Islam and Islamism: Can History Suggest How the Strategic Future May Unravel? – Air Cdre RAF (Retd) Andrew Lambert January 21, 2015
Islam and Islamism: Can History Suggest How the Strategic Future May Unravel?
Air Cdre RAF (Retd) Andrew Lambert – Director of the ERPIC Regional Security Program
January 21, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, I stand up before you today, and you probably think I’m a little bit of a fraud. Why is a fighter guy standing talking to you about history? Well, I hope that I will give you a flavor of why we are where we are now, and manage to give you some of an idea of why it is that Islamism has developed in the way that it has.
Let me start by asking whether or not Islamism is a religion, or is it an ideology. Does it comprise far more than just the religious aspects, that we, most of us here Christians, understand? Is it probably about culture, or about politics?
Let me just think for a second about culture. People have said in the past that culture could be characterized as an iceberg: you can see 10% above the surface, you can see the actions of people, but the 90% remains hidden from view, and you don’t know what the intentions are. So, it brings you on to a point whether it’s a historical precedent or whether we are facing a purely modern phenomenon.
Now, I hope that what I say today will not just be a history lesson. I’m going to canter through history and you’ll think it’s a very broad brush view, but I hope by bringing out the particular points of interest it’ll show you that what is happening today has antecedents in what happened in the past, and there is a rationality in what has happened today from the past. I think it will help us to understand the assumptions under which many of the young Muslims in the world operate, it’ll show their beliefs and, I hope as well, it will improve our understanding of what is going on.
I should say from the start that I have some slides in here which I should give a health warning to, and if you are a particularly sensitive nature, I will tell you when to look down, and then I will tell you when to look up, so you’re not offended by them.
I have to go at a fairly high pace and, forgive me for that, much of it you should probably already know, and so we’ll just refresh your memories. But that said, I will try and get completed within the time without going too quickly.
Let me start by saying that following on from what happened in Paris just recently, this is Monday’s Financial Times, and one of the headlines inside says: “Young Muslims lag behind white middle class in a two-speed France”. It points out, behind bars half of all inmates in French jails are believed to be Muslims, even though they only comprise less than 10% of the population. Interesting statistics and something perhaps to come back to. This was talking about France. I would suggest you that the same is equally true in most of the Western countries, and it certainly is true in my country.
Let me talk a little bit about Islam. What is Islam, and what did it have as its principal tenets? Well, the first thing is this: Allah, God is indescribable, and of course he’s also incomprehensible. And probably I think we would all agree that that is the nature of the deity. But of course they go on and they say, Allah’s will revealed through the prophets – and you can see the prophets up there – is of course frequently misinterpreted. And what they mean by that, of course, is the Torah and the Bible, although, of course, more recent publications fall into that sort of category. The Quran is verbatim – the final word of God delivered to his final prophet. There will be no more prophets. There will be no more final words. There is no more interpretation that is necessary. It is written down, it is unchanging and that is what it is. You will not get a subsequent amplification. Islam itself – as defined in the Quran – is perfection. There is no higher state. Communism, fascism, monetarism – whatever you like – is not a higher state, and modernism certainly is not a higher state. This is perfection. The purpose of man – I include women, of course, here – is to worship God, to do God’s will. It is not to do good things. It is to do what God requires. And history, of course, is the progress of mankind towards the ultimate state, which is, of course, ummah – pan-national Arabism and Islam. So, that is where we find ourselves as the original starting principle.
Well, given that this started in the mid-600s, in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula, the first question we had to ask is: how in God’s name did it actually succeed, why wasn’t it just wiped aside as yet another sect? Of course, the view in Islam would be it was God’s decision that this would happen. We may take a more sanguine particular view, and let me just think through for a second, the context of how this actually occurred.
You probably recall from your recollection of history that, of course, there had been conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire for some time. Well, the mid 600s, the early 600s, there was just such a conflict, and both empires were absolutely exhausted. At the same time within Christianity there was a complete debate about what the nature of God was. We think of him as a Trinity. Does that mean there are three Gods? Or was he actually one God – the monophysite? Or is he one God with three natures? These things became really quite critical to the various sects in Christianity and gave rise to all sorts of debates.
While all this was taking place, many of the Semitic populations found themselves pushed to one side, and therefore they became progressively disaffected. At the same time, the emperor – Emperor Heraclius – was becoming old, and demented, and tired, and so there started to arise a popular support for Islam’s version of pan-Arabism: pan Semitism. They didn’t agree necessarily on everything that was taking place in Byzantium, the Christian West, so their chances now were to change horses.
Well, you’ll know, of course, Islam spread very, very quickly across the Arabian Peninsula. I won’t go through all this in too much detail. But where the strategic change occurred was at Yarmouk in 636, when the forces of the caliph – now the successor of Muhammad – had taken Damascus. Taking Damascus, interesting enough, because a monophysite bishop had actually opened the back door to the Muslim forces, and so for the first time we had a confrontation between the forces of Byzantium and the forces of Islam. It was not a well fought fight, certainly as far as the Christians were concerned. They tarried, they differed, they didn’t manage to get their act together, and the result was that the Muslims very convincingly won, it is sometimes said, helped by a sandstorm that came out of the east and gave them impetus to wipe the Christians away. But be that as it may, it is certain that the forces of Christianity were utterly defeated.
The implication of this was that the Byzantine army was on its last legs, and there was nothing left. There were only small garrisons left across the whole of the empire. The Byzantines had to regroup in Anatolia. They withdrew completely out of Syria, and by 640 the Arabs had occupied Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and by 641 even taken Alexandria itself. A very rapid rise to power. And if we look also on a slightly more global scale, let’s have a look at what that looks like. Well, most people will know that in 711 they moved into Spain and took virtually the whole of Spain. What people may not be so sure of is that they got to the gates of Paris in 732, and they were only stopped there by Charles Martel of the Battle of Tours – first Battle of Poitiers. And of course, had this not gone in the way of Charles Martel’s forces, maybe they would have continued even further. So, a very, very rapid expansion indeed.
