Real history of Islam and the West

Category: Life & Society Topics: Crusades, History, Islam

On the eve of the second Christian millennium, the Crusaders massacred some thirty thousand Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, turning the thriving Islamic holy city into a stinking charnel house. For at least five months the valleys and ditches around the city were filled with putrefying corpses, which were too numerous for the small number of Crusaders who remained behind after the expedition to clear away, and a stench hung over Jerusalem, where the three religions of Abraham had been able to coexist in relative harmony under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years. This was the Muslims' first experience of the Christian West, as it pulled itself out of the dark age that had descended after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and fought its way back on the international scene. The Muslims suffered from the Crusaders, but were not long incommoded by their presence. In 1187 Saladin was able to recapture Jerusalem for Islam and though the Crusaders hung on in the Near East for another century, they seemed an unimportant passing episode in the long Islamic history of the region. Most of the inhabitants of Islamdon were entirely unaffected by the Crusades and remained uninterested in western Europe, which, despite its dramatic cultural advance during the crusading period, still lagged behind the Muslim world.

Europeans did not forget the Crusades, however, nor could they ignore the Dar al -Islam, which, as the years went by, seemed to rule the entire globe. Ever since the Crusades, the people of Western Christendom developed a stereotypical and distorted image of Islam, which, they regarded as the enemy of decent civilization. The prejudice became entwined with European fantasies about Jews, the other victims of the Crusaders, and often reflected buried worry about the conduct of Christians. It was, for example, during the Crusades, when it was Christians who had instigated a series of brutal holy wars against the Muslim world, that Islam was described by the learned scholar-monks of Europe as an inherently violent and intolerant faith, which had only been able to establish itself by the sword. The myth of the supposed fanatical intolerance of Islam has become one of the received ideas of the West.

As the millennium drew to a close, however, some Muslims seemed to live up to this Western perception, and, for the first time, have made sacred violence a cardinal Islamic duty. These fundamentalists often call Western colonialism and post-colonial Western imperialism al-Salibiyyab: the Crusade. The colonial crusade has been less violent but its impact has been more devastating than the medieval holy wars. The powerful Muslim world has been reduced to a dependent bloc, and Muslim society has been gravely dislocated in the course of an accelerated modernization programme. All over the world, as we have seen, people in all the major faiths have reeled under the impact of Western modernity, and have produced the embattled and frequently intolerant religiosity that we call fundamentalism. As they struggle to rectify what they see as the damaging effects of modern secular culture, fundamentalists fight back and, in the process, they depart from the core values of compassion, justice and benevolence that characterize all the world faiths, including Islam. Religion, like any other human activity, is often abused, but at its best it helps human beings to cultivate a sense of the sacred inviolability of each individual, and thus to mitigate the murderous violence to which our species is tragically prone. Religion has committed atrocities in the past, but in its brief history secularism has proved that it can be just as violent. As we have seen, secular aggression and persecution have often led to a heightening of religious intolerance and hatred.

This became tragically clear in Algeria in 1992. During the religious revival of the 1970s, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) challenged the hegemony of the secular nationalist party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), which had led the revolution against French colonial rule in 1954, and had established a socialist government in the country in 1962. The Algerian revolution against France had been an inspiration to Arabs and Muslims who were also struggling to gain independence from Europe. The FLN was similar to the other secular and socialist governments in the Middle East at this time, which had relegated Islam to the private sphere, on the Western pattern. By the 1970s, however, people all over the Muslim world were becoming dissatisfied with these secularist ideologies which had not delivered what they had promised. Abbas Madani, one of the founding members of FIS, wanted to create an Islamic political ideology for the modern world; Ali ibn Hajj, the imam of a mosque in a poor neighborhood in Algiers, led a more radical wing of FIS. Slowly, FIS began to build its own mosques, without getting permission from the government; it took root in the Muslim community in France, where workers demanded places of prayer in the factories and offices, incurring the wrath of the right-wing party led by Jean-Marie Le Pen.

By the 1980s, Algeria was in the grip of an economic crisis. FLN had set the country on the path to democracy and statehood, but over the years it had become corrupt. The old garde were reluctant to attempt more democratic reforms. There had been a population explosion in Algeria; most of its thirty million inhabitants were under thirty, many were unemployed, and there was an acute housing shortage. There were riots. Frustrated with the stagnation and ineptitude of the FLN, the young wanted something new and turned to the Islamic parties. In June 1990 the FIS scored major victories in the local elections, especially in the urban areas. FIS activists were mostly young, idealistic and well educated; they were known to be honest and efficient in government, though they were dogmatic and conservative in some areas, such as their insistence upon traditional Islamic dress for women. But the FIS was not anti-Western. Leaders spoke of encouraging links with the European Union and fresh Western investment. After the electoral victories at the local level, they seemed certain to succeed in the legislative elections that were scheduled for 1992.

There was to be no Islamic government in Algeria, however. The military staged a coup, ousted the liberal FLN President Benjedid (who had promised democratic reforms), suppressed FIS, and threw its leaders into prison. Had elections been prevented in such a violent and unconstitutional manner in Iran and Pakistan, there would have been an outcry in the West Such a coup would have been seen as an example of Islam's supposedly endemic aversion to democracy and its basic incompatibility with the modern world. But because it was an Islamic government that had been thwarted by the coup, there was jubilation in the Western press. Algeria had been saved from the Islamic menace; the bars, casinos an discotheques of Algiers had been spared; and in some mysterious way, this undemocratic action had made Algeria safe for democracy. The French government threw its support behind the new hardline FLN of President Liamine Zeroual and strengthened his resolve to hold no further dialogue with FIS. Not surprisingly, the Muslim world was shocked by this fresh instance of Western double standards.

