After Rome: Holy War and Conquest (BBC)

What a pity that this intelligent documentary that started on Saturday night is so condensed!  Boris was caught up in the Mayoral campaign after the two-part documentary had been commissioned but, ‘written and presented by’, it – so far – takes in a huge range of art, thought and world-class invited experts.  The Crusades, in their swashbuckling stories-for-boys image, are given a revisionary kick.  Mono-theistic religions are all given a history lesson.  The academic experts are articulate and balanced.  The economic arguments are merely hinted at rather than fleshed out.  The art that is accessed is fantastic – but underplayed.

This could be an Attenborough-style BBC project with Boris instead of David.  As it is, it shows Boris as a multi-lingual history scholar with great sensitivity to intercultural relations.  Not bad for a subsequently elected Mayor of a world-rated capital.

104 thoughts on “After Rome: Holy War and Conquest (BBC)”

  1. Ironically, as a Labour voter, I found this programme to be far too liberal and multiculturalist. Just not Tory enough!! It also reeks somewhat of Oxford classicist anti-Christianity, which to my mind is completely antithetical to Toryism. After a good start and despite a fine presentational style and rebutting of certain myths, it perpetuated certain others about Islamic civilisation that the best recent continental research (see eg Sylvain Gounguinheim, *Aristote au Mont St-Michel*) has destroyed. The early Latin west was *not* uncivilised. Aristotle in Greek was knows at Gall and Mont St Michel before the arrival of the Arabic translations. The latter were done largely by oriental Christians anyway. There would have been *no* Islamic philosophy, science, medicine or libraries without oriental Christians and Jews (besides pre-Islamic persian influence) whose contribution even after conquest continued to be vital. Also the role of Byzantium in transmitting ancient culture to the West has been downplayed. Moreover, Isalm never integrated classical learning, whereas the West did this even in the darkest time of the dark ages and hence already pointed to the ‘Renaissance’. To its credit the programme did gently knock the myth of Islamic tolerance, but surely it glossed over the rapaciousness of Arabic conquest. On the crusades it caricatured. Genuine concern for the holy places was not mentioned, nor the fact that this was in many ways a defensive war — Jerusalem being seen as an integral part of Christendom. As for the theology of merit linked to the crusades — this was in part ironically borrowed from Islamic jihadist theology, and was refused by Byzantium. Of course the terrors of hell were a factor in the Latin west but to overstress them yet again is a cliche that ignores so much else — to say the least. Nor, of course, is ‘universalism’ about salvation just insipid modern Anglicanism — its in St Paul, in Origen, in Gregory of Nyssa, in Julian of Norwich, in the entire Eastern Chrsitian tradition at times. Why can’t we get any objectivity on TV about our own religious legacy?

    John Milbank, Professor, University of Nottingham

  2. May I echo the criticisms of the learned professor above?
    Although, as I didn’t watch it, my arguments may not carry so much validity.
    Although, were I a professor, I would make sure that I proof read my comments.
    Boris, now that your remit is the culture of London, can we expect the next series to cover the Spurs/Gunners rivalry?

  3. I do not pretend to be knowledgeable to any great extent about to the origins or Islam or Christianity. As such, I thought the programme offered an interesting and informative insight as to the past and the historical background in both a political and cultural setting.
    It is something I have been wanting to learn about since a long time and I look forward to the second part.

    Thank you Boris and the team!

  4. Vicus: thanks for the laugh! Forgive me but Spurs/Gunners makes even less sense than ancient history (prefer rugby myself) so…

    John: I’ve spent the last hour doing some emergency reading of Sylvain Gounguinheim en francais. Thank goodness for the internet. Yet, isn’t that also thanks to Boris and to you? If Boris had not presented a viewable version of history, you would not have written about it and I would never have looked up Goungenheim. I honestly do not care if ‘Oxford’ is supposed to be anti-Christian – although I might not tell our local Rector that! – but am just glad that a view has been presented that allows non-secular discussion of history and philosophy by Saturday-night (or i-player) tv viewers, me included.

    In being so open to discussion and with so many on-camera academics from so many countries, Boris is a somewhat unusual politician.

    I believe he also pursued this when the mayoral campaign became reality and that’s quite an achievement – putting out what academics may perceive as a televised ‘paper’ while doing a very substantial pair of day jobs (MP for Henley and mayoral candidate). Give him some credit?

    Your view, John, is useful. As you are a professor, any idea what I can read to figure out where Far Eastern (modern China) influence fits with all of this? A two-hour ‘series’ is unlikely to manage that, either – but I am interested.

  5. I have to *strongly* disagree with the professor there. In many historian related books it is well documneted that if it were not for the Muslims in spreading their knowledge and keeping Ancient Greek writings it would have been one the greatest “what-ifs” in history. I dare say that Europe would still be in a mess. Did you know for instance that the Renaissance started because of the inspiration of the Islamic Renaissance (commonly called the Islamic Golden Age)? Look it up professor. I had the impression that you are one of the ignorant ones there, the way you go on about the Muslims merely acting as a “bridge”. The fact is, the result of this documentary has shown people are ignorant. People like you. Have an open mind professor. Muslims invented a lot of things. That *is* fact and they played a *vital* role in European and world history. Show a bit of respect instead of brushing Islamic Civilisation under the rug. Remember: “He who does not look to his past, has no future”.

    Regards Boris you have done a wonderful job. It appeared in the top ten of the BBC Website!

    Muslims only want a bit of respect. Show it. It does you wonders, and that is what Boris has done. He will have my vote in the nest election.

  6. A sure sign of a great program is when it ends and you are left thirsting to know more. Boris did a great job as a kind of historical James Bond, wandering between exotic locations, talking the local lingo with heaps of old school charm. Of course the Islamic tradition layed some very important foundations in the start of Western Civilzation, so lets not underplay that role, but lets not go over the top too – something I think the program managed to achieve. Ahmed, your in danger of sounding like the character from the comedy series Goodness Gracoius Me, who everytime a name or invention was mentioned would shout ‘Indian’ except you would shout ‘Muslim’ I look foward to part two and learning even more!

  7. The Professor forgets to mention Avicenna and Averroes. Aquinas himself gives high credit to the Avicenna’s commentaries on Aristotle. Averroes and Avicenna built the foundations of Medieval Aristotelian thought through Muslim Spain before the Reconquista.

    Without these two brilliant Islamic scholars, Aristotelianism might never have reached the heights it did.

    So as much as I disagree with Boris’s views on levels of taxation, the redistribution of wealth and the huge advantages of old money over the plebs, I’ve found little to nothing to disagree with in his historical analysis.

    Go Boris! I only hope you do more of these, I really do think you have an excellent touch for analysis and presentation.

  8. Prof. Milbank – “Ironically, as a Labour voter, I found this programme to be far too liberal and multiculturalist. Just not Tory enough!! It also reeks somewhat of Oxford classicist anti-Christianity, which to my mind is completely antithetical to Toryism.

    Oh what rubbish!

    Why can’t we get any objectivity on TV about our own religious legacy?

    I’m all for objectivity. Especially on the subject of religion. Sadly most historians have an agenda – they are people after all! On the subject of religion one cannot rely on atheists to be objective – Dawkins could be said to have almost religious fervour about his atheism.

    Personally I greatly enjoyed Boris’s prog and will be tuning in next sat for part II

  9. John,

    Perhaps we should be aware of your widely reported views and Cambridge slant! Stones and Glass houses?!

    “Why can’t we get any objectivity on TV about our own religious legacy?” you ask? Well, perhaps it is the traditional rebound we experience after so many years of the legacy being overstated and manipulated to allow Christendom to almost single-handedly claim it was responsible for every good in the modern world. I am surprised you do not want to redress the balance on both sides instead of picking one side against the other.

  10. It was definitely the sort of programme which justifies the license fee. For my money its principal concession to conventional wisdom was the opening eulogy to the Romans. Their empire, like everyone else’s, was a murderous thieving business. The carnage that made Rome possible is usually overlooked.

  11. On the subject of religion one cannot rely on atheists to be objective

    Isn’t that rather like asking a Doctor post Pasteur to be objective about the miasma?

  12. Akheloios –

    Isn’t that rather like asking a Doctor post Pasteur to be objective about the miasma?

    Ooh I liked that. But isn’t that pretty much what the next post is all about? Miasma in modern times. Only nowadays they call it ‘Global Warming’.