Let’s have a look at the Islamic empire then in 750, which is a period we’re talking about. Occupying now the Persian Empire and the whole of the Maghreb up into Spain, and indeed along the southern part of France as well. If we move forward to 1100, they’ve expanded still further, now southwards, almost down, well, to the top end of Nigeria, right across the area of sub-Saharan Africa. And also, interesting enough, right down the east coast of Africa, as far as Madagascar, and almost getting around the Cape. The only reason they didn’t manage to go around the Cape was because their ships – these sort of dhows – found themselves if they set off southwards, there is a very strong current, the Agulhas current that runs southwards. And if you put a dhow like that into the Agulhas current, you will next be seeing north Antarctica. So because of that, they got as far as they could and established themselves an empire in that area there.
We should mention briefly the schisms that occurred in Islam and I’m going to talk about that in just a little bit more. The various sects that one knows of… Now, we all know about the Sunni and Shia sects, and I’m not going to spend too long on this, but you can of course see country-by-country where the Shia are in majority. But probably a better way to look at it is this patchwork that you can see dotted around. Interesting group there in India, obviously in Yemen there is quite an interesting group, the Alawites of course occupying the west of Syria, and quite a big presence up there in north-eastern Pakistan.
But let’s talk a little bit more about sects, because I want to talk about motivation. And the ones that I do want to talk about are these people: the Assassins. I was at Wellington College and my house master was a chap called Peter Willie. He was the second man to go, a second European to go down the Valley of the Assassins in the period of 1960 or something. And he found the castles of Alamut – and you can see Alamut depicted there just off the Caspian – and he started doing excavations in that area. These are essentially great monolithic bits of rocks that come out of the valley floor, but they do have a water supply and they have means of capturing water and storing it in large systems. At the time of the First Crusade, Hassan, who was the leader of the sect, decided it would be a good idea to extend his power. So, he established not a great power base and a great army, but a Garden of Earthly Delights. And he would fill a young lad from the local village full of hashish, and while he was unconscious or semi-conscious, bring him up into the Garden of Earthly Delights, where everything a man could wish for, was provided. While he was there, Hassan would visit him and say: “My son, we are together in Paradise”. He would then be filled full of hashish again, taken to the bottom of the mountain and be told: “My son, if you wish to return with me to Paradise, this is what you must do: you must go to Baghdad and stab the Nizam through the heart and, although you will die, I guarantee to you, you will return to Paradise.” And this is a picture, it’s not a particularly good one, of somebody’s stabbing the Nizam al-Mulk through the heart, and of course then destroying the power base of the local caliph. Well, by using this technique he gradually extended his power and it lasted for a considerable number of years, went on and on, and eventually he became a sort of power broker in the area of the north and west of Islam. Sorry, north and east of Islam, I should more accurately say.
However, there were now about to be two major setbacks for Islam. And the first of these really destroyed the Assassins there, destroyed them in their castles. And the first of them was of course the Mongol expansion that took place under Genghis Khan. I’ll let that run just once more so you can see it yet again. Over degrees of longitude rather than miles, the Mongols, of course, spread their terror right across. Let me just tell you about two particular expeditions that were of interest.
In 1223,1222, I should say, what happened was Genghis Khan asked his chief lieutenant Subutai Baghatur to take Batu Khan and to carry out a reconnaissance in strength around the Caspian. They went up through Georgia and Armenia, and ended up positioning themselves just off Crimea. They overwintered in Crimea 1222-1223, before fighting the Russians at the Battle of the Kalka River 1223, and then returning eastwards to the Great Khan, who at the time was besieging or just about to go into India. It was pretty clear that there were rich pickings to be had and so in 1236 Batu Khan returned westwards and took out the various cities and towns you can see there, culminating in Christmas and New Year 1241 in taking Kiev. From there the decision was taken they would invade into Europe. And so the Mongols advanced on three main axes: the bottom one through Hungary, where they defeated the knights of King Bela IV at the Battle of Mohi; the middle one, which came along through the Carpathian plain, basically to provide fodder for the horses; and the northern expedition which went and fought at what is known as the famous battle of Legnica, which destroyed King Wenceslaus and all the Teutonic Knights and the Polish chivalry.
As a result of these successes, the Mongols then turned south and went down into the Balkans taking the town of Kotor, which is now well-favored by cruise ships. This established a power base across the whole of the area shown there. The only reason they did not continue westwards was because the Great Khan died and Batu Khan went eastwards to try and see if he could become the new Great Khan. So it stopped events from taking place, but nevertheless they established themselves as huge power base in this area here, destroying at that time the Seljuks and their power base where they were. Establishing themselves at Sarai which is pretty much close to Volgograd, the Golden Horde – as it became known – became the power brokers in that area. In 1346 they took the town of Kaffa – which is in Crimea – which was a slave trading place, and they used dead bodies of plague victims being catapulted into the town, thereby starting what is known in Europe, of course, as the Black Death.
As a result of that the whole of Europe changed. The feudal system fell apart, urbanization began in great quantities. The power of the guilds was established, and so the way in which Europe as a whole changed its culture is quite remarkable. Now we started to get new motivations, new changes, new modernization.
But at the same time, we find the Ottomans rising up. The Seljuks have been killed, and as the Golden Horde starts to reduce the Ottoman power base, which originated just to the east of Constantinople, they took over and occupied the vacuum left by the declining Seljuks. Well, as we know, the Ottomans then fought the Battle of the Blackbirds in Kosovo in 1389 and defeated the Fourth Crusade in 1396, establishing quite a power base in this area here, and of course further south.
