Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Convert to Islam, or else

(Warning: long post)
Recently, two Fox News journalists, while doing their work in Gaza, were kidnapped. They were released two days ago, but only after saying on video that they had converted to Islam. They later said they were forced to "convert" at gunpoint. There is talk that ransom has also been paid for their release. For details, see e.g. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=24104.
The other thing which inspired me to write this post was Non-blogging's opinion about whether conversion to Islam, required for a non-Muslim man if he wants to marry a Muslim woman, is acceptable: "Converting because it's demanded should perhaps be between acceptable and unacceptable... Unacceptable because that would mean lying to an imam, maybe lots of genuinely believing relatives and last but not least to all honest Muslims who have said their creed believing every word of it." (http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/2006/08/mr.html#comments). Reading this, I was amazed how a non-Muslim, pressed by Muslims to convert, still would think he does wrong to these Muslims because his conversion is not sincere! So I'll write a post about conversions to Islam in Bulgarian history and we'll see whether the sincerety of conversion mattered.
When Ottoman Turks defeated the divided Bulgarian ministates in 1393-1396 and included them in the Ottoman Empire, they didn't impose Turkish feudals everywhere. Some of the Bulgarian feudals were offered and agreed to convert to Islam. Having fulfilled this condition, they were allowed to continue to rule over their land, or at least part of it. Among them was the son of Ivan Shishman, the last pre-Ottoman Bulgarian king.
Throughout the nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, ambitious individuals were voluntarily converting to Islam in order to make a career in the Ottoman society. However, there were many more Bulgarians who were forced to convert. The first among them were women who were made invaders' wives against their will. There is a saying that "not a single Turkish woman ever crossed from Asia to Europe". It's an exaggeration, but contains much truth. It is also consistent with the logic of the Islamic family model. In a monogamous society, any massive conquest could easily lead to demographic collapse at home, because many women would either remain without husbands or have to follow their husbands to the newly conquered land, depopulating the old territory. Poligamy solves the problem. Any Ottoman or other Muslim ruler could send as many as three quarters of his men to conquer new lands and there would still be partners for all women. The remaining quarter of men could take 4 wives each and children would continue to be born in the old territory. In the new territories, the soldiers turning into settlers could take local wives. Of course, this model can work only if the woman is kept in subhuman position, otherwise the wife coming from a hostile population could bring up children with dubious loyalty. This was the case - women were "letters without voice". Who cared whether they really believed that Mohammed was God's prophet? Turks continued to take Bulgarian wives up to the very liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 and never had any problems with pro-Bulgarian sentiments of the children of such marriages.
Another important group of converts were the Janissaries; you can read about them in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary, although this article seems to me rather inaccurate. Like other Christian nations of the Ottoman Empire, Bulgarians were forced to pay "blood tax" - a proportion of the boys aged around 10 (the strongest were selected) were taken from their parents, converted to Islam and brought up to be Sultan's elite soldiers. This practice changed the life of one of my great-grandparents. The Turkish authorities of his town, Bansko, once announced that landowners were hiring young boys as farm hands. Many families sent one or more of their sons to earn some money. Several adults, including that my ancestor, were sent to accompany the boys. However, when the group reached the destination, it was encircled by soldiers who said that the boys were in fact needed to be recruited as Janissaries. The adult Bulgarians were left to go home. When they arrived and brought the catastrophic news, the public turned against them with anger. The parents were of course shocked by the loss of their sons and needed to blame somebody. It was unsafe to speak against the Turks, so the returning adult companions were blamed, as if they could have done anything in this situation. My great-grandfather left the town and moved to the village of Shipka, hundreds of kilometers away.
