Monday, April 11, 2016

Tolerance: Islam v Christianity

Sale of a Slave Child by Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin
This essay appears at JihadWatch here.

"Islam Was More Tolerant Than Christianity": Discuss

I received an email from "Stan," who wrote to respond to my article "Donald Trump and Counter-Jihad." Through Google I discovered that Stan is an Ivy-League-educated PhD. "Counter-jihadists," Stan wrote, "deny that Islam was indeed more tolerant from the end of the 11th century down to the 17th." Catholic Church teaching during that period "was far worse than dhimmitude … Jews and Christians could practice their religions … [There were] few forced conversions or massacres." Catholic Spain expelled Jews who fled to Muslim territory. I would recognize these facts, Stan kindly advised me, "If you pick up a history book." "No historian would consult with Robert Spencer," as I do, Stan sniffed. Stan listed sixteen books addressing Christian anti-Semitism. If I had any "interest in the subject" I would read them. Stan mentioned the 1209-1229 Catholic Crusade against Albigensians. "Would you rather have been an Albigensian in southern France or in Constantinople?" Please note: my article about Donald Trump never mentions Jews, Catholics, or Albigensians.

Counter-jihadis regularly confront variations of this: "Any intolerance that Islam shows today is the result of historical forces. Violence and intolerance are not inherent in Islam. Terrorism is caused by European colonialism, the recognition of the state of Israel, America's support for dictators, and American wars-for-oil. In the past, Christianity was a violent, intolerant religion. The passage of time reformed Christianity; in the same way the passage of time will reform Islam."

How can a counter-jihadi respond?  

  • Differentiate between behaviors inspired by temporary historical circumstance and behavior inspired by canonical documents.
  • Recognize that most conventionally educated Westerners believe extravagant falsehoods and aren't aware of important truths. 
  • Be aware of events outside of Western Europe and North America.  

Differentiate between behaviors inspired by temporary historical circumstance and behavior inspired by canonical documents.

Scholars who describe medieval, Muslim Spain as relatively better for Jews than medieval, Christian Europe acknowledge that differences were inspired by temporary historical circumstance and not canonical scripture. Given that medieval socioeconomic conditions no longer exist, but canonical scriptures are still considered divine revelations, we should not expect medieval Muslim tolerance of Jews, or medieval Christian persecution of Jews, to recur. We should, rather, look to canonical scripture as inspiration for behavior.

Mohammed was an Arab, living in Arabia, among Arab Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Mohammed is al-Insan al-Kamil, the perfect human, worthy of emulation. Hostility to Jews is overt in the Koran, the hadith, and the biography of Mohammed. See, for example, here, here, here, and here. Mohammed wiped out a Jewish tribe. Mohammed inspected Jewish boys to determine if they had pubic hair as a precursor to slaughter. Mohammed supervised the torture-murder of Kinana, to rob him of gold and take his wife. Mohammed expelled Christians and Jews from the Arabian Peninsula, where they cannot live to this day. Bukhari 1:24 reports that Allah ordered Mohammed to make war on all mankind till Islam dominates the planet.

As part of daily prayer, Muslims repeat seventeen times a day that Jews anger God. Muslims commonly believe that the Koran is flawless, and that the Bible is corrupt. Merely possessing a Bible in Saudi Arabia is cause for imprisonment and torture.

In short, hostility to Jews is inextricable from Mohammed's biography, the Koran, the hadith, and mandated daily Muslim prayer. Muslims have long been inspired by the ostensibly divine Koran to do what the Koran tells them to do: hate, murder, torture, steal, and rape.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a Jew. He lived in Israel, the Jewish homeland. Jesus was knowledgeable about and respectful of Jewish scripture. Jesus' disciples and the authors of the New Testament were Jews. Christians accept Jewish scriptures as divinely inspired. Jesus declared that salvation is from the Jews. God continued to love the Jews and his promises to them are irrevocable. The Vatican cites these scriptures.

The harsh criticisms of some, not all, Jews in the New Testament were written by Jews as part of Jewish tradition. The most severe passages are less severe than those in the Torah. Compare Matthew 23, where Jesus excoriates the Pharisees for straining on a gnat and choking on a camel, to Exodus 32, where God orders Jews, immediately, to massacre thousands of their own "brothers, friends, and neighbors" for worshipping a golden calf.