The result was tragically predictable. Pushed outside the due processes of law, outraged, and despairing of justice, the more radical members of FIS broke away to form a guerrilla organization, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and began terror campaign in the mountainous regions south of Algiers. There were massacres, in which the population of entire villages was killed. Journalists and intellectuals, secular and religious, were also targeted. It was generally assumed that the Islamists were wholly responsible for these atrocities, but gradually questions were asked which pointed to the fact that some elements in the Algerian military forces not only acquiesced but also participated in the killing to discredit the GIA. There was now a ghastly stalemate. Both FLN and FIS were torn apart by an internal feud between the pragmatists, who wanted a solution, and the hardliners, who refused to negotiate. The violence of the initial coup to stop the elections had led to an outright war between the religious and secularists. In January 1995 the Roman Catholic Church helped to organize a meeting in Rome to bring the two sides together, but Zeroual's government refused to participate. A golden opportunity had been lost. There was more Islamic terror, and a constitutional referendum banned all religious political parties.

The tragic case of Algeria must not become a paradigm for the future. Suppression and coercion had helped to push a disgruntled Muslim minority into a violence that offends every central tenet of Islam. An aggressive secularism had resulted in a religiosity that was a travesty of true faith. The incident further tarnished the notion of democracy, which the West is so anxious to promote, but which, it appeared, had limits, if the democratic process might lead to the establishment of an elected Islamic government. The people of Europe and the United States were shown to be ignorant about the various parties and groups within the Islamic world. The moderate FIS was equated with the most violent fundamentalist groups and was associated in the Western mind with the violence, illegality and anti-democratic behavior that had this time been displayed by the secularists in the FLN.

But whether the West likes it or not, the initial success of he FIS in the local elections showed that the people wanted some form of Islamic government. It passed a clear message to Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where secularist governments ad long been aware of the growing religiosity of their countries. In the middle of the twentieth century, secularism had been dominant, and Islam was thought to be irredeemably passe. Now any secularist government in the Middle East was uncomfortably aware that if there were truly democratic elections, an Islamic government might well come to power. In Egypt, for example, Islam is as popular as Nasserism was in 1950s. Islamic dress is ubiquitous and, since Mubarak's government is secularist, is clearly voluntarily assumed. Even secularist Turkey, recent polls showed that some 70 percent the population claimed to be devout, and that 20 percent prayed five times a day. People are turning to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and Palestinians are looking to Mujamah, while the PLO, which in the 1960s carried all before it, is now looking cumbersome, corrupt and out of date. In the republics of Central Asia, Muslims are rediscovering their religion after decades of Soviet oppression. People have tried the secularist ideologies, which have worked so successfully in Western countries where they are on home ground. Increasingly, Muslims want their governments to conform more closely to the Islamic norm.

The precise form that this will take is not yet clear. In Egypt it seems that a majority of Muslims would like to see the Shariah as the law of the land, whereas in Turkey only 3 percent want this. Even in Egypt, however, some of the ulama are aware that the problems of transforming the Shariah, an agrarian law code, to the very different conditions of modernity will be extreme. Rashid Rida had been aware of this as early as the 1930s. But that is not to say that it cannot be done.

It is not true that Muslims are now uniformly filled with hatred of the West. In the early stages of modernization, many leading thinkers were infatuated with European culture, and by the end of the twentieth century some of the most eminent and influential Muslim thinkers were now, reaching out to the West again. President Khatami of Iran is only one example of this trend. So is the Iranian intellectual Abdolkarim Sorush, who held important posts in Khomeini's government, and though he is often harried by the more conservative mujtahids, he strongly influences those in power. Sorush admires Khomeini, but has moved beyond him. He maintains that Iranians now have three identities: preIslamic, Islamic and Western, which they must try to reconcile. Sorush rejects the secularism of the West and believes that human beings will always need spirituality, but advises Iranians to study the modern sciences, while holding on to Shii tradition. Islam must develop its fiqh, so as to accommodate the modern industrial world, and evolve a philosophy of civil rights and an economic theory capable of holding its own in the twenty-first century.

Sunni thinkers have come to similar conclusions. Western hostility towards Islam springs from ignorance, Rashid al' Ghannouchi, the leader of the exiled Renaissance Party in Tunisia, believes. It also springs from a bad experience of Christianity, which did stifle thought and creativity. He describes himself as a "democratic Islamist" and sees no incompatibility between Islam and democracy, but he rejects the secularism of the West, because the human being cannot be so divided and fragmented. The Muslim ideal of tawhid rejects the duality of body and spirit, intellect and spirituality, men and women, morality and the economy, East and West. Muslims want modernity, but not one that has been imposed upon them by America, Britain or France. Muslims admire the efficiency and beautiful technology of the West; they are fascinated by the way a regime can be changed in the West without bloodshed. But when Muslims look at Western society, they see no light, no heart and no spirituality. They want to hold on to their own religious and moral traditions and, at the same time, to try to incorporate some of the best aspects of Western civilization. Yusuf Abdallah al-Qaradawi, a gradate of al-Azhar, and a Muslim Brother, who is currently the director of the Centre for Sunnah and Sirah at the University of Qatar, takes a similar line. He believes in moderation, and is convinced that the bigotry that has recently appeared in the Muslim world will impoverish people by depriving them of the insights and visions of other human beings. The Prophet Muhammad said that he had come to bring a "Middle Way" of religious life that shunned extremes, and Qaradawi thinks that the current extremism in some quarters of the Islamic world is alien to the Muslim spirit and will not last. Islam is a religion of peace, as the Prophet had shown when he made an unpopular treaty with the Quraysh at Hudaybiyyah, a feat which the Quran calls "a great victory." The West, he insists, must learn to recognize the Muslims' right to live their religion and, if they choose, to incorporate the Islamic ideal in their polity. They have to appreciate that there is more than one way of life. Variety benefits the whole world. God gave human beings the right and ability to choose, and some may, opt for a religious way of life - including an Islamic state - while others prefer the secular ideal.

