Every time there is an incident involving Islamic extremists somebody will counter that “Islam is a peaceful religion.” Clearly, the jihadists of Islamic State are not peaceful and it appears to some that apologists for Islam are being wilfully ignorant with much heat and vitriol being voiced on the social media. Now there are strands of Islam that more moderate but they have been victims of violence from their fellow Muslims. (Earlier this year a Glasgow shopkeeper wished a happy Easter to his Christian customers was murdered by another Muslim who drove up from Bradford in England to specifically to do the deed.) However, while we may well descry militant Islam we have to ask ourselves how peaceful are other religions including our own? While most are regarded as peaceful there are usually some that have been originators of conflict in the past. For example Judaism, today it is a peaceful religion as a whole. But in 66AD when the Jewish Revolt broke out it would have been hard to persuade a fellow Roman citizen that Judaism was peaceful as the Roman military casualties rose. After the Jews were exiled from the Land they had no option but to adopt more peaceful habits. On the other hand when Christianity was a persecuted minority religion it tended towards pacifism. But when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire then suddenly Christianity had territory to defend. It then had to justify defending the Empire from pagan barbarian hordes. The concept of the “just war” was developed that force was sometimes needed to combat evil. Then in the eleventh century the Crusades came along and western Christianity seemed to get very militant. The Normans developed the concept of the armoured knight and expanded their influence outside of Normandy. The rest of Europe found themselves having to adopt the same style of warfare. Normans would fight at mercenaries around Europe including Italy. Here they were initially welcomed by the Pope as a means of ousting the Byzantines from much of southern Italy. Unfortunately, they introduced the Feudal system as well reducing the local populace serfdom which did not go down well. News that the Turks had captured Jerusalem and stopped pilgrims going there gave the Pope what seemed a clever idea. Fill all these Norman knights, who were causing havoc, with zeal to go charging off to the Holy Land where they could kill Muslims rather than their fellow Christians. The Normans were of Viking descent, and their pagan forebears believed that they had to die sword in hand in order to go to Valhalla. So it was quite easy for the Pope to persuade their descendants that it would be a good thing to die sword in hand fighting the enemies of Christendom because in so doing they would go straight to Heaven. The result was carnage but that is the difference between a ‘good’ idea and a ‘God’ idea. One of the consequences of the Crusades is that today’s Islamic extremists refer to Western armed forces as “Crusaders” in their propaganda and makes it difficult when the West intervenes in the Arab world. They find it hard to see Christianity as a peaceful religion. Of course the atheists and secularists look on all of this smugly arguing that all that is needed for sweetness and light to bloom forth is the removal of religion. This is without mentioning those conflicts between nations that claim to be Christian. If you really believe that look at the example of atheist regimes, like Soviet Russia under Stalin where millions died, the same could be said of China under Chairman Mao, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and how many have died in North Korea through starvation or political oppression. The irony in all this is that the term terrorist was first used during the French Revolution where it was given to those who promoted the new atheist constitution during the Reign of Terror by the frequent use of the guillotine. The fact is that where a belief is in the ascendency in any country then given the right circumstances it will try and impose itself on minorities. So while we all like think we are ‘peaceful’ others may disagree. We have to take the plank out of our own eye first. Just because some incidents highlight violence coming from one religion does not mean others have been blameless in the past. It only takes a small number of fanatics to start a persecution if others acquiesce by saying and doing nothing.
David Rose, 2016.