WaPo Uses Ancient Muslim Graves in Europe to Dismiss ‘Narrative’ of Civilizational Clash

The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor says he wants you to know “What the ‘oldest’ Muslim graves in Europe can tell us about the past.” But he’s really more interested in what they can tell us about the future. If you couldn’t already guess, it’s a happy tale of brotherhood and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.

Researchers discovered the 7th or 8th century graves of North Africans who were buried facing Mecca in the southern French city of Nimes, which was captured by Muslims in 719 AD.

Tharoor notes that shortly thereafter the Muslims were defeated at the Battle of Tours, “a showdown that has since been remembered as an epochal moment in Western history, a decisive turning point when Islam could not breach the ramparts of Christendom.”

Well, it was more of a high-water mark of Islamic expansion in Western Europe. The ramparts of Christendom had already been well and truly breached in Spain. But hey, why quibble? Tharoor has an agenda to push.

“The narrative of a dramatic clash of civilization was set in stone by the venerable 18th century British historian Edward Gibbon,” Tharoor writes. Gibbon “imagined a full-scale Islamic takeover of Europe had the Saracen hordes not been stopped.”

See, Islam’s violent expansion is only a “narrative,” from an old dead white guy. But Tharoor assures readers that, “The researchers of the study draw quieter, more nuanced conclusions.” You know, the kind of conclusions that don't upset liberals. “For centuries, Muslims and Christians co-existed in parts of Europe, lived side-by-side, worked together, and died together.” Yeah, they’d sometimes get together to build wheelchair ramps and enjoy fair trade coffee. It was a real PBS cartoon.

“Other textual and historical evidence points to rulers in the south of France during the Muslim occupation practicing a kind of protection for the main religious faiths.” Actually, it was a protection racket – Dhimmis could convert to Islam, pay a tax or die.

This article was actually restrained for Tharoor, an Occupy Wall Street fanboy who doesn’t have much use for “old white men.” Back in January he wrote about “The long history of Christians and Muslims killing people together.” In that piece he said the 1683 Ottoman Siege of Vienna “would be cast as a defining moment in a clash of civilizations -- that time the forces of Islam were halted at the ramparts of Christendom.” (Wait, more ramparts?)

Needless to say, Tharoor disdains that “tidy narrative.” Alliances formed and dissolved, mercenaries fought for the highest bidder and politics were not neat. Sometimes, Christians and Muslims fought on the same side.

Tharoor’s disapproval extends to “various right-of-center, nationalist governments” in Eastern Europe, “painting the [Syrian] migrant influx as an existential threat, an ‘invasion’ of people whose cultural identity is wholly alien to Europe.” Even worse, “conservative politicians -- including Republican presidential candidates -- also have gestured at a clash of civilizations when proposing bans on refugees or even halting Muslim migration altogether.”

Tharoor wants you to believe that Muslim graves from 800 AD and the shifting alliances in the 17th century somehow invalidate current experience and the very real concern over Muslim immigrant populations uninterested in assimilation.

Only ignorance or hypocrisy could drive those who worry about absorbing tens of thousands of people from places where they treat women as chattel, topple walls on homosexuals and outlaw Bibles. If you’re wary of a religion who’s more gung-ho adherents enjoy staging televised beheadings, as President Obama might say, get off your “high horse.”

Matt Philbin
Matt Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture