My bachelor degree is in history. That really isn’t anything special. I’ve come to the conclusion that most moderately trained monkeys could actually get a college degree these days. However, one thing that my background has enabled me to do, is to see modern Islam for what it is. If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Islam, let me tell you a little about it.
Islam spread through the Middle East like fire, then spread south, through Northern Africa, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, finally landing in modern Spain. At the time, Spain was not really very connected to the rest of Europe. Don’t get me wrong, they traded, they sent delegates back and forth, but they weren’t really united with Europe (for what little unison there was at the time). It is the fact that Spain wasn’t very connected to Europe that probably saved the West and allowed us to have Western Civilization at all.
You see, Islam, unlike Christianity, didn’t spread through peaceful conversion. People didn’t flock to Islam because of the hospitals or the care of the local Mosque. Instead, Islam spread through conquest. Mostly, Islam spread through the sword, but when the caliphs (Islamic rulers, just to make it simple) didn’t spread through war, they spread through the threat of war. In locations like Egypt many people allowed Islam in and helped them overthrow their government because they saw the current rulers as corrupt, and though the Islamic Caliphate would be a better government. Regardless though, Islam didn’t spread as a popular religion, but rather as a religion of war.
So what does that have to do with Spain?
Spain, at the time that Islam was spreading through Africa, was controlled by the Visigoths. The Visigoths were originally a Germanic people, who ended up in Iberia (as it was known) due to deals they made with the Romans. Basically, the Romans wanted the Visigoths to help them settle the frontier (northern and central Europe) and in exchange, the Visigoths got a piece of land: the Iberian peninsula.
Since the Visigoths had come in at the behest of the Romans, they had been engaged in violence in Spain for over a century. You see, there were people living in Spain prior to the Visigoths going there, and the Visigoth kings weren’t exactly known for their loving relationships with one another. By the time the Muslims came to Iberia, the Visigoths were in the middle of a civil war. This was a prime opportunity for the Muslim conquerors, who had already been hardened by battle themselves in North Africa.
The Muslim leader, Tariq ibn Ziyad came in and first defeated King Roderic (the king of the largest part of the Iberian peninsula), and then brought in Arab reinforcements who helped him to basically conquer nearly the entire peninsula over the next decade. The Visigoths were either completely subdued by Muslim armies, and had to agree to submission, or they were forced to flee into the North Western section of Spain, where they set up a kingdom that would oppose the Islamic invasion over the next 700 years (on and off, sometimes they were quite friendly). Yet, even after conquering Iberia, the Islamic conquest didn’t stop. Instead, once the Muslim governors stabilized their power, they began to attempt to move through the Pyrenees, attacking what would become Southern France.
Finally, the Islamic invasion hit a wall.
The Muslim armies had the same problem that armies had throughout history. Yes, they could cross the mountains, but at the same time, mountains are a natural boundary. They couldn’t manage the same kind of momentum in France they had managed in North Africa and Spain. The Pyrenees became a block that prevented them from moving resources and reinforcements as quickly as they wanted to. This lead to them having multiple set backs in their initial forays into France. However, they still didn’t give up, instead, human nature began to take its toll.
Humans are, if nothing else, selfish. The Berber ruler of the Eastern Pyrenees, Uthman, made peace with Odo the Great, the ruler of Aquitaine in Southern France. Uthman made this deal, from what we know, because he wanted to be able to divert his attention to the south, to deal with problems going on inside of the Caliphate. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier, about parts of Africa, like Egypt, inviting the Muslim armies in.
You see, you had Arabs and Berbers, among other people groups, all part of one large caliphate. The Berbers of Northern Africa had willingly joined into the Muslim conquest, many of them becoming Muslim themselves. However, as is often true even today in Arabic politics, the different sects didn’t really get along. Once they didn’t have a constant external enemy, they began to fight among themselves. The Berbers were persecuted by the Arabs, and Uthman, as a Berber, wanted to help his fellow Berbers in resisting this persecution.
Uthman made peace with Odo so that he could turn his attention to the south without having to worry about hostilities from the north. Once he had peace, he decided to rebel against the Arab governor of Iberia. This lead to in fighting among the Muslim forces of Iberia, not so much over religion, but over ethnic identity. Of course, since Uthman rebelled, he stirred up the anger of the other Muslims in Iberia and Northern Africa, who were headed predominantly by Arab commanders. Not long after his rebellion, his army was crushed and he was executed, by a new Islamic army.
The Islamic Invasion is repelled.
Uthman was dead, and a new leader, al-Ghafiqi, once again started to push into Europe. Odo, the duke of Aquitaine, had previously repelled Muslim invasions into his kingdom, but al-Ghafiqi was a brilliant tactician and leader. Odo was defeated twice in a row, his army was weakened, and his rule was in jeopardy. It wasn’t long before Odo was forced to go for help to his long time enemy, Charles Martel.
Charles had long been fighting against Odo, as he wanted to add Aquitaine to his growing land. Odo agreed to be his suzerain, and Charles came to his aid to fight against the Muslim invasion coming through the Pyrenees. Martel knew two things better than probably anyone in his day. First, he knew battle. He had been fighting and leading his army for years. Second, he knew that if the Caliphate spread into Europe, then the Christian world was going to suffer for it.
Charles managed to lure al-Ghaziqi into a battle in unfavorable terrain, where he had underestimated his enemy’s strength. This battle would become the start of the end of the Islamic invasion into Europe. Charles led his men not only into a battle at the front of the army, he also attacked the Muslim camp, breaking the enemy lines and their morale. This lead to the route of al-Ghaziqi’s army, and, more importantly, the death of al-Ghaziqi himself. With al-Ghaziqi dead, the threat of Islam moving past the Pyrenees was ended.
Leading to today.
Islam always spread through violence. It spread into Africa through violence. It spread into Europe through violence. It was ultimately repelled with violence.
Throughout Islamic history, this would be the repeated cycle of history. The Caliphate would spread and prosper, then, due to internal division, there would be infighting and decadence. Then, another wave of orthodox Islam would start, cleansing the old Caliphate via violence. That new Caliphate would then do the exact same thing, retaking the lost territory, growing decadent, and then having internal revolt from more orthodox Islamic sects.
Most interesting to all of this is the fact that this has always come out of Africa. The same place where Boko Haram come to power today is where “radical” Islam has festered ever since Africa turned to Islam. Yes, today we have al-Queda, ISIS, and similar movements, but if you trace them back you find that they have their roots in the orthodox Islamic teachings of North Africa.
Looking at history, this is Islam. Senator Cruz was right when he said we need to name our enemy. Radical Islam isn’t really radical, it is orthodox. That doesn’t mean that every Muslim is a terrorist, nor that even all Muslims are willing to accept terrorism. What it means though is that we do need to be willing to say that this is Islamic terrorism. These are terrorists who are following in the steps of Islamic violence that has been an all too real part of the Islamic history.