This Sunday’s Winston Helping

I’ve been on airplanes all day making my way back to Washington from the Left Coast (including the usual missed connections and rebooking hell), so I’m way behind here–especially my promised installment of Sunday Churchill.

This week’s excerpt is his famous–or infamous–passage about Islam from the original edition of The River War, Churchill’s account of the Sudan campaign of 1898, in which he participated in what is said to have been the last cavalry charge of the British army.  (Some historians say this is incorrect, and that the British used cavalry charges in the Boer War two years later).  This passage is missing from most editions of The River War; Churchill suppressed the original edition for various reasons unrelated to the political incorrectness of this passage, but I have a copy of the very rare unabridged edition where this bracing passage appears:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!  Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.  The effects are apparent in many countries.  Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.  A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.  The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.  Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities.  Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die.  But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.  No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.  Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith.  It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

That last sentence begs the question: when radical Islam catches up with “the strong arms of science,” such as, for example, with an Iranian nuclear weapon, what then?


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