But I’ve set up here setbacks to the Mongols. Well, of course nothing could be allowed to stand idle for very long and this man suddenly appeared on the picture. Timur i-Lenk, known to most of us as Tamerlane. “Timus” means steel, but he had a limp, so he was “Timur the Limping Man”. We call him Tamerlane. He fell out with his adopted son Tokhtamysh, who was the khan of the Golden Horde, and he decided he would then attack him. And so in 1395 he moved up into the Golden Horde areas, got hold of Tokhtamysh, before deciding on a war of conquest in the Far East. He, I have to tell you, was a converted Muslim, but it was Islam of a particular flavor – an Islam that suited him, rather than him doing what suited Islam. Having taken out Tokhtamysh in 1395, he moved east to take out Delhi in 1398. He destroyed Delhi so utterly that there were – well, it is said – there were no living things at Delhi after his army had withdrawn, even the birds left the site. Before returning west again, because he saw a power struggle would occur between himself and the rising power of the Ottomans, he defeated the Ottoman sultan, Sultan Bayezid II, in 1402 at the Battle of Ankara and took him captive and kept him in a cage. Fortunately for him he then moved southwards, took Damascus, moved into the Levant. Fortunately for history Timur i-Lenk then suddenly promptly died. He was by now a very old man. He was on his way, interesting enough, to attack China, if you please.
But once he died, of course the power base of the Mongols declined, which allowed the Ottomans to re-establish power. Mehmed II, as we all know, took Constantinople in 1453.
At the same time, they established a presence in the Khanate of Crimea and the Khans in Crimea were allowed to go raiding up into the Christian areas to the north. Well, this gave Europe a bit of a problem because Europe at this time wanted to get across to the spices of the Far East. But of course in their way was the Ottoman Empire and the Mongol Empire. And so the Christians, as you know, developed a maritime strategy. One thought was that the Nile, which obviously rises somewhere in the middle of Africa, had a tributary that would come out here. And maybe if they could sail around and get into that tributary, they could get up the Nile, perhaps go across to the Red Sea and get out to the spices. And so the Portuguese started their great progress southwards to try and find a way of getting to the east perhaps up the course of the Nile. Interestingly enough, Christopher Columbus spent four years in Lagos and realized that there was no way of getting around the Cape. But how little did he know, because Bartholemeu Dias in 1487 rounded the Cape and found the first Hottentots.
Meanwhile, of course, there was pressure to try a different route and, as we know, Christopher Columbus managed to go across in a carrack like this – or four carracks like this – across to the New World. At the same time, Vasco da Gama had rounded the Cape moving around south of the Cape, moved up and eventually arrived in Calicut on the western side of the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, events in the north of India were taking another turn. Now, for the first time there had been certain number of Muslims in India before, but this man, Babur the Tiger, he was a great great grandson of Tamerlane. He was given power in Fergana, he took Kabul and then moved himself into Delhi – which by this stage was starting to recover – and established the Mogul, or Mughal, Empire. He was, say, a Muslim and he insisted on a very pure form of the religion. He established himself at the first instance at the Red Fort of Agra and, interestingly enough, he found monuments and carvings like this, and he said those are far too rude, and had all the private parts cut off.
Meanwhile, of course, in Europe events were moving on. The Muslims had probably extended as far as they were going to and in fact the tide was starting to turn. In 1492 Isabella and Ferdinand evicted the Moors at the final time from Granada, and the Moors then found themselves out of Spain. Where were they going to go? And so many of them decided the only course of action was to become pirates, and you’ll find the Moors that came out of Spain establish themselves in Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, wherever, across the Ottoman Empire, and resorted to widespread piracy.
What sort of piracy was it? Well, unlike Rome which of course was very much a slave economy, where indeed you had large mines that depended on slaves. You also had large estates, large villas that had their slaves to work there. In this particular world they needed slaves for the great galleys that they had, and they also needed slaves to work on all the plantations and various agricultural facilities around the Maghreb. And so slaves became the name of the game. And the Muslim pirates started to go and collect slaves. Now, all of you here will know of the Mary Celeste. If I tell you that around 3,000 ships were depopulated of their crews and left just to float off, then it puts the Mary Celeste possibilities in context.
One of the most famous attacks to get slaves was the attack on Giulia Gonzaga in 1534. She was deemed to be the most beautiful woman in the world. She was widowed at the age of 22 and in her castle at Fondi, just south of Rome, she was attacked by the Corsairs, by the slavers. They came, tried to get into the castle. She was warned at the last minute by one of her maid servants, and she made a hasty retreat. The result of the hasty retreat was her maid servants were then captured and disappeared, and the population of Fondi were then put to the sword. The man who carried out the attack was this chap, Hayreddin Barbarossa, and we will all know the name Barbarossa from various other activities. He was of course originally a Christian who converted.
What was the fate of the female slaves? Well, obviously what was going to happen to Giulia Gonzaga is pretty clear and indeed that was pretty much the fate that was presumed for most of the women who were taken as slaves. Don’t forget, of course, that most of the ships that were actually captured by the pirates had very few women on board. If there was a woman on a ship, she was probably a high-ranking lady. So very few women were taken off the ships. But those that were taken and those that were taken from the land were normally taken obviously to be an odalisque, as shown here. But actually, their fate is rather more mundane. This is a lady who is pretending to be a slave and next to her are two children. The fate of virtually all women that were taken was they were impregnated almost immediately. Because as soon as they were impregnated and had children, they had divided loyalties: should they stay here as a slave with their Muslim children or should they return somewhere else back home? Maybe their family was there, maybe they weren’t. So many of them chose to stay and many of them chose to convert to Islam.
The most famous of the ladies who were the most successful was this lady here, Rokselana, who became, well, she was captured up north near Poland. She was brought down to the Crimea, she was sold, she became a concubine of the sultan, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and she eventually persuaded the sultan to marry her. And it was her children then that became the future sultans. One of the few successful women.
What are the male slaves, what happened to them? Well, most of them are going to go to the galleys, which gives them a dichotomy – a dilemma, I should say – because of course they hated being on the ship, but on the other hand, if their ship was sunk and the Christians won, they were going to pay for it. So, the big dilemma. But these things required a vast number of slaves, and if I show you this picture, you’ll see some of them – I mean, not all the galleys were like that – but some of them had up to eight oarsmen per oar. The requirement that the Ottoman Empire had was for at least ten thousand new slaves every year, just men at the galleys. So a huge requirement.
How did naval warfare take place in that period? Well, it’s something like this. If a galley was taking on another galley, they would come into an arrow range and then the archers on board would fire volleys of arrows. And you can imagine the effect that would have had on the slaves – the rowers – who were staying by their stalls with absolutely no cover whatsoever. Well, this technique certainly worked at the Battle of Preveza against the Christians under Andrea Doria in 1538, and indeed under Suleiman the Magnificent things were going particularly well. Now, why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you all this because it establishes the sort of mindset of what is going on. Here we have the Muslim Empire, the Ottoman Empire reaching its pinnacle under Suleiman the Magnificent, achieving all these great things: Belgrade – taken, Rhodes – taken, Battle of Mohács and Hungary taken, Vienna attacked in 1529 and 1532. So a huge, great expansion, just as was predicted.
But then what happened? Well, at Vienna things started to go a little bit pear-shaped. Although sultan Suleiman had a lot of troops, his main armament was still his archers. And they came up for the first time against two groups of Christians: the Landsknecht men shown there, whose vestments there could largely absorb many of the arrows, and secondly, for the first time you see these people: arquebuses. And now for the first time we start seeing not just archers firing at each other, but we start seeing riflemen – I know, there weren’t rifles, but let’s call them riflemen – firing at each other. And the interesting thing is we start seeing the development now of volley fire, sequential volley fire: front rank fire, middle rank fire, rear rank fire, front rank fire, and of course that was enough by and large to stop the Muslim advance and the capture of Vienna.
Well, in Malta in 1565 again things didn’t go quite as expected. But of course in Cyprus in 1570, we all know – I’m sure you know – Nicosia was taken summer of 1570, and then the siege of Famagusta took place in 1570 into 1571. A considerable number of Muslim soldiers were killed in the battles that followed, as a result of which it re-motivated the Christians and in the battle that took place just to the west of Greece in the autumn of 1571 – Battle of Lepanto – we start to see some different dynamics at work. And the first one I draw to your attention is this. We have cannons on the broad side of ships, not where the rowers were, but now they are weapons pointing out to the side. And although there are still cannons in the front of the various galleys, now we’re starting to see the arrival of big men of war. About a third of the Ottoman fleet was blown up before it closed into range to destroy the Christians. So now we’re starting to see technology substituting.
Well, let’s just have a look at the sort of setbacks that occurred and the successes that occurred. And I’ll run through this, because I’ve already covered most of it. Yarmouk 636 – success. The Mongols go around the Caspian – bit of a failure. Batu Khan takes out the Seljuks. But there on the other hand the Ottoman state is established and they move on to take out Kosovo and move on from there. Then Timur turns up, defeats them at the Battle of Ankara and captures Bayezid II. Constantinople is taken – things seem to be back on track. But – oh my God! – in Spain Ferdinand and Isabella – the Reconquista. Babur then takes Delhi – things are OK again. Vienna – failure by Suleiman. Preveza – success. Malta – failure. Cyprus – success. And suddenly in 1571 – Battle of Lepanto. And it could be said that was probably the turning point. That was the decisive point. From that moment on they were still going to be failures, of course, for the Christians and still going to be successes for Islam. But the great expansion, the great improvement, the great perfection that was sought now seems to be unachievable.
Well, as a result of what happened at Lepanto, lot of the archers were killed because of the cannon fire, and new rowers are going to be required. Where were they going to come from? Well, let me talk to you a little bit more about slavery. And this is the number of slaves that were taken from the coasts of the Mediterranean in the period after 1535 – around Lepanto. And these are the numbers that were actually captured. So we’re not talking in tens, we’re not talking in hundreds – we’re talking in thousands. And if that wasn’t bad enough, if we look out into the Atlantic – these are years now, not numbers of people taken. This is the British fishing fleet that was attacked in 1617. Even as far as Iceland. Baltimore – the town of Baltimore – was emptied of people in 1632, and Lundy Island was finally invaded by Cromwell in 1645. And reports – and I don’t know whether these are believable or not – are that there were 20,000 slaves on Lundy Island. I suspect that’s probably a decimal point wrong, but even if it’s only 2,000, it’s an awful lot of slaves on Lundy Island.
Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, let’s look at what was happening. I mentioned, of course, the Crimean Khanate was entitled to go on raids up into southern Poland and along the Don Basin. Well, let’s just have a look at what happened in these areas. These were known as the Tartar raids by the Russians, but for as far as the Tartars were concerned, it was known as harvesting the steppe. Harvesting the steppe. There were no geopolitical reasons to take this area, there was no mines to be had, no resources to be had. They weren’t after food, they were after slaves. They were looking for entire villages that could be taken. Thousands of slaves – fit men and girls – they were all taken to Kaffa in Crimea, which is the slave market, and then sold on to Istanbul. And Rokselana whom I mentioned was one of these girls. In 1662, the town of Putivl was emptied and 20,000 were taken. In 1668 they moved up into the Ukraine, went from Poltava up to Kiev and took – it said – 60,000. 60,000 people. The old and the infirm were of no use, and they were generally left in the churches and just burnt, or some of them were given to the soldiers to act as playthings.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they were also looking to bring people up from the south, from sub-Saharan Africa. Islam had penetrated a certain way down into Africa, but it hadn’t penetrated right through up the whole area. And this, as you can see, is a picture of slaves that were taken until quite recently – I mean this one probably dates about a hundred years ago.
