Muslims demand apology for Pope's speechWhat he said is, of course, entirely historically accurate. There is no "contesting" the use of conquest as a means of spreading Islam. No (sober) scholar of history would argue against the fact that the armies of Mohammed (and his successors) spread the word of Allah via their bloodied scimitars quite energetically.
Muslim leaders have condemned remarks on Islam by Pope Benedict XVI and many say he should personally apologise to dispel the impression that he has joined a campaign against their religion.
In a speech in Germany on Tuesday, the Pope appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that the early Muslims spread their religion by violence.
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the world's largest Muslim body, says quotations used by the Pope represented a "character assassination of the Prophet Mohammad" and a "smear campaign".
"The OIC hopes that this campaign is not the prelude of a new Vatican policy towards Islam ... The OIC also hopes that the Vatican will issue statements that reflect its true position and views on Islam and Islamic teachings," it said.
In the speech, the Pope repeated criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Mohammad brought was evil "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".
The Pope, who used the terms "jihad" and "holy war" in his lecture, added "violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".
Unless, of course, you dismiss centuries worth of primary-source accounts of Muslim invasions, many of which accounts were chronicled by the Muslims themselves.
To put things into perspective, I have created this (crude) map which shows the breadth of the Muslim conquests as compared with the oft-lambasted Christian Crusades. The two green dots are Mecca and Medina, the two cities which Mohammed and his followers originally controlled. The green borders delineate the violent, militaristic expansion of Islam, the red border showing the ludicrously exaggerated Christian Crusades.
Starting from the cities of Mecca and Medina, Muslims conquered the following territory (in terms of modern countries):
Yugoslavia (I know it no longer exists)
Part of Austria
Part of Italy*
The Majority of Spain*
United Arab Emirates*
Part of China
Part of Russia
Part of Hungary
[* = Those territories which were conquered years before the Christian crusades were launched]
Part of Syria
I think that's all of them, although my geographical skills aren't what they once were. Are you starting to see why I become a little annoyed when so much hysterical attention is paid by Christian-hating Hollywood and guilt-ridden historians to the Crusades. Where are the movies devoted to the massive Muslim invasions which took place during and immediately after the life of Mohammed? Where are the books devoted to Dhimmitude, the process through which Christians and Jews whose lands were conquered (note: the Middle East and North Africa were originally Christian and Jewish lands) were at worst slaughtered or at best enslaved or made into second-class citizens in their own lands.
What the Pope talked about was as common a historical truth as it is to say that the Third Reich started WWII. They did, just as Muslims first began the great war of civilisations with Christendom, and only revisionist lunatics believe otherwise.