"It is better for the West that Muslims should be religious," Qaradawi argues, "hold to their religion, and try to be moral."' He raises an important point. Many Western people are also becoming uncomfortable about the absence of spirituality in their lives. They do not necessarily want to return to pre-modern religious lifestyles or to conventionally institutional faith. But there is a growing appreciation that, at its best, religion has helped human beings to cultivate deceit values. Islam kept the notions of social justice, equality, tolerance and practical compassion in the forefront of the Muslim conscience for centuries. Muslims did not always live up to these ideals and frequently found difficulty in incarnating them in their social and political institutions. But the struggle to achieve this was for centuries the mainspring of Islamic spirituality. Western people must become aware that it is in their interests too that Islam remains healthy and strong.

The West has not been wholly responsible for the extreme forms of Islam, which have cultivated a violence that violates the most sacred canons of religion. But the West has certainly contributed to this development and, to assuage the fear and despair that lies at the root of all fundamentalist vision, should cultivate a more accurate appreciation of Islam in the third Christian millennium.

 

Excerpted from the book "Islam - A Short History" by Karen Armstrong.


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  50 Comments   Comment

  1. Bob Hougland from USA

    Dear IslamiCity:

    Dr. Armstrong knows history, but not the soul of man, the theological consequences of history, or Islam's meaning in the face of history; so her conclusions regarding Islam's role in the historical stream, lacking understanding, are errant: and most of the problem today between Islam and the West is due to such "expert" errancy; in effect, as its actions show in the War on Terrorism, the U.S.-led West misleads because it is misled. Dr. Armstrong's article, "Real History of Islam and the West" is part of the problem, not the solution, because what she sees as "real" is the mirage of an insecure hope seen by those astray and attempting to cross the "Empty Quarter" of the existential way of being. Though she highlights some critical events in the West's interaction with Islam, Dr. Armstrong shows a lack of understanding as to Islam's true role in those events and the meaning Islam has for the world in general. Without such an understanding the historian or even the politician or the Judeo-Christian church leader can construe and shape the historical record as a form of self-justification for what amounts to evildoing, in the context of the higher plane of truth at which Islam strives. The "real" history of Islam and the West is what happens when the way on which Islamic believers strive is denied or blocked by aggression on the part of the West. As the Koran notes such aggressive denial is self-defeating.

    Best regards,

    Bob Hougland

  2. Kolakowski from USA/POLAND/NEW ZEALAND

    The Czech Jewish lady's surprise at that Poles did fight back in 1939 (during a fair--and--balanced TV show about Holocaust) was dictated by being Bohemian; the Poles did experience 123 years of Prussian rule in Western Poland, and they were forced to accept between 1935 and 1939 700,000 escapees: 600,000 Jews, and 100,000 ethnic Poles. Some Poles, viewing the use by a German news paper of the term "Polish Concentration Camp," are starting to voice regret over letting 600,000 non-Polish Jews into Poland.

    As to the comparison between willing collaborators who did join the Axis such as the Hungarians or Rumanians, or even with the Slovaks who were allowed by the Germans a puppet state, I want to ask the Jewish genius from the main news paper of California one question (the genius was mentioned in the Star-Ledger): within the German occupied areas were was Poland on the German map between 1939-1945 because I cannot find it. I need his help, since his knowledge is so superior to mine, apparently.

    Was it the lands annexed into the nazi Germany, or was it the German General Government?

    Is he referring to the Polish government--in--exile in the West, the Soviet Polish proxies' government in Moscow, or the German government of the General Government?

    I want him to educate me.

    As far as I do know; there was one attempt by the nazi to create a puppet government that would be run by the Polish nationalist in the area of the former--Polish province of Lviv or Lwow, at present in Ukraine; however, even the Polish nationalist refused this laughable offer and at orders from Himmler was killed.

    Robert Kolakowski syn Stanislawa syn Jozefa z Eugenii nee Zielinska ur. w grudniu 1973 w Bialymstoku; teraz Elizabeth, NJ, 07202

  3. Tokunbo Akande from Nigeria

    The article is a fair representation of history and current realities. All decent[not deceit as misspelled in the second to the last paragraph] people should have no problem in subscribing to the author's proposition. May God [SWT] the Creator of all there is, grant us all the wisdom to know that He is the only Deity worthy of worship and the courage to always do righteous good things to our neighbours and ourselves. Ma salaam.

  4. Kris MacPherson from Malaysia

    Assalamualaikum,

    I've always been an avid reader of Ms Karen Armstrong writings and I do find her conclusions thought provoking.

    Yes, indeed it is in the interest of western societies that Islam remains strong and healthy as she concluded in her article. What Ms. Armstrong meant was that the only lasting moral barometer of good virtues is the Islamic beliefs and code of human conduct. These haven't changed.

    The notion that life, even that of an unborn child must be respected thus abortion is illegal unless so necessary to save lives, is still an unchanging Islamic notion of morality and right or wrong. Gayism will never be accepted by any Muslim countries and even the most secular ruler of Muslim countries wouldn't dare to change it for there'll be reprisal from the Muslim people.

    The idea of women modesty is another example of true Islam, Islam don't exploit women for a show to the world. Of course on the same note, it is wrong to deny women of education, but that's a tribal practice and not an Islamic one. The hadith of the Prophet ( s.a.w ) is clear that it is obligatory on every Muslim, men and women to seek knowledge.

    The sanctity of marriage is also and has always been and will always be deeply entrenched in Islam. Islam prohibits the living together of men and women without marriages and so far no Muslim ruler of any Muslim countries can openly condone that.

    In conclusion one has just to take a good look at the hedonistic life of the western society of today and perhaps ask oneselves, where do they place their " Lord " in their lives now ?

    Hence day by day westerners found themselves seeking for the truth which they can only find in Islam. And may ALLAH gives guidance for the pure searchers of the truth..