There were also many "casual" conversions. Here I'll cite again the experience of my great-grandfather (descendant of the above mentioned man who moved from Bansko to Shipka). His closest friend once committed an offense (I've forgotten what exactly, but it was a minor one). He was caught by the authorities and threatened with death, unless he converted to Islam. So he became a Muslim. At first, the two men continued to be friends. It was logical, the convert was in fact the same person, wasn't he? What happened to him wasn't his fault and could have happened to anybody. But, as time passed, my great-grandfather severed the ties with the convert, telling to his family that his ex-friend had "begun to smell like a Turk". I can speculate that if the story had happened not to that friend but to the other, I could be a Muslim now.
All types of conversion described above were confined to individuals taken from communities which continued to be Christian. However, there were also mass conversions. They were done in strategic regions - the Rhodopa mountain (today in Southern Bulgaria) and the Dobrudja plain which formed the north-east border of the Ottoman Empire (today - the corresponding border of Bulgaria). In rare cases, the authorities awaited a suitable moment to push for a quasi-voluntary conversion. So in the Chepinsko area of the Rhodopa mountain, the population agreed to convert to Islam in exchange for food aid during famine. However, the typical scenario was as follows: Ottoman troops encircling the village, giving the residents the choice of conversion or death, then leaving an imam and several officials to spy on the converts and help them become real pious Muslims.
There was no way out. In theory, the converts could emigrate and revert to Christianity, but those villagers didn't have the resources and knowledge needed to reach an immigrant-friendly land. So they became ancestors of today's Bulgarian Muslims. They often proceeded further to become Turkish-speaking. Sources differ about whether this change was also forced by the Ottoman authorities. I tend to think that in most cases it's likely to have been voluntary. Religion was used by Bulgarians as a national identifier. The terms "Christianity" and "Islam" were rarely used; instead, people were talking about "the Bulgarian faith" and "the Turkish faith". So those who were Muslims but Bulgarian-speaking were in the inconvenient position of people belonging nowhere; for many of them, it was logical to switch to Turkish.
The Bulgarian population was never able to mount effective resistance. If only they had wanted, the Turks could easily convert (or exterminate) the entire Bulgarian nation. However, this wouldn't be good for the economy. In the Ottoman empire, agriculture, crafts and other productive activities were largely reserved for non-Muslims who paid almost all taxes. The Muslims, especially the Turks, were soldiers, administrators and judges. It is clear that excessive conversion would destabilize this host-parasite relationship, although many converts retained their old lifestyle. So the partition between trusted "citizens" and productive second-class subjects saved the national identity of Bulgarians and other subjugated Christian nations. In the same time, it prevented the Ottoman Empire from becoming a modern state.
The relationship between Christian Bulgarians and the converts were uneasy. The latter were included in the Basibozuk - irregular troops responsible for the worst atrocities after quashing Christian Bulgarian uprisings. When Bulgarian statehood was restored by the Russia's 1877-78 war, the rich and powerful Turks fled to the territories remaining in the Ottoman Empire while the Bulgarian Muslims and the poorer Turks (presumably the converts) remained where they were. I guess there were many acts of revenge against them, but my sources say little about this.
One could expect that many Bulgarian Muslims and ethnic Turks after 1878 would convert (revert) to Christianity. After all, the Muslim faith had been imposed in most cases by force. Besides, as any cynic would mention, once Christians were in a favourable position, you should expect that many Muslims would remember their Christian roots... Some Muslim individuals indeed became Christians, but they were surprisingly few. Mass conversions in Rhodopa and Dobrudja had largely ended by the beginning of the 19th century, so three or more generations separated that event from the 1878 liberation. The memory of the original Christian faith had faded. The brutal force had paid, as usually in history.
Therefore, I think that Highlander is a little irrelevant when she writes (about the Fox News journalists), "I have to stress that I strongly condemn kidnappings of this sort. I was especially appalled that they were forced to convert to Islam on TV while in captivity.Those two moves are so stupid and if the perpetrators are hoping to be garnering sympathy to the Palestinian cause - or any cause for that matter- then they are failing miserably and further disfiguring the image of Islam." (http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/2006/08/unreachable-just-cause-i-had-one-of.html) I don't think that the Islamist captors were so stupid. Islam has always been promoted this way and so it has not only survived but become No. 2 (now possibly No. 1) religion in the world.