  13. “It was definitely the sort of programme which justifies the license fee. For my money its principal concession to conventional wisdom was the opening eulogy to the Romans. Their empire, like everyone else’s, was a murderous thieving business. The carnage that made Rome possible is usually overlooked.” — Liam

    Surely that is a bit of an overstatement? Not all were but guaranteed isn’t that what every country is like nowadays with their protectionist policies and oil wars?

    “Ahmed, your in danger of sounding like the character from the comedy series Goodness Gracoius Me, who everytime a name or invention was mentioned would shout ‘Indian’ except you would shout ‘Muslim’ I look foward to part two and learning even more!” — John McDowell

    Really(?). No, honestly please contribute to this debate with a little respect please. Do not discredit my opinions please. Anyway, why can’t I show my pride? I’m British and Muslim, that’s always a good combination. I’m proud of my British upbringing and proud of Britain, and of both histories. I’m not likely to forget that.

    In addition, do you know what it is like for Muslims to live in Britain today? I was on the bus the other day, and someone shouted “I hate Muslims. Kill the f******g lot o’ them! What have they ever done besides kill people?”

    What am supposed to say? Or do I keep quiet? No chance. You know it all started like this in Germany in 1930s and 40s right?. The Muslims are the scapegoats now, it’s racist (yes, because it is persecution of an individual on grounds of his/her belief). All I say is not to get too wrapped around in all the false info circulating around the net and people.

    Everyone, Learn your fear, first step towards curing it. And yes I think all “Muslims” who are terrorists are going to hell. We are taught not kill people as some falsly believe.

    Regards Boris.

  14. Note: I apologise for not mentioning before but I spelt my name wrong. Sorry, just wanted to say this to avoid confusion!

  15. Farhan Amjad – I’m sure many innocent and law abiding Irish people sometimes had a similar reaction from someone else when bombing in the 80’s was at it’s height. You know, when some Irish people went around killing innocent people in protest about something political that had nothing much to do with the innocent people they were murdering.

    And in the 1930’s/40’s it probably wasn’t too comfortable being German. After Hitler declared war. Ya know? Just saying.

  16. PS: whilst terrorism is awful at least the Irish did target those who had some power over the problem; the politicians. Muslim suicide bombers couldn’t seem to care less who they murder – women, children, Christian, Muslim. Doesn’t seem to matter. Which is kindof odd in a holy war. Or isn’t it a holy war? What is, after all, the point of this random murdering ??

    Does anyone know?

  17. The segment on Christian Martyrs in Islamic Spain was a pretty good analogy. When you have a demographic under outside pressure they turn inwards to internal tribal identifiers and lash outwards doing irrational, often horrific, things.

    If you want that pressurised demographic to look outward again and stop doing irrational things you have a couple of choices, get rid of the demographic or get rid of the pressure.

    Since getting rid of the demographic would be tantamount to genocide, I doubt it’s the right thing to do. So we should look to reduce the pressure that we’re applying. Foreign soldiers occupying bases in Islamic states, supporting the oil rich but corrupt and murderous political classes of those states would be a good start.

    I’m not one for faux golden age reminiscences but I think the world was a better place when ‘our side’ stood up against torture and the indiscriminate killing of innocents. As much as would like the world to emulate us in our democracy and freedoms, we certainly had a much better chance that we’d be copied for our virtues then and far more morally defensible position to preach from than we do now.

  18. Very interesting programme and very interesting comments.
    So good to watch a documentary that neither repeats itself constantly so that the audience can keep up, nor patronises us with simplistic comment and explanation. This is rare in TV today. Thanks everybody

  19. we certainly had a much better chance that we’d be copied for our virtues then and far more morally defensible position to preach from than we do now.

    With you completely , Akheloios.

  20. It seem Nottingham isnt what it used to be. I have written to their Divinity Dept to let them know that one of their academics seems to have taken his entire knowledge of the crusades, early islam and byzantium from Robert Spencer and Baet Yor.

  21. I am a Copt and I was surprised to hear that the Copts, with other “heretics” of Eastern Christianity, welcomed the Arabs because, as the documentary claims, there was some similarity between their doctrine and that of Islam. This is pure ignorance.

    Another point which amazed me is the assertion that the early Arabs did not mistreat the Eastern Christians, including Copts. Sheer ignorance again, I would say. I would urge Boris to read the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church attributed to Severus of Ashmunin and the Chronicle of John of Nikiu, to understand how barbarous the Arabs had been since they occupied Egypt in 640 AD. Yousab, the Coptic bishop of Fawwa, Lower Egypt, in the 13th century, describes the Arabs who occupied Egypt, “… and they were a nation of evil-lovers.” And truly they were.
    About the Crusades, Boris ignores that Jerusalem was not originally Arab country. The Arabs occupied that land from Christendom, and it was not illegal war trying to recapture it back. Also, he ignores one important trigger of the initiation of the Crusades, and that is the amount of harassment, restrictions and maltreatment that Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the 11th century received at the hands of the Muslim rulers. He has so many historical books and papers to read to enlighten him, and as a starter, let him begin with reading the excellent appendix titled, “The Significance of the Crusades in East and West,” by George E. Kirk in his “A Short History of the Middle East, From the Rise of Islam to Modern Times.”

    Playing with history may be seen as a benign comedy, a joking material in the hands of a joker politician; the danger, however, is that it tends, not only to adulterate history, but also to blind the audience and spectators as to present threats. And Islamism, that brand which is as ancient as Islam is, has not ceased to be a dagger in the hands of assassins, terrorists , persecutors and occupiers of other people lands – and it has not yet reformed itself to abandon its expansionist dreams.

    Of course Boris would try to please the many Muslim Londoners in his attempt to become London’s Mayor, and in doing so he would not hesitate to corrupt history. Perhaps he would like to be the Mayor of Londonstan. In this way he would make more people laugh at “Have I Got News For You”.

  22. I found the programme really interesting and currently watch it for the second time. Seeing a non-academic present in a common language and pepper his comments with stories is really refreshing.

    It is not surprising that established academic would be the first to question the approach presented as it differs from the Western academic orthodoxy. We need more exposures like this to get debates going.

    However, there was certainly at least one big factual error in the program. Namely, it was stated twice that Arabs/ Muslims did not force conversions. Untrue when you look at what happened to Slavs in the Balkans under Turks over 500 years!

    I also wonder where were Turks in all this? Come on Boris this is part of your personal history. Or, this is still only focus on Western Europe with the East and Byzantium (330-1453) having only a passing mention.

    I hope Boris revisits the subject again -this time focusing on the East including not just Byzantium but also Indian Peninsula.

  23. Great programme Boris, it was refreshing to have a history show on TV without pointless reconstructions and gimmicks and generally treat the audience as being intelligent.

  24. Excellent, one of the best documentaries I’ve seen recently; looking forward to part 2. Well done Boris.

  25. Great programme by a great Mayor! Keep it up Boris. After your stint as Mayor this I think is where part of your career should be going – and agree with others’ comments; you should become an ‘historical’ version of David Attenborough – of course, by historical, I do not mean that by any means you are; just that you should become a presenter of historical-educational programmes such as this.

  26. To Farhan Amjad: “We are taught not kill people as some falsly believe” – really? Are you serious? Do you think we are idiots? We also read the Koran, Mohammad’s Sira (history/biography), and the books of Muslim scholars. And history, past and modern – isn’t that enough to dispel the myth that the meaning of Islam is salam/peace? Islam is in fact war and violence, and the literal meaning of the Arabic word “islam” is not peace but submission to the rule of the Muslims. When the early Muslims swept the Near East they went out with this cry, “Islim taslam,” i.e. be a Muslim to be safe. There were two options for those who refused to become Muslim: the sword or the payment of Jizia (pol tax) and submission to the oppressive, humiliating and discriminating rule of the nomads from Arabia.

    So don’t talk rubbish.

  27. Dear, Dioscorus Boulos

    :::what complete and utter piddle paddle. What are you ranting about? Stop lying it’ll be bad for you. And don’t claim you’ve “read” the Qu’ran. You’ve only read tidbits off anti-Islam and anti-Muslim blogs from the looks of it.

    Also didn’t you listen to the documentary? Boris said non-Muslims were allowed to preach their own religion but were treated second class citizens.

    You uncivilised tosspot look at the documnetary again (honestly the sheer ignorance of people!). What would you have done to all the Muslims today?

