Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Nabuchodonosor, Jun 2, 2007.

  1. "Why then do you call him a prophet and a messenger of God, who was but a voluptuary, defiled to the very core, a brigand, a profligate, a murderer and a robber? Tell me, pray, what do you mean by prophecy and by apostle? God knows you would not be able to tell had you not been taught by the Christian!" But for its greater eloquence this late Byzantine polemic by Bartholomew of Edessa differs little from today's bile spat out against the prophet Muhammad and Muslims in general by the tabloid press in support of a wider political agenda. In Norway, a little further north from Denmark, where similar polemic was recently directed in pictorial form against the prophet in series of cartoons, a Muslim historian, Dr Nasir Khan, has given us a very useful tool in understanding the mindset of the West when it comes to Muslims and their religion. His book "Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms" is a historical survey of centuries of distorted encounters between Christians and Muslims.

    Khan does not hide his own leanings, and to claim complete neutrality would imply a level of dishonesty even for a historian, but he desists from polemicising himself, quoting instead extensively from original sources. If his book causes embarrassment for Western readers it is simply because their history is embarrassing and to be reminded of it may prove painful. For example, Fulcher of Chartres gives the following eye witness account of the Crusades at the end of the 11th century: "This may seem strange to you. Our squires and footmen … split open the bellies of those they had just slain in order to extract from the intestines the gold coins which the Saracens had gulped down their loathsome throats while alive … With drawn swords our men ran through the city not sparing anyone, even those begging for mercy … They entered the houses of the citizens, seizing whatever they found in them … whoever first entered a house, whether he was rich or poor … was to occupy and own the house or palace and whatever he found in it as if it were entirely his own … in this way many poor people became very wealthy."

    Khan does not sensationalise. As a serious historian he tries to offer explanations for how the negative stereotypes of the other came about, including probing into the social and economic causes. He starts his survey by giving a background to the development of early Christianity and its numerous, competing, sects. When Islam started to spread as a new faith from Arabia, Christians mainly viewed it as just another heresy from the officially accepted dogma, like Gnosticism, Manichaeism, or Nestorianism. Until Islam became viewed as more of a serious political threat their efforts against their own co-religionists with differing interpretations of what it meant to be Christian were much more pronounced than those aimed at Islam of which they knew little. However, Islam did not simply collapse and go away as predicted, and with taking Constantinople and pushing Christendom out of much of its previous territory became a serious contender. It was at this time, between the 12th and 14th centuries, that the misrepresentative image of Islam was created which still dominates the European psyche today. At the same time, due to the status afforded to Christians in the Qur'an as people of the book, the Ottoman rulers tolerated the practice of Christianity amongst themselves to a degree that at times emboldened their Christian subjects to openly challenge them and test the waters.

    A similar arrogance was displayed in the 9th century by the movement of the martyrs of Cordoba who purposefully tried to blaspheme against the prophet in order to be punished and put to death. Their aim in instigating conflict arose from the deep worry that many Christians were drawn to Islam and its culture and sciences in spite of the bigoted image their church elders painted of it. Paul Alvarus, for example, observes at the time: "My fellow Christians delight in the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the works of Mohammedan theologians and philosophers, not in order to refute them, but to acquire a correct and elegant Arabic style. Where today can a layman be found who reads the Latin Commentaries on Holy Scriptures? Who is there that studies the Gospels, the Prophets, and the Apostles?" Again, this observation of more than a thousand years ago has surprisingly modern undertones in the fear of losing one's own heritage to a more attractive, albeit misguided, culture.

