A century before GOP front runner Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, Winston Churchill diagnosed the dangers of radical Islam.
In September 1898, the 23-year-old Churchill was one of the officers leading the 21st Lancers cavalry charge that secured a British victory over 19th century Islamic terrorists at the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan.
Some 13 years earlier Muhammad Ahmad, “the Mahdi of Allah,” had established the first modern Islamic caliphate governed by sharia law when he beheaded British General George Gordon after his dervish jihadi army captured Khartoum. Only superior British military power stopped Ahmad’s successor, Ibn Muhammad, from spreading the caliphate throughout Africa, and elsewhere.
Writing in The River War, his account of the British retaking of Sudan, published in 1899, Churchill noted the threat to Western Civilization radical Islam poses:
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 paralyzes 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 proselytising 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.
Islam, Churchill wrote, “is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog.”
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 Mohammedanism 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.
Writing earlier in the River War, the conduct of the Mahdi who led this modern caliphate was beneath contempt, in Churchill’s view:
After the fall of Khartoum and the retreat of the British armies the Mahdi became the absolute master of the Soudan. Whatever pleasures he desired he could command, and, following the example of the founder of the Mohammedan faith, he indulged in what would seem to Western minds gross excesses. He established an extensive harem for his own peculiar use, and immured therein the fairest captives of the war.
In his first book, a description of British battles in Afghanistan, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, an Episode of Frontier War, published a year earlier in 1898, Churchill explained how local tribesmen were mesmerized by the call of Islam:
The Mullah will raise his voice and remind them of other days when the sons of the prophet drove the infidel from the plains of India, and ruled at Delhi, as wide an Empire as the Kafir holds to-day: when the true religion strode proudly through the earth and scorned to lie hidden and neglected among the hills: when mighty princes ruled in Bagdad, and all men knew that there was one God, and Mahomet was His prophet. And the young men hearing these things will grip their Martinis, and pray to Allah, that one day He will bring some Sahib (prince) – best prize of all – across their line of sight at seven hundred yards so that, at least, they may strike a blow for insulted and threatened Islam.
Churchill compared Islam unfavorably to Christianity:
Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination. But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.
In the same book, Churchill also offered this on Islam:
That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword—the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men—stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display. A code of honour not less punctilious that that of old Spain is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica.
Some current academics seek to “rehabilitate” Churchill as not firmly aware of the threat to constitutional liberty inherent in Islam, but careful students of Churchill, whose leadership saved England from Hitler in World War II, are having none of it.
Steven Hayward at Powerline, for instance, recently exploded the myth that “Winston Churchill quietly flirted with Islam — to the point that relatives feared he might convert.” The myth was based on a recently discovered 1907 letter sent to him by his future sister-in-law in which she wrote ““Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”
As Hayward wrote:
This is complete and utter nonsense. Let’s go in reverse: why might Churchill wish to be a pasha? It requires only 10 seconds to grasp why a junior cabinet minister (as he was at the time)—or even a prime minister—might well think this: you don’t have to drag your cabinet colleagues along, or get “consensus” for what you want to do. It certainly has nothing to do with the tenets of Islam.
Second, can anyone really see Churchill giving up alcohol, as Islam demands? To the contrary, one famous story recalls Churchill, dining with King Feisal of Saudi Arabia, who informed Churchill that his religion forbade the consumption of alcohol during meals. To which the sensible Churchill replied, while having his own supply of wine poured, that his religion required the consumption of alcohol before, during, and after all meals.
You will scour Churchill’s voluminous writings in vain looking for the slightest approval of Islam. To the contrary, his books are full of assessments that are politically incorrect today.
In the River War, Churchill also wrote:
For I hope that if evil days should come upon our own country, and the last army which a collapsing Empire could interpose between London and the invader were dissolving in rout and ruin, that there would be some—even in these modern days—who would not care to accustom themselves to a new order of things and tamely survive the disaster.
“Who does that sound like, if not the defiant Churchill of 1940?” Powerline’s Hayward asks rhetorically.
Two decades later at the 1921 Cairo Conference, while serving as foreign secretary for colonial affairs, Churchill made clear his views on the dangers of Islam had not changed.
“They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children … Austere, intolerant, well armed, and bloodthirsty,” Churchill said of adherents to Islam.
Such sentiments about the threat of Islam, expressed by the British leader who saved England and America from Nazi conquest in World War II, are not shared by many Western leaders today.
“Former [German] president Wulff said Islam belongs to Germany. That is true. I also hold this opinion,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said in January, in advance of the arrival of an estimated 1 million refugees to her country in 2015.
In November, after the Paris attacks, the Express reported on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s qualified critique of contemporary Islam:
Discussing what drives Islamic extremists at the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet, Mr Cameron said: “Of course, this extremist ideology is not true Islam.
“That cannot be said clearly enough.
“But it is not good enough to say simply that Islam is a religion of peace and then to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists.
“Why? Because these extremists are self identifying as Muslims.”
In America, Barack Obama began his presidency by traveling to Cairo to apologize to Muslims for past American strength and promise new and improved relations. That promise, enabled by Obama’s premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, has yielded the bitter fruit of the rise of ISIS as it stepped into the American created power vacuum.
This is the same Obama whose father and step father were Muslims, was raised four years during his childhood in Muslim majority Indonesia, and told the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Obama’s sympathy for Islam was known before he was elected president, as Nicholas Kristoff wrote in this 2007 New York Times article:
“I was a little Jakarta street kid,” he said in a wide-ranging interview in his office (excerpts are on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground). He once got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school, but a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics — and more likely to be aware of their nationalism — if he once studied the Koran with them.
Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on earth.”
Moreover, Mr. Obama’s own grandfather in Kenya was a Muslim. Mr. Obama never met his grandfather and says he isn’t sure if his grandfather’s two wives were simultaneous or consecutive, or even if he was Sunni or Shiite. (O.K., maybe Mr. Obama should just give up on Alabama.)
This current generation of Western leaders, soft in their support for constitutional liberty, are now demonstrating their self-destructive weakness in the face of radical Islamic strength.
If Western Civilization is to survive, it will only be as a consequence of leadership that demonstrates overwhelming power to defeat the unceasing efforts of the Islamists who seek to enslave us all in the modern caliphate first envisioned by Muhammad Ahmad in Sudan more than a century ago.
It was the cold steel of Churchill’s charge at Omdurman 117 years ago that brought that first attempt to create a modern caliphate to an end.
The West will need leaders with the courage of Churchill to prevent that modern caliphate from overwhelming Europe and the United States in the decades to come.