    And yes I do think *you’re* an idiot. You haven’t read the Qu’ran have you? I bet you’re one of those people who still thinks of labelling every Muslim a terrorist.

    Look up the Islamic Golden Age — it is the pinnacle of Muslim contribution to the world.

  28. Farhan Amjad – you do not know what any of us has read only what we choose to write here and you are not contradicting anything ‘Dioscorus Boulos’ said so your name calling is innappropriate. It seems the truimph and anger in the muslim voice on this thread is misplaced.

  29. well done to Boris Johnson , i agreed with a previous comment should have been more than 2 episodes , well presented and informative

  30. I totally agree with Professor John Millbank. Although not without interest, this documentary carries on some cliches about the Islamic civilisation, thought as modern and advanced, unlike Europe which was in “the Dark ages”. This is simply wrong. It would be too long to develop here, I would just recommend the book by Sylvain Gouguenheim “Aristote au Mont St Michel”, really interesting.
    Also the documentary insists on massacres commited by Christians, but barely mentions the ones commited by Muslims. The fact is Muslims slaughtered as much as Christians, they were not more “moderate”!

  31. Boris Johnson is presenting the muslems as the “good” side in his historical research. It is very dissapointing indeed, as Boris appears to have forgotten the terrible atrocities commited by this people throughout history, since islam started until Mombai in India, most recently. Boris is lucky he wasn’t at the Taj Mahal 2 weeks ago.Islam is the wrong faith, no doubt. Hope Boris is not trying to get more votes from muslems in London for his reelection as mayor.

  32. Bless you Boris, for actually tackling what for so long has been unackowledged, and for providing a wider view of the similarities and frustrations of both sides of the coin; a few more scholars in parliament wouldn’t go a miss. Whether you get it right or not almost doesn’t matter, it is so obvious, at least to me, that your heart is in the right place, and that’s what counts; You’re funny too. Always did feel that knowledge and humour were a constructive mix; ‘Respect and reconsiliation’ I think you’re great. J

  33. I am not a historian, but thought both episodes were most libertarian in their treatment, and that Boris’s gentle conclusion anticipating tolerant respect was inspiring.

    Its a pity some of the postings above do not reflect this spirit. And a pity that the political right are so pilloried by NuLabour when they have so much to offer us.

    Whatever the validity of the learned professor’s points about new research in France, there can be no doubt about the quality of intellectual achievement coming out of this melting pot, even if some of it was not strictly islamic. Even our numbers and algebra came via this Islamic empire – albeit perhaps originally from Hindus in India. But this just shows open it was to ideas – even if it was hideous in some ways.

    Who can not say our own civilisation does not exhibit this dichotomy – revolting us and inspiring us in turn?

  34. Still googling for a dvd of Boris on Rome.
    Splendid insight! … Just about given up.
    No hope of a dvd of Boris on Islam?
    A Must-View for old-and-young epecially young who have missed out on soooo much history
    Would very much like 30+copies to send to friends and the young of friends.
    About to spend a l-o-n-g t-i-m-e transferring sky recordings to dvd.
    Willing to buy official dvd with royalties to participants but not sure I can wait???
    Help please Mr. Johnson

  35. Historical documentaries are one of the few things that keep the BBC’s reputation above water. They’re usually very good. I only saw the second part and it came across as a clown act where the ridiculous man seemed oblivious of the need to separate his own views from the polarity of perceptions he was purportedly attempting to present.

  36. “Islam is in fact war and violence, and the literal meaning of the Arabic word “islam” is not peace but submission to the rule of the Muslims.”

    Dioscorus Boulos, I fear you have overstepped the mark. Islams literal translation is submission. NOT submission to the rule of muslims. Even if you meant to say that that was its context of use, you’d be wrong again. The Muslim prophet and the Quran use Islam to mean submission to god – not Muslim rule, that is its usual context. Again, the phrase “Aslim Taslam” is used in the Quran and by the prophet, to state “become a muslim to be safe from hell fire”, I have not come across its use as you have suggested, so would you mind citing a plausible reference.
    You are just as guilty as those fanatics hiding in the caves of Afghanistan; taking things out of context is a poor reflection on a persons character, and I advise you correct this flaw in your personality.
    However I will not plead ignorance, and do agree that some Muslim rulers were unjust, and did force conversions or enforce a tax on non-muslims.
    As a Barrister, I feel you have been somewhat unjust – “submission to the oppressive, humiliating and discriminating rule of the nomads from Arabia”.
    That statement is uncalled for, and simply shows how intolerant and ignorant you are – the arabs were once a nomadic people, one can hardly call them such when they were at the helm of a growing empire sweeping the near east as you say!

  37. I watched today’s episode of “After Rome”.

    On the whole quite good but, please, get your facts right. Constantinople was NOT founded by Constantine; he simply changed its name from Byzantion (Latin: Byzantium) to Constantinople. The city was founded by Athenians, about one thousand years before the birth of Christ.

    May I also inform you that this is the reason the empire is called the Byzantine Empire and its language was Greek.

    Even Google would have given you that very basic information, excepting Wikepedia, of course, where any fool can write any nonsense he/she wishes. (A friend of mine is, according to it, a lesbian!)

    There are several Byzantine scholars you can consult and, perhaps, none better than Runciman.

    The following paragraphs are taken from Google.

    History of Constantinople – (Roman name: Constantinopolis; Greek: Konstantinoupolis or Κωνσταντινούπολη) Constantinople is the former name of the city of Istanbul in Turkey. Today, Constantinople is the area between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara of today’s Istanbul. Its original name was Byzantium (Greek: Byzantion or Βυζαντιον, pronounced roughly Bee-ZAN-tee-on). The name is a reference to the Roman emperor Constantine I who made it the capital of the Roman Empire on May 11, 330 AD. Constantine named the city Nova Roma (New Rome), but that name never came into common use.
    Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine times the Greeks called Constantinople i Poli (“the City”), since it was the centre of the Greek world and for most of the Byzantine period the largest city in Europe. It was captured and sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and then re-captured by Nicaean forces under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1261.
    Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453 (See the Fall of Constantinople). The Ottoman Turks called the city Stamboul or Istanbul, from the original Greek “eis tin poli” (to the city.)

  38. “We are taught not kill people as some falsly believe”. No, but your Prophet and his armies killed people and that set a very dangerous precedent.

    More people are coming to realise that Muslims can and do lie to forward their faith, something so unbelievable to us in the west that most people ignore it, but ignore it at your peril.

  39. To R. Digsby LLB, or whatever your real name is…

    “The Muslim prophet and the Quran use Islam to mean submission to god – not Muslim rule, that is its usual context.”

    You are correct, but the self-appointed prophet meant ‘submission’ on his terms alone, which of course meant obeying his laws and worshipping his version of God in his specific way.

    “… the phrase “Aslim Taslam” is used in the Quran and by the prophet, to state “become a muslim to be safe from hell fire””

    Well unless you are fluent in Arabic how can you be so certain of a phrases meaning? Messages and slogans have meanings that only insiders can understand, context is everything, as i’m sure you well know. Do YOU mind citing a plausible reference??

    “You are just as guilty as those fanatics hiding in the caves of Afghanistan; taking things out of context is a poor reflection on a persons character, and I advise you correct this flaw in your personality.”

    Oh dear, don’t you think you may have over reacted a bit? This is hardly the same as being in the Taliban now is it? I advise you to correct this flaw in your personality….

  40. Very inspiring programme, absolutely beautifully photographed. It was the sort of programme you want to keep to watch over and over again.

    I kept thinking “This is so well written” and saw at the end it was written by BJ himself. He is a colourful and enthusiastic presenter, droll and insightful, and I agree with Peter Holttam, the conclusion of the programme was great, life enhancing and positive.

    Boris hopes that in time we will learn to appreciate and respect each other’s religions and learn each other’s languages – I read he is learning Arabic, so he is practicing what he preaches.

    With his mixed cultural background, (Turkish, German, and Engish), his Grandfather who could recite the whole of the Koran by heart and his own huge talent for communication, and ability to learn languages, Boris Johnson is a genial, tolerant and unifying figure for Londoners and the ideal blue print for politicians of the future.