24 comments:

John Sobieski said...

I have read several theories on why there is not mass abandonment of Islam when the environment leans toward that opportunity. Many Muslims develop a deep dependence on the rigidity of Islam, they like to be directed, Islam has made so many decisions for them. Second, apostates are doomed to hell with grotestque descriptions of their torment. Third, the threat of death for apostasy goes a long way. I'm sure all of these were at work on those poor Bulgarians who had absorded the 'secretion of the Arab mind' (Andre Servier, The Psychology of the Musulman, online, 1923).

programmer craig said...

Excellent post, Maya. very informitive. I was completely unaware of most of the things you said, except in general terms.

Non-Blogging said...

Maya, quite an interesting post. I second what Craig wrote to you above.

Forcing conversation at gunpoint is universally wrong and shows the stupidity and internal weakness of those criminals who play God like that. Nobody converting like that should be blamed for the deed. If there are brave individuals who wouldn't leave their real faiths even when threatened with death, I can only respect them.

However, "converting" because of marriage is questionable in my personal opinion and life and a very tough, although completely hypothetical question. I wouldn't condemn anyone "converting" because the ban on Muslim women marrying other than Muslim men is an archaic demand which shouldn't even exist today's world. It's just that I wouldn't perhaps feel very comfortable myself faking a conversion and leading a double life. That's, however, just what I feel and I don't expect anybody else to feel the same.

I'm not surprised that Bulgarians forced to convert to Islam are not re-converting in masses. During centuries and decades, what was a forced thing has easily become a part of life in the way people whose ancestors once changed their native tongue voluntarily or when forced to do it, are not vitalizing the languages lost a long ago. Hebrew in Israel might be the only, encouraging exception.

It's very likely my own ancestors were adherents of pagan Finnish beliefs before they were forced to convert to Catholicism in masses in the 12th century and onwards to Lutheranism by royal, political decree of the Swedish King in the 16th century during the Reformation after which Catholicism was banned in Finland for centuries.

I can't trace my family so much back but this is likely to be the story. Today, I don't know anyobody in my family who would have gone back to the pre-Christian Finnish beliefs or Catholicism.

Highlander said...
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Highlander said...

Maya that was an excellent post, I think you have answered my question here :
http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/2006/08/unreachable-just-cause-i-had-one-of.html#c115688415182024670

