Saturday, January 12, 2008

The first jihad

The Arabs, in lightning thrusts, challenged and beat the Byzantines to the north and the Persians to the east, both weakened by their continuous wars with one another, thus imposing their control over the Christian majority in the Levant and the Zoroastrian majority in Persia, and therefore over the entire Middle East.

These stunning successes were rapidly followed by conquests of Christian and Jewish populations in Egypt, Libya and North Africa's Maghreb (Arabic for "the West"), and, in the east, central Asia and the Hindu population of northern India. Not content with these triumphs, Arab armies invaded and subdued much of Christian Spain and Portugal, and all of Sicily. Since the Roman Empire, the world had not seen such power and reach. All fell before the Saracen blades.

Most accounts of Islamic history, even that of the Lindholm's esteemed The Islamic Middle East, glide over these conquests, as if they were friendly takeovers. But the truth was very different.

The evidence is overwhelming that vast numbers of infidel male warriors and civilians were slain, and that most of those spared, particularly the women and children, were enslaved for domestic and sexual servitude. While men who willingly converted were spared, their wives and children were taken as slaves.

In conquered regions, children were regularly taken from parents, while on the borders -- especially in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa south of the Sahara -- raiding for slaves was normal practice. Of the male slaves, a substantial number were made eunuchs by the removal of sex organs, in order to serve in harems.

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