Bigotry and hate won't solve the problem
Never Published (December 2005)

Reading Thaddeus Kadziora’s Nov. 30 column in the Tribune (“Muslim horrors are our mistakes?”), I didn’t know whether to laugh aloud or cry bitter tears in response to the bigotry and hate that pervaded every word of his little rant. Mr. Kadziora’s column drips with vitriol. What’s more, it takes a very myopic and poorly-researched view of history. I feel it necessary to respond.

First, as a matter of personal interest, let’s take Mr. Kadziora’s statement that Islam has “devastated” 22 countries. What does this even mean? He cites Egypt, Spain, Syria and India in this paragraph as “countries” conquered by Islam, implying that these areas were in some way analogous to their current, modern counterparts. This is untrue. None of these areas were countries in any modern sense, but rather groupings of many small principalities and territories. And as for devastation, many of these areas flourished and grew wealthy under Islamic rule.

Kadziora also wants to raise the specter of good Christians going about their peaceful business and adopting “policies” of tolerance for Islam before being surprised by the murderous Muslim hordes. Ridiculous. During the time period in question (the seventh, eight and ninth centuries), Islam became the center of learning, knowledge and invention in the Western Hemisphere. The dingy northern kingdoms of Christendom could hardly compare to the grandeur of Baghdad and Cairo. They don’t call it the Dark Ages for nothing.

Did Islam spread throughout the Mediterranean and beyond? Yes. Did it do so through force? Certainly, at times. Was this unusual for the time? Hardly. Kadziora wants to shock us with his list of destroyed cities and conquered countries, but if Islam only managed to conquer 22 countries, it pales in comparison with Christianity.

Over a few hundred years of crusades, Christian armies destroyed dozens of cities, conquered the Holy Land, conquered Christian Constantinople, carved kingdoms out of the Greek peninsula, ravaged parts of France and Germany, and even sacked the Christian city of Zara, which was at the time a protectorate of the Hungarian King, who happened to be a fellow Crusader! When Jerusalem was reconquered at the end of the First Crusade, the accounts of the Crusaders themselves spoke of the streets running with rivers of blood as the attackers slaughtered the large majority of the populace.

The Thirty Years War was fought in the name of Christian religion on both sides, Catholic versus Protestant. That war devastated what is now Germany and Austria, and nearly every city in the area was attacked at least once, many over and over again, their citizens robbed, raped and murdered. Catholic-Protestant conflict led to the Inquisition, which, Mel Brooks aside, was hardly a laughing matter. Thousands of Jews and Protestants, as well as the falsely-accused, were subjected to torture and often death, all in the name of Christ.

Religion played a part in wars between England and Spain (resulting in the sinking of the famous Spanish Armada), as well as a series of wars between England, the Netherlands, and France. Again, this was Christians killing other Christians, simply over a theological dispute! Did aggressive and avaricious kings play a role in these conflicts? Of course. But not at all to the exclusion of religious fervor.

And let’s not forget the Christians in Germany who stood by or actively participated in the slaughter of six million Jews.

Is it fair to blame all these atrocities, fifteen hundred years of continual bloodshed, on Christianity, on modern Christians, on our friends and neighbors? No. No more so than to blame all Muslims for crimes committed in the name of their faith.

What about the claim that France’s “liberal” immigration policy has led to rioting? The truth is precisely opposite! Muslims entering France are treated like second-class citizens, looked down on by the “real” French, relegated to ghettos where they can find no work or gainful employment. It is the intolerance of French immigration law that has led to the recent rioting in that country. And to claim that a 10 percent proportion of the population of France being Muslim will lead to the French loosing “their country to the Muslims,” is just absurd.

Let’s rid ourselves of the kind of deliberately vengeful rhetoric espoused by Mister Kadziora. There is no question that militant, radical elements claiming a mantle of legitimacy under Islam are a threat to modern civilization. But saying that the billion adherents of the Islamic faith all bear an equal guilt for terrorism is bigotry. It is wrong. We should turn our backs on people who would preach such hatred. They are exactly the sort of people we are trying to fight.