[Buddha-l] Was Buddhists Taking a Stand Against Islamophobia

jo 05jkirk at gmail.com
Wed Sep 26 07:14:12 MDT 2012

All very interesting.  Bernard Lewis is however not a favorite of Islamic
Studies scholars, or at least some of them.  The Ottomans probably were THE
most successful Islamic empire in history.  
Aside from the above, I shan't write more, as Greg and Gerald are on with a
topic quite different from the one I was on about, where I was talking about
a 'culture' vs. cultures (aka financially supported orthodoxy vs. variety). 
On Behalf Of G. McLoughlin
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6:14 PM

Pretty much any standard modern history of the early conquests and
the Islamic expansion  tells the same story.  Muslims were not interested in
conversion of non-Muslims by the sword. For example, the popular The Arabs
in History , Revised Edition (p. 56 - 59. Harper-Colophon Books,) by Bernard
Lewis describes the astonishment of the early Arab conquers that conquered
non-Arabs would try to convert. Not only did this confound the belief that
God loved the Arabs best, the state lost certain revenues on non-believers. 
There was little motive for forcible conversion. In fact the Koran states,
"There is no compulsion in religion." For the Arab conquests the old story
of a vigorous new society rising up at the same time the old, established
and rich empires were becoming weak  (the Persians, etc.) seems to be a far
more plausible narrative than a desire to convert by the sword
(as distinct from raiding, robbing, killing,  looting, and conquering those
you can which seem to be universally popular activities).  

The whole question of what you do with "pagans" and "the idolatrous" under
Muslim rule is different from the question of what you do with people of the
book (Christians and Jews) who have a special status. I believe the answer
has varied widely in time and place, but typically has been more in line
with giving them third class status below Muslims and the second
class Christians and Jews than forcible conversion. 

For the non-Muslim Arab case of Mecca remember that the early Muslims had
been kicked out of Mecca by the "pagans" and were at war with the Meccan
establishment.  I believe that the conquest of Mecca was less a matter of
conversion by the sword and more of a matter of physically destroying the
hostile "pagan" religious establishment and the "pagan" gods (although the
main "pagan" religious tourist attraction, an
apparent meteorite, was incorporated into the Islamic pilgrimage).  

The next great Islamic empire was that of the Ottoman Turks
(who also conquered the Arabs)  where the practice was very similar.  Many
Jews fled Christian persecution by felling to Muslim lands where they would
not be subject to  forcible conversion as they
were threatened with forcible conversion to Christianity or death (although
like the Christians they would normally be second class
subjects).  Many Spanish Jews ended up in Bosnia where there is a great
historical  mystery  concerning conversion to Islam. Only in Bosnia do we
see  conquered Christians converting in large numbers  under Turkish
Muslim rule. The  conversion of Bosnia is the historical mystery of the
region. Why did Bosnians convert in such numbers under Ottoman rule and not
other peoples who were under the same conditions, say Serbs?  One theory is
that the Bogomils (Bosnian Christians who many believe were Gnostic or
pro-Cathar, but there is  little compelling evidence and they may have had
no clear theology) switched en masse because they were rejected by Rome
as heretics (the  fate of the Cathars made pretty clear what happened to
such heretical groups without protection of a larger church or state), and
some Muslim religious practice seemed similar in form to some of their own.
In short, if you have to choose religions better the side that won't kill
you and looks a little like you. The Bogomils became Muslims in such number
that they more or less completely disappeared as a separate religion. The
fact that the conversion was so rare, I believe unique, underlines the well
established fact that the Islamic Ottoman state was not interested in
forcible conversions. Over time it is possible that many people would
convert, less out of belief and more to avoid the real disadvantages
of being a non-Muslim in Muslim society, but to say this  was conversion by
force or such conversion was the  motive for the conquests seems



 From: Gregory Bungo <gbungo at earthlink.net>
To: Buddhist discussion forum <buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:34 PM
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] Was Buddhists Taking a Stand Against Isllamophobia
Hi Gerald,

>Gerald McLoughlin <caodemarte at yahoo.com> wrote:
>Please note that Arab conquests were not wars of religion as such. The
conquered were not even allowed to convert to what was then seen as the
religion of the Arabs for a very long period of time. Finally the view that
Islam was open to all carried the day, but forced conversions, if existent,
would have been rare to the vanishing point. Of course,  Islamic states were
historically far more tolerant of Christians and Jews than the Christian
states, "pagans" being a different complex story.

What's your source for saying that the conquered weren't allowed to convert
for a very long period of time?  My understanding is that while Muhammad was
still alive there was a religious conquest of Mecca by Muhammad's followers
from Medina.  Yarmuk followed pretty soon after that.

I'm also skeptical about the rarity of forced conversions.  What's your


Greg Bungo  

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