What did the Muslims ever do for us?

In the course of human history empires are a relatively new phenomenon, spanning only the last 3000 years or so. From the ancients to modern day Britain, empires are born out of violence and domination, spurred on by greedy men with a desire to rule over the earth and all its inhabitants. Empires control resources and dictate cultures. It is for this reason we must acknowledge all empires, for the duration of their rule, if we are to gain an accurate assessment of human development, in the interests of provenance and posterity.

Take the Moors for example. Neglected in the history books for the most part, owing to the Europeans penning said tomes, their contribution to humanity has been effectively erased or minimised because it stands in direct contradiction to the white supremacist’s creed; that savages were to be civilised from the depths of their spiritual ignorance. They burned books, and monuments of cultural significance, much like Isis did in Palmyra, to the shock and dismay of enlightened Europeans who condemned this destruction of world heritage. I wonder whether the world had reacted to similarly to the barbarism of the conquistadors, or if it had in fact reveled in the bloodshed, as it does today whenever there is a terrorist attack committed against Muslims. I imagine they came out with the same excuses then as they did now “Europe for Europeans!” regardless of the rivers of blood trailing down from the bodies of innocents whose only crime was to pray to the one true God via their own cultural lens. The genocide of the Moors was as much about the colour of their skin, if not more, than it was about a Christian God, as we can see in the blackface festivals celebrated by prevaricating bigots from Spain and Britain to the Netherlands.

 The reins of their (Moors) horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were swift as leopards and the riders fiercer than a wolf in a sheepfold at night . . . The noble Goths [the German rulers of Spain to whom Roderick belonged] were broken in an hour, quicker than tongue can tell. Oh luckless Spain!

Quoted in Edward Scobie, The Moors and Portugal’s Global Expansion, in Golden Age of the Moor, ed Ivan Van Sertima, US, Transaction Publishers, 1992, p.336

Sure, the Moors were probably a frightening spectacle when they invaded Spain in the 8th century but as is the way of empires, wealth and security leads to knowledge, and peace, and eventually empathetic non violence. Empires reach their end when the leaders peak in terms of civility, unprepared for savage invading forces, unable to defend themselves against the onslaught of rabid violence. Perhaps this is why Britain can never just sit back and relax, always pre-emptively asserting itself with made up wars.

The world has chosen to focus on the demise of the Moors as a natural conclusion to the decree ordained by the lord almighty. They had provoked God’s wrath with their salacious ways and fallen out of favour. It is this notion that has sustained the skewed version of history from both sides of the conflict. Europe has effectively slut shamed Muslims into submission who cannot respond with a clear conscience because they bought into the propaganda (having suffered such a humiliating defeat) and now conduct themselves with the same terror inspiring zeal of medieval Christian soliders, whom God allegedly favoured, to appease Him.

Without the Moors, there would be no ‘Spanish’ guitar (guitarra morisca). This is what we mean by appropriation; the Moors are not celebrated like the British or Romans or Greeks, despite their many contributions in the advancement of humanity, they have been denied their historical dues by usurping Europeans who took all the credit. Moors pioneered many medical treatments, identifying hemophilia as a condition, inventing anesthesia for the purpose of surgery, and treating hydrocephalus for example. Groundbreaking and lifesaving methods such as how to perform a ligature were first documented in Al Andalus.

The Moors invented watches, a fact all Europeans should remember when they tell the time, especially given they also invented the first sundial to show time in equal measures where previous models varied according to the seasons. Where would we be without this vital innovation? If the Moors had never existed newspapers/books might never have been a thing. They invented a printing device 100 years prior to the ‘invention’ of the printing press. Ibn Firnas invented the metronome in the 9th century, during a time the Europeans referred to as ‘the dark ages’. Where would the human race be without any of these black and brown Muslim visionaries, for whom the dark ages meant a golden age?

My own ancestors, the Mughals, were a creative trailblazing peoples I am determined to resurrect. The first sugar rolling mills appeared during the Mughal empire. They invented the first hookah or water pipe, for the purpose of smoking tobacco. According to Wikipedia modern metallurgists “thought it was technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams” until they were rediscovered in the 1980s, 20 or so seamless celestial globes created during the Mughal empire. I learned very recently that my ancestors had built Lahore fort and Badshahi mosque, not forgetting the Taj Mahal. Ah, that universal symbol of devotion, a wonder of the world, steeped in Mughal history yet neglected for that very fact, denied the care and attention that should be afforded to a world heritage site. India hates Muslims, it is quick to condemn and even kill them, for eating beef, among other things and stripping citizenship from millions yet it reaps the world’s praises for the creation of something it had nothing to do with. The Indian government has let it rot. The Taj Mahal is a painful reminder of the erasure and appropriation of Muslim ingenuity, pinned together by enemies of enemies, whose party line is a collective resistance to the creeping shariah of Islam, despite their own grievances and in-fighting. These relics are stripped of their roots, co-opted by coercive powers and serve as a reminder of how we (Muslims) have been subjugated.

