Other Religions

Primer on Islam's Conquest

by Mark Bonocore

Mohammed preached a "violent evangelization" ever since he himself led the forces of the Arab city of Medina against his home town of Mecca, which had previously opposed him. It is said that Islam preaches "religious tolerance." That is not so. What it preaches is tolerance for other monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism) ONCE the adherents to these faiths are under Islamic rule. Before that time, the Islamic theology of the "world of war" applies. The Koran divides the world into two camps: The "world of Islam" (that is, the world that is in "submission' ["islam"] to Allah and the teachings of Mohammed) and the "world of war" - that is, those parts of the world (esp. the Christian West) that have not yet been brought under Islamic dominion. As long as one is in the "world of war" (as opposed to the "world of Islam"), a Muslim is free to wage war against him, kill him, and take his possessions - all with God's blessing. And, if this Muslim should die while fighting in the "world of war" (that is, in the process of trying to extend the "world of Islam"), then he will go immediately to Paradise and spend all eternity having sexual orgasms with 70 black-eyed virgins.

Those are "the rules." And, again, it is only once a Jew, or Christian, or Zoroastrian has been conquered and is under Muslim authority that their "imperfect" Islamic traditions are tolerated - and barely tolerated at that. This was not so much a religious teaching, as it was shrewd politics. For, when Islam first extended its control over Zoroastrian Persia and over Christian Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, and N. Africa, the overwhelming majority of their subjects were non-Muslims. Thus, of course, their religions were "tolerated," because the first Muslims were not in a position to do otherwise.

In other words, they needed to consolidate their hold on these regions, and the only way to do that was to be nice (or apparently nice) to the native majority. Once their hold was consolidated, however, the rights and privileges of Christians (and Zoroastrians in Persia) were slowly taken away. In this, the Muslims essentially made it so uncomfortable to live as a non-Muslim, that the natives eventually saw the "wisdom" of converting. Christians were taxed, Muslims were not. Christians had to do all of the unsavory jobs, while Muslims were above such things. Essentially, non-Muslims were marginalized, second-class (or third-class) members of the society with very few rights of their own. And, even today, in Islamic countries, it is unlawful for Christians to worship openly (or even to ring church bells), and if someone converts to Christianity, they are (under Islamic law) to be executed. This is not "religious tolerance" in any sense of the word.

Moreover, Muslims believed in polygamy. Thus, whenever possible, they would take Christian wives. However, their offspring was not permitted to be Christian; and in this way they "out bred" the Christian majority, repopulating the regions with good Muslims. When Mohammed died (A.D. 633), most of the Arabian pennisula was under Islamic control. This was done in large part by military conquest, and by diplomacy backed up by military power. His successors (the first Caliphs), following his teaching to spread the religion by the sword (that is, to impose the "world of Islam" upon the "world of war"), set out to conquer their Zoroastrian and Christian neighbors --that is, the Persian and the Byzantine Empires, respectively. At this time, the Persians and the Byzantines had been fighting bitterly against each other for over a generation and had, essentially, exhausted themselves and their military and financial resources. Islam took advantage of this. They first swept up into Mesopotamia and Persia and crippled the Persian empire. By 636, they had conquered Damascus and separated Syria from the Christian Byzantine Empire. Soon after, in 637, they conquered Palestine and took Jerusalem away from the Christians. By 640, they had captured Alexandria and made Egypt too into an Islamic state, imposing their laws and traditions on these enormous native Christian populations. So, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were no longer part of the Christian Roman Empire.

Then, in 658, the Christians caught a little break because Islam erupted into civil war over who should succeed to the Caliphate. The two contenders were the Sunnis and the Shiites, and Islam was divided from this point on.

Between A.D. 670 and 698, the Sunni Muslims wrestled N. Africa from the Byzantines and made it all the way to the straights of Gibraltar. In 711, the Muslims crossed over to Spain and conquered it, taking it away from the Visigoth Christian rulers. They continued to press their advantage and, in 732, crossed the mountains into France and tried to subdue France too. But, they were halted in their tracks by a Frankish-Romano army led by the Frankish king, Charles Martel, who defeated them at the Battle of Poitiers. I say "Frankish-Romano" because the Franks were forced to recruit the native Roman peasants as field army to deal with the Muslim host. This stops the Muslims advance in the extreme West.

