04 August 2010

4) Mohammedism: The Future

Taken from Hilaire Belloc's "The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed," written in 1936


.  .Today we are accustomed to think of the Mohammedan world as something backward and stagnant, in all material affairs at least. But not so very long ago, less than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence, the Mohammedan Government centred at Constantinople had better artillery and better army equipment of every kind than had we Christians in the West. Vienna, as we saw, was almost taken and only saved by the Christian army under the command of the King of Poland on a date that ought to be among the most famous in history – September 11th, 1683.


Young militia fighter advances with RPG.
Oruzgan District, AF.
by Jack Gruber
The Mohammedan power began to break down on the material side. The Mohammedans lost the power of competing successfully in the making of those instruments whereby is assured; armament, methods of communication and all the rest of it. Their artillery became much worse than ours. While our use of the sea vastly increased, theirs sank away till they had no first-class ships with which to fight naval battles. When that vast revolution in human affairs introduced by the invention of modern machinery began in England and spread slowly throughout Europe, the Mohammedan world proved itself quite incapable of taking advantage thereof.

To what was due this collapse? There was no moral disintegration from within, there was no intellectual breakdown. But of every dozen Mohammedans in the world today, eleven are actually or virtually subjects of an Occidental power. It would seem as though the great duel was now decided.

But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes, and since we have here a very great religion physically paralysed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable.

Whatever the cause be, Mohammedanism has survived, and vigorously survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It still converts pagans wholesale. It even attracts from time to time some European eccentric, who joins its body. In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom.

Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world? The suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic, but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: - one might say that they are blinded by it.

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude towards the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it – we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformtion is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines – the very structure of our society is dissolving. In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral doctrine – or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up of religion in the West.

The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic power, may be delayed: - but I doubt whether it can be permanently postponed. There is nothing in the Mohammedan civilization itself which is hostile to the development of scientific knowledge or of mechanical aptitude. There is nothing inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable of modern science and modern war. That culture happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our equal in all those temporal things which now alone give us our superiority over it – whereas in Faith we have fallen inferior to it.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receives Iran's presidential decree
from supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei
There was a suggestion made in the nineteenth century that the decline of Islam had proceeded from its fatal habit of perpetual civil division; the splitting up and changeability of political authority among the Mohammedans. But that weakness of theirs was present from the beginning; it is inherent in the very nature of the Arabian temperament from which they started. Over and over again this individualism of theirs has gravely weakened them; yet over and over again they have suddenly united under a leader and accomplished the greatest things. There is no leader yet, but enthusiasm might bring one and we may have to expect the revolt of Islam at some future date – perhaps not far distant.


- Hilaire Belloc, March 1936

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