Forced to convert

In the wake of the news that a pair of Fox journalists were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint there seems to have been a spate of articles about how Islam has a historical propensity towards forced conversions.  But, read most of the articles, and you’d imagine forced conversions were a particularly Islamic trait.

Take Andrew Bostom’s piece in today’s Front Page Mag, for example:

Forced conversions in Islamic history are not exceptional—they have been the norm, across three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—for over 13 centuries.

[…] Unsettling realities of the historical continuum of forced conversion to Islam must be discussed. The living Islamic fanaticism of the past cannot be allowed to poison the present (and future), unchallenged by Muslims themselves.

Not a word about the forced conversions to Christianity, which have also been going on for thousands of years.  

In ancient Europe it was all the rage, with everyone from the Romans onwards taking a shot at persecuting the poor old Pagans.  Vincent Ferrer in 15th century Spain kept the fashion going by converting the Jews to Christianity, on pain of death if need be.  And who would want to forget the Muslim slaves unfortunate enough to be transported thousands of miles across the Atlantic and forced by their owners in North America and the Caribbean not only to work themselves to the bone, but to adopt an entirely alien religion as well?

Forced conversions have always been the perogative of the strong over the weak, and particularly the perogative of military victors.  What is the point, after all, of fighting a long and bloody religious war?  To ask people politely if they wouldn’t mind sitting down with a nice cup of tea for a quick chat about whether their barbaric religion really is right for them?

Sometimes it would be nice to see a little bit – just a little bit – of balance and rationality prevail.