Maybe God should have given the Holy Word to goldfish.

Death and destruction followed the path of the Crusaders.
Death and destruction followed the path of the Crusaders.

THE ONE THING I HAVE LEARNED from history is that we never learn from it.

I’m not an historian. I’m a storyteller. But if I am going to write an historical novel, then I can’t just make stuff up. I have to research my period. It’s essential.

And what comes through to me, time after time, is that human history is not a straight line. It’s a circle.

Religious nuts trying to enforce their uneducated opinion on everyone else and being prepared to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them – this is not a 21st century phenomena.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Holy Inquisition circa the thirteenth century.

The Catholic Church made Dominic Guzman a saint. But in philosophy and theological position he was a fundamentalist who spawned a terrorist movement that brought misery and torture to two continents and turned mass murder into public theater.

Sound familiar?

Terrorism and ignorance are not new concepts. Google the destruction of Constantinople in 1204 by the Catholic Pope’s Crusaders.

The storehouse of Greco-Roman and Byzantine art was looted by bogans, the Library of Constantinople utterly destroyed.

Colin Falconer
Colin Falconer

The Crusaders desecrated the city’s churches and monasteries and for three days they murdered, raped and looted on a scale that made Islamic State look like a bunch of sissies.

They even raped the nuns.

And this was a Crusade carried out in the name of God.

I am currently researching the Reconquista in Spain. In simple terms, this was a six hundred year period when the Christians recaptured the Iberian peninsula from the Moors and re-established Christian rule and a universal Catholic orthodoxy.

It was also the period when the Jews, persecuted at the hands of the Holy Inquisition, fled to countries under Islamic rule because they found sanctuary there under a far more tolerant administration.

It was known as the Islamic Golden Age.

The sack of Granada in 1492 is viewed by many as the end of this era, which had begun with the establishment of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad around 750 AD. The inspiration for its founding was drawn from the Q’ran: ‘the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr.’

Mohammed wrote that. Or God did. Whoever you believe scribbles all this stuff.

But for six hundred years Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba were the leading intellectual centers in the known world for science, philosophy, medicine, trade, and education.

Mohammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi played a significant role in the development of al-jebr (algebra); Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first identified the Andromeda constellation, the nearest spiral galaxy to our own; it was only through 12th-century Arabic translations that medieval Europe rediscovered Hellenic medicine, including the works of Galen and Hippocrates.

Islamic states were the first to establish free medical health care and license doctors. The university of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, was the world’s oldest degree-granting university.

Islam has as much in common with Islamic fundamentalism as a snake handling church in Little Catfish Up The Creek with a Catholic Mass in Saint Peter’s in Rome.

Islamic fundamentalism actually began with the Wahhabi movement in the eighteenth century, and by then Mohammed had been feeding the daises for almost a millennia. It was the brainchild – if you can call it that – of Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, a goat botherer born around 1700 in a small oasis town in the Najid region in central Saudi Arabia.

The Wahhabis developed – and still have – very close family ties to the Saudi ruling family.

The first terrorist assault took place against other Muslims in Karbala in 1802. The first systematic terror campaign was conducted against the British Raj around the time of the Indian mutiny.

So – history is not a straight line and it is not simple.

Six hundred years ago the Catholic church were the fundamentalists and the Islamic world was the haven for the poor and the downtrodden, the place where education and knowledge was valued.

Fast forward to 2012 and a Taliban gunman tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai on her school bus because of her advocacy of the rights to education for women in the Swat valley of Pakistan.

So what we are living through now is just history, what Winston Churchill called ‘just one damned thing after another.’.

The sad thing is not that people are ignorant, violent and stupid. It is the human race is not moving in a straight line.

We’re going round in circles and telling ourselves it’s progress because we can blow each other up with smartphones instead of Mills bombs.

Really – God would have done better giving the Holy Word to goldfish.

Please click the book cover image to read more about Colin Falconer and his novels.


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Colin, I fear that we keep repeating history because our leaders don’t know history and have no idea what has gone on before them.

  • Good article, thanks. I’ve wondered about this as well. Many times. Not just the history of Christianity or other religions and how it shaped our histories, but also of man and how bloodletting has always been part of our evolution and “progress” to a civilized state. We never learn from history and yes, the victor is always the recorder of history.

    In my research for The Morrigan I delved into Irish lore and discovered how christian monks changed the names of the old god kings and attributed different things to them. That is sad. We’ve lost a lot of historical data over many centuries.

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