    Khan quotes Grunebaum summing up the Christian approach as follows: "When the Christian looked upon Islam, his primary task was not to study this phenomenon of an alien faith that seemed both akin to and apart from his own but rather to explain the unexplainable, to wit, the artful machinations by which Mohammed had won over his people to the acceptance of his absurd confabulations. There is always, even in the most aggressive and contemptuous discussions of Islam, an element of apologetic self-defence in the utterances of the Christian writers, almost a touch of the propaganda for the home front. It is as if only the most derogatory presentation of the despicable but powerful enemy could allay the suspicion that his case be stronger than it was wise to admit." And he cites Southern describing their wilful ignorance of the religion of Islam: "They were ignorant of Islam, not because they were far removed from it like the Carolingian scholars, but for the contrary reason that they were in the middle of it. If they saw and understood little of what went on round them, and if they knew nothing of Islam as a religion, it was because they wished to know nothing … They were fleeing from Islam: it is not likely that they would turn to Islam to understand what they were fleeing from."

    Whilst criticising Islam for alleged loose sexual morals European capitals were awash with debauchery; whilst attacking Islam for its alleged warlike nature in contradiction to the peaceful teachings of Jesus, Christian rulers made ready for war against Islam. The reconquista was the beginning of the Christian counter attack. The conquering Normans took Sicily and Malta back from the Muslims and the Spanish Catholics prepared for pushing the Muslims out of the Iberian peninsula. Meanwhile there were internal conflicts both in Europe and in the Muslim world. The Seljuk Turks pushed from the East into Byzantine and in their advance made inroads into the Christian Levante, eventually capturing Jerusalem. The Berbers of North Africa kept the Spanish attempts in check for some two centuries, but eventually had to recede back to Africa due to internal problems of dissension. When the Spaniards took full control under Isabella they meted out merciless retribution to the infidels, the Jews and the Muslims. Those who escaped the decimation fled to North Africa and Turkey, which is how the famous Jewish city of Thessalonica became established within the Ottoman realm. The papacy in Rome started to press for the crusades with the purported objective of recapturing Jerusalem, but once stripped of the propagandistic justification, the real aims were mainly economic and political. When the first wave of Crusaders moved eastwards they were just as good at plundering the towns and villages of their own co-religionist allies as they were at destroying Muslim towns and villages in their path. Maybe today, we would call it "friendly fire". The cruelty and barbarism of the crusaders contributed to a shift in the Muslim perception of Christianity and the goodwill previously afforded to the people of the scripture started to evaporate and be replaced by an enemy image.

  2. jem


    Why do some of the preachers of Islam preach murder, killing and hate. Why does Saudi export schools for hate.

    How can a religion of peace promote suicide bombings.

    How can a civilized country not fear Islam.

    Change the message and we will change our views.
  3. June 2, 2007

    "Three people were arrested and one other was being sought Saturday in connection to a plot to blow up jet-fuel lines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.

    Four people have been charged. Three suspects are in custody: Russell Defreitas, Kareem Ibrihim and Abdul Kadir. Another suspect, Abdul Nur is still at large."

    Do you want to guess what religion Kareem Ibrihim, Abdul Kadir and Abdul Nur belong to? I'll give you a hint, it's the religion of peace.
  4. When they attack, they do it for a reason. The United States is currently occupying 2 of their countries. So naturally, they want to fight back by hurting the US economy and/or tourism industry. Of course, that isn't justifiable, but neither is the US killing/poisening of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Russell Defreitas doesn't sound Islamic to me, perhaps Jewish? Defreitas does show up in the Jewish surname database.
  5. And when the rest of the world has a pretty lousy perception of Islam, they also do it for a reason, in fact exactly for this reason - violence, terrorism, medieval fanatism and cruelty.

    LOL, you're insane:

    This courtroom sketch shows Russell Defreitas, at his arraignment at federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Saturday, June 2, 2007.
  6. "And when the rest of the world has a pretty lousy perception of Islam, they also do it for a reason, in fact exactly for this reason - violence, terrorism, medieval fanatism and cruelty."

    Generalization fallacy, almost too obvious as to be necessary to illustrate.

    The overwhelming majority of American Muslims are not perceived as violent, terrorists, or medieval fanatics, therefore your above statement is patently false.