I asked the question – when was the last African state to give up slavery? And I’m not going to tell you the answer, but I would suggest you go and find out. Because you will be amazed and alarmed which year it was.
Let’s talk a little bit about African slavery. Generally, the Africans were not so good on the galleys and so most of the people that were taken northwards from this area were for the farms of the Maghreb. On the eastern side they had no need of fit young black men. What they were after were young boys who were castrated – most of whom died I had to say – and girls who were going to be exported and sold into India. Estimates vary at the bottom end between maybe eleven million black slaves were taken – and we’re not talking about the transatlantic trade; we’re talking about the north-south trade – at the bottom end 11 million, and some people have estimated as many as 25 million were taken during this particular period. When I say Islam was a slave economy, you can start to see the size of the way in which it operated.
Many of the girls were taken across to the Mughal Empire, and I mentioned to you the fact that of course under Tamerlane there was a rather different regime in power at the time. Tamerlane saw Islam as being the servant of Tamerlane. And so indeed it is true that many of the Mughals had a similar idea. This man, perhaps, Akbar was the greatest of the Mughal emperors and he found himself at one stage or another having to fight the people who did all the work for him, which were of course the Hindus. And if the Hindus ever rebelled, then there were all sorts of recriminations, and it was not unusual for them to take a number of the Hindu population, to massacre them and then to build on – as you can see – a pillar of heads. I have to tell that pillars of heads still exist in Bosnia and many of the Balkan countries, not of course inflicted by Akbar but by others. So this is again not a new situation.
Akbar’s view of Islam, like Tamerlane’s, was rather different. He was criticized on one occasion for having three hundred wives, because he was entitled to have four, of course. But the man who criticized him was given a one-way passport to eternity. He also – Akbar – was very interested in Christianity and he invited some Christian missionaries to come and persuade him how good Christianity was. And they talked to him about what happened to Jesus, and what essentially happened with Orthodoxy and the Roman Church. And he said, of course, “Christianity is a weak religion. Had I been Jesus, I would have got down off the cross, got an army together, and defeated the Romans.” That was his method of dealing with pretty much everything.
Well, I mentioned that the tide had turned and I’m not going to spend too much time. Siege of Vienna – 1683. Battle of Mohacs – 1687. Peter the Great, who after having all the ravages, the attacks down into the Donbass decided to move down to take Azov and establish a naval base at Taganrog, moved down with two armies in 1695, and again in 1696, and established himself in a great powerful position along the northern part of the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, in the Far East we’re starting to see European penetration, and you can see British, Portuguese, French flags, and Dutch flags as well. Interesting enough, the British were given Bombay as the wedding gift of Catherine of Braganza for Charles II. That’s how we acquired Bombay. But the main presence of the British was over in this area here. And you can see considerable Christian penetration of the Indian subcontinent. Of course, the whole thing changed then in 1757, when in the Battle of Plassey Clive defeated the local Nawab and the French forces. From that moment, on Britain was going to move into the hinterland and take the rest of India.
But then we need to move back, perhaps to the Black Sea. And this lady comes to the fore: Catherine the Great. Catherine’s plan very simply was to establish a new sort of empire. She wanted to divide the empire that she had and gain some more. In the north would be the Empire of Russia, and in the South would be the Empire of Constantinople. The reason was, she had two grandsons – one was going to have the northern bit, and the other one was going to have the southern bit. The unfortunate thing is, she didn’t really tell the Ottomans too much, though that was what was planned. Well, I’m not going to go through the various evolution of Russian raids, but I’ll show you just some of them. In 1769, she engineered an attack by the Turks into Russia, she sent two large armies that moved in, one from the east and then a further one from the west. In the Battles of Larga and Kagul in 1770 she managed to defeat the Ottoman Empire. At the same time the brother of her lover – you remember Gregory Olof was her lover at the time – well, the brother Alexander Olof took the Baltic Fleet, came all the way round through the Mediterranean, and beat the Turks at the Battle of Chesme in June of 1775 and utterly destroyed Turkish sea power for good.
Well, as a result of this there was a Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji which we won’t deal with in too much detail. But I will just show the provisions. The Sea of Azov was given to the Russians, the Crimean Khanate was given to Catherine, and so she now essentially controlled the whole of this area. Kinburn and Dnieper Estuary was given to Catherine. The Black Sea was now opened and of course she now received also four and a half million rubles, how very conveniently.
Well, in repeat of this in several other wars that took place it was clear that the Ottoman Empire was in decline. And this picture is from Gillray, the great satirist who depicted… There we have the Ottoman Sultan holding on to the back of an English horse with William Pitt the Younger. There’s the Emperor of Prussia – the Kaiser, Dutchman on the back, there’s the Emperor of Austria, there’s Katherine of course, and there’s a Frenchman standing there, who sang “Sacré bleu!”, but it’s clear now the way the power lies. It’s a preview of balance of power between the Brits, and the Germans, and the Dutch on the one hand, and the French, and the Austrians, and of course Catherine on the other. Notice the Sultan is left there hanging on to the back. That was the new sentiment.