  41. Muslems will never accept western culture , Christianity, Judaism, etc. simply because they consider them wrong and they look down on it. Boris effort of multiculturalism will not work I’m affraid. The problem is the islam itself , as its prophet was a military and a political leader and not only a religious one. They cannot separate religious belief form political and military actions, guerilla like attacks and even terrorist attacks are not ruled out. islam is an aggresive ideology.
    BTW my family is originaly from Spain and many things Boris said in the programme about Spain are not true.

  42. Regardless as to whether it was all completely factual – the programme was fascinating, brilliantly edited, a joy to watch and MORE please !!!!. I would appreciate any info on the terrific flamenco music in background; not credited on screen(shame on you!)

  43. To Farhan and Digsby, so Islam means submission! I am glad that you at least have now abandoned the orchestrated deception by the Muslims that Islam means peace! Still you have to go a bit further for the deception, at least on this particular point, to abate altogether: you have to abandon the deceptive propaganda that by “submission” is meant submission to Allah. That may apply to Muslims (although there is doubt about this) but it does NOT apply to those who are non-Muslims: for them Mohammad and his followers meant by Islam/submission only one meaning – submission to the power and rule of Islam or else!

    Before I proceed, I would like to reassure you both that I read the whole Koran in its language, and I studied it and its various tafaseer (explanatory books). I also studies sira (biography of Mohammad) from its sources, and the books of figh (books of scholars). And I can also reassure you that all is exposed and all is found wanting and ugly! Somehow, you fanatics think that the Koran is a miraculous book, is full of untold magnetism, and that once a man reads it he unawarely falls into love with it as a man falls in love with an seductive woman and can’t resist her charms. What rubbish!

    The real meaning of Islam/submission is to be gleaned from its historical context, and as the books of sira and figh tell us. Mohammad spent the years between 622 and 630 AD in continuous wars of aggression against all Arab pagans around him from his little concave in Medina, and in the process he did not hesitate to use massacres, terrorism, assassination, and all sorts of violence and deception.
    His story with the Jews of Arabia, his capture of their properties, his enslaving them, his massacre of hundreds of them, men, women and children, is well known, and whatever Muslims try to explain it out be provocative actions by the Jews, the reaction does not behove a prophet.

    And following Mohammad’s death, Khalid ibn al-Walid and Amr ibn al-Ass emulated his example and spread Islam across the Middle East by the sword. Their war cry to all non-Muslim leaders, and through them to their followers, was, “islim taslam (become a Muslim and you shall be safe): You have three options, so choose one of – become a Muslim; pay Jizia (which is not a simple poll tax), or you shall be killed.” Later, Muslim scholars will explain that Jizia is a utility substitute for death (for not accepting Islam); that the only two real options are Islam or death. Hardly a missionary religion that wants people to willingly submit to the loving and gracious will of God.

    No Islam in its inception, and as introduced by the Arabs, was as dark as hell. It was the new coming of the Persian influence after 750 AD which introduced an enlightened element into it. And in that Abbasid period, and particularly during Al-Mamoun’s rule (813-833 AD), the credit must be given to the Mutazilla sect who was influenced by Greek thought, and pronounced kaffir by both Sunni and Shia. By the time Al Muawakil ruled in 847 AD, whatever dim lights Baghdad had before were extinguished forever.

  44. Correction: actually Mohammad’s violent career extended from 622 to 632 AD (from Hijra to the Conquest of Mecca).

    Here is just one saying by Mohammad: “I have been sent close to the Hour, with the sword, so that none has the right to be worshipped except Almighty God alone, without any partner. My sustenance is beneath the shade of my spear. And humiliation and ignominy is for whosoever opposes my command.”

    Before you ask me for a prove, it is from Saheeh Bukhari [related by Ahmad (no. 5114) and Ibn Asaakir (19/96/1), from Ibn ‘Umar. It was authenticated by al-Haafidh al-‘Iraaqee in Takhreejul-Ihya (3/42), and al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr in in Fathul-Baaree (10/222)].

    Of course this is just one of hundreds of proves that you were taught to be violent.

  45. I only saw part two and ,while I thought the premise was good, I have to disagree with many of the comments above about the writing and editing. The shots of crusader castles and fortifications (and random UK castles and cathedrals when locals experts were filmed)were used almost randomly which meant you often didn’t know where they were and was very unbsettling when you did. And the script was often banal – as so and so was givien “a good thrashing” or whatever. It failed to inform on the impact all this still has on today’s Middle East, which is what something like this should be about. Best leave Boris to running London.

  46. It is a very interesting series, and it has stimulated my interest in history.

    I was wondering whether anyone has any idea about the soundtrack.

  47. Aren’t the comments getting a tad personal here? “Of course this is just one of hundreds of proves that you were taught to be violent” (Dioscorus Boulos 07-08)

    Why is there such a personal debate about the nature of conquests made so long ago? Unless your point is that Islam as a religion is dangerous and should be stamped out? Why is it that we don’t just accept that humanity regardless of religion has been guilty of travesties that we like to believe are animilastic. Personally i think you’re a bit of a facist but you know, that’s just you. I will not now define every single person that shares any single characteristic that you do, as a facist.
    But I digress, we get the picture, you’re not a fan of the religion, we probably can’t get you to convert so we’ll give you up as a lost cause. However, I think Boris’s program was excellent. I’ve found it vastly entertaining and educational, it is interesting to note that apparently every single Western European person ever, was NOT a facist. How curious.

  48. I have been gripped by “After Rome..” from beginning to end. Points of view are economically layered, and the framework wonderfully structured for impact. Personally, I have enjoyed the programmes for their interpretation of historical events, their causes and repercussions, but, even if some viewers do not share the points of view, it’s still brilliantly structured essay writing with a flair for engaging the audience.
    Do you fancy doing a series on Henry II, Boris? Or maybe the Prince Bishops in the North? Having seen “After Rome” I have great faith in what you might come up with.

  49. I think that Boris Johnson has done himself, and us, a great service by writing and presenting these two programmes. At a time when there desperately needs to be a debate about what we need from “society”, once again Islam has provided a tantalising view of a possible way forward. As a Christian by birth but a long-time atheist I frequently despair about the internecine conflict of our tribalistic/theistic luggage
    and the interference that mindset creates to the progress of a more enlightened society. Boris Johnston’s programmes have provided some well-needed light on the direction such a dialogue should take.

  50. The programme is interesting and well made however, I take issue with the totally one-sided, inappropriate clips showing Israel as a ‘colonising state’ with images showing helicopter gunships and tanks. Images of this nature only fuel hatred. Israel has given back every inch of territory where it has peaceful neighbours. It has no intention of ‘colonising’ Arab lands.

  51. In trying to understand the conflict between Islam and Christendom two facts need to be considered:

    1. The Crusades were not an action in history; they were in fact a reaction to Muslim aggression when the Seljuk Turks massacred and mistreated Christians in Palestine and Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. The First Crusade was meant to address just that.

    2. The conflict between Christendom and Islam did not start in the 11th century when the First Crusade was launched; its origin, in fact, can be traced to a much earlier stage– to the 630s AD when the Arabians started their war of aggression against Byzantium. It is important to remember that Arabia was never occupied by Byzantium so any attack against it was completely unjustified. The Arabs invaded and occupied Christian lands in Palestine, Syria and Egypt without provocation. Any attempts by Byzantium first and then the Franks to reconquer these lands were an exercise in reconquestia similar to that which the Spaniards later achieved.

  52. I didn’t get to see the whole programmes and I also would have liked to purchase a DVD for a friend for Christmas as think it would be right up their street.

  53. I thoroughly enjoyed Boris Johnson’s programme. It was better driven than his track run in Top Gear. I would agree that the programme was firstly too short, and secondly shown on the wrong day. The BBC schedulers should be pulled up for this because both programmes were enlightening, and explained briefly the cause of current tensions between the main faiths across partial history.

    Whilst we can state that all faiths brought great things into being in terms of the arts, sciences, maths, etc etc, I am saddened that not only have we not learnt from history but that civilisation has not shifted forward or progressed itself from what many learned professors term a lower level of existence. This is not to sound pompous or undermine some of the achievements human kind has made such as treating viruses, but that we still haven’t brought into fruition a way of feeding and sustaining a rapidly expanding populace. All civilisations fell and will fall as the environment around them fails to support them. The short term answer is expansionism but eventually this concept fails because it requires further resources to be deployed in order to sustain it. Its a catch 22 situation.

