“And I thought, when I began to travel in the Muslim world, that I would be traveling among people who would be like the people of my own community. A large portion of Indians were Muslims; we had both had a similar nineteenth-century imperial or colonial history. I thought that religion was an accidental difference. I thought, as people said, that faith was faith; that people living at a certain time in history would have felt the same urges.
But it wasn’t like that. The Muslims said that their religion was fundamental to them. And it was: it made for an immense difference. I have to stress that I was traveling in the non-Arab Muslim world. Islam began as an Arab religion; it spread as an Arab empire. In Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia—the countries of my itinerary—I was traveling, therefore among people who had been converted to what was an alien faith. I was traveling among people who had had to make a double adjustment—an adjustment to the European empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and an earlier adjustment to the Arab faith. You might almost say that I was among people who had been doubly colonized, doubly removed from themselves.
…the drive of the Arabs was remarkably like that of the Spaniards in the New World 800 years later. And this was not surprising, since the Spaniards themselves had been conquered and ruled by the Arabs for some centuries.
Islam is a stupid, nonsensical cult. (Of course, so is Mormonism. But Mormons don’t want to behead or enslave me and they make nice neighbours and potential Presidents, so who cares?) Mohammed was an illiterate bandit whose knowledge of the religions off of which he predated primarily, Judaism and Christianity, was so sketchy that he didn’t understand the difference between Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and Mary, mother of Jesus. The only reason Islam isn’t a footnote, a bit of historical trivia, another religious curiosity from a time where such things were popping up every five minutes, is because of the astonishing series of military victories in the immediate wake of Mohammed which established this weird, syncretic bedouin mishmash of incoherent, half-understood ideas as the ideology of a conquering power. That’s it. Islam is not “a Religion of Peace”; it is merciless Arab colonialism writ huge.
Anyway, the brilliant and horrifying V.S. Naipaul is always worth reading all the way through.