Jesus specifically taught that his disciples were not to interfere with free will. If people chose not to be Christians, Jesus said, just move on. Jesus never ordered his disciples to make converts by force, or to oppress nonbelievers. In contradistinction to Bukhari 1:24, Koran 66:9, Koran 5:51 and many similar verses, Jesus, in the Good Samaritan episode, counsels his followers to treat all humanity, not just fellow believers, with compassion.

Spreading the faith by military conquest was not part of foundational Christianity; for its first three hundred years, Christianity was an outlawed and persecuted faith. The second century Greek Pagan Celsus described early Christianity as a marginal "religion of women, children and slaves." Every time a Christian violates a Jew or anyone else, that Christian violates his own professed belief system.

When Christians committed crimes against Jews, other Christians protested and attempted to intervene. During the medieval Rhineland Massacres of the Crusades, Catholic bishops attempted to protect Jews. Popes repeatedly condemned blood libel. When Jews were expelled from Western Europe, they were invited into Catholic Poland and protected by the 1264 Statute of Kalisz and the 1573 Warsaw Confederation.

Confession and repentance are Christian rituals and virtues. Jesus taught his followers to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Christians have confessed their sins against Jews, and resolved to improve. This emphasis on confession and repentance is not found in Islam. Turkey, for example, prosecuted Orhan Pamuk, its own Nobel-Prize-winning writer, for merely mentioning the Armenian Genocide.

Why, then, have Christians committed horrible crimes against Jews? Why did Christians, including priests, twist the original Christian message into one of hatred against Jews? And why have Muslim states tolerated Jews?

One ray of light into this complicated topic is Edna Bonacich's work on middleman minorities. Jews in Europe occupied a particular socioeconomic niche. Jews were middlemen. Medieval Christians and Medieval Muslims viewed middlemen differently. That difference, not scripture, affected Jewish lives differently in medieval Christian and medieval Muslim countries.  

Mark R. Cohen, Princeton University professor emeritus, is the author of Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, a book frequently cited to support the "Islam was more tolerant" generalization.  

In his 1986 Jerusalem Quarterly article "Islam and the Jews: Myth, Counter-Myth, History," Cohen acknowledges that Islam contains a "fundamental theological hostility towards the religion of Judaism … and towards Jews, stigmatized … as contemptible infidels." Various historical and socioeconomic factors trumped Islam's "fundamental theological hostility." One of those factors was how Muslims viewed middlemen.

Mohammed was a merchant. He was born and lived most of his life in Mecca, a trading center. "Islam was born with a positive attitude towards commerce … Mohammed's own life and … the Koran and other holy literature lent strong support to the mercantile life … Since many jurists in the early Islamic period were themselves merchants, Islamic law was shaped to meet the needs of a mercantile economy." In the Muslim world, both Jews and Muslims were both moneylenders.

Medieval Christian Europeans were mostly peasants – poor people who valued rootedness, labor, and land. Jesus was a carpenter who preached the virtue of poverty. He lived in Galilee, a region of country bumpkins. Markets, money, travel and banks were underdeveloped in much of medieval Europe. Jews traveled, handled money, and appeared not to labor, as peasants understood labor. The Jew as merchant and moneylender was more troubling to economically naïve European Christians than to more economically sophisticated Middle Eastern Muslims.

Further, Cohen points out, Jews in medieval Europe were not just economically and religiously alien, they were ethnically and geographically alien. Jews were comparatively familiar to Middle Eastern Muslims – they came from the same geographic region, they spoke a language related to Arabic, similarly written right to left, and they shared a similar physical appearance.

Cohen cites another flashpoint for Jews living in Christian lands. Christianity separates church and state. This separation is rooted in Jesus' saying, "Render unto Cesar what is Cesar's and unto God what is God's." Jews had to develop relationships with both secular and religious authorities. One might be friendly while the other might not be. Church and state might be in competition. The Jew was often stuck in the middle of that often violent competition.

In Islam, there is no separation of church and state. Jews had to cultivate fewer powers, and they did not have to worry about a non-existent competition between centers of power. Cohen says that it is this separation of church and state in Christianity, and the lack of same in Islam, that explains why, during the medieval period, Jews were sometimes expelled from Christian nations, but not from Muslim ones.

Another factor Cohen cites for Jews' position in Islam. "In Europe, the Jews nurtured a pronounced hatred for Christians, whom they considered to be idolaters subject to the anti-pagan discriminatory provisions of the ancient Mishnah … the Jews of Islam had a markedly different attitude towards" Islam. There was a "tolerant Jewish view of Islam."

