When history recalls the first two decades of the 21st century, providing that there is history to recall, the descriptive narrative would probably sound like a broken record. The miscues, the what if’s, and the should haves are all in retrospect of a period in which hindsight was the only factor that prevailed. The events during the first part of the 21st century proved once again history so often repeats.
The cast of characters are always different but the scenarios are very reminiscent of previous episodes that have played out all through-out the history of mankind. With the tempest of religious fanatics within the Muslim world waging a holy war against Western cultures today is synonymous with events that have already been played out all through history. But, as always when religions whose ideologies, and cultures, are as different as night and day intermix there are always certain fanatic factions within each religion that continue to engineer the conflicts that have been going on for centuries.
At the beginning of the first century marked the first stage when religions ignited a tempest of violent reprisals. It was the Romans who persecuted the new religion of Christianity. And for the next three hundred years Christians were brutally attacked by the Roman Empire. But, in 313, Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship that began a three hundred year reprieve form religious persecution. The emperor Constantine became the first great patron of the Christian Church.
It wasn’t until 570 when Muhammad the last prophet and messenger of God was born that set in motion the beginning of another great struggle for a more dominate religion. A religion that would turn Muhammad’s vision of Islam into a great quest and conquest to convert other nations to Islam. The stage was set now for Muslim domination through-out the Mid-East. By the middle of the sixth century the Islamic religion was the one belief that was sweeping across much of the Middle East. What Muhammad did during his life opened the door for the Islamic religion to use what ever means necessary to spread the Muslim faith. The bloody battles for religious domination that ensued are a testament to the will of Muhammad and the Islamic faith. By now the Islamic faith was spreading much faster than Christianity did centuries earlier.
Over time two distinct religions, Christianity and Islam separated by different cultures both took on a more assertive role in expanding their influence through-out the known world. Inner factions within the Muslim nations whose own interpretation of Muhammad’s teachings and the Quran began the first wave of open aggression against the Christian world. All through the years after Muhammad’s death the Muslims began a military campaign that spread through-out the whole Mid-East and into Northern Africa. By 700 A.D. practically every nation in the Mid-East was under Muslim control.
As the Islamic religion began to spread into the western part of Africa they were now ready to expand their conquests into Spain and southern France. During this period both Muslim and Christian faiths could be just as barbaric in securing that their religion continued to spread. To distinct cultures with one objective both on a collision course with destiny and by 732 A.D. in central France was the setting for the real first violent clash between Muslims and Christians. Previously, by 711 the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula from North Africa, Today’s, Spain and Portugal and by 732 they had reached Southern France.
One of histories most influential battles that would have had far reaching consequences if the out come was different took place on a gray morning in October of 732 between the cities of Poitiers and Tours in central France. The chance to have history be rewritten was lost when the Franks prevailed. But, in the end it was Charles Martel the leader of the Franks and Charlemagne’s great grand father, whose oath and loyalty was Christianity prevailed and drove the Moors from France. For the next two hundred years the Moors and the Islamic faith continued their expansion and influence through-out Africa and the Mid-East.
It wasn’t until about 1060 A.D. that the Moors were again on the shores of Spain. This time El Cid was the first known Christian military leader to use his friendship with Muslim leaders to forge an alliance. During this time they both shared a common belief that two distinct religions and cultures can amicably coexist. But, it was the Christian religion under the Pope Urban II during this same period was firmly committed to routing out the Muslims that have taken hold of Jerusalem to what many historians feel as the greatest influencer of why many of the Islamic religion continues to harbor a deep seeded condemnation toward Western cultures and Christian beliefs. Some would argue that all the Crusades did was incur the wrath of the Islamic faith, massacre whole populations both Christians and Muslims and create perceptions which developed into a history of war, religious nationalism and continual confrontations that are still prevalent and on-going today.
