Joseph Cotto, 6/14/2016 [Archive]

The Long History of Militant Islam

By Joseph Cotto

"The ambassador answered us that...it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."

Thomas Jefferson wrote that in 1786, while he was an envoy dealing with North African Islamists who were attacking American ships, imprisoning their passengers, stealing cargo and extorting Capitol Hill. Jefferson, a genius who built so diverse a career that politics were merely one aspect of it, never reached an agreeable diplomatic solution.

The crisis dragged on long after his appointment ended. As chief executive, he would be forced to declare war against his old foes.

Fast forward a bit.

"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force," the man who had just wrapped up his presidency wrote.

Published in the American Annual Register's 1830 edition, originally without attribution, these words have come to be some of John Quincy Adams's most quoted. The prolifically liberal statesman and barrister studied cultures across the world with gusto. His scholarship fostered a comprehensive understanding of America's role in the world; not only where she came from and stood, but where her future might lead.

Adams later mentioned that "the natural hatred of the Mussulmen towards the infidels, is in just accordance with the precepts of the Koran. The document does not attempt to disguise it, nor even pretend that the enmity of those whom it styles the infidels, is any other than the necessary consequence of the hatred borne by the Mussulmen to them...The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart.

"It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomination of Christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknowledge its obligations ; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of Christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them."

Fast forward again — now to the turn-of-the-century, literally an ocean away.

"Several generations have elapsed since the nations of the West have drawn the sword in religious controversy, and the evil memories of the gloomy past have soon faded in the strong, clear light of Rationalism and human sympathy," the young British Army officer wrote in his war memoirs.

At this point, he was far from an internationally-recognized figure. Over the next half-century, though, the world would know Winston Churchill without hesitation.

He went on to mention that "the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword....In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside....All rational considerations are forgotten....While the more generous spirits among the tribesmen become convulsed in an ecstasy of religious bloodthirstiness, poorer and more material souls derive additional impulses from the influence of others, the hopes of plunder and the joy of fighting. Thus whole nations are roused to arms.

"Thus the Turks repel their enemies, the Arabs of the Soudan break the British squares, and the rising on the Indian frontier spreads far and wide. In each case civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction."

More than anything else, it seems the massacre in Orlando is yet another atrocity in an ages-old war. Speaking honestly, what else is there to say?

——-

Copyright 2016 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

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