In 2016, Dario Fernandez-Morera published The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain. In 2013 he argued in Comparative Civilizations Review that Muslims favored Jews in Spain for tactical reasons. Visigoths, the rulers in Spain before the Muslim Conquest, discriminated against Jews. When Muslims invaded, significant numbers of Jews aided the Muslims as a way to improve their own lot. Muslims, he said, regarded Jews as "servants," not as friends, and thus avoided violating the Koran's admonition not to take Jews as friends. Muslim rulers feared betrayal from other Muslims. Elevating Jews to powerful positions protected the ruler's back. A Jew, as a member of a hated minority, could never usurp a Muslim.

Fernandez-Morera cautions contemporary Jews against romanticizing their forebears' lives in Muslim Spain. Islamic law mandated that Jews had to pay the jizya, could not build synagogues, had to keep their buildings shorter than Muslims' buildings, could not carry weapons or ride horses, and had to show deference to Muslims, including by wearing distinctive clothing. They could not testify in court against a Muslim. There were harsher court sentences for Jews than for Muslims. Jews could not criticize Islam. Capital punishment was prescribed for a Jewish man who had sex with a Muslim woman. (Compare this to the medieval Polish legend of Catholic King Casimir the Great and his Jewish companion, Esterka.) Even if these mandates were not always followed, Cohen writes, the "themes of segregation and humiliation" in "Islamic sources … rival if not exceed … the Christian West." Canonical Islamic prescriptions communicated to Jews their subordinate status and kept them in their place.

Fernandez-Morera quotes a satirical poem that refers to Jews as "apes," as does the Koran. Jews, the Muslim poet says, should be "the lowest of the low, roaming among us, with their little bags, with contempt, degradation and scorn as their lot, scrambling in the dunghills for colored rags, to shroud their dead for burial … hasten to slaughter…do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them."

Jews' middleman minority status and their alignment, however tactical and temporary, with Muslims, may have contributed to Christian antisemitism. A 1986 University of Notre Dame Press book, The Jew as Ally of the Muslim: Medieval Roots of Anti-Semitism, addresses a Europe-wide association, by Christians, of Jews with feared Muslims. Daniel Pipes' mostly positive review of the book, that appeared first in Commentary, can be viewed here.

In any case, the twenty-first century understanding of the word "tolerance" should not be applied to Muslim Spain. A naive person might envision Jews and Muslims in Al-Andalus sipping cappuccinos and discussing philosophy while eating rainbow cake celebrating same-sex weddings and watching their daughters play on the boys' soccer team. "Tolerance" meant something very different in medieval Muslim Spain than it means in 2016.

Suppose someone told a black person that the antebellum South was a "tolerant" place because Jews were allowed to practice their religion without impediment. My reaction to discussion of Muslim Spain as "tolerant" is similar to that black person's. Muslim Spain relied on slave labor. Its slaves were my forebears, Slavs. The word "Saqaliba," derived from "Slav," occurs in Arabic in reference to Slavic slaves and to eunuchs. In 961, there were 13,750 Saqaliba eunuchs in Cordoba alone. Jews were often the slave traders who transported Slavic slaves to Muslim Spain. Saint Adalbert's attempt to liberate Slavs from Jewish slave traders is depicted on the bronze, twelfth-century Gniezno doors. Adalbert was later murdered by European Pagans. Christians were martyred by Pagans in Europe right up to the fourteenth century. Applying twenty-first century definitions of "tolerance" and twenty-first century conceptions of what it means to be a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian to this medieval narrative can only cause complete misunderstanding. Christians were not all-powerful in medieval Europe but were often quite vulnerable. Jews were not always helpless; some exercised the power that all slave-traders do. "Tolerant" Muslims were enjoying sexual access to female and castrated male slaves, not serving up rainbow cake.

Stan asked if I would rather be an Albigensian in Turkey or in France. I've traveled in Turkey and I loved it. Even so, I'd rather not live as a female Albigensian or a female anything else in any Muslim country. 

When Tariq ibn Ziyad invaded Spain in 711, he delivered a "sermon" promising his jihadis Christian women to rape: "In this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold." Muslim chronicler Ibn al-Athir describes another Muslim warrior in Spain, who "traversed this land in every direction, raping women;" another "carried off women." Yes, violation of women occurs in all wars, fought by men of every religion. Islam, though, sanctions rape in war, rape that Muslim chroniclers openly celebrate.  