Many point out that the Crusades were a series of wars of bloodlust, greed and power. We have to realize that war many times is really an escalated conflict of interest usually over money and/or resources. When history repeats especially in the outcome of war is that one culture advances due to newly acquired resources or advancements made from war itself. That being said the rise of Islamic Extremist groups today such as Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups are waging a holy war that has nothing to do with gaining advances in either technology or resources but an outright savage intent to annihilate anyone who doesn’t conform to their radical ideology.
For the next 600 years after the Crusades the Islamic religion became splintered into two distinct factions. It should be noted that the split actually began in the year 632. It was in that year the prophet Muhammad died, and a schism came about as 2 main groups of Muslims disputed who should succeed Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community. One group supported the ascension of Abu Bakr a friend of Muhammad’s, and father of his wife Aisha to be the leader. This group supporting Abu Bakr and his method of selection as leader became the Sunnis. The other group became the Shiites. This group was opposed to Abu Bakr’s becoming caliph after Muhammad’s death and the method through which he was chosen. Instead, they believed Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib, should succeed him as caliph.
Abu Bakr and Ali ibn Abi Talib represented more than just themselves in this split. It was the manner and method of their being designated the rightful successors to Muhammad that are at the root of why there are still two distinct factions within the Islamic faith. While Sunnis believed the Quran endorsed a public consensus in who should be caliph, the Shiites believed such a decision was ordained by Muhammad himself and even commanded by God and not a matter of public consensus among Muslims, but God’s command alone, to an extent a divine right.
As time went on these two separate factions within the Muslim communities continued to be the sources of conflict and eventual violent reprisals. By the 16th century the Ottoman Turks who were Sunnis invaded what is today’s Palestine. For the next few centuries the Ottoman Empire continued to gain control over most of the Mid-East. When World War I broke out the British with the help of T.E. Lawrence recruiting many Saudi Arabia tribes to join forces with the British finally defeated the Ottoman Turks. Another factor in the development of instability in the Mid-East was the fact that the Jewish population was continually migrating into Palestine. The League of Nations however following the first World War gave Great Britain the mandate that essentially meant Palestine was to be governed by England. The British promised to help the Jewish population make Palestine their homeland. Meanwhile the Arabs felt that they were betrayed by the British in allowing a Jewish population settle into what the Arabs thought was their land.
During the War T.E. Lawrence was the one person who was mainly responsible for uniting the Arabs in achieving their victory over the Ottoman Turks. What Lawrence tried to accomplish for the Arab nation was to unify Syria, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia into one independent country. It was through his steadfast belief that by unifying these countries peace would finally be a realization through-out this whole region. Unifying the Sunni’s and the Shiites into one nation was his dream. A dream that was never realized because of the British when the Balfour Declaration was ratified. What this did only contributed to a continuation of the destabilization of the whole Middle East.
Right after the war from 1918-1920 T.E. Lawrence and King Fausi the Arabs actually began the unification but, again it was the British with the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement that sealed the fate for future turmoil to erupt through-out the Middle East. This agreement gave the French control of Syria and the British control of Palestine. What T.E. Lawrence tried to do in helping the Arab nations unite was undermined by the European Nations who were predominately Christian.
There is much speculation that had the British and the French allowed T. E. Lawrence to succeed in helping the Arabs become a united independent country combining Palestine, Syria and Saudi Arabia that today the Mid-East would not be the center of civil war and the bed of terrorist organizations that have mutated from the origins of the Islamic faith. Many have concluded that having Palestine incorporated into this one Arab nation the nation of Israel would have been established in Turkey long before 1948. The virulent rise of terrorism today would have been avoided and two opposite factions of the Muslim faith would be separate eliminating the possibility of territorial domination that we are seeing today.
A lesson to be learned when history repeats especially in the Mid-East. When foreign domination over countries whose own destiny rises or falls the ability or inability to find common ground for stability, equality, and security of their populations future is lost. This results in more instability which so often leads to history repeating. When history repeats as it already has humanity always looses out. Our only hope to ensure that the human existence continues to flourish is to realize that the missteps of the past don’t come back masked in different variations. Variation of the events that have led to civil societies destruction have had repercussions that have only exasperated today’s human experience.