    Indeed, many a glaswegian is asking the question; will we need a modern day crusade to control the population in order to prevent the planets resources being consumed at a incredible rate. Was this mentioned in Boris’s programmes – I think not.

  54. Having just seen the 2nd part on i-player I just had to add a comment on the excellence of this programme – in composition and execution and with some of the most beautiful photography I have seen on TV for a long time. Thank you Boris and BBC.

    P.S. I hope someone sends a copy to the so-called leaders of the “free world” – they could learn a lot by considering the historical and cultural context of the current conflicts between the West and Asia.

  55. Congratulations to Boris Johnson on this fascinating programme. It was interesting and informative and so refreshing to listen to the reasonable explanations and opinions offered by the people interviewed, not just the professors and historians, but the “ordinary” citizens too.

    There was so much wisdom in the programme and much of what I have instinctively believed for many years was put into actual words for me – that these 2 great civilisations actually have much in common and that it is the manipulation of the differences by clerics and politicians that is the cause of violence. As Boris says, if we can’t escape from history, we should strive to relive the good bits.

    I admire Boris for his optimism and I hope and pray that he is right when he says that there will come a time when the doctrinal differences will seem irrelevant and we will live in a single, tolerant, global civilisation. What a wonderful thought to end a wonderful programme. Thank you.

  56. I congratulate Boris Johnson on this brilliant production which, in my view, presented an unbiased interpretation of the history of the troubled relationship between Christians and Muslims, and to some extent, Judaism. There is much we can learn from history from both sides of the divide (or should I say “diaspora”)and I would like to believe that the conclusion which Boris reached at the end of the second programme will come to pass, if not in my lifetime then in this century. As others have commented, the photography in these two programmes was outstanding and I do hope that the BBC will enable a wider audience to be reached by producing a DVD of this very enjoyable and well researched short series.

  57. You guys, Muslims and liberals (and the others who are mesmerised by the quality of photography and the blonde in the show), you will need to know it is not only Prof Milbank who stand on a different platform on this issue. There are many scholars who share him in his views, and no one can fault him on his research and publications.

    Boris may think he is achieving something good; he may love practicing self-flagellation which is an addiction by Western liberals; he may aspire to win the Muslim vote in the next London Mayoral election; or he may be just the showy Oxford graduate who is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian – but the truth is that his understanding of the origin of the conflict between Islam and Christendom is defective.

    That conflict is not to be found in the Crusades, but in a much earlier stage, in 620s AD, when Mohammad saw the world divided into two: Dar Al Islam (the House of Islam) which is inhabited by Muslims, and Dar Al Harb (the House of War), which is inhabited by non-Muslims, and against which violence, war and conquest is the norm that stands for ever. He wanted all lands to be converted by his “sword and spear” into Muslim land. What right do non-Muslims have in his view? None whatsoever. If they are left to exist in a Muslim run country, it is a licence only which is offered only on condition of paying jizia and living humiliated under Sharia law. Allah, in fact, hates the non-Muslims as one famous Muslim scholar says (Ibn Gayyim Al Jawzia), and he would want all of them killed for their koffr (non-belief in Islam), had it not been for his kindness (to Muslims that is; not to non-Muslims), as Jizia from the kaffirs is more beneficial for the Muslims that killing the kaffirs, as it provides them with a fortune.

    The Arab conquest of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Africa, and Spain, in the first few centuries of Islam, and then the conquest of Byzantium and parts of Europe by the Turks starting from the 1400s +, are events that follow a programme in fulfilling Mohammad’s seventh century dream.

    What we are seeing now, in the attempts of the Islamists to subdue and rule the West, is not but a continuation of the same original dream of Mohammad. The terrorists that follow Osama Bin Laden in their caves in Pakistan, contrary to what we all wish for, are in fact real and true Muslims who are carrying out their prophet’s instructions, encoded in his Koran and Sunna.

    And Europe does not seem to recognise or understand that – all to her peril.
    Don’t misunderstand me, there hav been in history a few Muslim rulers who did not follow Mohammad’s instructions, and they treated their non-Muslim inhabitants with some degree of respect and freedom, such as many of the rulers of the Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt (969-1171 AD), or forged good trade relations with the West, such as some of the Ayyubid rulers, particularly Al-Adil (1200-1218 AD) and Al-Kamil (1218-1238 AD). [Interestingly, Salah Al-Din, contrary to the common belief, was a very cruel and persecuting ruler, and like Richard Lion-Heart, committed many massacres and treated his non-Christian subject very badly).
    But that should not blind us to the dangerous, oppressive and expansionist ideology, which is Islam.
    Does such a belief make one hate Muslims? No, for we are always able to differentiate between the hateful ideology and the many followers of the religion who are decent and just normal people like all of us. It, however, makes people aware of the ever presenting danger and threat of Islam and the Islamists.

  58. There are a few spelling and grammar mistakes in the above passage. Hope the reader will forgive them. There is no way to edit what has already been posted.

  59. No Boris. Your documentary was a missed opportunity to redress the balance in response to the recent airbrushing of history in an attempt to get the Islamic world on-side.
    Spain clarifies what really happened. The Muslims were the aggressors (as in the Holy Land) – they invaded, massacred and ruled by force. This justified any defensive response by Christendom to react for the survival of European civilisation. No matter how unpleasant the Crusades appear to us with our 21st century revision of history, I suspect most of us are glad the British Isles, Northern Europe and Scandinavia were never subjected to being Kalifates for centuries!
    Don’t get me wrong – Boris – we do have a lot to appreciate from the Arabic culture, but you and they should understand that we would have preferred never to have had to defend Europe or the Holy Land in the first place.

  60. No doubt experts on the relationship between Islam and Christianity will find plenty to quibble about in Boris Johnson’s programme, but surely this was pitched (perfectly) at the beginner who has a sketchy overview of history and can be tempted into wanting to know more by just this sort of effort. Boris is a superb (and to my eyes, scrupulously balanced) guide with a charming light touch, and I would happily sit through a more detailed series on the subject with him at the tiller. Intelligent TV which for once fulfils the BBC’s remit to educate and entertain.

  61. Hi.

    Just a short comment. “Jaq” seems to know alot about “the irish” when he asserts that “at least they targeted politicians”. Herein lies a problem we have – making a hierarchy of victims. Also, differentiating between what is, pure and simple, terrorism.

    Omagh bombing? Shankill bombing? Numbers of security forces killed? La Mon Hotel bombing? Drumkeen hotel bombing? Warrington bombing? Canary

    Two name just a few…… How many of these

  62. Edited!!!!


    Just a short comment. “Jaq” seems to know alot about “the irish” when he asserts that “at least they targeted politicians”. Herein lies a problem we have – making a hierarchy of victims. Also, differentiating between what is, pure and simple, terrorism.

    Omagh bombing? Shankill bombing? Numbers of security forces killed? La Mon Hotel bombing? Drumkeen hotel bombing? Warrington bombing? Canary Wharf bombing?

    To name just a few……

    Silly statement.

  63. I found the documentary fascinating in condensing 2,000 years into two hours or so. It kept you watching, which is a main aim of any TV show. However, I felt Mayor Johnson missed a couple of key points…The decline of Arabic learning and progress was due to the Crusades on one hand, but then the ensuing brutal Turkish rule on the other, a rule that didn’t end until after WW 1. This then lead to the abandonment of the enlightened and more liberal Sufi Islam for the the far more extreme Wahabbi religion fron Saudi Arabia. It is this, by western standards, an often brutal and absolutist faith, that is probably at thr root of the ongoing conflict with Israel, a conflict that is more about religious primacy and tribalism than land rights.

    Also, the Mayor claimed the Romans allowed polytheism throughout the empire. Yet, it was Rome’s attempt to impress its pagan faith on the Jews that lead to a 70 year-long insurrection that eventually resulted in the destruction and renaming of Jerusalem to Aeoli Capitalina and Judea to Palestine, which literally means Land of the Philistines, who by the way were of European origin.

  64. Yes as expected Boris can turn on his unique charm and give us plebs an insight as to what a good education might hold. Loved every minute of it and feel sure that Boris could easily make the transition to full television style celebrity whenever he chooses. Hope he’s doing more.

  65. Oh yes, almost forgot…..

    Loved this show. Spelled it out in a concise and interesting way. Boris did a great job here. Everyone should realise that not everybody who watched this documentary has an acute historical knowledge of this particular subject.

    From my point of view it was fair and balanced and achieved surely what he set out to – to make people informed, to destroy the myths and to give us hope for the future.

    Everyone should see this documentary.

  66. Dioscorus Boulos- i think your research on islam is done by by prof John Milbank. I think you should do your own research, to at least feel you done somthing instead of using another man’s words. I’ve been reading it now…the prof research. By the way, i think you might like to know this…IAM CONVERTING TO ISLAM TODAY AND YOU MADE MY MIND UP. Ingeneral, People seem to be scare of something they think might be the truth. Guess what? u lost me mate. Am not one of you no more.

  67. How brilliant that this wonderful programme has stimulated such discussion amongst so many erudite people ! All this arguing round and round is exactly the reason why cultures will always be divided ! Anyway – i would love the BBC to produce this as a DVD and a book because my GCSE RE students will lap it up – please Boris

    [Ed: We have asked the BBC whether a DVD will be issued and are awaiting a response.]

  68. A very one sided presentation.

    Boris did a very good sectionon mosques in Spain being turned into cathedrals and churches, the example of Seville Cathedral being the most outstanding. However he neglected to cover the same process from the other side in Turkey. Not one of the cathedrals and churches of Constantinople(captured by muslims in 1453) remains in present-day Istanbul. They have all been turned into mosques, and the Byzantine Imperial tombs dismantled, to my knowledge the latest the tomb of an empress discovered in the 1960s. The present day Orthodox Christian Patriarch operates from a jerry-built modern church outside the old walls at Istanbul. Johnson(not his real ancestral Turkish name) neglected to interview any Christians in Turkey, although he very sympathetically interviewed Muslims in Spain.

  69. Dan Williams seems to have based a belief in a deity and commiment to both a religion and lifestyle on the comments of a blogger on this blog. Deep!

  70. Ian @9:12am – interesting comment, Sir. I’m hoping Mr Kemal will get the chance to broadcast further progs on this issue and cover the points you raise.

  71. I am recommending this series to everyone I know. There may be certian omissions and errors, but what I like is his seemingly genuine openness to all and his aspiration to bring greater respect between Christians and Muslims in the cause of peace. History is only important in so far as knowledge of it might help us have a better understanding of our situation in the here and now – and thus respect others more and even come to love them. And Boris’aspiration seems to be in that direction.

  72. Jaq says, “Dan Williams seems to have based a belief in a deity and commiment to both a religion and lifestyle on the comments of a blogger on this blog. Deep!”

    Dear Jaq,

    Dan William, who says he would like to convert to Islam because of my previous posts, may be a Christian idiot to have to decide on so important matter like his choice of religion on the basis of not agreeing with what I had written.

    He is, however, a definite idiot if he would like us to believe that he is actually Christian or his real name is Dan or William. The writing, the style, etc., all betray him.

  73. I have to correct my own post, which was from memory. Some time on Wikipedia revealed that there is in fact one single Greek Orthodox church remaining from before 1453 in Istanbul, although not within the old walls. It is the obscure little church of St. Mary of the Mongols. In the 1200s a Byzantine princess married the Khan of the Mongols, and after returning to Constantinople as an older widow, she founded that church in 1281. For some reason, the Turkish Sultans allowed only that one church not to be demolished or converted into a mosque. According to Wikipedia it is not generally open to the public, and was damaged by a mob of Turkish rioters in 1955.

    The stories of mosques being turned into churches in Spain, can be mirrored almost exactly by churches being converted into mosques in Turkey.

  74. I agree with Professor Millbank’s comments. I thought the Crusaders were given a hard time but perhaps it reflects Boris Johnson’s Turkish roots. An ancestor died at the siege of Acre and the manner of his death was recorded,but to quote from the Chronicle “The Turks’ rage could not be satisfied and even when they were sick of killing their anger drove them on. Wherever their fear drove them, the Christians met with death; no one could escape the disaster. Everywhere the enemy, everywhere slaughter! The wounded were beyond number the dead were reckoned at 5500” Very nice! Grace Scott

  75. Christopher Davies (December 12, 2008 @ 3:09 pm) raises an important point: what is the function of history?

    History has to tell the facts as they were, and then to try to answer the why, the where, the who, etc. The ideal is that the views of the historian and his personal beliefs do not bias the selection of historical facts or the interpretation of them; however, this is not always possible.

    If the function of history is to tell us the truth about what actually happened, it becomes unacceptable to try to suppress some facts or to invent others, in other way to adulterate history, even if the purpose is a noble one such as promoting an understanding or spreading peace between religions or nations, particularly when such efforts are one-sided and not reciprocated.

    The function of history is different. And anyway, peace is not made possible by blinding our eyes to threats. The one sure result of such voluntary blindness, which liberals and unwise politicians often call for, is to eventually become subjugated to aggressors and tyrants who welcome our idiocy and the weaknesses that come with it.

    Can we afford to forget the lessons of Nazism and WWII? We may look for stories that dehumanise the Germans for us and promote them, which is welcome, but it would be wrong to present the Nazis or Nazism as humane.

    Although Boris tried to serve a good purpose by showing that the Muslims were not all monsters and they have a stake in the final civilisation of the world (which I agree with), he has failed in the following:

    1. He failed to identify the origin of the conflict between Christendom and Islam. This is to be found not in the Crusades but in Islam itself, which since its inception has followed an anti-non-Muslim policy of aggression. It is an integral part of the religion, and is still as strong as ever.
    2. In trying to white-wash Muslim behaviour, he sought to demonise the West and Christendom, and put unfair blame on the latter for the Crusades.
    3. He has failed to see the overall picture of the conflict and the full dimension of it, and, in this, he has been insensitive to the sufferings of the billions of people who had or have suffered, and still suffering, in the world from the aggressive and expansionist ideology of Islam, starting from the Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Byzantium, East Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.

  76. Correction. The following sentence should read:

    “Can we afford to forget the lessons of Nazism and WWII? We may look for stories that rehumanise the Germans for us and promote normal relationship with them, which is welcome, but it would be wrong to present the Nazis (which is not synonymous with the Germans)or Nazism as humane.”

  77. It is work like this, and I wish there were more, that shows Boris’ great capacity for insight, analysis, and putting together strands of history and politics into a meaningful narrative, and one made easy to follow and understand.

    As such I think he gave a richer more balanced insight into today’s world cultural crises than I have seen from any other journalist, broadcaster, or policician. More should hear him.

  78. Well done Boris. Excellent programme, beautifully produced, with witty & enthusiastic presentation.

    Plenty of opinion & bias, and I’m grateful for that. After 12 years of “New Labour” it’s good to have a politician in a position of power, who has his own opinions & a first class education to back them up.

    More please.

  79. Can we all just please STOP talking about Spaniards and Spanish reconquista?

    It was an Iberian Peninsula reconquista, conducted by several small Iberic Christian kingdoms and shire (Castile and León, Aragon, Portugal and Navarra).

    The rulers of these kingdoms were united family blood links in Iberia, France, and other neighboring kingdoms and were constantly suffering from internal conflict.

    Except for Portugal – Afonso Henriques officially declared Portugal’s independence when he proclaimed himself king of Portugal on 25 July 1139 – the Christian kingdoms where united and become the Kingdom of Spain.

    The Portuguese reconquista ended in 1249, with the capture of the Algarve on the southern coast, giving Portugal its present day borders.

    In the following decades, Portugal spearheaded the exploration of the world and undertook the Age of Discovery. In this show, they only talked about Cristopher Columbus, once again forgetting to point out that the Age of Discovery was iniciated in Portugal and that the technology used was, in large scale, from Arab origins.

    Sorry for my nationalism but it just makes me crazy when you talk about Spain and forget about Portugal.

    By the way, in Portugal we do praise the Moorish technology and the legacy from this civilization but, to us, the reconquista is, very much, a symbol of the “glorious” portuguese history.

  80. I have just received the following from the BBC:
    “I’m currently unaware of any plans to release this programme. However, if you’d like to make a suggestion for its release as a DVD, I’d suggest you put it in writing to the Programme & Acquisitions Department who are responsible for the commercial DVD release of BBC programmes. Please write to:
    Programming & Acquisitions Dept
    2 entertain
    33 Foley Street
    W1W 7TL
    Please note that there must be adequate public interest before a release can be arranged.”

    So: now we know. Get writing!