And if it needed ramming home, it was rammed home in great graphic detail when Napoleon took Egypt at the Battle of the Pyramids and beat the Mamluks. And again, if it needed ramming home just one stage further, at the Battle of Aboukir Bay in 1798 Nelson defeated the French, although the Ottomans weren’t involved. If anything, the Ottomans were on Nelson’s side, nevertheless there was nothing that the Ottomans could do against these magnificent weapons of war. They were the B-2s of their day.
In the West there was then this sentiment. The West needs to do something to stop the poor people of the Ottoman Empire in Bulgaria, in Hungary, in the Balkans in to Greece, they must do something about it. And romantics like, of course, George Byron decided they would do something, and as we all know he died in Lepanto, Missolonghi, in 1824.
Well, of course, we then move on through the Crimea escapade. But even in 1873, while the Ottoman Empire was almost completely destroyed, we were still getting Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria. And in fact at that stage it was not Disraeli but Gladstone who said as a result of these atrocities, “the one great anti-human specimen of humanity.” And when the British prime minister says that, you can bet your bottom dollar – there’s a lot behind.
Well, the wars continued and indeed in – as you can see – in the Treaty of San Stefano which occurred following of the 1878 war. The Russians actually got within spitting distance of Constantinople. And they were only pulled back by the combined efforts of the Germans and indeed the Brits. Nikopol was taken. But if you look at the way in which the victories occurred, well, to begin with a few Turkish victories, but then it goes: Russian victory, Russian victory Russian victory, Russian victory, Crimean War – Russian victory. So suddenly we’re starting to see the whole change.
And indeed, by 1914 it’s quite remarkable that you look at the state of Islam. The whole of the Maghreb has been taken by the West, by the colonial powers. India has been taken. The Far East, of course Indonesia has been taken by colonial powers. The only bit that’s left independent for Islam is the Ottoman Empire itself. So you can see now the sense of the West imposing upon the Ottoman Empire and Islam in general. And indeed, in 1914, of course, the Ottoman Empire decided to join in, unfortunately they joined the wrong side.
Well let’s come to 1914, and the last 10 minutes I want to just talk about where we stand. And I want to just give you some idea. Not only is this a physical constraint that the West has imposed upon Islam, it’s also an intellectual constraint.
Let’s just look at some of the things that occurred by 1914. Well, in 1914 there was pretty much universal suffrage for every man in the West. Women were still yet to get the vote, but it wasn’t far off to establish an equivalence in entitlement between men and women. Industrialization. The greatest industrial revolution that has ever taken place. Things like electricity being used which fuels and powers virtually everything else. Railways. Railways not just to move people to go to the seaside. Railways to move whole armies from one side of Germany to another side of Germany. The internal combustion engine that was going to power everything we do. Flight. Flight could probably never have come from the Muslim countries. Armaments. The machine gun, the tank, the dreadnaughts. Telecommunications, which we of course still enjoy today. Medicine. And it goes on.
But then as far as the Islamic countries are concerned – what? Well, of course they will argue looking for Islam and the state of perfection, this is not necessary. What we are interested in is the state of our religion, the wisdom that we’ve generated, the logic that we understand, the work in mathematics and so forth upon which much of what the West has done has been based. And of course the purity of the religion.
So how should Islam then cope with what the West was offering? Hegemony on the one hand, and this modernization on the other. Well, how were they going to tackle all of this?
There was a man called Sir Hamilton Gibb writing in 1945, who said that you can divide Islam up into three main categories. You have the liberal secularists. I suppose the classic example of that is Atatürk: the division between religions on the one hand and the state on the other. Then you can enjoy all the modernity that is being offered by the West while still keeping Islam pure. You have the modernizers, the reformers, the people who say, well, of course you can enjoy what the West has, but still maintain the ultimate end point, which of course is global Islam. So you can use the West as you see fit. And then, of course, what he called the Mahdists. You remember the Mahdi in Khartoum, General Gordon (inaudible). Well, of course these are the people who say that this is all rubbish, we don’t want any of this, we don’t want to get rid of all this. We need to impose Islam at the point of the spear down the barrel of a gun by force of arms. That is the only way that you can actually impose it. Well, at the time he was writing that probably the population of Islam was sort of divided something like this: most people were secularists or modernizers and relatively few Mahdists. But arguably, in the last few years we’ve seen that start to move something like that. And this of course is the challenge that we need to look at.
For what is the West’s view then of Islam? How do we look at Islam itself and try and work it out? Is it actually a spectrum? You know, we have the secularists at this end, and may be the Mahdists, the extremists at the other end, you know, with the bulk of Islam somewhere in the middle. Or perhaps it’s a better looked at as a sort of body politic with the occasional bits of cancer in there that need to be removed? Or should we look at Islam really as a tree, and although we have all these different sects, we have sects like the Sufis over here, we have most of the people that are going to be Sunni, the occasional Shia, and maybe one or two of the extremists. How should we envisage Islam? Because if we don’t have a model in which we can categorize it, it’s going to be very difficult to understand it.
So what is this this “–ism”? Is it just fascism, communism, just a modern-day “–ism”, or is it something else? Well, this is what people are saying. Islamism is an ideology that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of the Prophet and rejects outside influence. It’s characterized by a deep antagonism. So we are now in the levels of the Mahdism: the extremism. And we still need to ask ourselves: is it ephemeral, or is it enduring?
So why is it happening now? Well, we – I’m sure you all know about this – we can talk about Samuel Huntington and the “clash of civilizations”. Is it because of the pretext – Zionism, Western hegemony? Even now, when everybody has independence, we still have forces in Afghanistan, we have forces in Iraq, you know, we intervened in Libya just recently. When will the West ever stop? Is it because of globalization, because now the message can get out to little pockets of Islamists everywhere? The people in the middle of the north of England know about what’s happening in Afghanistan and get on an airplane and fly there and participate. Much more difficult when they were just galleys around. Now they can do these sort of things. Is that one of the reasons why it’s happening now? Or is it maybe because of population growth and we have lots of people with unfulfilled aspirations?
Well, my maintain and the studies I’ve done, most of it, or a lot of it is because this is a strategic driver – population. (Picture of overcrowded trains preparing to leave Dhaka). This picture was taken – as you can see – just over a year ago and it’s taken in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And the question I would ask is how many women can you see? One thing is for sure. Even the United Nations mentions this, that whenever there is a surplus population, one that cannot be supported from the resources available, then expect problems. And it was Edward Luttwark who started to espouse this idea. He said, either you will get a conflict, or you may have disease, or you may have mass migration. But something has to happen. You can’t just have a surplus population that sits there and dies. Well, you can, but if that’s all they’re going to do, they’re just going to die.
Let’s have a look at surplus populations, and I’ll go through this in a fairly short order. (Pictures of population pyramids in Peru, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Chad, and Nigeria). In I put Peru out there just because of the shape of this particular diagram. It’s pretty much in balance. And if we put a plot across that and then apply it to something else…Let’s have a look at that plot, the Peru plot, and put it in Saudi Arabia. Well, that’s very interesting, isn’t it? So where’re all the girls gone then? Hmm, okay. What happened over here? Well, ‘67-‘75? Remember the oil shocks? Price of oil doubled and doubled again? And what happened? Population rose. What’s happened if we take Iraq and look at the same sort of thing? Interestingly enough, from 1990 in round turns population has started to rise and probably this will be unsustainable. What about these things here? I mean, these are mostly Western friends. What’s happening in Qatar, let’s go back to Qatar. I mean, that population graph that we’re shown here, where’re all the girls gone? And who are all these people? Well, some of them I have to tell you are expatriates. But that doesn’t account for all of them. And what’s happening in Oman as well? So you have this population burgeoning up and one wonders quite how that would be tolerated. Some basket cases for a second for you to look at. Let’s just have a look at Nigeria, for example. We did a study which I’m not going to go into now, which we were worried about the effect of AIDS on the population of Nigeria. At the time it was 85 million. And it’s now a 183 million. It’s gone up by a hundred million in the period, due to go up to 350 million, i.e. the same size as Europe, by the turn of the century. Chad – I’m not going to go through the picture here, but you can see the (inaudible) for Chad is even worse. So you can see they’re going to have a problem in the future.
Well, if you look at fertility per woman – and these are UN statistics – you can see that really sort of south of the Mediterranean and actually down almost to South Africa, that’s where the population growth is really going to take place. And many of those areas are of course Islamic. So how will these people view the world? One of the assumption these boys, these girls are going to make, well, I suggest based on their culture, they’re going to make the assumption, indeed, they’ll make it a belief that Western laws are not those of the Prophet, and actually they don’t, therefore, apply. Although the West is superior, things like Nobel Prizes and technology – use the West’s technology and turn it against it, reject materialism, promiscuity. Let’s return to the purity that was envisaged by the Quran. God’s purpose in all this is being thwarted, particularly by the West, but actually it feels like they’re being thwarted by anyone. But Sharia is the law and Sharia does not require that you have to do exactly as the law of the land requires, and therefore there is nothing necessarily wrong in massacring or enslavement. The end, after all, does justify the means, because it is given to you by God. So what does this mean in terms of slavery?
Well, you’ll be surprised by this. There are actually more slaves in the world today than at any other time. Debt bondage is common across areas in Turkey and Pakistan. Captured infidels are treated as slaves. I did some of the work for the deployment of British forces out to Saudi Arabia at the time of Gulf War I. And at the time of the deployment the question was what would the status be of British forces in Saudi Arabia. The status was to be that legally of slaves. And we had to then have that changed. Surplus children sold as child brides happen in Afghanistan, to considerable extent in Pakistan. Rotherham girls: we find a phenomenon in the West right now where girls, Christian British girls are given drugs, given alcohol, when they’re fourteen or fifteen, and turned into sex slaves, and then become the slaves of Pakistani masters. And this has hit the headlines in a number of areas. We all know about Boko Haram. And I would bet you that this group here, virtually all have either had children or are pregnant for the reasons that I gave. What are the Yazidi girls who’ve just been taken by ISIL? Well, I suspect the same fate has either occurred to them or awaits them. It may be illegal, but if you are a young Muslim, is it wrong?
Now, for those of a sensitive disposition, turn away now, look down, because I will show you some more pictures when I can get you to guess what they are. Let’s just think of other things that are illegal, yes, but maybe not wrong. There’s Islamism. (Pictures of jihadists’ victims). This is a young girl reporter in Chechnya – that’s what happens to her. That isn’t contrary to the Koran, she shouldn’t have been there. Is this wrong? Is this wrong? Is this wrong? Is that wrong? Okay, you can start to think about looking up now. This is the sort of group that we are dealing with who do not see anything wrong with this sort of situation.
Let’s talk about them a little bit more. I’ve looked at events that’ve taken place. Glasgow, when the bombers took out the airport. Look at Greenwich murder of Pte. Lee Rigby. What happened in Ottawa? What happened in Sydney? Remember? They took over a café. What happened, of course, in France just recently? And let’s look at the people who did it and see if there’re any sort of common denominators. I’m not going to go through this in detail. So what do these people find? Well, they watch television. They’re brutalized. They see nothing wrong with these sort of things. They see that happening on television almost every day. They also see the propaganda: Oh my God, they’re bombing again, they’re bombing our people, they’re bombing members of this sacred group of Islam! Day after day they see it. They want to belong to something because they don’t seem to have anything they can belong to. And they’re offered certainty in uncertain world. And if they do join one of these sects, of course they achieve prestige and respect. They’re told that they do God’s will and they’re told that it’s their duty to go and do it.
