For the Record

The Crusades

Islam was spread primarily by conquest, not conversion. Infidels were forced to convert or die. People of the Book—Jews and Christians—were given the option of paying a protection tax (jizya) and living in an apartheid state (as dhimmi).

In fact, Muslim historians recorded in insidious detail the number of infidels they slaughtered or enslaved and deported (some of this material has been gathered in Andrew Bostom’s book The Legacy of Jihad).

As many as 250 million are estimated to have been slaughtered, (no mean feat in an age of no weapons of mass-murder) during the Islamic conquest that brought the believing hordes to the gates of Vienna in 1683.

The largest indigenous groups to have met their end staring into the eyes of a sword wielding holy warrior, or on their knees their heads bowed waiting for the slicing arc of a sharp blade swung in Allah’s Name are an estimated 70 million Indians during the invasions of the sub-continent.

It seems to me that a politically correct mythology is replacing history on many of these topics.

Consider the Crusades. The Christians are often depicted as barbarian aggressors and the Muslims as their highly cultured victims. But the Crusades were primarily a response to 300 years of jihad (whether the Crusaders were aware of the Islamic doctrine or not).

They were a reaction to Muslim incursions in Europe, the persecution of Eastern Christians, and the desecration of Christian holy sites. And few people seem to remember that the crusaders lost all but the first of those wars.

Although the Crusades were undoubtedly an expression of religious tribalism, the idea of holy war is a late, peripheral, and in many ways self-contradictory development within Christianity—and one that has almost no connection to the life and teachings of Jesus. One can’t say the same about the status of jihad under Islam.


The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as is the resurrection of Jesus under Christianity.

It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that in the year 2015, horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim World. All these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scriptures.

Sam Harris in conversation with Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, Harvard University Press, 2015

In response to criticism by believers of the Catholic Church for such things as The Inquisition and The Crusades, a writer in Le Figaro defined the problem for those who would deny the cause-and-effect of the terrible violence done in Allah’s Name.

The following is my translation of pertinent parts of his article. Any misunderstandings or misinterpretations are of course my responsibility.

The Catholic Church is not without its faults. Its history is filled with dark pages it regrets … However, what differentiates Christianity from Islam is that Christians can always return to the values in the Gospels and to the gentle person of Jesus and ignore a Church which has lost its way.

... Jesus is nonviolent. A return [to the teachings] of Jesus is the remedy for the excesses of religious institutions. Looking to the Prophet[/Koran] for guidance, on the other hand, only reinforces the hate and the violence.

Islam is a religion which in both its sacred text (Koran and Book of Hadiths) and in banal rituals promotes hatred and violence.

The ritual stoning of Satan every year at Mecca is not simply a re-enactment of a superstition… Its impact is anthropological. It is a ceremony, to which every Muslim is encourage to participate, and which sanctifies and encourages violence…

When Charity Is Just Another Word for Extortion

A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces a victim to pay money, supposedly for protection services against violence or property damage.


If Islam was founded today, it would be considered a criminal enterprise running a variation of a protection racket where the extortionist promises to secure their victim from god-mandated violence and thievery for a fee.

It is not only unbelievers who are at risk if they don't pay the jizya, but believers who refuse to volunteer the obligatory charity, the Zakat.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

When the Prophet died and Abu Bakr became his successor and some of the Arabs reverted to disbelief, Umar said, "O Abu Bakr! How can you fight these people although Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, 'and whoever said, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', Allah will save his property and his life from me, unless (he does something for which he receives legal punishment) justly, and his account will be with Allah?'"

Abu Bakr said, "By Allah! I will fight whoever differentiates between prayers and Zakat as Zakat is the right to be taken from property (according to Allah's Orders).

By Allah! If they refused to pay me even a kid they used to pay to Allah's Apostle, I would fight with them for withholding it."

Umar said, "By Allah: It was nothing, but I noticed that Allah opened Abu Bakr's chest towards the decision to fight, therefore I realized that his decision was right."

Bukhari 84.59


[The West] has much to atone for from the age of imperialism onward—especially the practice of slavery. But as you know, Muslims, too, practice slavery in Africa, and Western slavers appear to have learned a good deal from them. In fact, Muslims regularly enslaved white Christian Europeans.

For hundreds of years, to live or travel anywhere on the Mediterranean was to risk being captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery. It is believed that more than a million Europeans were enslaved and forced to work in North Africa by Muslims between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries.

Sam Harris in conversation with Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, Harvard University Press, 2015

Revealed Truths About Slavery

Hadiths About Slavery

The Wonderful World That Wasn't

The vaunted peace of Andalusia is largely a fairy tale, first presented in the novels of Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, and others who romanticized Muslim civilization at its height.

Apart from the experience of a few courtiers and poets, if life was ever good for Jews living under Muslim rule, it was good only by comparison with the most murderous periods of medieval Christendom.

We can make such comparisons, as you point out, but the general reality was of a world absolutely suffocated by religious stupidity and violence.

Sam Harris in conversation with Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, Harvard University Press, 2015

Bernard Payeur