Ottoman empire was so cruel and brutal that it knocked out the life out of the Arabs too for 400 years and lead to the their backwardness, it was as you said a partly a parasitic situation. I can recount to you similar stories about my own ancestors and how they were rounded up and they were born and bread Muslims from the time of the Prophet. Ottoman rule was as much colonialistic as the European colonialism at times but those guys were efficient. But with the Arab Muslims population who had been throughout those centuries beaten into submission by the Turkish armies, the mindset was that it was a Muslim ruler and the imams were with him to justify what was being done in his name to my people. Their favourite type of torture was impalation ( or Khazouk - execution at the stake which was to drive a stake into the ground and mount the victim on it and push it through his anus and slowly piercing him/her through with it until the poor person died - sorry for the horrible imagery- that was a Turkish speciality ) which took place up to the end of WWI at least. It took years to remove the yoke of Ottoman rule and that was only after they were considerably weakened by the Europeans, check the wars of the Safar Barlek. Points to make is when it was time to fight for the Islamic Empire, the Turks severed it and built the Turkish nation as we know it now.( I must admit that was a brilliant move) . Leaving that huge empire to backwardness , poverty, the tyranny of the mullah, the european division and all sorts of other plagues after having bled us dry. If anyone has harmed the Arabs more in this world it was the Turks of the Ottoman empire, it is true they were sophisticated , beautiful people and fierce warriors, but they also destroyed and took more than they gave. If you look at the history of Islamic expansion, you notice that it is not always dominated by Arabs, everyone had the chance to become dominant , from India to Spain and thus rule - maybe a prototype of democracy I would say :).
The Turks abused this trust because the Caliphe was supposedly the supreme commander and also the religious leader so ordinary folks who were kept in ignorance ( contrary to Islamic principles which encouraged or demanded one to learn and study) by the mullahs and jurists at the service of the Caliphs if they did not believe that his word is law then at the minimum they would have to accept that it is. So Bulgaria was not the only one to suffer, Libya, Egypt, the Cham ( i,e Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine) etc.. even the Gulf countries like Saudi did too. Saudi Arabia recently was planning to knock down one of the historical Ottoman forts in a bid to erase that part of horrible Islamic history in our collective psyche. The Turks had many derogative and downright racist words for us Arabs ;) an example is 'adabsis zo' yok arab bismilat' ... like we were some kind of subhuman species .
All this behaviour Maya is unislamic to say the least, maybe the Turks whom we conquered first were true to the faith before becoming themselves expansionist and exploited Islam. I do not wish to convince you how Islam is beautiful just like Christianity and Judaism and Abraham's religion because they all come from the same God. When I read the New Testament and the Old Testament and the Talmud I can find many passages I would find downright not only offensive but dangerous, just like you did in the Koran. I don't take them like this , I search for the historic context for the why ? I don't try to turn them into arguments against the people who belong to those religions, I don't fear them because all these great religions originated from my people and expanded to your people :) Then the Europeans tried to export Christianity back not always so gently.
I also went to Christian missionary schools Maya, and I've seen how the poor population can be converted in exchange for food aid while at the same time it got an education. If I was hungry or needy I would have been a Christian by now :) - and probably a blasphemous apostate in the eyes of the local imams with a fatwa against my head ? LOL
Maya the Europeans Christians carried out horrible deeds too in the name of Christ, but you know more about that dark part of history than I do probably... right ? I'm sure it does not reflect on Jesus and his teachings or on God , but rather on the greed and cruelty of man.

To comment on the fact that the converts' descendents did not revert to their grandparents faith. I would have to say that the history you portrayed Maya is beautiful but at the same had not taken note of the surrounding situation of Bulgaria - to be more accurate- as if bulgaria stood on its own in Europe. "For peasants, the finality of Ottoman victory also meant an end to centuries of wars between Serbs, Bulgars, Byzantines and Crusaders, and thus offered stability. Ottoman taxes were lower than the taxes of the conquered Balkan Christian kingdoms. http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lecture3.html here is the link
Isn't that interesting ? So the population was perhaps slightly relieved?

Another interesting part- for Craig this time- when we were talking about slavery : "These three principles -- Islam, the dynasty and the military -- acted together in the Ottoman Empire. As head of state, the Sultan sat at the top of a pyramid. Just below him was a small ruling class, his direct instruments. The mass of subjects were known as "rayah" or "protected flock." This included both Muslims and non-Muslims. Jews and Christians were entitled to protection, but could not join the military or the sultan's immediate ruling circle. However, if they chose to convert to Islam, men of talent from all religious or ethnic backgrounds potentially could wield great power.

Because of its divine foundation, the power of the sultan had no theoretical limit so long as Islamic law was upheld. The sultan was not just an absolute ruler in an abstract sense: many of his operatives were in fact his slaves. However, we have to distinguish Ottoman slavery from the forms of Western slavery with which we are more familiar. Ottoman slavery was based in the capture of military captives, who became the property of their captor. Once taken in, however, and provided that they were loyal, slaves were protected from abuse and enjoyed opportunities for responsibility and advancement as soldiers, statesmen and officials. Slaves were often given their freedom as a reward for service and their children were born free, not into slavery.

