“England’s Forgotten Muslim History” – The New York Times

Isolated from Europe, Elizabeth I turned to the Islamic world.

This is only one story among many in the complex relationship between Europe and Islam. It is also a reminder of a time when it was the Islamic World was a beacon of toleration in contrast to intolerant Europe.

To read the full story go to: England’s Forgotten Muslim History – The New York Times

“Lawmakers fear Islamic ‘indoctrination’ in TN classes”

“A recent uproar over a Tennessee middle school history course that touches on Islam has federal and state lawmakers calling for changes.”

This is really sad! These politicians either don’t understand the difference between teaching the history of a particular religion and indoctrination,  or they’re exploiting this issue for political gain. Either way this type of bigotry and divisive politics is unacceptable!

They’re even railing against the “bias” in favor of Islam!! Seriously!

Source: Lawmakers fear Islamic ‘indoctrination’ in TN classes

“Showing Pictures of Muhammad Is Ok” |History News Network

The historian Timothy R. Furnish examines the history of Islamic thought concerning images of Muhammad and concludes that the current “iconophobia” is not representative of all Islamic traditions. He also argues that the best way to confront the current radical reaction to drawings of Muhammad “might be to eschew modern drawings of Muhammad (and certainly intentionally insulting ones) and, rather, stage exhibits with examples of ISLAMIC paintings of him.  That would make the point more historically and legitimately, and less provocatively, in my opinion.” I agree!
Read his review of the history here:

History News Network | Showing Pictures of Muhammad Is Ok.

Mohammed and Jesus

Mohammed and Jesus

“Talking Honestly About Islamic Hate Speech” | History News Network

The debate between the “religion is the culprit” camp and the “circumstances” camp continues. As I’ve said before I don’t think it’s an either/or problem. Particular circumstances drive people toward certain kinds of beliefs. Or, to put it another way, certain circumstances, such as lack of opportunity, perceived or real oppression, etc., make certain ideas appealing. This does not mean that those who take up those beliefs do not hold them wholeheartedly. For example, the post-war conditions in Germany made Nazi ideology appealing. Without the Great Depression, the Nazis may have remained a fringe group.

But unfortunately the current debate over Islamic terrorism is driven by the it’s either religion or its circumstances narrative. Those putting forward the circumstances are rightly concerned that some will blame all Muslims if we attribute the violence to religion. But the solution to this problem is not to ignore the evidence that those associated with terrorist organizations like ISIS are not motivated by a particular interpretation of Islam (one that most Muslims reject!). Instead we must make it clear that it is wrong to indict an entire group of people based on the actions of a few of them.

At the History News Network, Timothy R. Furnish describes the polemics between these two camps at a recent conference (“Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad”). In doing so, he gave some great advice on how to deal with the problem of the eschatological thinking characteristic of the current Islamic terrorist groups. He argues that “modern attempts to de-fang apocalyptic groups (overt ones like ISIS; quasi-eschatological ones like Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusrah) need to emulate the Ottoman example: that is, actually employ Islamic religious texts (Qur’an, hadiths, scholarly works) to undermine eschatological jihadists (as I first called for in August 2014). Simply labeling them “non-Muslim” will not do the trick.” Read the entire article here:

History News Network | Talking Honestly About Islamic Hate Speech.

mohammed and jesus

The Goals of the Islamic State: Hijrah, al-Haramayn and Hegemony |History News Network

A historian of Islamic history, Timothy R. Furnish, explains the goals of ISIS:

“Long-term, ISIS—as many breathlessly have reported—aspires to not just ruling all the Islamic portions of the Middle East, Europe and South/Central Asia, but Rome and points further west, including the United States.  This may be a hookah-dream, but considering that the ideology—if not quite all the brutal activity—of ISIS has solid grounding in Salafism, both its Wahhabi and Deobandi (South Asian) versions, it’s something that should be taken seriously by non-Muslims.

It is the medium-term goals of ISIS that should most concern us.  I submit that these primarily are two-fold:  1) to goad us—that is, the United States—into inserting ground troops into, particularly, Syria, as a means of fulfilling the hadith about the great apocalyptic battle  near Dabiq; and 2) to take over Saudi Arabia, or at least to cause such regional instability that Riyadh’s regime fractures, and ISIS Toyotas ride triumphantly into al-Haramayn, the “two holy places” of Mecca and Medina.” Read his entire article at:

History News Network | The Goals of the Islamic State: Hijrah, al-Haramayn and Hegemony.

