians. Prior to the Turkish invasion, the Saracens controlled the area. They had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Land. But the Turks made it impossible. In 1095, Pope Urban II called on the countries of Catholic Europe to launch a Crusade against the Muslim Turks. A series of crusades followed until 1291, when the Christians gave up on the idea of ruling the region. It wasn’t until 1917 that a Christian power, Great Britain, would once again dominate the Middle East.
Islam continued its expansionist course, gradually taking more and more territory from what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 1453, its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Muslim Turks. They have controlled it since.
Having conquered the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks twice reached the gates of Vienna at the very center of Europe. Central European nations and the Catholic
Church defeated the Muslims, saving Europe from Islam.
This is not to say there has been peace between the West and Islam ever since. During the period of global British domination, the British fought Islamic extremists in the Sudan in the 1880’s and 90’s, culminating in the battle of Omdurman in September, 1898.
For much of the twentieth century, Islam was kept at bay. Until World War II, most Islamic territory was under European colonial rule. By 1960 this had come to an end. Iran, modern Persia, was the first country to see its government overthrown by radical Islam, in 1979. From that date until the present, the West has been under constant threat from Islam, both Shia Islam (Iran) and Sunni Islam (al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram to name just three).
With such a long history of Islamic imperialism, how can the president claim that the religion has been perverted by violent extremists? Islam has been a constant threat to the West since its birth in the early part of the seventh century. If anything, the first part of the twentieth century was an aberration, a brief interlude during which Islam was not pushing against the West.
“The rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most significant and far-reaching events in modern history and its impact continues to reverberate in our own times.” (“The spread of Islam from 632,” Collins Atlas of World History, 2003)
Echoing down the centuries, the following statement remains true today. “This expansion owed much to the enthusiasm and religious conviction of the conquerors but it was also facilitated by the war-weariness of the empires of Persia and Byzantium.” (“The Spread of Islam”) Today’s zealots are equally motivated, while the nations of the West, after more than a decade of wars in Islamic lands, are war-weary and clearly in denial about the serious threat to western civilization.
When you look back at history, the threat is clear. In fact, it’s a greater threat now than it’s ever been, simply because there are so many millions of Muslims in our midst already. Which brings us back to our politicians. President Obama is not the only western leader saying that Islam has been perverted by extremists. Following the attacks in Denmark last weekend, the Danish prime minister said much the same thing. The British, German and French leaders have expressed similar sentiments.
Because there are so many Muslims living amongst us today, politicians dare not risk upsetting them. They need their votes. A significant number of constituencies in the United Kingdom, for example, have very large Muslim populations, which could determine the outcome of the election scheduled in May.
The threat should be clear to anyone. Western nations are asleep. But sleep does not last forever. Eventually, it will be time to wake up.
Islam has been pushing against the West for centuries. In modern times, the push of radical Islam has been going on since the fall of the Shah in 1979, half a lifetime ago. When will the “King of the North” arise to fight back?