  5. Lars Brovajck from Finland

    Martin lawrence - Interesting how you threaten Muslims in your typical bullying way and imply as if Muslims are evil war mongers, and protect Israel like a little child. The fact is it was a Christian USA that nuked Japan and massacred 1.2 million civilians, it was a Christian USA that saturated Vietnam with bombs, chemicals and other WMDs slaughtering countless innocents in the hundred of thousands. It was Christian USA that slaughtered 350,000 N. Korean villagers, by conservatiove estimates, it was Christian USA that was directly responsible, by Madeline Albright's own admission, for murdering 500,000 Iraqi children, to which Albright gloriously and famously stated, "We think the price is worth it". Well Ms. Albright soon found her Jewish roots, how interesting all that compassion for her roots none for children. It was Christian USA that has per the Lancet, massacred 637,000 civilians and by todays count more than a million. It was Christian USA and allies who slaughtered 437,000 Afghan civilians, men, women and children. It was Christian USA soldiers who openly addmitted to raping, looting and murdering Iraqi and Afghan civilians. It was your Siamese twin, the Jewish state of Israel along with the Christian Lebanese phalangists, who massacred principally women and children in the camps of Arba and Shattila. It was Christian France that massacred and continues to massacre villagers in Algeria and Chad and was directly responsible for the massacres in Rawanda and Congo. It was Christian Serbs and Christian Croats who re-created Genocide for the modern world and the slaughter, torture and rape of Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo. It was your Jewish Israeli breathren who have openly flouted and violated 240 UN resolutions in their theft of Palestinian lands, their murder and torture of Palestinian men, women and children. Just names a few of your wonderful Christian and Jewish exploits. And you have the gall to threaten? Go find a dirty little rock and crawl under it.

  6. Ahmad Sirajudin from Malaysia

    Dear Ms.Armstrong:

    I have read your book Jerusalem and I gather that you are one of the few Westerners who know that Islam, Christianity and Judaism are related through Abraham. You will be doing a great job by letting the world know about this.

    Thank you

  7. Martin Lawrence from USA

    As long as Islam threatens or attacks the west,Israel,or the world, Biblical Christianity will be embraced and spread around the world as a counter to Islam.

  8. Magnus Johansson from Stockholm, Sweden

    It is absolutely crucial to note the fact that the Algerian government has not just been complicit, but directly responsible for the massacres of Algerian villagers who provided any support, even food and shelter, to memebers of the Algerian Islamic movement. This fact was further established by the testimony of the former Algerian diplomat Mohammad Larbi Zitout, the Algerian military, secret service officer, Yussuf-Joseph and 'Dalilah', an Algerian policewoman (Robert Fisk's Report) who was witness to the torture and executions carried out by the Algerian intelligence services. In her own words, "they tortured people - I saw this happening. I saw innocent people tortured like wild animals..They executed people..people who had done nothing.

    To understand the extent of this most horrendous and macabre injustice and brutality against the people of Algeria, one should read the following report and watch the video on Youtube:

    http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq4.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVJgsb5TuTw

  9. Zinedine from Morocco

    Salaamu alaikum,

    By not allowing the invention of weapons of mass destruction, our past scholars & leaders prefered to protect the environment rather protecting Mulsims. Allah words were misunderstood & we became subserviant to the West:

    "WaaAAiddoo lahum ma istataAAtum min quwwatin wamin ribati alkhayli turhiboona bihi AAaduwwa Allahi waAAaduwwakum waakhareena min doonihim la taAAlamoonahumu Allahu yaAAlamuhum wama tunfiqoo min shayin fee sabeeli Allahi yuwaffa ilaykum waantum la tuthlamoona"

    "8:60 Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly." Holy Quraan

  10. Muhammad Islam from USA

    I wish the expert analysis and opinion expressed in this excerpt be known to the masses in the west as well as in the east. The human species reaching to the point where lack of interest in mutual understanding may lead to the path of extinction. May God give this undestanding to the people in authority in this millenium.

  11. Subhani Shaik from USA

    I would like to correct Nadeem Ishtiaq comments. The name appears to be Muslim, but he does not seem knowing the reasons why Jihad was done in the past. Does he think that the th early wars were started by the rulers for fun? Does he understand what Jihad is about. Jihad is to fight/struggle in the cause of Allah. To stop the oppression by the rulers and to spread the message of Islam, the wars became necessary. The oppressing dictators of Roman and Persian empires did not treat their people, imposed lots of taxes, and put them into hardship to retain themselves in the power, Also they did not allow even preaching Islam, and challenged the Muslims to fight first. That's why the wars started. As part of Jihad, Allah (SWT) said that the Muslims should fight only the ones who fight them, they should not harm women and children, the cattle, harvest etc. There are strict rules for fighting.

  12. Zinedine from Morocco

    Salaamu alaikum,

    Re: Military part of the story

    Btw: Great article Karen (pls note that Algerian military general Khaled Nazar, France's puppet is the man that calls the shots in Algeria today)

    May Allah forgive our past Muslim scholars that did lots of harm to Islam thinking they were doing it great service. The gravest mistake they made was to close the door of Ijtihad; were totally against weapons of mass destruction. What a huge mistake!!! today & it's little too late, we know well that the West is way ahead of us and it is very very hard to catch up with its speed especially militarily. Thanks to our dinosaur scholars, we the descendants have no nuclear weapons to protect our religion and our peoples so I guess we are doomed to be slaves of the West for a long time before we become independent.

  13. Dawood Haq from USA

    And it does not help us Muslims that the Arabs in their depraved tribalism set the bar on the perception of Muslims.

  14. Doin Phine

    Is is not Mr. Armstrong it is Karen Armstrong, a woman who wrote this article. I agree with the position of Nadeem Ishtiaq, with the statement that the Crusades/Jihads were first started by the Muslims. I also agree that this all happened a long time ago, and its relevance to today should be minimal. And yes the crusaders were extremely violent, as were the Muslim warriors.

  15. AbdurRahman from India

    Assalamu Aleikum

    Mr Armstrong seems to be either afraid of western

    scepticism or may be his own limitation of CONSCIENCE.Its a fact that those in political power in the west never bothers about faith or religion.They bother only about economic and strategic powers.One need not be apologetic in

    criticising the fallacies of the west.For the present they are taking advantage of the technical poverty and the isolationism of the Muslim leaders. And they have been trying their best to aggravate these weaknesses among the Muslim populace.