However Maya history is recounted not also from one side but from the other, and we cannot forget that the taken children held great positions in the Ottoman army " When recruits for the military were needed, Christian boys were confiscated from the population as slaves and converted to Islam. While there were no regular timetables or set quotas, perhaps a thousand boys were taken on average per year. As slaves, these boys became absolute dependents of the sultan. They were not used for the army alone: after growing up and being trained, they took on all kinds of roles in the imperial establishment. They were treated well and could aspire to power and wealth. The brightest of these children were educated in the law, foreign languages, the sciences, sports and administrative skills and then entered the sultan's "Inner Service". Promoted on the basis of skill, they could grow up to be provincial governors, treasury officials, physicians, architects, judges and high officials, and helped to run the empire. They could marry, if their careers permitted it, and their children were free Muslims. So desirable were these positions during the Ottoman heyday, that some rural Christian families bribed officials to select their sons. Because the "devshirme" was levied as a tribute on the conquered, it involved only the non-Muslim population, but some Muslim families also bribed officials to select their children illegally, in the hope of placing relatives in powerful offices. Some members of the "ulema", the religion-based legal and educational system, came from this background. So did members of the "divan" or council of ministers and its supporting scribes and officials, including governors appointed to run provinces. Levied children with less talent went into the military and formed the "janissary" infantry, the 30,000 men kept under arms as garrisons in key fortresses and as the core of the sultan's army. The janissaries were supported by specialists such as armor makers and an Artillery Corps supervised by experts, some of them renegades from Western Europe.

Being selected was at times very desirable if people were bribing for it hmmm ?


So all this to say that again it is not Islam that we should blame but people , humans who do not behave humanely, just as Christian Europe did not behave according to the teaching of Christ, and killed each other in long wars right up to WWII, just as Spanish Christian settlers in South America did not all exactly show a beautiful picture of Christianity, and neither did the settlers in North America. The world is more complex than we imagine and if we do admit bad deeds by Muslims we better look at the forest and not at the trees , just as we do for the Western world which has contributed so much good for humanity despite the atrocities it committed.
Maya so sorry for this toooooooo long comment but I enjoyed your post very much :)

Highlander said...
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Highlander said...

Hi John sobieski , you say "Many Muslims develop a deep dependence on the rigidity of Islam, they like to be directed, Islam has made so many decisions for them."

Why does it have to be negative? why can it not be that when they have the chance they discover that there really is something good about Islam ?

You've read Andre Servier? so did I. That fellow has interesting theories. Would you consider that to be enough knowledge ?Is that how critical thinking is thought ? Do we only look for the arguments that confirm what we want to affirm ? ...Would it not be better to study counter arguments too and make up our own minds? Why only judge from one side ? Why be derisive about other people's habits (I had a look at your blog John and sadly with all due respect to your excellent writing skills I was to say the least disapointed). I get the impression that this attitude is a mirror image of that displayed by the modern Jihadist we all fear so much. But I'll reserve my comments for your blog as these are off topic here on Maya's . PS John there is no offense meant in my statements.

I find what NBA has to say here about forced conversion to Catholicism quite similar at times to what the Ottomans did ( who I reiterate are Turks and not Arabs).

quoting Non- bloggin aka NBA :) It's very likely my own ancestors were adherents of pagan Finnish beliefs before they were forced to convert to Catholicism in masses in the 12th century and onwards to Lutheranism by royal, political decree of the Swedish King in the 16th century during the Reformation after which Catholicism was banned in Finland for centuries.

Highlander said...

Programmer_Craig , there are a lot of things you are unaware of :) I keep telling you my friend you need to learn these things , do like Maya read; the books and the academic journals. There are treasure throves of them in your own universities in the US, in fact you have more original documents collections from the Islamic history probably than we do.
Websites are just a quickie and sometimes can be misleading if you don't know the rudimentary facts.

Highlander said...

Maya so sorry for the mess of deleted double posts I'm having so much trouble with blogger lately.

Maya M said...

