Islam Muslims And The Us Essays On Religion And Politics

But the myth did reflect the deep-seated Western horror, always potent in the collective imagination, of being literally overrun by the fanatical hordes.

In the 19th century, however, attitudes did begin to change.

Clearly, blaming innocent people at prayer for their deaths at the hands of a right wing zealot crossed all the boundaries.

But Anning’s view of Islam does echo an historic Western emphasis on the use of force in Islam as an explanation for its success.

The inability of Western commentators in the 19th century to endorse a newly submissive Islam arose from a deep-seated Western incapacity to treat Islam on equal terms.

Indeed, the greater value of the West over all those it variously characterised as backward, degenerate, or uncivilised was a central feature of most discussions of non-Western forms of life. And there was a strong tendency throughout the Victorian period to blame Islam for all the imagined ills of Oriental societies – the moral degradation of women, slavery, the physical and mental debilities of men, envy, violence and cruelty, the disquiet and misery of private life, the continual agitations, commotions, and revolutions of public life.

Militarily, early Islam was undoubtedly successful. Since that time, for the Christian West, regardless of the Islamic precept and practice of religious tolerance (at least as long as non-Muslims did not criticise the prophet), Islam has remained often threatening, sometimes enchanting, but ever-present.

Indeed, the West created its own identity against an Islam that it saw as totally other, essentially alien, and ever likely to engulf it.

Muhammad was, on occasion, imagined not as the ambitious, profligate impostor of old but as a “silent great soul”, a hero who spoke “from Nature’s own heart”, as Thomas Carlyle called him.

The Dublin University Magazine described him in 1873 as “one of the greatest ever sent on earth”. The increasing cultural and global political power of the West rendered obsolete the traditional fear of being overwhelmed by Islam.

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