But the problem is, of course, they live in a sort of world that doesn’t necessarily cater for that. They live in a male-dominated society, it’s true. Boys are held in higher esteem than girls. Well, we’ve seen the statistics, we’ve seen the shape of the graphs – they’re liabilities. Boys, I have to tell you, in the West get everything almost on a plate. They all want to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. But I make no apology for saying a lot of them are very idle and some of them are not very bright. Not everybody in this world can be a doctor or a teacher. Most of them are going to do something else than that. And so we start to get a sense of frustration amongst these young boys. Why are their qualities not being recognized? What is it they have we have not done – we, the West – have not done? And so they become susceptible to this sort of suggestion or suggestionism. What are their inalienable rights? Why are their achievements frustrated by these sorts of things? Western society, imperialism, persecution, and the inability by the West to recognize talent. So, of course, their duty to Islam becomes an obvious way out. And if they can’t achieve their aims in this world, well, maybe they should think about other methods of doing it.
The international laws, the customs, the culture do not apply. It overrules the loyalty to the state, to the crown, or to the citizens, and in creating a state within a state then all these things start to become possible. Polygamy, slavery, murder, colonial justice, because Sharia is the only course to true Islam. And so when you find these young men and (inaudible) the ones (inaudible) that we’re talking about, when they start climbing the ladder of success, they find the first time they reach an obstacle, it becomes a little bit difficult for them to go up on it. And so the physical aspects, their physical ambitions are frustrated. And these are people who perhaps were slightly culturally arrogant, probably had poor academics, bit of a purposeless life, quite often they enjoy rap and gangsta music, unemployed, because they haven’t got any academics, and they resort to petty crime. And suddenly these sort of people find it very, very attractive to swap ladders halfway across. Because now you can go up a ladder of the spirituality and you can go quickly onto that ladder and eventually achieve what is your aim: the seventy two virgins in paradise.
Well, what is the West’s response about that? Well, sadly we don’t do very much. We have a president in the United States who has utopianist ideas. He hasn’t been very good at trying to decide what to do in Cairo. Indeed, he had, as you know, Mubarak virtually kicked out and encouraged the riots, and one can say that he’s pretty much like Jimmy Carter with the Shah of Iran, and the same is true with Obama. Couldn’t decide whether to intervene or not intervene in Syria and in Ukraine. Well, he sits on the fence a little bit and can’t decide what to do. Bomb Isis? Yeah, but don’t do too much bombing, just do enough to stop the offensives. Indeed, last night he said in Syria we are degrading and ultimately stopping the fight. Well, that doesn’t sound like a man who’s committed to decisive action.
I’ll just show you these pictures here. This is the bombing sorties that have occurred recently. In the months since August until just now we’ve launched, well, the West has launched 880 in Iraq and 666 in Syria. 1,500 sorties in the round. Let me just tell you, on the day of D-Day when we invaded northern Europe, we’ve launched 14,000 sorties across the beaches. 14,000. They haven’t done 1,400 in six months. On the opening night of Gulf War I we launched 2,000 missions on that one opening night. And they hadn’t done that in six months. Is this somebody who is decisively engaged?
Well, the question that I will put to you is this: what do we collectively and individually really know about Islam? Do we really understand? Because if we don’t, we really should start understanding what motivates the youth. Is it going to just fizzle out? We do nothing, we do what Obama is doing now, will it just gradually disappear? What’s going to happen to the oil price? What sort of effect will that have? How do we break this chain? Can we do this? How quickly can we do it? Is there something else that’s going to bring up a new casus belli? Because at present we seem to be doing pretty much nothing: fecklessness. And we’re becoming tolerant, certainly as regards the press.
Military responses, of course, have the unfortunate side effects of just creating more martyrs, more people then who go off to fight the West. Maybe we should try psychological factors: undermine the leaders, undermine the beliefs, give a sense of purpose to these young men and remove the rabid. Or maybe we should also think about the legal principles, see if there is a law that we could enact.
And the final thing I will suggest to you is maybe we need to think about the law a little bit more. The freedom of speech, as you know, Charlie Hebdo, the fights that went on in Paris, the massacres that took place, can easily be turned against us. If we’re entitled to produce a picture of Muhammad weeping or doing whatever it is and that is considered unsavory, well, how much more do we find it unsavory if I said, right, we must go forth from hence and massacre Christians? Your freedom of speech and my freedom of speech are both the same principle and both must be upheld. How about thinking along these lines though? What can we do to get curb the incitement, the coercion, and the brainwashing that is happening to these young people? And I’d suggest you, maybe the sort of law that we now need to adduce is a “freedom of choice” principle. We have freedom of speech, now we need to give a “freedom of choice” principle, so that they will not be incited, they will not be coerced, and they will not be brainwashed. And I suggest I just throw it out as a line of an argument. Any person acting on his own behalf or as an agent, perhaps even a priest, for another, perhaps even a religion, who offers an inducement, tangible or intangible, i.e. money or a place in heaven, or creates an obligation, “it is your duty to do X, Y and Z, to carry out an act contrary to the law of the land, i.e. commit a crime,” should, I suggest, be considered guilty of the crime of equal gravity to the law that has just been crossed. Maybe that is a line that we should take and maybe we should make sure that people who are giving advice, priests in particular, but politicians perhaps as well, are required to record what it is they are saying so that we can hold them to account.
Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for being so fast and furious. I will now give the floor across to Klearchos Kyriakides, who will now take us through the more pragmatic things. I hope you find that what I have said in terms of history resonates down into what we find today. Thank you very much.