  81. Well- ‘fraid I am turning into a Boris fan! I read his brillant book “Dreams of Rome” some time ago. Then there was the the “After Rome” film. I have now emailed the B.B.C as this is not available on D.V.D.Why? I wish this little film could be shown again but at a better time! It would do a lot to bring some sort of intelligence to Islamic and Western understanding! Boris should be taken more seriously not only at multicutural levels but as a good historian! Could we all e mail the B.B.C to let this out on DVD!

  82. As a a Christian Arab who lived in England over half my life (I am now over 60) the programme Boris presented was excellent. He made very valid and fair assessment of the gap between East and West. Many Europeans are surprised that there are Christians in the Middle East as if Christianity originated in Europe. More importantly to bridge the gap between Islam and Christianity, more Muslims and Christians should read what in the Koran and not what is in the Hadith or Sharia. The two later ones are just interpretations. Throughout my life in the middle east I have never felt intimidated because of my religion. Well done Mayor Boris for an open minded analysis which hopefully will help to bring better understanding of history too. I am not even going to address the present fanaticism as it exist amongst Muslims and Christians. Look for the cause and treat the Palestenians fairly and there will be no cause for fanaticism and desperation. I shall certainly request the release of this DVD commercially.

  83. i have not seen the programme, but i just happened to stumble across this discussion. Mr Dioscorus Boulos thinks he has all the knowledge to criticise islam, he seems to be copying from some text book of some sort, he keeps making errors in his comments.

    as far as his depiction of the prophet mohammed, is absolutley incorrect.

    “islam” means peace and the word “muslim” means submission to one god, we muslims call him by the name ALLAH.the aforementioned gentleman needs to get his facts corrrect with referenceat least.
    and for his comment about the koran he has’nt got a clue. it is easy to blame religion for what a individual or individual do.

    it says in the koran that if “anyone” takes the life of an innocent human being it is if he killed the whole of mankind. so dont try to portray islam in light of actions commited by individuals.

    hitler was a christian what did he do, slaughtering the jews. does that mean christianity promotes violence NO!…. so back off Mr Dioscorus Boulos.

    it seems that you are a jew, i have no problem with that but it seems that you have resorted to stirring up hatred with inn mankind. it aslo seems that you have’nt even read your own holy book properly.

    like some one said above that your a lost cause, l will pray ALLAH guide you.

  84. Jamshed (February 1, 2009) writes: {it says in the koran that if “anyone” takes the life of an innocent human being it is if he killed the whole of mankind. so dont try to portray islam in light of actions commited by individuals.

    hitler was a christian what did he do, slaughtering the jews. does that mean christianity promotes violence NO!…. so back off Mr Dioscorus Boulos.}

    My response:
    1. To “it says in the koran that if “anyone” takes the life of an innocent human being it is if he killed the whole of mankind.” Mohammad killed thousands of people, children, women, old people. One Jewish tribe was completely eliminated by him (some 700 of them). He slaughtered them with his friends’ help. He killed civilians and militants together. He killed poets who said poems denouncing him. He plotted to kill those who dared to criticise him. This is all facts and is written in early Muslim tracts and books. Mohammad had streams of innocent blood running off the palms of his hands. Jamshed of course would say that these people were all “guilty” and non was innocent, and therefore their murder by Mohammad and his companions were justified. Presently Muslim terrorists from the Sunni sect kill everyone around them, Christians, Jews or Shia, whether military or civilian. To them, like to Mohammad, no one of their victims is innocent. Their definition of innocence and guilt is not as morality and the civilised world defines them. My contention is that statements such as the one I have quoted above, and often used by Muslim apologetics, are hollow.

    2. Another hollow statement is the following: “hitler was a christian what did he do, slaughtering the jews. does that mean christianity promotes violence.” The difference is that Hitler was not a Christian, and even if he were, he was not the originator of Christianity, and so his crimes could not be used to discredit Christianity to the same degree the crimes of Mohammad, the originator of Islam, discredit Islam. Jamshed would have been successful in defending Mohammad vis-a-vis Christianity had he found similar criminality (to that of Mohammad’s) in Jesus Christ.

  85. Dear Mr. Dioscorus Boles,

    There is an important factual error in your discussion of Islam that should be pointed to. The use of the terms dar al-harb and dar al-Islam as technical descriptors of the world originate not with the sayings of Muhammad, but with the development of the Islamic jurisprudential tradition (fiqh). These labels are not, as you describe them, norms “that stand forever.” The terms dar al-harb and dar al-Islam were developed by medieval Muslim jurists and gained acceptance in the Islamic legal tradition during this period. As they arose within a particular historical context, such concepts can and do shift within Islamic jurisprudence (and among Muslims in general) as changes take place in political relations between Muslims and others, and the structure of international relations takes on new forms. As Professor Sherman Jackson (University of Michigan) has noted in his insightful article “Jihad and the Modern World,” (Journal of Islamic Law and Culture Spring/Summer 2002), the prevailing ‘state of war’ between and among various religions/ethnicities in the pre-modern era, has, at least officially, been replaced by a ‘state of peace,’ mandated by international law, and the respect for national sovereignty it engenders. This has led many contemporary Muslim thinkers to re-consider the medieval terms and the assumptions they rest upon. Sherman rightly, I think, remarks that dar al-harb and dar al-Islam were more descriptions of political realities at the time, rather than prescriptions for all time.

    Let it also be said that some of the most important Muslim jurists have defined dar al-Islam as any place where Muslims can practice their faith in security, meaning that most of the world today would fall under such a category within the classical Islamic legal tradition.

    Also, I would caution using the thought of Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350 CE) as broadly representative of Islam. As a disciple of Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328 CE), al-Jawziyya stands in what many scholars consider to be the more radical wing of the Hanbali madhab (jurisprudential [and to some degree theological] school). Although there are certainly Muslims today who would ascribe Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya a central place in Islamic thought, historically this is not the case. The works of both Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim were highly controversial during their time, and landed Ibn Taymiyyah in jail on numerous occasions throughout his life (primarily due to his theological literalism and vocal attacks on prominent Sufis). Furthermore, both Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim’s thought fell into something close to irrelevance for a number of centuries following their deaths. It is only since the revival of Ibn Taymiyyah’s (and his students’) thought in the past two centuries that their works have been returned to the forefront of debates among Muslims on the nature of Islam, and on Sufism in particular.

    In this regard, I would recommend considering Sufism’s formative role in the classical Islamic tradition, and its continuing influence and prevalence in many parts of the Muslim world (Morocco, Senegal, and parts of Pakistan, India, among others). Those who understand Islam as best represented by extremists, frequently fail to adequately account for Sufism’s broad acceptance among medieval Muslims and its continuing influence today. Al-Ghazzali, Rumi, Yunus Emre, Moinuddin Chisti, Ibn ‘Arabi, among others, all had a profound effect on the ethos, culture, literature, philosophy, architecture, and art and practice of Muslims. Their traditions of spirituality, beauty, love, and tolerance were deeply imprinted upon the thought and practice of Islam. Although there are certainly Muslims who seek to downplay the centrality of Sufis in the pre-modern and contemporary Islamic tradition, historically, I think the case is quite clear. This is not to say that Sufism as a historical phenomenon is wholly positive (what historical phenomenon is?). Nevertheless, Sufism cannot be ignored in considering the ways in which Islam has manifested over time. Sufis have just as much claim to the heart of Islam as do their more politically radical co-religionists.

  86. Dear William Dickson,

    You are obviously a fan of Muslim Sufism. It is good and I find some of the Sufis deserving of admiration. Truth is, however, that Sufism appeared a. almost more than four centuries after Mohammad (so it is really a Medieval phenomenon); b. it does not represent Islam, particularly in the Middle East (I note that you have not included one Arab country in your list where Sufism constitutes a force); c. it has never acquired political power within Islam and has never ruled a Muslim society (and in some areas where it finds some support it became synonymous with superstition and corruption to the extent that its followers are given by the general Muslim population the contemptible description “daraweesh”. My contention is that it is good to lean towards Sufism and to attempt to see some hope in it for Muslim societies; however, it is self-deception to see in it a strong representation of Muslim thought.