Thanks for the comments! John Sobieski, welcome to my blog.
Actually, the Muslims of Bulgaria are much more secular than the average Muslim. They aren't very good believers, don't pray very often, most of their women go barehead, they drink alcohol and eat pork (although their pork meals aren't great because all steps in meat preparation, from buying to serving, are done half-secretly). And while they never reverted to Christianity, in recent years many of them seem to quietly leave Islam altogether, not to become Christians but rather to generally embrace the Western culture. However, there are also signs of the opposite processes. Our Muslims vote en masse for the "Turkish party", which says it defends their interests but in fact makes its best to keep them underdeveloped and separated, so that not to lose them as "subscribers". This party and some well-funded foreign agents have filled the predominantly Muslim areas with Wahhabi-style mosques (sometimes more mosques than hospitals and schools put together). Only time will show what will happen.
Non-blogging, I agree with you about the near-irreversibility of any change, even if initially imposed by force on a highly reluctant population. By the way, after 1989 many Bulgarians of Christian origin try to revert to Christianity, Christian rituals are fashionable, but to no avail - people just don't believe anymore. Actually, they have never been very religious.
About the conversion because of love - I agree that sometimes it's OK, but I admit I am annoyed that it is always the non-Muslim who is expected to convert. My solution - let me write an imaginary monologue of a Muslim girl (in a non-Muslim country) talking to her family:
"Dear All, Jean and I will get married. We love each other very much, so it's decided. No, he won't convert to Islam. I mentioned it, but he replied that he doesn't require me to change and expects the same from me. So we'll have a civil marriage only and the children will choose for themselves. You don't agree? I expected this and talked about it with Jean. We decided that if you are strongly against our marriage, we'll cancel it. We respect you and don't want to offend you. We can very well live together without being officially married, half of Jean's friends live this way. But I'll regret a little - I wanted very much to see myself in a wedding dress and to have photos to show to the kids."

Maya M said...

Highlander, excuse me for being late to answer. But your comment is long and serious and couldn’t be answered with several hasty sentences.
First, about the Ottoman Empire. I knew that Ottoman Turks had put an end to the Arab Caliphate (although some Arabs blame for this the Europeans - I don't know why). About the oppressions of Arabs in the Ottoman Empire, I remember what Mark Twain wrote in "Innocents Abroad". Enraged by what he saw in Syria, he said that the Western powers must let Russia deal with Turkey with no restraint so that everybody wanting in the future to see Turkey to need a spade.
This behaviour was indeed un-Islamic because most Arabs were Muslims. I don’t think the same things were un-Islamic when the Turks did them to Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians, Serbs and other non-Muslims, because the Koran specifically recommends non-Muslims to be treated this way.
However, it's not the events described in my post that shaped my current opinion about Islam. I knew this all as a teenager and still I was very cautious about any negative perception of Islam, because at the same time the Communist regime was persecuting our Turks. (I'll write more about it some day.) I know that, until very recently, atrocities were done by everybody who just had the opportunity, so Turks (or generally Muslims) are not alone at all. Besides, what blame could be laid on today's Muslims for deeds committed long before they were even born? At the Balkans, we love keeping old grievances and old hate, letting the past haunt us and want revenge like Hamlet father’s ghost, digging for everything deep in history (of which a substantial part may be fabricated) and pointing fingers at each other. Sometimes old injustice must just be laid to rest. I wouldn’t give this advice to Palestinians if I weren’t ready to follow it as well. Especially when it's clearly the best for everybody.
Even when our medics were arrested and accused in Libya, I still thought it had nothing to do with Islam (I’m not so sure now.)
It was the recent Islamist terror, most notably Sept. 11, which made me change my attitude towards Islam.

Maya M said...

Now, about Islam and other religions.
You wrote, “Islam is beautiful just like Christianity and Judaism and Abraham's religion because they all come from the same God”. If you find my following thoughts offensive, this not deliberate but is due to my difficulty in understanding a believer’s mind (here I don’t mean just Muslim).
First, how are you sure that everything that comes from God is beautiful? If we define God (as usually) as the Creator of the visible world and the human mind, I think that the evil things we see and suffer pose some questions to his goodness. Not only I think so; as far as I know, the problem of evil has always been important in theology. The Bogomils, a group of medieval Bulgarian heretics, were so impressed by the amount of evil around them that postulated that the entire visible world was created by the devil and only the human soul was created by God. Their Orthodox opponents couldn’t defeat them by arguments and instead persecuted them and killed many of them.
I agree with Popper that being good is our own responsibility and we mustn’t justify our actions by “God wants me to do it”, unless we are sure that God may never want anything bad, but this assumption is AT OUR OWN RISK.
Second, even if you assume at your own risk that everything coming from God is beautiful, how do you know that Islam and the other religions you mentioned really come from God? All you have is books written more that a millennium ago and reflecting the words of people who presented themselves as God’s messengers. Like Ali Sina, I do not believe God sends prophets. “If God wanted to talk to us humans he would have talked to us directly not through dubious intermediaries with no credentials but their own words” (http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina50106.htm).

