Islam’s “Religion of Blood and War”

Islam’s “Religion of Blood and War”

The web­site Weapon of Musi­cal Defense quotes your book Churchill by Him­self and records: “After 9-11 we were hor­ri­fied at the hate & exhor­ta­tions to vio­lence we read in the Koran so we began learn­ing more about what Win­ston Churchill called ‘the reli­gion of blood and war.'” Did Churchill refer to Islam in those words? —I.L.

Yes, in his first book, The Sto­ry of the Malakand Field Force (Lon­don: Long­mans Green, 1898). Quot­ing from the new edi­tion (Lon­don: Leo Coop­er, 1991), page 27:

But the Mahommedan reli­gion increas­es, instead of less­en­ing, the fury of intol­er­ance. It was orig­i­nal­ly prop­a­gat­ed by the sword, and ever since its votaries have been sub­ject, above the peo­ple of all oth­er creeds, to this form of mad­ness. In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of mate­r­i­al pros­per­i­ty, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. The more emo­tion­al Pathans are pow­er­less to resist. All ratio­nal con­sid­er­a­tions are for­got­ten. Seiz­ing their weapons, they become Ghazis—as dan­ger­ous and as sen­si­ble as mad dogs: fit only to be treat­ed as such. While the more gen­er­ous spir­its among the tribes­men become con­vulsed in an ecsta­sy of reli­gious blood­thirsti­ness, poor­er and more mate­r­i­al souls derive addi­tion­al impuls­es from the influ­ence of oth­ers, the hopes of plun­der and the joy of fight­ing. Thus whole nations are roused to arms. Thus the Turks repel their ene­mies, the Arabs of the Soudan break the British squares, and the ris­ing on the Indi­an fron­tier spreads far and wide. In each case civil­i­sa­tion is con­front­ed with mil­i­tant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reac­tion. The reli­gion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luck­i­ly the reli­gion of peace is usu­al­ly the bet­ter armed.

It would be inap­pro­pri­ate to quote these words out of con­text with respect to mod­ern sit­u­a­tions. Churchill was, remem­ber, con­fronting Mus­lim war­riors at the reach­es of the British Empire over 100 years ago; his broad reflec­tions are how­ev­er inter­est­ing.

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