    Funny, watching a Zionist like yourself, Zionists of course are a fundamentalist movement based group of primarily Jews (yes, there are Zionist Christians) condemn an entire religion on the basis of the actions of a subset of the group of all the members.

    It would be analogous to saying all Jews are _______, rather than saying that Zionists violent actions are _______.

    I doubt you can understand the difference, as in your black and white thinking, you come off as only "real" Jews are Zionsists---those Jews who oppose Zionism are crazy, etc.

    If you want to condemn the "actions" of radical fundamental Muslims, that is quite different than what you are doing.

    I equally condemn the actions of violence of radical fundamentalist Muslims, as I condemn the violence of radical fundamentalist Zionsists, etc.

    Only an idiot and a racist and/or religious and/or ethnic bigot cannot help themselves from displaying the type of racist stupidity that you do consistently surrounding these topics...

    Simply amazing watching a group that was oppressed in their history, the victim of bigotry and racism, attack another group in a similar fashion.

    I remember a time when the majority of Jews (at least in America) were liberals, marching for civil rights of all, speaking out against racism , and bigotry of a religious and ethnic nature.

    Now the infiltration of neocon/Zionists have polluted the mind of many Americans not to see that the hatred expressed worldwide is not solely the product of any particular religion or ethnic group...

  7. And when it comes to promoting hate against Islam, we could only count on dddooo, a hard core zionist, to promote that. A zionist who has everything to gain from promoting such hatered. After all, it only benefit him and his zionist state!

    Promote an endless cycle of hate, pin Christians and Muslims against each other and watch them kill each other.

    Such killing and hatered will devastate any opposition to his state's colonization and create an army of Christians willing and brainwashed enough to become his foot soldiers against his perceived enemy in whatever future war he directs them to.

    We saw amble examples to back this argument. From Pearl' to Frum to Pipes to Gafney to the rest of the zionists who orchestrated the war against Iraq only to turn around and maliciously stab the same administration in the back after they exhausted all of its usefulness.

    It is such a shame to watch zionists who used the prosecution and identical campaign of dehumanization against Jews to promote their Fascist ideology, using the same exact means used against the people they claim to defend.

    By the way, Abd Alnur is a shia name. So are we now witnessing a united front between shias and Sunnies or has such a fact skipped the minds of the people who have an interest in promoting such fear and paranoia.
  8. That is why a zionist like dddooo attacked these Jews!

    Anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews brutally attacked

  9. In normal circumstances, Islam is just as violent as every other religion. The US has been meddling in their affairs for decades; Deploying troops all over the Middle-East, bombing the hell out of a nation for invading an artificial state created by the British, boycotting Iran for expulsing the pro-American Shah, supporting dictatorial pro-Israel regimes while attempting to bring "Democracy" to the others, aiding the Algerian army to topple an elected Islamist government, etc. All of this just to support a jingoistic and immoral state called Israel.

    All of this got the avarage Arabic Muslim pretty angry, and I can't blame them. You have to look at it rationally, without vilifying an enemy before you're sure that it's an enemy. That sorry error has been made too much in the past and has led to US involvement in almost every conflict of the 20th century, causing destruction, hatred and degeneracy all over the world. Just think about the amount of wars that could have been prevented had the US played a pacifist rather than a bellicose role in the First World War.

    The War against Terror is a nonsensical hoax not only because it's impossible to fight an abstract idea, but also because there wouldn't be any terrorism is not for US interverence in their affairs. The War on Terrror, which is really a war on Islam, didn't make the US a safer place and we'll witness that if the US decides to attack Iran.

    If you look at the (so-called) terrorist attacks after 911, you'll see that the "terrorists" only targetted nations that were occupying Afghanistan and/or Iraq, why do you think that was the case?
  10. jem


    Bali was in 2002 and 2005?
    I thought those attacks had something to do with Australia.
    #10     Jun 3, 2007