    Insha Allah,it will not last forever.But Muslims should not waste their time in educating their falks on these issues at the erliest.Extremism

    whether it is brought by secularism or by fanaticism the impact will not be acceptable to

    human beings.Any revolution knowledge, spiritual

    political or technical should be with the least

    violence and that was what our beloved Prophet(PBUH) did.Islam encompasses the way of life of

    a civilised human being and not the way of life

    liked by few westwern politicians.

    The present day CRUSADE of the west should be defended with uptodate knowledge and weapons and not with the knowledge and weapons of the 7th century.Politics is one of the most important aspects of education in Islamic horizon.Science and Technology is another area.In stead of spending billions of dollars on less important works these two disciplines must be given the due

    priority overall others by all muslim dominated cultures.Children with high IQs should be selectively educated at the cost of common funds

    for higher and specialised training in the fields of Diplomacy and Science and Technology.A world wide selection process may be adopted for selection.Scientists and Technologists with good skills in different disciplines must be given free full scholarships for research on a global

    plane. Research Institutions of internationally recognisable standard should be established with experts from around the wo

  16. Nadeem Ishtiaq from Australia

    your comments in relation to crusadors it is very important that you should include the reason for the war, I am sure it will surprise many readers that the war was intiated by a stupit muslim ruller of that time. however I agree with barbaric behaviour of crusadors, but when I see muslim invasion of many countries I see the same behaviour, so lets learn from our past and try to promote peace and harmony article like yours does not help this cause.

  17. Shahid Ameen Samra from Pakistan

    Assalaam-o-Alaikum

    One of the wisest men in the history, Socrates, once said (ref. history of philosophy, Chapter 1, Will Durant)"perhaps all the sin is error partial wisdom and shortsightedness".

  18. Ameer Hamza Solangi from Pakistan

    AOA,

    I always read articles which i recieved from Islamci City. Hence I'm thankful about this. But there is confusion for me, becuase of lack of english understanding. But I also try for read and understanding. There is so many friends submited their committs, which are agianst, postive or differnt. But I have not read history otherwise, I may share with you my views. But I request all the poeple that inform us a proper information and knowlege, so that, we can forward of our friends and we will tell our new generation, who will owner of our all history and they will follow thorugh these historeis for alive. Once agian i request you that i have not write power. Thanks, I'm looking others articls from Islmaic City.

  19. Y. Z. Hamada from USA

    May God bless Karen Armstrong and anyone who stand for the truth regadrless who is accepting it and who is not. Best wishes for all readers.

  20. Brandon Whittkaer from USA

    I can understand your feelings regarding the overthrow of a democratic leader promising to lead reforms. However, in history there have been many examples of leaders who promised democratic reforms that were never implemented. Is this man an exemption of this rule? Unfortunately, we will never know. However, I would like to point out that western leaders are not the only "hypocrits" to having a double standard in democratic reforms. True democracy can only come from the people directly. There are many leaders in the Islamic world that have this double standard then merely the west.

  21. noon from USA

    I think the way she is telling the history is totally wrong, muslims introduced the modern concept of humanity in the world and all the modernism is starting from islam not the religions before islam.

  22. ummer farooq from uk

    Yes the Crusades may have been central to the wars we have seen over the last 1000 years between the Muslims and West. Then again the main part was not the wars, but the stories brought back home and told and taught to their children. Many a time there have been stories where the Muslims where the boogie men of the little hearts Christendom. In schools, plays and films alike the fable that Pope Urban II used to rally Christendom can be found. One such as the book "Lord of The Rings" where Middle Earth(take a guess where Middle Earth could be on planet Earth) was devoured by Sarons hateful, evil armies etc, etc..

    You would think that the Europeans of Pope Urban II would have other methods of entertainment, and education than describing the Muslims, Saracens, Moors and Turks alike as being the evil ones.

    This rekindling of hate, fear and a feeling of "...ooo there not like us daddy, aren't they?" (which is supposed to be the most devastating ways of gaining rapport between two parties) was possibly the most strongest factor for... well... I will let you take that guess.

    Then again I still wonder if the Muslims had carried on through Europe, as they took over administrational afairs in the Iberian Peninsula in less than 5 years! I wonder how they managed that and stayed there for just under 400 years with Golden era standards - refer to UK CH4 docu: "Hidden Civilisation When the Moors Ruled in Europe" Bettany Hughes. Too bad they never had a united political front for that fact mentioned above. Then again as I recall something being mentioned in the Quran that the god makes nations from mankind so that we know one another.

    About women and men in Mosques side by side. Please recognise that a. women have higher ave body temp than males and b. men have higher sex drive. If men were not infront and women at the back, both covering up and not staring at each other, wounldn't the worshipers lose concentration? Figure out the rules, not your own.

  23. Omar from Canada

    As always Karen is right on the money. It's very comforting to find un-bias point of view from a non-Muslim. People like her will bring about mutual understanding, rid extremism, and bring people of faith closer together in harmony.

  24. Zainol Abideen from Malaysia

    The article is telling it as it is. History can't be swept under the carpet. Islam has always been viewed with disdain by the Christian Crusaders and those who do not like to see Islam being embraced by growing numbers of humanbeings from all races and social standings.

    The Way of Life that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala has enjoined for us all will always face objections and slander from those who are deaf, dumb and choose to be blind towards the Truth in Islam.

    Unfortunately, the current Muslim nations apathy towards the safety, security and wellbeing of the Ummah sees the whole Muslim world being held to ransom by the Kuffars of the World especially by America and its cohorts.

    The Muslim nations do not really practice Islam as Allah SWT and Rasulullah SAW asks of us. Islam today is more of a lip service and the love of this earthly existence and fear of Death have paralysed most leaders who brag about saying they are the leaders of OIC, etc.