Maya M said...

This, I think, will be the last.
You wrote, “When I read (the Scriptures) I find many passages not only offensive but dangerous, just like you did in the Koran. I don't take them like this , I search for the historic context… I don't try to turn them into arguments against the people who belong to those religions, I don't fear them…”
Neither did I. My parents and the books taught me early that I must respect the beliefs and religious practices of other people, no matter how bizarre they seem to me, because faith is their basic right and none of my business. So I was also taking in historical context what I disliked in religions. But I can afford it no longer.
You can easily afford it. It is highly unlikely that you have suffered or will ever suffer from Judaism; and those missionaries are, I think, the worst thing today’s Christianity can offer to you. But Islam is now the major problem of the world’s non-Muslims.
Imagine you are a 16th century Inca. The Spaniards come to your village and try to convert it to Christianity. Because the residents are reluctant, the invaders kill several people and go away, telling you to think over because they’ll return. Next day, another Spaniard comes unarmed. He looks at the spots left on the ground by the victims’ blood, makes a sad face and says, “Oh I am so sorry for this! Believe me, this is not real Christianity at all! It only disfigures the image of Christianity!”
What would be your answer, or at least what you would want to say? I guess, something like this, “Sir, I don’t know and don’t give a damn what real Christianity is. All I know is that your fellow Christians are terrorizing and killing my people in the name of Christianity. So, if this is not real Christianity, go and explain the real Christianity to THEM. You are wasting your time trying to convince me.”
(You see, I also disagree with you that Programmer Craig should read more.)
Of course “Europeans Christians carried out horrible deeds too in the name of Christ”, but I don’t understand what comfort you find in this fact! Yes, Christians for centuries terrorized and killed other people and each other and extinguished free thought in the name of a man who preached love to our neighbours and even to our enemies. Then, what can we expect to be done in the name of a man who preached enmity between his followers and other people (as far as I know, Muslims must repeat 5 times a day that they are favoured by God while other people have earned His anger or have gone astray).
Perhaps you find comfort that Christianity finally stopped being virulent. But this required centuries, I haven’t centuries to wait, even if we assume that the development of Islam follows the same time course (which is unlikely). Then, remember what it required. It required the best European minds to devout their time and energy to bashing and mocking Christianity. Not just the Church, Highlander, and not just the fanatics who were actually killing people, but CHRISTIANITY as a whole. I don’t think that we would enjoy prosperity, freedom, democracy, science and the other hallmarks of the modern Western civilization if people like Voltaire had condemned just the Christian extremists and fanatics and had said that they have the highest respect for Christianity, the religion of peace.
And it also required a century of sectarian wars that exhausted both the Catholic and the Protestant church and made them unable to go on with their atrocities. Is it why Muslims always suspect Westerners of trying to instigate hate and wars between Sunni and Shia Muslims? Because the system worked once? But even if we are unscrupulous and clever enough to successfully instigate sectarian Muslim wars, I doubt that the system will work again. No matter how busy are the Sunni and Shia slaughtering each other, at the moment when they see a Westerner, they forget their enmity, embrace each other and together go to slaughter him.

Maya M said...
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programmer craig said...

