In the first post under this title, I looked at the apparent forever incompatibility of Islam and Peace in the present. Here I glance at Islam’s 1,400 year history to test the incompatibility of Islam and Peace in the past.
Islam was violently aggressive in Mohammed’s lifetime and at his initiative. No other founder of a major religion behaved this way. Islam, under the leaders that followed him, remained violently aggressive for over 1,000 years, at least through the second siege of Vienna in 1683 by the Ottomans.The only exceptions to this violence were a handful of rulers who were, by definition, not militantly devout Muslims. The Mogul leader Akbar, called the Great, comes to mind. But he was followed a few decades later by his grandson Aurangzeb, who spent his 59 year-reign (1648-1707) trying to Islamize the far more numerous Hindu population, thereby contributing to the political defeat of Islamic rule and opening the way for Britain to slowly take over.
In the West, starting with the 1697 Battle of Zenta, the dramatic victory of Prince Eugene of Savoy near Belgrade, Islam in its Middle Eastern core lands, including southeastern Europe, began a centuries-long period of decline and profound stagnation, not to begin to be reversed until after 1945.
This period of over 250 years of decline and stagnation created a deep-seated illusion in the Western mind that Islam, if not exactly a peaceful religion, was at least not aggressive or supremacist, because there were no actions throughout that long period consistent with its behavior over the earlier 1,000 years of its existence.
But there was a second level of illusion perhaps even more basic. This illusion arose from the fact that the West was itself enormously violent over most of the same centuries of its history, culminating in the two ferocious wars of the 20th century, rightly called World Wars. The West also, especially in what we call its medieval period, was supremacist in its (religious) ideology, and slightly more subtle (white) supremacism in its colonial centuries, roughly from 1519 (Cortez in Mexico) until 1945, or even 1975 (the end of Portuguese rule in Africa).
But along with all this aggressive violence, Europe also enjoyed two long periods of Peace that were not the result of stagnation, the century from 1815-1914, and the period from 1945 to the (shaky) present.
What allowed for those two periods, the second watched over vigilantly by the United States (at least until 2011 with Obama and now Trump perhaps signaling retreat from that role) was also intimately related to half a dozen mega-developments which have absolutely no parallel in the history of Islam.
I refer, in chronological order to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the birth of Science, the Enlightenment, the related birth of Political Democracy and Individualism, and the spectacular results of the rise of Industrialism. Even though the cycles of war obscured and threatened these colossal changes, the net result was to give us, however shaky, a Civilization with a large majority of citizens who value Peace more than War, and which also has the Institutions best guaranteed to both preserve that peace internally and to maintain a Defense against threats from without.
Islam has never had anything like these mega-developments in its history and has indeed scorned learning from them. Nowhere has this stark refusal to learn from or accept what we call Modernity been more evident than in its implacable hatred of Israel. (I refer not to all Muslims, but to all devout Muslims who do seem to be the majority of World’s Muslims as reflected in the policies of the OIC, the attitudes of most citizens of Muslim-majority countries, and the collective attitudes of the Muslim communities of Europe.)
In looking at Israel’s history and accomplishments over the last almost 70 years, it would be hard to find a better example of how to create a prosperous, creative, physically/medically healthy society of free individuals who also rank high in a ‘happiness’ index despite being surrounded by deeply hostile neighbors.
And yet those populations remain resolute in nothing so much as their adamantine refusal to learn ANYTHING from that society despite the fact that their own societies and States verge ever closer to a status or failure and renewed stagnation – except in the export of terrorism or (from the petro-states) rivers of money to finance the takeover of other societies in the image of Islam’s immemorial history of intolerance and submission, including the rejection of Freedom for and by all of its own peoples.
Hence the conclusion: whether you look at its long past history or the fevered present of all its heartland countries in the Middle East, Islam and Peace seem clearly to be Forever Incompatible. And this is particularly true between Shiite and Sunni Muslims which, going by body counts in the hundreds of thousands, are even more existentially hostile to each other than they are to non-Muslims (although that’s a close call which may be due to absence of opportunity for lethal violence on a larger scale against non-Muslims)