[POLITICS] I was reading an atlas of world history the other day -- yeah, I read atlases -- and found an interesting thought. One of the striking things about the 7th Century is how little time it takes for the Islamic armies to conquer the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, as well as Spain... all areas in the Christian heartland of the time. Only later do they conquer Zoroastrian Persia.
According to this here atlas, what was striking about the Arabs at the time was their tolerance
. They forcibly converted heathens, but by and large left Christians and Jews alone. Meanwhile the Eastern Roman Emperors and the bishops in Constantinople had a habit of harassing Christian heretics, of which Syria and Egypt were full. So the heretics had no reason to fight on behalf of Constantinople against the tolerant Arabs. The result was the flowering of Islamic civilization, and so long as the tolerance held, Muslim civilization leapt past the Christians.
Somewhere along the line the Arabs lost their tolerance -- probably in 1200 AD when the Mongols razed Damascus and Baghdad, and made it possible for less tolerant and less civilized warrior groups like the Turks and the Mamelukes to put themselves in charge.
Tolerance is not just a benefit you can afford when you're strong. Tolerance actually makes you strong. It makes your enemies willing to give up fighting you...
One thing to remember about Arab "Tolerance" during this time period.
Jews, Christians and others were "tolerated" as long as they recognized they lived as guests in the house of Allah. That might be fine for a generation or two, but soon enough poeple want to live in their own house.
Sometimes, part of truly being tolerant is recognizing the pragmatic differences that exist between you and your neighbor and allowing yourselves to go your seperate ways.
It's also worth noting that the Mongols were religiously tolerant and created the largest land based empire in world history.
So too with the British Empire, which was (usually) unconcerned with its subjects' religious faith. The British was the largest in world history, covering almost 25% of the world's land mass at its height. One illustration: after the Japanese kicked out the Spanish and Portuguese, it allowed British and Dutch traders to stick around because they didn't insist on spreading Christianity.
Can we then infer that George Bush is more likely to succeed in Iraq if he maintains his "Islam is a beautiful faith" posture?
(And let's not ask why George Bush, a Christian, lets the people of Iraq go unconverted.)
Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.