Author Robert Spencer, founder of the major website Jihad Watch, recently published a book with the provocative title Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins.
Islamic apologists love to talk about the supposedly tolerant nature of these conquests. Yet as historian Emm et Scott has demonstrated in his well-researched book Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited, the archaeological evidence clearly indicates that the Arab conquests caused great devastation to the conquered regions. Furthermore, we must consider the possibility that Islam as we know it simply did not exist at the time of the initial conquests.
It’s open to serious debate whether Muhammad ever existed, but I lean towards concluding that he did, at least in the vague sense of a militant Arab leader who helped unify different tribes and redirect their tribal energy outwards towards the goal of external conquest. This would not be substantially different from the way Genghis Khan managed to unify squabbling Mongolian tribes into a viable Mongol nation capable of conquering a vast empire.
The major difference is, of course, that a new religion was not built around the personality of Genghis Khan. Perhaps we should be grateful for that. Otherwise, the largest voting block at the United Nations might now have been the Organisation of Mongolian Cooperation, and the BBC and the New York Times would warn us against the dangers of Genghisophobia.
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