I’ve never liked being a part of a group, I can only be myself one to one. I think group behaviour is terrifying. When groups of likeminded people band together, it no longer matters whether something is right or wrong, the majority has the power to claim up is down. I’ve seen adulterous affairs justified in this way, and sex abuse cover ups. I’ve been groomed in this way, isolated, misrepresented, because I wouldn’t toe the party line. A similar malfeasance has been inflicted on Muslims.

In my almost 40 years of experience on this earth I have learnt the difference between what they say and what they really mean. Christians invading India were shocked at the inhumane practice of sati committed by fanatical Hindus, whereupon the female spouse jumps, or is thrown, onto the funeral pyre, because she cannot exist without her husband. They condemned them as idolaters and savages and appealed to Muslim Indians as they (rightly) believed in the one true God. To the Hindus they condemned the Mughals as occupiers and destroyers of Hindustan, a country for Hindus. In this way they divided and conquered and continue to do so to this very day. Far right Hindutva and their mascot Modi brutalise millions in their quest for a Hindu state, supported by western nations who look the other way when Muslims are being slaughtered, see also the Rohingya in Burma being summarily executed by Buddhist monks (ffs) for an example of one modern day atrocity. Religion of peace they scoff, when mocking Muslims yet Buddhists extinguishing life in cruel and unusual ways has escaped everyone’s attentions. See the Israel/Palestine conflict for another example of white supremacist divide and conquer, effectively polarising Muslims and Jews who have historically fought together against the scourge of Christianity (see Moorish Spain).

Tyrants all over the world look to the British empire for inspiration. Hitler himself was an admirer of the British rule in India, it was what prompted him to enact his own genocide. The holocaust is widely taught and accepted for the most part, because the teachers are white supremacists who exemplify divide and conquer of ‘minorities’ and use it as a tool to silence other ethnic groups. When an African person speaks of King Leopold and his slaughter of 10 million Congolese and questions why this isn’t taught in schools like the holocaust is, they are not denying Jewish history or cheapening it by comparing it (as I was once accused when I warned that current events were a catalyst to holocaust levels of genocide) they are appealing for consistency. When I highlighted the similarities between the targeting of Jews in Germany and modern day Muslims in Britain I was chastised for daring to compare. 11 million Indians were starved to death by Churchill who redirected grain to British forces during the war. Was this not a holocaust too? Not when the history book writers are white, evidently.

In a world where white supremacy holds all the power and writes the narratives, a maleficence of biblical proportions has been committed against believers of the one true God. Christians have employed idolaters to act as their proxies, to protect their global interests, and will shun them when they are no longer effective. Historical allies have been pitted against one another and the flames are fanned periodically to ensure their estrangement. Muslims are caricaturised as uncivilised, barbaric, wanton in their misogyny and to be fair, many of them are, but they weren’t always like this, they weren’t always so broken and reactionary, they were made that way by Christians.

Perhaps if we acknowledged the real truth, the many contributions made by Muslims to the sciences and arts, and the pursuit of pleasure with inventions like chess, poker, and alcohol (how many words do you know prefixed with ‘al’?) such inventions that changed the course for humanity and propelled Europeans to their ‘enlightenment’, Muslims might not be so angry or even perceived as such. Europeans weren’t beamed down to earth by God as naive fledgling angels innocent of all crimes and wrongdoing, hitting every branch of the enlightenment tree on the way down, no, they appropriated the hard work of Muslims and denied the historical truth, leaving those famed rivers of blood in their wake.

The transference of white supremacists must be called out for what it is, the fear of a comeuppance, of the chickens coming home to roost. They keep the conflict alive.

The Muslim Empires They Tried To Deny Ever Existed

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first started questioning my place in the world but I was very young, still in infant school, not yet a personality in my own right. I remember I still believed in Santa Claus and Christmas was an event that I was very much a part of, from the towering twinkling tree in the school assembly hall to the black bin sacks brimming with toys on Christmas morning. I accepted the nativity as fact, Mary and Joseph had plodded along with their heavy load and Jesus was born in a stable, and the festivities celebrating the day of his birth were meant for everyone. At this age I wasn’t too heavily indoctrinated in the faith ascribed to me by my family, they loved Christmas and celebrated it, coming together as a family but also extending kindness to our neighbours, sharing a box of quality street with the elderly white woman who lived next door, and cheerily welcoming everyone with the season’s greetings.