    It's more of " Oh! I See!"

    Where are the 'Saladins of Islam 'today?

    Where are the Khalid Al Walid's of today?

    Where are the Umar Al Khattabs of today?

    Most of the Muslims today just worry about their own selfs and don't care about the Ummah!

    Start putting ourselves back in order, only then we can see Islam back to where it belongs!

    Seminars, symposiums, etc do not contribute towards Islam! Articles such as this should wake us up! From the way I see it, most of the Muslims are still in a coma!

    Que sera sera!

  25. Dr Edriss from US

    Algeria remain the case where the so called democratic countries uncovered their true satanic faces: "or my way or no way"

  26. Kamath from Ontario

    I did not expect a balanced analysis of Islam Vs West, by K.Armstrong at all. She is after all a defrocked nun whose views are terribly skewed in these coffee-table books.

    Too Bad!

    kamath

  27. Hassan M'bangot from Central African Republic

    As-salam a'laykum wa Rahmat-ul-lahi wa barakatuhu,

    Islam was always considered a barrier to Westerners because they consider Islam to be a Gov't. within a Gov't. In regards to the westerners, Islam must not survive for the simple fact(s) that Muslims are not immediate subjects to their ways of life as we have our own. ALLAH Subhanah wa Ta'ala has given us Muslims/Mu'mins a criterion by which we should live. Being that we follow this criterion/law which does not correlate with that of the westerners we are immediately categorised as outsiders/outcasts or any other attribute(s) that would signify our different ways of living. ALLAH's law is superior to man's law. Man's law must abide by ALLAH's law and not the other way around. By any means ALLAH will show us the truth of all that we have done when the time appointed has come...Innal-lil-lahi wa inna-elayhe rajioun...As-salam a'laykum wa Rahmat-ul-lahi wa barakatuhu,

  28. meriam bakker from england

    As a revert to Islam and as a previous roman catholic i do believe Sallaudin was a peaceful man, he had his relious principles to rely upon and that made him a man of his word.As one person replied in the article stating that the last prophet Muhammed (pbuh)sent was a soldier i must strongly disagree . I suggest you read up on some authentic islamic books not from orientalists . After that think again!!!

    Muhammed(pbuh)was a very peaceful man.Actually it was the Christians who thought the muslims too tolerant towards the non believers if i can put it that way and therefor fought the muslims.

    I cannot recall the exact period etc.. but iwon't tell a lie.When Prophet Muhammed(pbuh)returned from Medina to Mekka he(pbuh)returned with his head down and in peace ,that was not what the Mekkan people had expected as they hid in their homes in fear scared to be attacked !!!!

    This is what made the people more surprised and they realised they were wrong and to name but one example:the lady who ordered an Abyssinian slave to kill Hamza(may God be pleased with him) she asked forgiveness from Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) and became a muslim herself!!! Islam is a religion which goes hand in hand with Chrisianity the followers of Jesus(pbuh) should pay attention to Jesus's(pbuh)own words when he(pbuh)said : After me will come an other Prophet and his name shall be Ahmad. Which is also one of the names of our beloved last Prophet(pbuh)Muhammed.So where are you waiting for???

    Yours sincerely,

    Meriam Bakker.(Please,when you mention the name of one of the Prophets of God say staight after it Peace be upon Him and when you mention Muhammed the last Prophet that God has sent to mankind mention God's peace and blessings be upon him, Thanking you for your understanding this is out of respect towards the Prophets God has sent to us to guide us in this life ,so we will be successfull with God's Mercy and Guidance in this life and the Hearafter , God Willing)Amin!!!!

  29. Doin Phine from Canada

    To Kevin,

    Kingdom of Heaven, is not historically correct due to editing for "political correctness", they didn't want to offend anybody. A little note, after his success at Jerusalem, Saladin wanted to conquer Europe, so he is not any different or better then the people he defeated. Back then empire building was done be both Christians and Muslims, and it was Muslims who first started it under Mohammed, and by 710, had almost conquered France if it was not for Charles "The Hammer" Martel. Since Islam is newer then the religions it replaced, it did it sometimes peacefully I would imagine, but often it was done with a sword! After all to put it politely Mohommed was a soldier.

  30. Splotty from Australia

    I won't comment on the 20th century portions of the article, but the first paragraph is riddled with errors and misdirection. The sack of Jerusalem by the crusaders occured in 1099, not 999 as the article suggests. While the actions of the crusaders were despicable, these kinds of actions were the common practice of armies in the period. As for indifference to Christendom, recall that prior to 1054 Christendom was a united entity, and the (christian) Byzantine empire was in direct contact with Islam. And frequently under direct attack.

    Prior to Abbasid Caliphate's invasion, North Africa was Christian. Muslims had also experienced the Christian west directly when they colonized Sicily in the late 9th century, and Spain was substantially Islamic.

    So the idea that Islam was quietly minding its own business between occasional rapine attacks by Christians is ill-founded, and this is the tone of the first paragraph of the article. There were many expansionist empires in the period, of which the (primarily frankish) Christinas and Islamic Caliphate were but two.

  31. Kevin Jones from USA

    Great article! I would also suggest that the reader watch the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" which was just released on DVD. It is a very well done and historically accurate account of the defeat of the remaining Christians in Jerusalem by Saladin; and shows very clearly the compassion shown by Saladin to the Christian population when he clearly could have sacked the city had he chosen to.

  32. Kazi from USA

    Simple way to solve muslims problems, i am a muslim do good things for mankind only to please Allah, Rules and regulation belongs to Allah. i could not understand why we hate each others and kill each others just for money and power without thinking about judgement day. we are responsibe for our actions and may Allah forgive us. Makind is looking for a better solutios and Islam has it, and we muslims should put Islam in every situation in our lives.

