History can be used as a weapon. There are a lot of people in my YouTube comments, and in the US at large, who have some weird ideas about Islam. The things they know aren’t necessarily wrong, but the conclusions they draw are. This is a problem that comes up again and again in contemporary political discussion. The more context you have, the more you realize that individual facts don’t tell you as much as you think they do. This video, and the next couple I will be producing, aim to provide the context necessary to better understand the darker aspects of world history, and Islamic history in particular.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. Ever since I started the Everybody’s Lying About Islam Series people have been trying to teach me history. According to a lot of people in the comments, Christians and Muslims have been locked in a battle that’s been going on for centuries. The Koran is a 1400 year old recipe for world domination and the history of Islam is one of ceaseless conquest and murder. Normally I ignore all this nonsense. The idea that a 1400 year old text is more important to extremism than 70 years of US policy and something like a trillion Saudi dollars strikes me as transparently silly.
Beyond that, religion isn’t really as old as we’re told it is. Sure, most world religions have books and stuff that go back hundreds or even thousands of years. But, no matter what they tell us in the Churches, Mosques, and Temples, the lived experience of any religion doesn’t really go back anywhere near that far. The fact that most religious people can read now, is a very, very new thing, which has changed religion as completely as it has changed every other aspect of human life.
So generally speaking I think drawing lessons from religious history going back more than a century or two is just dumb. But I do get a lot of comments on it. So in the spirit of the Season, I thought it might be worthwhile to close out the year by delving into a bit of ancient religious history.
Commenters love to point me to Islam’s history of conquest. They point out that in a few brief decades, Muhammad and his successors essentially conquered the world. They invaded every area they could that didn’t acknowledge the supremacy of Islam, and they killed a lot of people doing it. My commenters argue that this was a terrible, evil thing to do. And they are absolutely right about that.
But what they fail to acknowledge is that all of human history prior to 1945 or so is a ceaseless history of people doing terrible, evil things to each other. I’m amazed by how ignorant most of these anti-Islam amateur historians are. They seem to assume people 1,000 or even 100 years ago had the same attitude towards conquest that we do today. They really didn’t. It’s disgusting, but up until World War One, most of the people in charge thought conquering stuff was great.
In the 600s and 700s the first Islamic Empire carried out what what was probably the 3rd or 4th most impressive world conquest of all time. The resulting Empire was toast by the year 750. Many powerful Islamic states have existed since, but the Ottomans from the 1300s through the 1500s were the only group to take much more land for Islam by conquest. Muslims have spent A LOT more time fighting each other than they have anybody else. Muslim conquerors had a brief moment leading the world in the evil conquest sweepstakes, but they have had a lot of competition.
I’d also put the Romans and the Mongols in the top 4, but the other three are just plain blown out of the water by the Europeans. From the 1500s, but really getting going in the 1700s to 1945 or so European Christians, and they definitely saw themselves as Christians, savagely conquered the whole damn world. Muhammad’s successors made it to three continents, the competing Christian empires rampaged through all seven. Comparing the evils of history is a fundamentally very stupid game, but I assure you: Europe’s Christians win hands down.
History is a terrible place. Pretending that any one religion has a monopoly on evil or conquest is a great way to look foolish. Focusing on the basics like this may seem silly, but these misconceptions have a lot to do with why we still see Muslims as bad guys in the US, despite the fact that we’ve spent the past 15 years destroying their countries. Next up we’ll deal with one of the greatest “crimes” my commenters claim Islam has ever committed, The Fall of Constantinople
Thanks for watching, please subscribe, and if you want a free essay, on a completely different topic, I suggest you sign up for my email newsletter.