Islam's spread story only half the truth
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Imam Mohammad Omar's guest column of Aug. 30, "Sword of intellect caused Islam's spread," is correct in the assertion that Islamic armies never forced non-Muslims to make the choice to "convert or die." While accurately telling readers this half of the truth, however, he fails to mention the other, more important, half.
This is the other half: While Muslim armies did not force Christians and Jews to convert, they forced them to "submit" to Islam as commanded by the Quran: "Slay the idolators wherever you find them," and "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection." The myth of "convert or die" is indeed false. The true message of Islamic conquerors was and remains: "Convert, submit or die."
This act of submission makes the non-Muslim a "dhimmi," a second-class citizen forced to wear distinctive clothing, to follow Islamic law, and to pay the jizya, or "protection money." They could not, and cannot, hold public office, serve in the military, own weapons or build new synagogues or churches. Given the choice between conversion and slavery, most people in conquered areas recognize the benefits of conversion.
Omar's op-ed article also says that "Muslims ruled Spain for about 800 years. The Muslims in Spain never used the sword to force the people to convert." No, they used the sword to force the people to submit and serve their Muslim overlords, a warrior caste enabled to amass enormous wealth simply by collecting jizya from infidels.
And why did they rule just Spain? Why not all of Europe? Was it because the Europeans lacked the necessary "sword of intellect" to see the beauty of Islam? No, it was because the same Muslim army that conquered Spain militarily was stopped in its tracks at the Battle of Tours by Charles "The Hammer" Martel and was simply unable to capture more territory. Omar also asserts that "the Christian Crusaders came to Spain and wiped out the Muslims." These are errors of fact. First, the Reconquista of Spain and the Crusades were two different events; their only similarity was that they were both attempts by Christian armies to recapture territory previously lost to Muslim armies. Second, most of the Muslims were able to retreat back to North Africa and not, in fact, "wiped out."
Omar also claims "the Muslims ruled Arabia for 1,400 years. Yet today, there are 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians, i.e. Christians since generations. If the Muslims had used the sword, there would not have been a single Arab who would have remained a Christian." To this very day, while not vanquished or converted by the sword, the Copts are forced to pay jizya, they are forbidden from testifying against Muslims in court, their men cannot marry Muslim women, they are forbidden to proselytize, and they are forbidden to work for the government or military. There are recent accounts of Muslim mobs storming through Coptic neighborhoods, killing Christians indiscriminately while the police stand by and watch. United Nations reports detail the persecution of Copts and the onerous conditions under which they are forced to live. While Omar reports 14 million Copts, most estimates are more in the 800,000 to 1 million ranges. Why such a low number? Institutionalized persecution, abject poverty, random executions and emigration whenever possible.
Omar also asks about Islam in America. Many Americans are indeed attracted to the many non-violent elements of Islam and choose to become Muslim without coercion. Some Americans, such as John Walker Lindh, convert and travel to Islamic nations to study "pure" Islam and learn to take up arms against Americans. There are many other American converts who have been convicted in federal courts of acts of terrorism or sedition, acts they committed in order to force non-Muslims to submit.
While Muslims do not use violence to force conversion, one must not forget one salient fact:
Between Sept. 11, 2001, and Aug. 31, there were 13,939 Islamist terrorist attacks, on every inhabited continent, all resulting in loss of innocent life. These were committed by devout Muslims.
The overwhelming majority of these attacks have been perpetrated for the purpose of achieving a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, in which those of us who choose neither to convert to Islam nor to die fighting will be granted permission to continue life as a second-class servant living under our masters' rule and paying for the privilege.
J. Keith Akins, has a doctorate and is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Houston-Victoria.