The great British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone famously called the Koran “an accursed book” and declared to the House of Commons “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world”.
In September 1876 he also detailed ‘the Ottoman atrocities visited upon their non-Muslim subjects’ in a pamphlet titled “The Bulgarian horrors and the Question of the East”.
The following month Josip Strossmayer the Bishop of Bosnia wrote to Gladstone describing the sufferings of the Balkan Christians subject to the Ottoman Empire:
“The Koran has manifested before God and man its absolute incapacity to govern Christian nations, by making itself the basis not only of religious but of social and political life. Its fatal purpose is either to force Islamism upon them, or to deprive them for ever of political rights, and to plunge them into an intolerable oppression. No power in the world can change this inherent mission of the Koran, for it comes, in the belief of the Moslem, from God Himself.”
In 1897 the young Winston Churchill wrote:
“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…… civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace.”
Plain words from three men who knew about Islamic militancy from direct experience. Non-Muslims from Nigeria to Pakistan would surely see in them a description of their own current plight and yet to speak them in Britain today would be to invite excoriation from the mainstream media and possibly even prosecution under hate speech legislation.
What has changed?
Have the Islamic teachings regarding the spreading of Islam by peaceful or violent means changed? No. The verses of the Koran urging the killing or subjugation of non-believers are still there, and still interpreted in mainstream Islamic tradition as being “without limit of time or place”.
Has the reality of Islamic militancy dwindled? No, in fact just the opposite. Gladstone and Churchill spoke at a time of relative quiescence in the Muslim world due to European colonialism whereas today there have been 22,000 deadly Islamic terrorist attacks around the world since 9/11. That’s about 5 per day.
In our own times Tony Blair followed the twin policies of allowing unprecedented numbers of Muslims to settle in Britain while simultaneously waging war on their co-religionists in far off dusty lands. He assured the British people that Islam is a religion of peace, merely attended by a few unrepresentative extremists. After the butchering of a British soldier in Woolwich, he told us that Islam is still a religion of peace but that “There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam”. He went on to say “I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it”.
He did not actually apologise for his mistake but he did at least go as far as politically possible towards acknowledging the unacknowledgeable – that Islamic militancy is not a fringe or a strain but an integral part of Islam as it has been since its inception.
In contrast David Cameron reverted to Blair’s original position. He said “There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act”.
Anyone who has read the Koran or who heard the killers quoting scripture, might well think that there is quite a lot in Islam which justifies the dreadful act. But our leaders assure us it is not so. Who knew they had the theological expertise to make such definitive statements? Nick Clegg went so far as to refer to the “distortion of a great salvation religion”. That’s Nick Clegg the atheist by the way.
Cameron has nailed his colours to the mast. The security services have foiled dozens of terror plots since 7/7 and attempt to monitor thousands of jihadi activists and supporters. Hundreds of young British Muslims have decamped to places such as Somalia and Syria to conduct holy war. But David Cameron insists it has nothing to do with Islam.
Here is Bishop Strossmayer again. It seems his words are as relevant today as they were 140 years ago:
“It is pitiful that there should be men who allow themselves to be so openly deceived; and it is sad especially that the European diplomacy should be among them.”