At the same time, another Arab army tried to capture Constantinople, but they are thwarted by the Byzantine invention known as "Greek fire," which burns the ships of their navy and forces them to retreat.

So, by the mid-700's, the Muslims had conquered the entire Persian Empire, and had taken all of the Mediterranean regions of the Roman Empire, with the exception of Italy and Gaul in the West and Greece, the Balkans, and western Anatolia in the East.

Then, in the early 800's, the north African Muslims wrestled Sicily away from the Byzantines and began to advance up the Italian pennisula. At this point, Rome itself was seriously threatened; and in the reign of Pope John VIII (872-82), they sacked the Roman suburbs and succeeded in burning St. John Lateran cathedral, before they were driven off and eventually paid to go away.

At this point, the Arab rulers of Islam began to become more worldly and politically savvy (that is, corrupt). They were no longer really interested in subduing the "world of war" so much as consolidating all the lands that they already held. For, they held everything that was of any real material value. Italy and Northern Europe were really back-water regions with nothing great to offer, and Constantinople was too difficult to conquer. So, from about 900 to the 1040's, Islam gave it a rest.

However, meanwhile, something happened in Islam itself. The old Arab aristocracy was slowly giving way to their Turkish generals. The Turks were far more dynamic and warlike than the Arabs, and (as the Germans viewed the Romans) they considered the Arabs to be corrupt sissy-boys who did not deserve to rule.

Thus, by A.D. 1000, the Turks had taken over and revived the old Islamic desire to subdue the "world of war." They conquered what few Byzantine provinces remained in Eastern Anatolia, then set their eyes on Christian Armenia. The King of Armenia asked the Byzantine Emperor for help, and the Byzantine Emperor led an immense army into Armenia to crush the Turks once and for all. Only, that's not what happened. At the battle of Manzikert in 1047, the Byzantine army was slaughtered and the emperor was killed. Now everything that remained of the Eastern Christian empire (even Constantinople itself) was threatened. It was the successor of this Byzantine emperor who wrote to the Roman Pope and asked him to send Western armies to aid the Eastern Empire. The Pope who received this letter was Blessed Urban II, the Pope who called the first Crusade! And THAT'S how the Crusades came into being -- as a long-overdue response to Islamic aggression, when the Christian West really had no other choice.

So, from the 1090's until the mid-1300's, the Christians and the Turks battled over the Holy Land, with the Christian West eventually losing, not so much because the Turks were so great, but because of the Christians' own in-fighting and inability to consolidate what they conquered (or re-conquered). When the last of the Crusading forces were finally driven out of the East, the Turks pressed their advantage and captured Cyprus and western Anatolia. They then cross the Bosphorus and captured modern-day Bulgaria, surrounding Constantinople. Then, in 1453, Constantinople itself fell to the Turks and became an Islamic city. These same Turks continued to press their advantage in the West, when they were stopped by the navy of the Catholic League at the Battle of LePanto, off Greece (1571) and at the gates of Vienna, Austria in the 17th Century. With these two events, the advance of Islam was ended until our present time. For, in WWI, the Turkish Empire that was halted at LePanto and Vienna finally fell (corrupted from within). Secular Britain and France divided up the Middle East, and eventually gave freedom to the Arab natives who had been dominated by the Turks (they also, with the US and UN gave Palestine to the Jews). These Arab natives, who were (and still are) poor peasants for the most part, yet who still remember their "glorious" Islamic past, now want to resurrect their jihad against the "world of war." It is from this desire that Wahhabi Islam (the beliefs of the terrorists) comes. It is the same old godless cult that set its eyes on the Christian West 1400 years ago.

Mark Bonocore
The Catholic Legate
October 1, 2006