I wondered why we didn’t go to church. I was taken aback when I was corrected about the virgin Mary and how she was actually called Maryam and married to Yusuf. Isa hadn’t died for our sins but he would be returning. As I grew, in size, and as a person, I very quickly came to the conclusion that religion was a bit like Chinese whispers (or something less racist) and it seemed, to me at least, a way for people to claim they were better, more informed, superior even, compared to the people they didn’t like; for a bunch of other reasons usually, like the colour of their skin or the country they came from. I learned in RE that sometimes brown people were Christians, and sometimes white people were Muslims but I never came into contact with these outliers until I was much older. I was fascinated by history and learned about the Egyptians, albeit on a very basic level but it was enough to spark my interest in world history and how each empire shaped the world. I liked to read in my own time, checking books out at the library but I could never find anything remotely related to my ancestry. I was already in the process of hating myself, my folks, our clothes, and food and perhaps was desperate for something that would set us apart from the rest. We weren’t like all the others, I was adamant about this.

Children might not understand the reasons people are hostile but they certainly perceive it. I noted the aggression with which certain people responded to what seemed like perfectly reasonable and softly spoken requests, at the bank, or job centre, or store. White people who wouldn’t make eye contact and lacked manners. I noted the ways in which my folks ignored the harsh tones and doubled down in their apologism, always feeling slightly embarrassed for their intrusion – often achieving the results they were after, but at great cost to their sense of pride and well-being. They had accepted their lowly status, whatever the reasons for it were and I was acutely aware of how this would impact on my opportunities. I guess that’s when I started to dissociate, splitting my personality. I wasn’t about to bow and scrape for the bear minimum, I was going to assimilate.

I remember learning all about the Spanish inquisition at school but never was there ever a single mention of Muslims. A tremendous feat given they were the primary victims. Even Wikipedia says it was the rulers of Spain who asked the pope to drive out Jews who were pretending to be Christians, and that’s it. Jews were also being targeted but they lived in Al Andalus, Moorish Spain. No mention of the Islamic books and heritage they burnt, or how Islamic Spain had managed to create a peaceful state where Muslims and Jews lived peacefully alongside Christians until the rabid Catholicism of the day slaughtered entire villages, drowning and decapitating children in their beds, raping then stabbing Muslim women through the heart because any offspring would be spoiled. We learned all about the Romans, and Greeks, and the British empire yet nothing of the Moors, or the Mughals who ruled for many centuries and were such learned cultured peoples conducting themselves in genteel ignorance during the middle ages they had no way to anticipate the savage barbarism of cold and hungry Christians, raised by the rod and indiscriminately slaughtered by both state and neighbour alike (much like the East today).

Medieval Europe was a grim fucking stage for the origins of white power. By all accounts they reveled in torture. Ah yes, there was the Magna Carta (England) allegedly holding everything together, but I can bet more people know about it today than did back then. From the peasants to the clergy (who were all powerful) everyone was in it for themselves. If they hadn’t been so wretched they would never have won, in all fairness. To be devoid of humanity is the only true guarantor for success in the pursuit for world domination. You can’t love thy neighbour and feed the poor and be at all comfortable with coercive power and control. Yet this is what they did, the Christians. They lied and manipulated. They forcibly converted Muslims and Jews (the converts were referred to as Moriscos and Marranos, respectively) then killed them anyway. Nobody talks about this, or how Isis and the Taliban are a poor imitation of the conquistadors.

When you have no history you feel untethered, floating in the air with no clues as to where you’ll end up. I have a recurring dream in which I’m trying to get to places, one example being from that old primary school to my family home but I have to measure my stride and watch how I place my feet otherwise I bounce up into the sky, terrified at the velocity sometimes, which can throw me sideways, afraid I will come crashing back down and hurt myself or even die. My attempts at controlling my pace via lucid dreaming have yielded some results, some journeys have even been pleasant but I am not yet a master. I am convinced this is my brain trying to resolve deep rooted anxieties around identity and powerlessness over it. Sometimes I’ll panic because I’m wearing a skirt and no pants and if I don’t control the buoyancy effectively enough everyone on my street might get a flash of my lady parts. Other times I don’t care if they do. Once in a while my granddad is waiting on our porch and I’ll suddenly have to straighten myself out and stand very still, because he cannot know that I have this skill.

