In light of Jack Straw’s recent comments about Muslims accepting Britain’s Christian values, Tipu Sultan looks at Christianity’s history of violence up to the modern day.
Labour’s former Foreign Secretary who presided over the illegal war in Iraq, Jack Straw recently boldly claimed that Muslims must accept Britain’s “Christian values”.
The question which naturally comes to mind is what exactly are “Christian values”? There appears to be no set orbit as to what these values are from one time to another and the boundaries are forever changing. For example, Britain’s Christian values at one point was against same sex marriage, however we know that this is no longer the case.
Would it be right to also claim that “Christian values” include the glorification of violence – is this what Jack Straw really wants to call people to? The horrible truth of course is that, numerically and statistically speaking, Christian civilisation is the bloodiest and most violent of all civilisations in human of history, and is responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths. Even so, Muslims will never associate this violence and blood bath with the teachings of Prophet Jesus (pbuh).
Christianity’s bloody history
Nowhere in Islamic history can one find a doctrine similar to Saint Augustine’s cognite intrare (“lead them in”—i.e. “force them to convert”). In fact the Qur’an says the exact opposite: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Augustine’s frightening idea that all must be compelled to “conform” to the “true Christian faith” has unleashed centuries of unparalleled bloodshed. Indeed, Christians have suffered more under the rule of Christian civilisation than under pre-Christian Roman rule or any other rule in history.
Millions were tortured and slaughtered in the name of Christianity during the periods of the Arian, Donatist and Albigensian heresies, to say nothing of the various Inquisitions and Crusades, when the European armies were saying, as they slaughtered Christian, Muslim and Jewish Arabs: “Kill them all, God will know his own”. Needless to say, these transgressions and indeed all the transgressions of Christians throughout the ages have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ and or even the New Testament as such. Indeed, no Muslim by definition would ever or will ever blame this on Jesus.
By no means was such indiscriminate violence limited to Europe’s “Dark Ages” or to one period of Christian history. The Reformation and Counter Reformation took inter-Christian slaughter to new extremes; two thirds of the Christian population of Europe being slaughtered during this time. Then there were (among many others wars, pogroms, revolutions and genocides) the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815); the African slave trade that claimed the lives of 10 million; and the Colonial Conquests. Estimates for the number of Native Americans slaughtered by the Europeans in North, Central and South America run as high as 20 million within three generations.
Christianity in the twentieth century
Despite the ravages of Europe’s violent past, in the 20th century, Western Civilisation took warfare to new extremes. A conservative estimate puts the total number of brutal deaths in the 20th century at more than 250 million. Of these, Muslims are responsible for less than 10 million deaths. Christians or those coming from Christian backgrounds account for more than 200 million!
The greatest death totals come from World War I (about 20 million, at least 90% of which were inflicted by “Christians”) and World War II (90 million, at least 50% of which were inflicted by “Christians”, the majority of the rest occurring in the Far East). Given this grim history, it appears that we Europeans must all come to grips with the fact that Islamic civilisation has actually been incomparably less brutal than Christian civilisation. Did the Holocaust of over six million Jews occur out of the background of a Muslim civilisation?
In the 20th century alone, Western “Christian” powers have been responsible for at least twenty times more deaths than Muslim states. In this most brutal of centuries, we created incomparably more civilian casualties than Muslims in the whole of Islamic history. This continues even in our day – witness the slaughter of 900,000 Rwandans in 1994 in a population that was over 90% Christian; or the genocide of over 300,000 Muslims and systematic rape of over 100,000 Muslim women by Christian Serbs in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 or the new spate of violence by so called Christians in the Central African Republic.
The production and use of nuclear weapons alone should be enough to make Western Christendom stand in shame before the rest of the world. America created nuclear weapons and was the only country to ever use them, and Western countries strive to maintain a monopoly over them.
It should also be mentioned that although Islam has the concept of “legitimate war” (as does Christianity, Judaism, and even Buddhism), nowhere in Islamic values and culture (or in other cultures that survive today) is there latent the idealisation, and perhaps idolisation, of violence that exists in Western culture and values.
Westerners think of themselves as peaceful, but in fact the gentleness and sublimity of the New Testament, and the peace-loving nature of the principles of democracy, are scarcely reflected in Western popular culture. Rather, the entire inclination of popular culture – Hollywood movies, Western television, video games, popular music and sports entertainment is to glorify and inculcate violence. Accordingly, the relative rates of murder (especially random and serial murder) are higher in the Western world (particularly in the U.S., but even in Europe, taken as a whole) than they are in the Muslim world in counties that are not suffering civil wars, and this true despite the much greater wealth of the West.
In conclusion, we ask, has Jack Straw ever read the following words from his Christian values?
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” [Matthew 7:1-5]