At the beginning of the twentieth century, a million Jews lived in Muslim countries. Nine and a half million Jews lived in Europe. This was 57% of the Jews in the world. During the twentieth century, the Jewish population of the US rose from one to six million, and the Jewish population of Muslim countries shrank to near zero. Jews voted with their feet.

Jews living in Christian lands gave the world Einstein, Marx, Freud, Franz Boas, Helena Rubinstein, Artur Rubenstein, Baal Shem Tov, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bruno Szulc, Adam Michnik, Disraeli, Gustav Mahler, Franz Kafka, "The Jews who invented Hollywood" and the bulk of Nobel Prizes won by Jews. This is a very different contribution to civilization than the fruits of the brand of "tolerance" practiced in Muslim Spain.

Finally, no generalization about tolerance cancels out Muslim Spain's less tolerant moments. There is a widespread belief that Maimonides and his family feigned a conversion to Islam in order to survive persecution. Maimonides wrote in a letter that "On account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us … No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us." And one must also remember events like the Grenada Massacre of 1066, during which a Muslim mob crucified Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and murdered many Jews.

Recognize that most conventionally educated Westerners believe extravagant falsehoods and aren't aware of important truths. 

My World History is a widely used Pearson textbook. It informs American schoolchildren that Mohammed respected Judaism and Christianity, Jews and Christians in Muslim lands could practice their religion freely, the Koran has never been changed, and religious faith helped Islam spread peacefully. "Islam offered followers a direct path to God and salvation." And oh, yes – Islam improved conditions for women.

Even atheists need to understand politicization and bias in discussion of religion. Protestant England and Catholic Spain fought for world domination. Anti-Catholic propaganda played a role in that struggle. Much of what conventionally educated Americans think they know about Catholicism, and, by extension, Christianity, is simply wrong. Myths about Christianity are used to warp discussion of Islam.

Here's an example. Suppose you criticize gender apartheid in Islam. An Islam-apologist hits back with "common knowledge" about misogyny in the Catholic Church.

Everybody knows that the witch craze of the Middle Ages was promulgated by the all-powerful, misogynist Catholic male clergy against goddess-worshipping healing women, nine million of whom died before secularization stopped the slaughter. You can learn this history in The Burning Times a documentary funded by a Western government. You can learn this history from bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich, or NPR journalist Margot Adler.

Here's the problem. Every "fact" in the above sentence is false. The witch craze took place during the Early Modern Period and the Enlightenment, after the Catholic Church lost much of its authority. During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church adamantly condemned witch hunting. Accusers were often women themselves, and lay women insisted that clerics join in. Victims were not healers and they didn't worship the goddess; they were simply poor women past the age of fertility during the hungry times of the wars of the Reformation, the Little Ice Age, chaotic periods of confused authority, and skyrocketing food prices. Neither secularization nor science stopped the craze. It stopped largely because jurists stopped believing that they could prove accusations in a trial. Not nine million, but between forty and sixty thousand people were killed, over the course of two hundred years. Enlightened, anti-Christian, Revolutionary France managed to murder that many people in the eleven months of the Reign of Terror. Two Catholic priests – Friedrich Spee and Alonso de Salazar Frías – and believe it or not, the Spanish Inquisition – were key in stopping the witch craze.  

Prominent atheists Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer are both PhDs and highly respected public intellectuals. Both Pinker and Shermer champion truth, not convenient propaganda, above all. Both Pinker's 2012 The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined and Shermer's 2015 The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People tell the same just-so story about a Catholic priest, Friedrich Spee, who was an eager participant in witch trials until an enlightened secular ruler stopped him and changed history.

There's a problem with this anecdote. It is extravagantly false. There is not a shred of evidence to support it; Spee's biographer, Ronald Modras, condemns it. In fact Father Friedrich Spee was a courageous hero who put his own life in danger by taking a stance against the witch craze. He did so because of his Catholic faith. His book, Cautio Criminalis, helped end witch trials and torture used to extract confessions.

The Catholic Church really wasn't the force behind the witch craze. Understanding of the Inquisition needs to be completely revised. The Crusades, too, have been misunderstood, and need to be reexamined.

