Malalai Yusufzai Update & Some Christian History
Wandering the Web this morning I read the story about fifteen-year-old Malalai Yusufzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by Taliban extremists, heading back to the hospital for reconstructive surgery. She will be getting a thin titanium plate to replace the portion of her skull shattered by the impact shock from the bullet (it didn’t, in fact, penetrate her skull), and a cochlear implant to replace the structures within her left ear that were likewise shattered, leaving her deaf in that ear. It was a great story about the progress of this young lady, who nearly paid the ultimate price for her activism in support of female education in the Taliban-dominated region of Pakistan where she lived.
Then I read the comment stream, and wanted to vomit.
I read comments of such venom against the entire religion of Islam, right up to questioning why Malalai would choose such a religion, that I wanted to bang my head against my desk in despair. How can we seek peace with such fundamental misunderstanding?
I really do think that before people consider all Muslims to be fanatical terrorists they should take a long hard look at the atrocities carried out for centuries in the name of Christianity.
- Conversion at the point of a sword: the Lithuanians were put to the sword by the Teutonic Knights if they did not convert. After a certain amount of slaughter, the country bowed to the will of the Church, rather than see their entire population massacred.
- Genocide: at various times, when deemed necessary by the Church or Kings, pogroms attempted to wipe out European Jews – usually they were motivated for political reasons (the Church needed to distract the peasants from whatever the Church was up to) or financial (Kings would spark a pogrom when their debts to Jewish bankers got too large or inconvenient-popular in England). Just in the last 30 years, the Christian Serbian army used the rape (and perceived defilement) of Muslim women as a military tactic in their efforts to wipe out the Serbian Muslims. It was particularly successful if they managed to get the women pregnant.
The Cathedral of Chartres by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
- Destruction of European paganism: the Cathedral at Chartres is built on the most holy site in Europe to pre-Christian pagans. Missionary priests regularly ordered the destruction of oak groves, the fouling of sacred springs and the preemption of pagan festivals and traditions into the Christian calendar [Yule, the pagan festival falling on the Winter Solstice, celebrates the re-birth of the Goddess' Son; Oestre, the Spring Equinox fertility festival gives us the baby chicks, eggs and bunnies for Easter; Samhain, the Festival of the Dead, morphed into All Hallows' Eve; and so on]. Native herb healers and wise women (or women inconveniently owning property) were frequently burned as witches.
- Invasions of foreign non-Christian countries for “religious” reasons: the Crusades. Several were called because a corrupt Pope needed to distract the nobles of Europe from whatever he was up to at the time. One or two were pushed by Kings for the same reason.
- Individual murder of non-Christians: the Inquisition made a habit of going after people who had substantial property, as that property would be confiscated by the Church after they were found guilty of heresy and executed. Witch hunts were a common method of removing a unifying element, the village herb woman, from peasant villages so the barons could violate the peasants’ rights to their land. They were also convenient for removing political obstacles [Joan of Arc]. They also came into play when medical doctors became a social force, and they didn’t want any herbalists or females competing for business. Funny thing – they left midwives alone, because they had no interest in caring for women in childbirth.
- Suppression of women’s rights: in most European pagan societies women had rights-to property, to be educated, to control their own lives. With the advent of Christianity, with it’s schizophrenic attitude towards women courtesy of Saint Paul (who I’m sure was a misogynist), women became property. They lost all rights to self-determination, and if they objected, they were burned as witches. Only with the Enlightenment did women start to reclaim their rights, and the fight is still ongoing.
- Control of secular governments: during the Dark and Middle Ages, kings ruled at the pleasure of the Pope. If a Pope (or even just a bishop) didn’t like what a king was doing, he could threaten everything from excommunication of the King to placing the entire country under the Interdict, a ban forbidding priests from performing any of the sacraments – this meant they could not hear confessions, give absolution, give Last Rites to the dying, say Mass, perform marriages or conduct burials in sanctified ground.The entire nation was denied the rituals and solace of its faith. On a lesser scale, any priest of whatever station could excommunicate anyone for any reason. Control through fear.
Pope Innocent III excommunicating the Albigensians (left), Massacre of the Albigensians by Crusaders (right)
- Sectarian violence: let’s just take France. During the Middle Ages France spawned several breakaway Christian sects. Catharism rejected the Catholic Church’s structure, dogma, theology and authority. After the murder of a papal legate in 1208, the Pope called for the Albigensian Crusade, which attempted to extinguish the Cathars in the next decades. When the Crusade didn’t do the job, Pope Innocent III launched the Medieval Inquisition to finish the job. From 1309 to 1377, seven schismatic French popes lived in Avignon, opposed to the popes residing in Rome. The Avignon Papacy was not a peaceful one. Following the Protestant Reformation, French Huguenots and Catholics battled it out during the Wars of Religion, until the 1598 Edict of Nantes mandated tolerance for the Huguenots.
The list is nearly endless. I didn’t even touch on the horrors perpetrated on the native peoples of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean islands by the invading Europeans and their missionary priests. Or the Far East and Australia. These weren’t so much the Church feeding on its own, as they were part of the European expansionism and drive for empire. They are just as shameful, if not more so. Much of it occurred after religious tolerance had taken root in Europe, but native peoples were rarely, if ever, granted equal status with the foreign invaders. In trying to destroy the native culture, destruction of the native religion was paramount.
Did this aggression make all Christians screaming fanatics? No, it didn’t. Most European Christians during those times were simply people trying to live their lives without pissing off the fanatics in power. Fanatics of any stripe dominate through fear, and they do it to their own people as much as they do it to others.
King Farouk and Arab Monarches
Modern Muslims are no different. Islam, which is 500 years younger than Christianity, is not a religion of violence, any more than Christianity. BUT, you can justify jihad with the Koran just as you can justify crusades with the Bible. Mohammed was married to several successful businesswomen, and supported the education of women. His wives supported him, not the other way around. He spoke of modest dress for all his followers, regardless of gender. There are just as many instances of his message being corrupted by the various Islamic sects as there are of Christ’s message being corrupted, starting with the Acts of the Apostles and continuing with Paul’s Epistles… and then the early church fathers.
Islamic Minarets (Photo credit: rogiro)
Islam in this century is trying to mature past this point in their religion’s story, just as Christianity matured past the absolute domination of a fanatical and corrupt Church during the Late Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. Eventually, one hopes, the Roman Catholic Church will get the message that they’re not in charge anymore. The historical parallels are amazing… and they should be instructive, but they will only be to those with open minds.
Those spewing hate at all Muslims are as close-minded as the Medieval Catholic Church and today’s Muslim jihadists… and that is truly frightening.