  33. Charles Douglas Wehner from Germany

    I had previously pointed out that reference by Westerners to Islamic "faults" was INSENSITIVE. Here again, I say that the massacres, by Christians, in the "Crusades", whilst true should not be emphasised. It is insensitive. Remember that, for example, two million people demonstrated at Hyde Park, London, England - and many more millions in other cities - to try to prevent the invasion of Iraq. Most were not Muslims. One must UNITE the faiths towards a common just purpose - not be provocative.

    There are gangs who go around such places as public lavatories, looking for people with a little bit of shame - an offence perhaps without a victim. They then say "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit; do you believe in the Everlasting Soul; you can be an IMPORTANT MAN"?

    Then, when the shameful person agrees, they make him swear an oath of obedience "to God".

    The slave is now advised that they have a cure for his condition - but he must show MANLY COURAGE, by picking something up and putting it in his pocket. That is a crime with a victim. When he has done so, they threaten to have him punished under Sharia law - the amputation of his right hand - unless he commits a BIGGER crime - VIOLENCE.

    He becomes "groomed" upwards through the Masonic grades until he is a TERRORIST like bin Laden, Homo Omar, or the Taliban. Remember that Mohammed Atta (World Trade Center) was a homosexual terrorist.

    They are forced to live in poverty. They are forced to eat pork. They are forced to drink alcohol. They are forced to kill. They are UNPAID SLAVES.

    To "help" them, the CIA, MI6 or French Freemasons use the press to give them a good reputation, like "Mullah" Omar or "Imam" bin Laden.

    When the slaves break away, they CONTINUE to pretend to be pious.

    So Western Masonic interference creates BOGUS Islamic priests. Western Masons also use the bad reputation they give to Islam to justify the OIL WARS.

    TRUST ONLY THE REAL MUSLIMS.

    DO NOT PROVOKE INNOCENT C

  34. saleem from usa

    Western Democracy = mostly power is might.

    Capatalist economy along with the tax payers cash flow is the fuel to this might.

    Where Euro$, British(pound) and other artificial western paper wealth has most of the advantage, overseas.

    Today the only hard curency is Gold and Oil.

    Now this article brings up details of Christians and Islamic confrontations.

    I would like to mention that both muslims and Christian believe that (Essa bin marium a.k.s Jesus Peace be upon him) had a Miracle birth.

    But our Jew friends do Not believe this miracle birth.

    Many Christian convert to Islam today and have been since the dawn of Islam and when we see at the history many muslim countries today were lands of Christians earlier, especially in Middle East.

    Now this earth does not carry only muslims, christian and jews.

    Equality and Justice.

    Everyone should work for Justice, no matter who he is and where he/she is from.

    It starts from your heart and one should appreciate Justice and discourage Injustice.

    One should get closer to people who play fair and are Just and shuould distance themselves from those who promote Injustice or are part of it.

  35. Gowhar from India

    I think the book ignores the ultra-nationalism and racism Muslims exhibit against other people who do not agree with their way of life and points of view. If any thing Muslims are more intolerant towards rest of the world than say west or others are against them. So the couple operates both ways. In order to address the issue of violence and bais both need to be taken into account and addressed as general problem of how narrowness and violence is possible only if one submits oneself to the divide. I do not see any thing especially good among the Muslims or any thing essentially bad with the western civilization. There is equal propensity towards degeneration and destruction and this is what needs to be addressed.

  36. Doin Phine from Canada

    Ice fossil, I found your comment quite incoherent. Especially in your statement "secularism you may live your life in perfect harmony with your religious beliefs but the governance of your state gives no consideration for that in forming policies hence comes the double standard....", is plain WRONG. While the goverenment is secular the elected officials in the majority were/are Christian, and this has a direct impact on policy. What might be confusing to you is that Western civilization has been changed (Which many Muslims find a bad development), While the Muslim world has not. That is why there is a clash of cultures. For example Muslims find abortion, and gay marriage bad. At the same time Westerners find the covering the face of the female in Islam, backward, discrimatory, and the reasons defending it absurd.

    Christianty is definitly PARTIALLY responsable for its succes, among other factors. I would argue that it is a large put of its success. To say that it has nothing to do with it is wrong.

    The statement "Most geniuses are often religious fanatics of some sort", wow first it sort of conflicts the first part of your statement. Secondly where did you get this "fact" from.

    Lastly in the process of modernising which you agree has to happen. How is "Ijtihad" going to comeback, after disappearing in the 11th century.

    I look and I don't see how, instead to my eyes it seams to be going in the other direction. I hope I'm wrong.

  37. IceFossil from USA

    I think the crux of the article can be stated as "Not one size fits all". I think the western society has not been successful in this century because of secularism but because of their unity and cooperation towards a more higher technological standard. Christianity has not helped the west in its technological advancement. However people in the west are under the illusion that secularism has shaped them for this. Your belief in One God or 100 Gods does not fracture your creativity towards modernity because you are not searching for spirituality at the time. All religions teach you morality whereby in secularism you may live your life in perfect harmony with your religious beliefs but the governance of your state gives no consideration for that in forming policies hence comes the double standard when need be. Muslims are not against making progress or embracing modernity as long as it is directed to change their moral codes and beliefs. Most geniuses are often religious fanatics of some sort. What the western society has to realize is in the Muslims east search for modernity is not a search for replacing their faith but adapting it whilst not changing the fundamental principles.

  38. Haris A. Hamid from Malaysia

    This is a very interesting article about Islam from a non-Muslim perspective.This kind of understanding is actually what the Muslim at large is looking for in order to foster inter religious dialogue between Islam, Christianity and the Jewish.

  39. Adam Ibrahim Muhammad from Nigeria

    The writer of this article even though had muddled up towards the end, has brought out the truth about what the first crusade did to morality and what the present day crusade as cleverly designed by the neo-cons, is set out to accomplished.

    The important derivation is further elucidated by the outbust of one of the product of moral decay as exhibited by Laurie, or at least her comment. Mary concluded her comment with the question who remembers the crusade anyway? I DO. And 'm sure so are numerous muslims out there! (with conscience and a little sense of Iman that the almighty has left us with).

