Churchill on Islam

Winston Churchill, who seems to have done almost everything, fought in the British campaign against Islamic radicalism in the Sudan in the 1890's.  A figure who called himself The Mahdi  — a long awaited kind of messiah — had created a Muslim army that had taken Khartoum and killed Chinese Gordon, the Victorian general sent out as viceroy. A relief expedition was organized under Kitchener that traveled up the Nile and gave battle at Omdurman.  Churchill had himself attached to Kitchener's force and participated in the last British cavalry charge — the one at Omdurman — which he describes vividly in his book on the expedition The River War published in 1899.

In that book Churchill includes a penetrating commentary on Islamic society as he saw it then and which we would be well—advised to keep in mind even today:

"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 Mohammedan 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.

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 paralyses 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 proselytizing 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."

I think the right way to read this is not as a counsel of despair or anathma, but rather as one of caution.

Greg Richards   1 11 06

UPDATE:

Andrew Bostom writes:

Citation for Churchill Quote, linked above:

Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248—50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

There is another classic quote on jihad slavery from that book as well:

Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. I, pages
16—17 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

"...all [of the Arab Muslim tribes in The Sudan], without exception, were hunters of men. To the great slave markets of Jeddah a continual stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms facilitated the traffic...Thus the situation in the Sudan for several centuries may be summed up as follows:

The dominant race of Arab invaders was increasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and enslaved them...The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose locally against their oppressors."

Winston Churchill, who seems to have done almost everything, fought in the British campaign against Islamic radicalism in the Sudan in the 1890's.  A figure who called himself The Mahdi  — a long awaited kind of messiah — had created a Muslim army that had taken Khartoum and killed Chinese Gordon, the Victorian general sent out as viceroy. A relief expedition was organized under Kitchener that traveled up the Nile and gave battle at Omdurman.  Churchill had himself attached to Kitchener's force and participated in the last British cavalry charge — the one at Omdurman — which he describes vividly in his book on the expedition The River War published in 1899.

In that book Churchill includes a penetrating commentary on Islamic society as he saw it then and which we would be well—advised to keep in mind even today:

"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 Mohammedan 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.

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 paralyses 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 proselytizing 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."

I think the right way to read this is not as a counsel of despair or anathma, but rather as one of caution.

Greg Richards   1 11 06

UPDATE:

Andrew Bostom writes:

Citation for Churchill Quote, linked above:

Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248—50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

There is another classic quote on jihad slavery from that book as well:

Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. I, pages
16—17 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

"...all [of the Arab Muslim tribes in The Sudan], without exception, were hunters of men. To the great slave markets of Jeddah a continual stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms facilitated the traffic...Thus the situation in the Sudan for several centuries may be summed up as follows:

The dominant race of Arab invaders was increasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and enslaved them...The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose locally against their oppressors."