A Century Before Donald Trump, Churchill Warned ‘No Stronger Retrograde Force Exists in the World’ Than Islam
A century before GOP front runner Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, Winston Churchill diagnosed the dangers of radical Islam.
In September 1898, the 23-year-old Churchill was one of the officers leading the 21st Lancers cavalry charge that secured a British victory over 19th century Islamic terrorists at the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan.
Some 13 years earlier Muhammad Ahmad, “the Mahdi of Allah,” had established the first modern Islamic caliphate governed by sharia law when he beheaded British General George Gordon after his dervish jihadi army captured Khartoum. Only superior British military power stopped Ahmad’s successor, Ibn Muhammad, from spreading the caliphate throughout Africa, and elsewhere.
Writing in The River War, his account of the British retaking of Sudan, published in 1899, Churchill noted the threat to Western Civilization radical Islam poses:
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die: but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
Islam, Churchill wrote, “is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog.”
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedanism law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property–either as a child, a wife, or a concubine — must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
Writing earlier in the River War, the conduct of the Mahdi who led this modern caliphate was beneath contempt, in Churchill’s view:
After the fall of Khartoum and the retreat of the British armies the Mahdi became the absolute master of the Soudan. Whatever pleasures he desired he could command, and, following the example of the founder of the Mohammedan faith, he indulged in what would seem to Western minds gross excesses. He established an extensive harem for his own peculiar use, and immured therein the fairest captives of the war.
In his first book, a description of British battles in Afghanistan, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, an Episode of Frontier War, published a year earlier in 1898, Churchill explained how local tribesmen were mesmerized by the call of Islam:
The Mullah will raise his voice and remind them of other days when the sons of the prophet drove the infidel from the plains of India, and ruled at Delhi, as wide an Empire as the Kafir holds to-day: when the true religion strode proudly through the earth and scorned to lie hidden and neglected among the hills: when mighty princes ruled in Bagdad, and all men knew that there was one God, and Mahomet was His prophet. And the young men hearing these things will grip their Martinis, and pray to Allah, that one day He will bring some Sahib (prince) – best prize of all – across their line of sight at seven hundred yards so that, at least, they may strike a blow for insulted and threatened Islam.
Churchill compared Islam unfavorably to Christianity:
Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination. But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.
In the same book, Churchill also offered this on Islam:
That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword—the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men—stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display. A code of honour not less punctilious that that of old Spain is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica.
Some current academics seek to “rehabilitate” Churchill as not firmly aware of the threat to constitutional liberty inherent in Islam, but careful students of Churchill, whose leadership saved England from Hitler in World War II, are having none of it.
Steven Hayward at Powerline, for instance, recently exploded the myth that “Winston Churchill quietly flirted with Islam — to the point that relatives feared he might convert.” The myth was based on a recently discovered 1907 letter sent to him by his future sister-in-law in which she wrote ““Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”
As Hayward wrote:
This is complete and utter nonsense. Let’s go in reverse: why might Churchill wish to be a pasha? It requires only 10 seconds to grasp why a junior cabinet minister (as he was at the time)—or even a prime minister—might well think this: you don’t have to drag your cabinet colleagues along, or
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