  40. Saladin from USA

    Asalaam Alaikum:

    All I have to say is this, that the article proved a great point that the Muslims of the old days possessed the true essence of Islam therefore mastering every apect of life in various fields of Spirituality, Science, Philosophy, Mathematics and etc, thus summarizing the Prophet (SAW) hadeeths that the best nation are His (companions), than the Taba'een (Nation after), than the Ta'aba Taba'een (The nation after the previous). If Islam is so backwards, How come it flourished better in all apects and thus the later civilizations followed its footsteps, step by step. Too bad, Muslims think Islam is backwards today and some 'Muslims' perform violent acts no where sanctioned by the religion, and the enemies of Islam take advantage of this dilemma and make ignorant criticism of this religion. "3 religionsAbraham had been able to coexist in relative harmony under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years". The religions existed and the Christians and Jews lived with Muslims because of their Merciful nature that was taught by the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Saw). The truth is covered by falsehood in the modern era for the most part but it does not mean its nor there.

  41. cliff from ireland

    sometimes you have to open up to everything .. with or without the help of others,i cant say if you are right or if you are wrong but i will say its definately a lost cause,sounding almost immature!in saying so i feel i have crossed a fine line, between functionality(if so)and the fact that we all know what is going on.Do we just give up or take a stand?Allah be praised

  42. mary shepard from USA

    There are many viewpoints relative to the history of Islam and of other faiths, but I have to disagree with Armstrong when she claims that there is a general prejudice against Islam that has its roots in the crusades! It is better, I think, to focus on the current problems that are being caused largely by a misunderstanding between cultures, particularly the US government's refusal to open its collective mind and understand the views and attitudes of the people living in the middle east. The Bush Administration has missed so many good opportunities to offer a white rose and instead it summarily condemns what it doesn't understand. I am an American Muslim; I have at least a rudimentary understanding of my chosen (and yes, I chose it)religion, and I am certain that I understand more than George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld, and I understand worlds more than Dick Cheney! Someday the past, and the bloody present, will be overcome by understanding and tolerance, but it must come from both sides. It is so obvious to me that this is what Allah wants, and this is what the world needs. Jihad is not war - it is a struggle for truth and acceptance.

  43. for Laurie from USA

    Peace be with you. With all due respect, it sounds like you are confusing Islam with Muslims. More devastatingly, you also seem to be confusing God, the All-Mighty, with the free will and choices He has given to humans. No one can convince you of anything; you'll need to clear your heart and mind, stand up in the middle fo the night and ask for guidance, and keep asking until you feel you have arrived at the Truth. I did that, and now I am a person of faith. One more helpful tip: this life is brief and a test. Your search for Truth needs to include ways to approach both God and humans that is fair, just, balanced, covering all aspects of life and not based on desires. Where will you get this? Certainly not from man-made or manipulated philosophies. You'll need to start from the religion of your birth, question, search, etc. May God make it easy for you to find your way, and then make you a reason for the guidance and peace of others.

  44. khairul from singapore

    It's an article that tell the truth about the three main religion of the world. SDorry to say that "Laurie" got confused. The three main relions that God given to mankind come in stages. The Jews, The Christians and lastly Muslims. Ask yourself who God created first Adam or Eve. This is enough prove to shows who lead.Man or Woman.

  45. Abdulkadir Muhammad from Nigeria

    Well from the comment submitted by laurie, it could be concluded that, the writer is not fully aware what the religion of Islam is all about. Untill the writer has a clear understanding of the religion it is very difficult to appreciate its virtues. Moreso, the seperation of women and men in mosques and elswhere.There is no enough space to explain why is this idea is observed in islamic culture. Please do yourself a favour and get some scholars in Islam to expertiate further on the issue.

  46. Doin Phine from Canada

    I have read other books of Mrs. Armstrong, and it is interesting to read this exerpt from her book even if her viewpoint is well known. I think her message to Muslims is an important one.

    Two notes on the article of Mrs. Armstrong.

    The Crusades started long before the move of Europeans into the Middles East. Between 610 when Mohommed heard the word of God, Islam quickly invaded many parts of Europe including Italy, Spain and France, and if not for Charles "The Hammer" Martel on October 10, 732 at Tours in France well Europe could of been totally Muslim shortly after that date. Even after this defeat Muslim armies were crusading in Eastern Europe for centuries afterword.

    The comment "coexist in relative harmony under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years" is not exactly true as Jews and Christians were second class members of society, and were subjected to higher levels of taxation, discrimination, persecution, and injustice. To say that Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative harmany is a fallacy, and that modern Europe and North America are much better examples of "relative harmony". Inspite of the fact that this relative harmony is unfortunately disintegrating.

  47. Laurie

    What a sorry, sorry article. Three things, God must be horribly confused that he has so many religions going at once and everyone thinks that theirs is the right one (How they come to that is a mystery in itself). There is nothing Mohammed said or did that was not done in the Bible and there was nothing said or Done by Jesus that was not done by the Hindus or the old testament of the Jews. The day we wake up and see that the kingdom of God is within us and that we do not need Mosques or Chucrhes the better off the entire world would be. I will have nothing to do with Islam until I see women Imams and women kneeling and praying side by side with the men in the main part of the Mosque. Until then I will keep my view of Islam, as well as Cathoicism, as a male dominated power game that keeps the multitudes subservient to them and women under their feet. Whenever we see Religion in charge of a country we see civil war and tribal battles all trying to gain control and power. Now prove me wrong!!!!

  48. Saiid from USA

    There may be some truth in your article, But the this story must have a beginning which does not match with the partial story which is posted here.

    Please follow the guideline of cause and effect.

    Notice where in the history your article starts:

    "On the eve of the second Christian millennium"

    You are trying to make a point but you fail the truth of how it started. Historians don't start in the middle, but from the beginning. But ofcourse you are not a historian either.

    May God bless us all