Hi Maya,

I'm only going to comment on your ideas about good and evil. My personal view is that life is a test, or an oredeal that people must go through. The goal being spiritual growth, and becoming a better human being, for those who pass the test. And spiritual diminishment or mental illness for those who do not. Without evil, there could be no perception of the existance of good. There would be no choices for people to make, no pain to overcome, no opportunities for growth (or regression) and so forth.

That's just my personal take on the question. I guess I don't agree with Highlander that all things that come from God are beautiful. If one believes in the story of Adam & Eve, the Garden of Eden was all the beauty that God pronmised, and humanity threw that away. Hence the ordeal to earn a return to that state taht humans are currently undergoing.

I don't take any scripture literally. I don't think it was ever intended to be taken literally. I think there is a message (in at least Christian scripture, I feel that I clearly see what the message of Jesus was) and it's often in the form of a parable or a fable, to better illustrate what the message is.

This is all just my personal opinion, of course. I think the majority of Christians feel quite differently.

Maya M said...

Yes, you are right that without suffering and confronting evil people would never become truly mature. Unfortunately, evil sometimes is overwhelming and at moments I even fear that it could consume everything.
About Adam and Eve - I find the story beautiful and think everybody can discover in it something for himself. I think God WANTED them to eat the fruit. After all, they were thinking and curious creatures. God told them that the fruits of that tree would give them what they wanted (knowledge) and turned his back, letting them exercise their free will. Hadn't they behaved like adults, willing to know and ready to take risks, they would remain in the Paradise of the childhood. And there would be no humanity, just them two. Because thinking creatures don't even reproduce automatically, they needed to eat the fruit in order to discover their sexuality and Eve to receive her name, implying that she would become the mother of humanity.
For me, the real trouble in the story was not that they lost Paradise, but that Adam yielded to fear and betrayed Eve. It must have been difficult for her to forgive him. So she was full of messy feelings while raising her first son and he developed a personality disorder.

UmmAminah said...

John Sobieski - Islam is the religion that is being most converted into - in Western Europe and the US - by people who generally had a choice, and were born in complete freedom of thought. And what are they choosing in seeking a deeper meaning to life and beyond?

Anonymous said...

All religions are bunk. Islam is the ultimate archaic and barberic from of mind control and subjugation. Islamists bribe people with money and welfare to convert. This has been their main method of converting people since the inception of this religion while jihading their way in the 7th centurey.

Anonymous said...

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age.

Source: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1159094813/

Maya M said...

I wrote it in my post:
"If only they had wanted, the Turks could easily convert (or exterminate) the entire Bulgarian nation. However, this wouldn't be good for the economy. In the Ottoman empire, agriculture, crafts and other productive activities were largely reserved for non-Muslims who paid almost all taxes. The Muslims, especially the Turks, were soldiers, administrators and judges. It is clear that excessive conversion would destabilize this host-parasite relationship, although many converts retained their old lifestyle. So the partition between trusted "citizens" and productive second-class subjects saved the national identity of Bulgarians and other subjugated Christian nations."
To put it bluntly, parasites may claim that parasitism is superior to free life, but which parasite would wish all its hosts converted to parasitism?

habeeba said...

oh come on ottomans were cruel even to other muslim countries! it's not matter what religion u are...egypt as well was under the rule of turkish and they were good muslim but they as well paid bloodtax like bulgarian!so this shows that islam is a nice religion but not everyone follows it correctly! even slavery in islam is totally uncruel comparing with what the spanish crusade did to kill so many indigenous people in central america,if ur religion is mercifyul why that happened,why spanish crusade will go to central america and kill indigeouns people like my great grandfather and threated them like dogs...let me tell u they were same like turkish and not better even worse !

Anonymous said...

i angry with the last post besides you can not judge a religion by it's followers if you want to judge christianity or islam then go read the Bible and the Quran and every scripture you find you can say everything you want about these religions like hey christianity is good and islam is evil everyone can do that but it does not mean anything what humans say does not matter all that matters is what the Bible and the quran really teach

Maya M said...

Anonymous, if you want people to feel good about Islam, never-ever advise them to read the Quran!
I have read it, of course.

Opal said...

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