I felt as though we can’t have just transpired out of thin air, as a teen, and was determined to learn of my roots. I asked my grandparents, with whom I lived, who my great grandparents were and they gave the name of a great granddad on my granddad’s side and that was it. No great grandmas or great great grandparents. No lineage, no roots, no establishment. I wanted to know what we called the language we spoke at home because it didn’t sound like Punjabi to me. They replied Sikhs had a different dialect and that’s the difference I was hearing. Only, when I grew up, I met other Muslim Pakistanis who said they spoke Punjabi and they honestly did. I came to understand my ‘mother tongue’ is actually a lingua franca of sorts that enabled me to access at least 7 other South Asian languages, with its roots in Farsi. I had always managed to understand my South Asian friends whatever language they spoke at home but they rarely understood me. I had spent my life being told it was a cursed tongue, that it sounded dirty, and worthless, when it was actually a priceless tool. No wonder I found language so interesting, I had exceptional roots.

I registered the slight hesitance in my grandparents whenever I broached the subject of ancestry. They’d tense up. I thought they were embarrassed, especially when they snapped that it was enough. I reasoned it had to be a secret, whatever it was, otherwise they wouldn’t be so eager to change the subject. Perhaps we had been Hindus and this was a fact they had buried, because it was no longer of any use and they did not want to risk reversions.

It was many years later, long after both of theirs passing that I learnt the truth. Muslim history has been effectively erased in Europe. We don’t learn about it in schools, it is not spoken of much in pop culture, any allusions to it, like for example in The Spanish Princess, are post victory, when they are subjugated and at the behest of Catholic monarchs. Queen Isabella enacted a genocide on Spanish Muslims and her daughter Catherine of Aragon married Henry VIII. These moments in history that tie together the bigger picture, the union of these two countries for the sake of all Christiandom, Henry being a cornerstone of British history that is over taught in my opinion, from the many perspective of teams for and against the Tudor tyrant, and his many wives and their friends and foes; to so brazenly leave out the connection to how Europe was shaped by the sword and owes a debt to the world for its ignorant destruction of culture, is surely deliberate and intended to mislead. The Tudors weren’t just special because Henry was a literal ladykiller (what a thing to focus on though, how this country was spearheaded by a domestic abuser), the empire began with his devil spawn. Oh we all learnt about Walter Raleigh sending back spuds from the new world to flatter his queen but they left out the genocide of Native Americans on the curriculum. I guess it would lead to questions about other ethnic majorities on other continents, displaced and erased by the same people. I can see why, teaching a bunch of hormonally charged teenagers the reason they are here today is because you were there for 500+ years and you still haven’t left is asking for trouble. Kids tend to have a stronger sense of injustice than adults who’ve spent a lifetime lying to themselves about what is and isn’t virtuous.

A racist procession marking a time when the Moors ruled Spain (click image for more information) from the 8th century to the 15th yet Wikipedia refers to the Moors as ‘Muslim inhabitants’

Take sexual freedom as one example of the clash of civilisations in medieval Europe. Cold and hungry white Europeans hated sex. They believed it was a sin and a chore, even in marriage, where it was a method for procreation and not pleasure. Perversely a lot of their torture methods centred on the genitals, the pope even had a ‘pear’ for such purposes (google but nsfw). It is sexual freedom among other vices that was cited by Christians as a reason for their victory against the savage Mohammedans. Such lax attitudes concerning pleasures of the flesh had led to their fall from grace in God’s eyes and that is how they lost their empire. To this day, Muslims repeat this harmful life to justify their misogynous control over women and their attitudes towards sex in general. Sick of the way black and brown men/Muslims treat their women? But they learnt from the best. Muslims were making art about how sex was a gift from God before Christians turned that light out in them for good.

Published 15th Century

So what can we do about it now we know? For my part, I’d like to know more about who collected taxes and crops from my ancestors and our land, forcing them to bury grain so they wouldn’t starve. That chap’s descendants owe me and mine. As part of the decolonisation process, reparations are crucial to the healing process, to feeling grounded. Reparations come in lots of forms, acknowledging the histories they tried to erase is a good starting point. As a descendant of Mughals myself, I was only made aware very recently of my rich history. When there is denial and erasure even in families (because the ignominy of having it all and losing it, for not being pious enough, is too much to bear or acknowledge) it’s even harder to begin to unravel the chaos that ensured ten generations of trauma and toxic shame, the true legacy of the British Empire.