Bernard Lewis has warned against the uncritical dissemination of convenient myths. In his 2001 book, Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East, Lewis wrote,

"The broad outlines of the story, in the simplified and dramatized form in which great historic events so often reach the popular imagination, were well defined. The Jew has flourished in Muslim Spain, had been driven from Christian Spain, and has found a refuge in Muslim Turkey. The reality was of course more complex, less idyllic, less one-sided. There had been times of persecution under the Muslims and times of prosperity under Christian rule in Spain – and many Christian states … had given shelter to the Spanish Jewish refugees … the golden age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam. The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians – and taken up by Muslims in our own time as a reproach to Jews."

Mark R. Cohen echoes Lewis' warning. "The Jewish-Islamic interfaith utopia" "a golden age of toleration, of political achievement, and of remarkably integrated cultural efflorescence" is a "myth invented by nineteenth-century European Jewish intellectuals frustrated by the tortuously slow progress of their own integration into gentile society." It was the companion to another myth, in "which Jewish life in medieval Christian Europe was one long chain of suffering."

The sloppy, popular insistence that Nazism = Christianity is one of the most depressing examples of smart people repeating empty myths for political reasons. In 2009, British celebrity Stephen Fry suggested that Polish Catholics were responsible for Auschwitz. The otherwise respectable Bernard Lewis writes in his Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice, "There is nothing in Islamic history to parallel … the Nazi Holocaust."

One wishes that humanity had produced only one genocidal monster like Hitler. Tamerlane (1370–1405), "The Sword of Islam," killed a larger percentage of the world's population than that killed by Hitler or Stalin. He was famous for his signature pyramids of human heads. In his jihad against Hindus, he slaughtered a hundred thousand captive Indians. He buried four thousand Armenian Christians alive. He massacred Assyrian Christians; in the twentieth century, their descendants would be massacred by Muslims in the Assyrian Genocide, an event related to the Armenian Genocide. Historian Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava reports that Tamerlane left "pestilence caused by the pollution of the air and water by thousands of uncared-for dead bodies … for two months not a bird moved wing in Delhi."

Historian Rene Grousset reports that Tamerlane repeatedly cited Islam as his inspiration. "It is to the Koran to which he continually appeals." In the Malfuzat-i-Timuri, Tamerlane is quoted as saying that he opened the Koran at random to seek guidance and he found 66:9. While vanishingly few parents name their baby "Hitler," Muslim parents today – including Zubeidat Tsarnaev – name their children after this murderous monster. There are heroic statues of Tamerlane in Muslim countries; see here and here.

One of the books Stan recommended is Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History, by James Carroll, a former Catholic priest. Carroll misleads readers about the deaths of Catholic Poles under Nazism. He does so because he wants to emphasize how rotten Catholics have been to Jews. That Nazis murdered and tortured Polish Catholics doesn't fit neatly into Carroll's narrative. Carroll reports that 150 Catholic Poles died at Auschwitz. In fact, c. 140,000 Poles were imprisoned in Auschwitz, of whom half were killed. 

Critics of Christianity desperately want Nazism to be Christianity, or to be Christianity's spawn. As real historians know, Nazism's goal was to eradicate Christianity. In their own documents, Nazis cite neo-paganism, nationalism, and scientism as inspirations. In speeches justifying the shooting of "thousands of leading Poles" and the enslavement and mass murder of Czechs and Russians, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler did not cite Christianity as inspiration. He cited nationalism and science. He and his men were wiping out "bacteria." Christianity, to Himmler, was "the greatest of plagues."

Top Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg hated Christianity. He championed – wait for it – the very heretics Stan also championed – the Albigensians. Albigensians, Rosenberg wrote, "moved me deeply." Their "will and character … [were] essentially West Gothic … They rejected the Old Testament, avoided the use of any and all Jewish names … even the name of Mary. The crucifix to them appeared an unworthy symbol."

Consider: every sadistic, dehumanizing crime – short of genocide – that Nazis committed against Jews, they also committed against largely Catholic Romani, aka Gypsies, and Catholic Poles. Auschwitz was built for, and for the first 18 months of its existence inhabited by, Poles. Poles were mowed down by Einsatzgruppen. Rudolf Spanner manufactured soap from Polish corpses. Poles were subjected to medical experimentation. Polish priests were singled out for mass murder. Dachau was the "largest monastery in Germany." Even as Nazis were losing World War II, they committed the systematic destruction of Warsaw, as part of a cultural genocide. Zyklon B was first used to mass murder Soviet POWs. Handicapped Germans, not Jews, were the first and last victims of Nazi mass murder. Of Poles, Hitler stated, "I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language."

