Candid Observations on Islam - Perceptive Insights from John Quincy Adams, John Wesley, and Winston Churchill

By The Social Contract
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 21, Number 1 (Fall 2010)
Issue theme: "The menace of Islam"

Editor’s Note: In the days before political correctness, our forefathers expressed themselves with a forceful candor quite unimaginable today. These quotes about the nature of Islam from a President of the United States, the founder of the Methodist Church, and a future Prime Minister of England pack a giant punch, because we wouldn’t dare to whisper them now.

In our age, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris lives as a fugitive because of the death threats she received after suggesting “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” If her crime was fatal, how much more so to call Mohammed a “fanatic” with “the fraudulent spirit of an impostor” whose “doctrine was violence and lust,” as did John Quincy Adams?

NPR correspondent Juan Williams was sacked, at the insistence of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), for saying he felt nervous when he saw people in Muslim garb on airplanes. What would NPR have done to him if he called Muslims “destroyers of human kind,” as did John Wesley, or described Islam as “as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog,” as did Winston Churchill?

Each of these illustrious men came to their conclusions the hard way. President John Quincy Adams was the son of Founding Father John Adams, and witnessed firsthand the struggles of the fledgling United States against the Muslim Barbary pirates. Confronted with the savage capture of American sailors and demands for their ransom, President Thomas Jefferson unleashed the newly formed U.S. Navy to fight the Barbary Wars and free the sea lanes from Muslim brutality.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, lived in an age when Englishmen were routinely enslaved in Islamic North Africa. According to author Christopher Hitchens, as many as 1.5 million Europeans and Americans toiled as slaves there between 1530 and 1780. (Hitchens:

And Winston Churchill, the future savior of the West from Nazism, learned about Islam as a young British soldier fighting in the Sudan. His book, The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan (1899), described the conflict between the British and Islamic Jihadists, who were fighting to conquer Egypt, drive out the non-Muslim infidels, and make way for the second coming of the Islamic Mahdi.

From earlier, more candid times, here are observations on Islam:

John Quincy Adams on Islam:

In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, [ Editor’s Note: Mohammed] combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion.

He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE [capitals in original].

Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus…

The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

(Capitals in original)

—John Quincy Adams, “Christianity—Islamism.” “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece,” originally published in The American Annual Register for 1827–1829 (New York, 1830).

John Wesley on Islam:

Ever since the religion of Islam appeared in the world, the espousers of it … have been as wolves and tigers to all other nations, rending and tearing all that fell into their merciless paws, and grinding them with their iron teeth; that numberless cities are raised from the foundation, and only their name remaining; that many countries, which were once as the garden of God, are now a desolate wilderness; and that so many once numerous and powerful nations are vanished from the earth! Such was, and is at this day, the rage, the fury, the revenge, of these destroyers of human kind.

John Wesley, “The Doctrine of Original Sin, Works” (1841), ix 205

Winston Churchill on Islam:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammed-anism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

—Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (The River War , first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

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