    The phrases Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (House of War)were coined in later centuries, but they find their meaning and sources in Mohammad (610-632 AD)and the period of the so-called Rightly Guided Caliphs (632-661 AD). The basic elements of this vision of the world for the Muslim were made complete during that period, and to the Muslim this ancient vision is a “sacred vision” that is rooted in Koran, Sunna and the traditions of the first Companions of Mohammad and the four Caliphs after him (Abu-Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali). This world vision is so poweful that it has influenced political Islam for the last fourteen centuries and continues to do so to this day. Ibn Taymia (d. 1328 AD) and Ibn Gayyim Al Gawzzia (d. 1350 AD), although they are not the first who talked about this vision, they are the ones who put it in writing in its clearest and most powerful version. Prior to them, one can find the same vision scholarly described, but less powerfully described, by the founders of the four main Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence “fiqh”, Abu Hanifa (699 – 767), Malik ibn Anas (714 – 796), ibn Shāfi‘ī (767- 820)), Ahmad bin Hanbal‎(780 – 855). The Shia schools of fiqh have all, also, described the same vision, and theirs does not deviate significantly from the Sunni’s.

    The sooner to understand this the better so that we may not self-deceive.

  87. Dear Mr. Dioscorus Boles,

    Thank you for your thoughtful answer to my previous post. I must respectfully disagree however, with all three of your points on Sufism, though I agree with your last remark that in many places Sufism descended into corruption and superstition, garnering some well-earned contempt. In fact, many Sufis themselves supported Ataturk’s closing of the tekkes (Sufi lodges) in Turkey, as they had become a way for loafers to live off of the state in the name of spirituality’s highest ideals. This concern over the false coin has been a perennial one among Sufis. As early as the tenth century, Sufis were decrying imitators (mustaswif). Abu’l Hasan Fushanji famously said ‘today Sufism is a name without a reality, whereas formerly it was a reality without a name.’

    This leads to my response to your three points on Sufism, a) although Sufism was systematized, and took shape in the numerous orders that proliferated throughout the Muslim world during the medieval era, Sufis themselves trace their teachings to Muhammad and his companions (mostly to Ali, but the Naqshbandi’s trace their lineage, uniquely, to Abu Bakr). Early signs of Sufism are found amongst the saying of some of the companions, indicating a teaching transmitted by Muhammad to them not taught to the community as a whole (for example, Abu Hurayra’s saying on the two ‘vessels’ he’d received, one of which he disseminated, and the other he kept secret – in Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 3, No. 121).

    Of course we then have the early ascetics – Hasan al-Basri (d. 728 CE), and the progenitor of love mysticism, Rabia al-Adawiyya (d. 801 CE), and Jafar as-Sadiq’s (d. 765 CE) mystical tafsir, all representative of some of Sufism’s early trends. In the ninth and tenth centuries, well, the list goes on (Junayd, Bistami, etc.).

    b) Although Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s (d. 1798 CE) movement in the Arabian peninsula has marginalized Sufism in many places in the Arab world, Sufism remains vital there, especially in Syria (Damascus remains an important center) and Egypt (where Ahmad al-Badawi’s mawlid, or birthday, is widely celebrated).

    c) Sufism has weaned incredible political influence throughout much of Islamic history. Many a sultan was a student of a Sufi shaykh, and many of the ‘ulama (legal scholars) were students of Sufis, or Sufis themselves (a trend that continues in many respects today). The Seljuks, for example, widely built both universities of law and theology, and Sufi lodges (khanaqahs). Interestingly, the Naqshbandi shaykh Ubayd Allah Ahrar (d. 1490 CE) was acknowledged to be the de facto ruler of much of Tansoxania during the mid fifteenth century, as Richard C. Foltz observes in his article “The Central Asian Naqshbandi Connections of the Mughal Emperors,” (Journal of Islamic Studies, 7, 1996).

    Further, I would not draw such a hard and fast contrast between Islam and Sufism, as Sufis are most often practicing Muslims, and as mentioned previously; scratch the surface of many an Islamic phenomenon and you’ll find evidence of Sufism. Many rightly, I think, define Sufism as Islamic spirituality – Islam’s inward aspect, or spiritual path, and as such, many Muslims have believed it to be integral to Islam.

    In any case, any account of Islam, to be doctrinally, practically, and historically accurate, must adequately deal with Sufism’s often pre-eminent role in the faith. To write it off as an aberration, ignores, to my mind, far too much of Muslim history and practice.

  88. I really do not want to get into argument with you about Sufism, for the thread is not about Sufism, which is, despite all, is marginal and not original in Islam. My contention in this thread has been that the conflict between Islam and Christendom does not find its origin in the Crusades of the Middle Ages but in the wars of expansion of early Islam which were launched by Mohammad and his immediate successors, particularly Omar (634-644 AD) against Byzantium. Those wars were not defensive and were not provoked by any aggression by the Romans – they were aggressive wars which were meant to advance the House of Islam at the expense of the House of War, and the justification for them was in the first place theological (Allah wanted that – Allah wanted the humiliation, exploitation and subjugation of the Kaffirs, i.e. infidels/Non-Muslims, for the benefit of Al-Mumineen, i.e. the believers/Muslims; and the justification of all that is the Kuffr, i.e. non-belief, of the non-Muslims that deserves death or subjugation, exploitation and humiliation as a second option).

    In this way Islam invaded in the seventh century, and in a few years after the death of Mohammad in 632 AD all lands in the Middle East outside Arabia and suppressed, oppressed and persecuted the non-Muslim natives, mostly Christian, of these areas.

    That was the first encounter between Islam and Christendom and not the Crusades, and if some could see defenders in the Muslims who fought against the Crusaders, no one should fail to see the unprovoked, expansionist aggressiveness of the first Muslims, who set a lasting example to all Muslims by their violence, aggression and hate.

    That aggression is an integral part of Islam, sanctioned by Allah and made sacred and duty of every Muslim if he or she could.

  89. Does anyone know what the excellent drumming music was that played in the background of (I think) the early part of episode 2? I’d like to find a copy of that full performance.

    Andy Tait (a drummer)

    1. Andy: it’s no longer on iPlayer so I can’t check to see if I can help. Have you tried writing to the producer at the BBC? I’ll ask around and see if anyone else knows but that’s the best I can do from here. Sorry!

  90. Dear Boris Johnson;
    I celebrate your majoryty. hundred time emtyly I tried searh spectater but I could not find the old magasines!
    If you are one best friend please rencontre the books of Valor Alexander at London environ Royal Academy find and explore them as one spectater and give your own desicion. their names are ‘Karambol Kritikc; Cientecnific; Sportif Espriler’ Could you read thenm deptly? There might be discussion problems of mediatic temarios like at the cover of Cientecnific. Can you do my registration like to İnt. Science Reserche Center? Can I cut the prizes of nobel after 2000. What can we do; can you ınvite or steal me by one air-plane? My healt is bad bed. I have nı ıdentity, banc or credytibilyty. I can die. So, sorry; passage is at you. Be in gard, egard , regard.
    Valor Alexander (Değer İskender)
    Adres: 1.cadde.No:52-5Bahçelievler.Ankara.Turkey.

  91. People, what do you make of this Quranic verse: “Fight all unbelievers who do not know the Day of Judgment, do not believe in what Allah and his messenger have ordained, and do not accept Islam as their religion among ‘Ahl el Ketab’ (Christians)until they have paid tithe out of hand in disgrace.” Sura al Maida: 29.
    How about this one: “O prophet, fight against unbelievers and pretenders and make their lives as difficult as it can be, for their final abode is ‘Gahannam’ (Hell).” Surah al Tawba: 73.
    And this: “All those who fight against Allah and his prophet and lay waste to the land are either to be killed or crucified or have their hands and legs amputated or expelled from the land, that is a proper humiliation for them, and in the after world they will greatly suffer.” Surah al Maida: 33.
    For those of you who do not read Arabic, you will probably find the translation of the above mentioned verses somewhat different than mine in newer versions of the Quran, and that is due to many factors, the most obvious one is the war on terrorism.

  92. Dear Linda Falter, you could not be more mistaken. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilian families who were forcibly expelled from their homes in 1948 and are still not allowed to return. Whole generations raised in squalid refugee camps with mostly American Jewish settlers moving in on all sides and in some cases above them as well, aided by heavy weaponry and constant military supervision. Tell that to the families who’s homes are torn down in the night to make way for settlements, or those who have no running water while settlers have swimming pools, despite paying higher water rates than the Israelis do. Ever visited the west bank? I think you’d have quite a shock. Don’t get me wrong, I have many Israeli friends and love the country, but what the israeligovernment is doing to Palestinians is disgusting and on a par with apartheid.

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