Mentioning what the Nazis did to the Poles, to the Gypsies, to the handicapped and to Soviet POWs is not to diminish the unique Holocaust of the Jews. I mention this horrific record to emphasize why the popular misconception of "Nazism = Christianity" or "Christianity produced Hitler" "does not withstand examination.

Finally, it must be mentioned, that it was largely Christians, including my father, who saw heavy combat in World War II, who defeated Hitler, de-Nazified Germany, and utterly revile Nazism.

In September, 2016, Richard Weikart will publish Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich. Weikart, author of Hitler's Ethic, will take on the popular misconception that Hitler was a Christian, or was inspired by Christian ideas.

Be aware of events outside of Western Europe and North America.

Stan insisted that Islam was tolerant when Christianity was not. Stan specified the years between 1000 and 1599. To support this generalization, Stan cited Spain.  

During the period Stan specified, Islam was driving into all but extinction the Zoroastrians of Persia. Citing ancient accounts, Fariborz Rahnamoon claims that Arab invaders festooned 24 miles of road with the bodies of hanging Persians. Arabs ran mills with the blood of slaughtered Zoroastrians. Zoroastrian scholars were murdered and libraries burned. Sultan Husayn (1668-1726) ordered the forced conversion of Zoroastrians; he slaughtered those who did not accept Islam. An English traveler's account describes the plight of the few surviving Zoroastrians in 1818: "They have nowhere to look for help and know no place to go where they would be free. They have made the desert their home and live with all the hardship that comes with it, just to preserve their religion in their ancient country. During the onslaught of conversion to Islam, some had taken to the mountain and others had fled to the bordering lands of India." The world's tiny remaining population of Zoroastrians live in India today.

During Islam's allegedly tolerant medieval period, Islam was persecuting the Christians of Egypt. In Cairo, in 1343, Muslims accused Christians of being arsonists. Christians "were seized in the street, burned or slaughtered by the mob as it left the mosques. Anti-Christian violence raged in the main towns. To enable the Christians to go out into the streets, Jews would sometimes lend them their distinctive yellow turban," writes Bat Ye'or.

Historian Philip Jenkins writes that in 1354, "Mobs demanded that Christians and Jews recite the Muslim profession of faith upon threat of being burned alive." Jenkins quotes a contemporary account by Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi:

"Many reports came from both Upper and Lower Egypt of Copts being converted to Islam, frequenting mosques and memorizing the Quran … In all the provinces of Egypt, both north and south, no church remained that had not been razed; on many of those sites, mosques were constructed. For when the Christians' affliction grew great and their incomes small, they decided to embrace Islam. Thus Islam spread among the Christians of Egypt and in the town of Qalyub alone 450 persons were converted to Islam in a single day … this was a momentous event in Egyptian history."

More on Islam's "tolerant" medieval period. In Jerusalem, in 1009 AD, Islam razed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, site of Jesus' burial and resurrection. In Egypt, in 1193, Al-Malik Al-Aziz Osman bin Salahadin Yusuf attempted to tear down the pyramids.

Also during Islam's "tolerant" period: Islam was savaging the Balkans, laying seeds for killing and hatred that would last for hundreds of years. Islam was taking millions of Poles and other Slavs slaves. The Islamic Slave Trade was dwarfing the Atlantic Slave Trade. And the Islamic Conquest of India would inspire a profoundly tragic quote from historian Will Durant, a man who had confronted much human misery:

"The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within." All this and more would take place during a period that Stan called a period of Islamic "tolerance."

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete


  1. Anti-Semitism predated both Islam and Christianity. In fact, I have just reviewed a fascinating work, on the history of anti-Semitism, written by a French Jew in 1894.

    The author is especially thorough in analyzing the anti-Semitism that flourished in pre-Christian Antiquity.

    To see my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.

  2. This was a great article. Being aware of history outside of the West is very important, especially today. The politics surrounding discussions of Islam is soaked in White guilt and knowledge about history outside of the West makes it easier argue against the West bashing narrative. The history of the world is, among other things, a testament to human violence that makes no one look good.

    On a related note, in the comment section underneath your article on Jihadwatch an individual took exception to something you wrote and went into apologia and called what you wrote as excusing Antisemitism by Christian. The comment was by mgoldberg. The user seemed to be ignoring that early Christianity was persecuted by both the Romans and the Jews and that Paul himself was a persecutor before his experience on the way to Damascus.

    Chris Helinsky


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