Sultan Murad IV (seventeenth century) and al Baghadadi

Sultan Murad IV (seventeenth century) and al Baghadadi

America’s Forgotten Images of Islam – WSJ

Peter Manseau reminds us that “[t]he American conversation about Islam may be noisy and confusing, but it isn’t new. And these forgotten images remind us to avoid the old tendency to portray Muslims—now millions of our fellow citizens—solely as caricatured villains in scary stories or cardboard paragons in moral ones.” Read the entire article at:

America’s Forgotten Images of Islam – WSJ.

WSJ: "A painting of U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen Decatur battling Muslim sailors, Tripoli, August 1804. Photo: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, Washington Navy Yard"

WSJ: “A painting of U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen Decatur battling Muslim sailors, Tripoli, August 1804. Photo: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, Washington Navy Yard”

One Standard, Not Two, for Christianity and Islam – The American Interest

Obama’s refusal to call ISIS (or ISIL) a radical Islamic organization has sparked a debate over the relationship between religion and violence. The controversy escalated after he reminded Americans of Christianity’s violent past at the recent national prayer breakfast. Much of the outrage over his comments was motivated by the belief that Obama had fabricated the claims and insulted Christianity. At the same time many in this camp also believe that Islam is responsible for the violent behavior of ISIS. To them Christianity is the good religion and Islam is the bad one. This opinion is grounded in bias rather than evidence and we can safely dismiss it. That leaves us with the two contradictory views presented by Obama: 1) religion has no relationship to ISIS, or 2) religion, at least in part, is responsible for the violent behavior of Christians in medieval and early modern Europe as well as ISIS in the Middle East today. In the above cited essay, the historian Jeffrey Herf argues that both are culpable in the same way. Different traditions and selective use of sacred texts result in different behaviors and versions of the same religion. As Herf points out,

“Western governments have tied themselves in knots to the point of foolishness because they refuse to state what is obvious to many millions of people about the importance not of the religion of Islam per se but of interpretations of Islam in this era of terror. Just as it makes no historical sense to discuss slavery or the Holocaust without examining Christianity’s contributions, so it is ridiculous to assert that the Islamic State, the Hamas Covenant, the fanaticism of the Iranian mullahs, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood have nothing to do with Islam. It amounts to saying that its adherents either do not mean what they say or that they don’t know what they are doing. Both assumptions are condescending. To be sure, these varieties of Islamism differ from one another, but they all engage in the labors of selective tradition. They did not invent the texts that they quote but they have selected and emphasized some rather than other components of the tradition. They can all point to passages in the Koran and in the commentaries about it that in their view justify attacks on the Jews, on Muslims of whom they disapprove, on Christians and on other assorted ‘infidels.’”(“One Standard, Not Two, for Christianity and Islam”)

the crusades

Continue reading

A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration – NYTimes.com

Mustafa Akyol  argues in The New York Times that it is time for Muslims to have their own Letter Concerning Toleration. I couldn’t agree more! He points out that many Muslims support harsh punishments for “heresy,” “blasphemy,” and other practices that are deemed offenses against Islam. However, within Western Christendom it took more than Locke’s influential Letter. Locke was only one (albeit an important one) of hundreds who wrote passionately against intolerance, both before and after him. And it took years of bloodshed, violence, and oppression before the idea of toleration took hold, and then only begrudgingly at first. This is not to say that Muslims should not take up the cause of toleration, but to say that it is going to take more than a Muslim John Locke. It will take a determined movement over a long period of time. I hope some Muslims will take up the challenge! Thanks for the suggestion Akyol!

A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration – NYTimes.com.

Locke A Letter Concerning Toleration

History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East

William R. Polk’s great advice at the HNN that we unfortunately won’t follow:

“Adding up these points, I argue that the more they are attacked, the stronger the salafis become.  Even if we kill their leadership, cut off their supplies of arms and food and overwhelm their followers, we cannot destroy their movement.  I believe that the history of religious movements proves two things:

The first it that, religious wars are never “won.” That is the “bad news.”

Second, the “good news” is that even violent, radical, ugly religious movements “mature.”  That is, they are forced by their followers and even by some of their leaders to become “civilized.”  This is a process, slow to be sure, we can see in all radical movements.

Thus, what we need to do, in my opinion, is to ease our pressure to enable internal changes — those that are beneficial to them and to us — to take place.

Admittedly that is a long-time strategy.  It is far less popular than attacking:  most people love war, soldiers like to win glory and promotion and arms dealers want to sell their goods.  So our leaders may not have the strength or the courage to try a long-term strategy, but I think it is far and away the most likely to accomplish our objectives.”

Please read his entire post at:

History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East.

isis flag