The European Imperial Expansion Into Islamic Europe? A Response To Adam Majeed’s Beyond a hierarchy of victimhood: The case for Genocide Memorial Day

I have for some time now been identifying and critiquing the Left’s descent into critical race theory, identity politics, intersectionalism, and the other bourgeois-liberal pathologies to which our discourse has succumbed, yet every once in a while the victims of these landmines say things so vapid they even surprise me.

Adam Majeed’s article, quite frankly, is a product of a hopelessly colonized mind. It is rare to encounter anything quite so stupid as “Beyond a Hierarchy of Victimhood.”

He begins with a quote from Princess Anne:

“To preserve, explore and study Britain’s cultural heritage associated with the former Empire and today’s Commonwealth.”

Then he says:

Her words may sound romantic, as if spoken by starry-eyed travellers off on an adventure to delight in the exotic oddities of quaint pre-modern people. But this is Eurocentric ideological power. And for this reason many believe – without even realising it – that only Europeans can make history and only Europeans can develop and have human agency…

I am not familiar with this woman, and don’t know her mindset, or even what else she may have said on this occasion, but the “Eurocentric ideological power” is absent from the quote provided. So is the suggestion that only Europeans can make history. What is present is Majeed’s racist predisposition to see nefarious intent and the assertion of superiority or privilege on the part of Europeans even when it doesn’t exist. Again, if this woman gloried in Britain’s imperialism, then I will be the first to condemn her, but she does not above. That Majeed thinks she does speaks to his prejudices, not hers.

“…Eurocentric power is also the reason why non-European crimes are highlighted and most European crimes – except the for Holocaust – can be swept under the carpet. The uncomfortable truths have to be put out there since someone needs to hold a mirror up to European ethnocentrism; because people have suffered in the past and continue to suffer today.

Astonishing! I don’t know about the Left in Britain, but here in the US I can assure you, dear reader, that European crimes, and by extrapolation White crimes, are not being swept under the rug. It is in fact all we ever talk about! Indeed, I am rapidly approaching my 54th birthday, and I am trying to remember if I have ever read anything quite so absurdly and tendentiously inaccurate as that, and, honestly, I cannot. It is the most signally stupid thing I have ever read. Majeed is simply out of his mind.

The literature on the subject of European imperialism, slavery, genocide is so copious that it is more than a single person could read in a dozen lifetimes. So is the theoretical discourse on how and why it happened. We now have entire schools of critical race theory devoted to the topic. Identity politics, intersectionalism and the like are the products of all this analysis. Injustices perpetrated by Europeans are in every school textbook in the country, and the higher levels of academia verily buzz with such debates and every nuance is discussed in scholarly journals and even in the mainstream media.

It is utter rubbish to say otherwise.

Then:

A lot of us have heard this before:

 

“In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain; he sailed through sunshine, wind and rain… “Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried; his heart was filled with joyful pride…the Arawak natives were very nice; they gave the sailors food and spice.”

This is what children are taught in the so-called “New World” of the Western Hemisphere. It is also what is taught to children designed to be satraps – myself included – in the non-European world in order to preserve mental colonisation and construct societies that cater to the hegemony of European ideological power.

I certainly do not defend Columbus or the hideous seizure of the Americas, but what in the quote above would serve to “preserve mental colonization”? Columbus did indeed think that he’d reached India, and the Arawaks are depicted quite favorably. If this is propaganda designed to justify conquest, it isn’t very good. Once again, the only colonized mind belongs to Majeed.

It gets worse:

Columbus also started the transatlantic slave trade – or the Maafa, the African Holocaust -which also includes the Arab slave trade. This was a project that ran from the 16th to 19th centuries and was one of the most continuous and brutally efficient systems of bondage ever seen. Over twelve million men, women and children were forcibly sent to the Americas as a source of free and forced labour. So many were forcibly sent that Africans became the most numerous immigrants in both North and South America before the late 18th century.

Columbus did not start the transatlantic slave trade, or at least not the African part of it.

Slavery in the Americas was originally indigenous. But almost immediately thereafter the White slave trade commenced. White European slaves were cheaper–mostly former peasants driven off their lands by the enclosures–and they quickly came to comprise a substantial majority, due largely to the large numbers of indigenous who were felled by disease.

The African slave trade begins later, and the chattelization of slavery still later.

“The most continuous and brutally efficient systems of bondage ever seen.”? The oldest written texts we have refer to the practice of slavery. It is millenia old, and persists in the Arab world and elsewhere to this day. I have no idea what Majeed means by “most continuous,” nor why this particular chapter of the loathsome practice was more “brutally efficient” than any of the others.

“Over twelve million men, women and children were forcibly sent to the Americas as a source of free and forced labour.”

Forcibly sent as free labor?

Indeed millions of African were forcibly sent to the Americas. They were forced to do so by their fellow Africans, who sold their captives to White slave dealers and got filthy rich in the process. African and European elites collaborated in and profited from the American holocaust.

I confess  that this had not occurred to me (largely because here in the US it is not European crimes that are swept under the rug, but all the others). I learned about this from an indigenous person, who related this history to me with bitterness (not that anyone could blame her). I was quite surprised, but I researched her version of the transatlantic slave trade and discovered she was correct.

“So many were forcibly sent that Africans became the most numerous immigrants in both North and South America before the late 18th century.”

Before the late 18th century? So then the mid-18th? The slave trade begins about 1500, it isn’t until circa 1750 that Africans comprise a majority, according to Majeed. That’s 250 years of majority White slavery which has disappeared from our history books. Why?

Because if everyone knew this history, it would make White and Black people view each other in a very different light. It might even lead to interracial working-class solidarity, which is precisely what identity politics, intersectionalism, Majeedism et al is designed to avert.

But Majeed is not finished.

Apart from how nice the Arawak natives were, the only thing that is true about the children’s poem above is the significance of the date 1492. Ramon Grosfoguel, a decolonial scholar at Berkeley University, highlights the significance of that date for two reasons: Firstly, it marked the European imperial expansion into Islamic Europe – Al-Andalus in the South of Spain. This was the concluding conquest of Islamic Europe by the Spanish Monarchy that led to the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the region.

I was speechless. Nothing could possibly highlight the insidious effects of “racialism” (as its apologists sometimes call it) than Majeed’s vulgar, squalid sectarianism. Here the facts are stood on their head, and the victims are misanthropically transformed into victimizers.

Only some one who has succumbed to the racist theory, unfortunately all too much in evidence on the Left these days, that imperialism is a White thing, could utter anything so contemptuous of the truth. Spain was conquered by the Muslims. It did not belong to them, it was stolen from its rightful owners, and the natives subjected to all kinds of abominations including slavery and crucifixion. The “sublime” Muslim civilization in Spain rose on the extracted wealth from conscript labor.

I wrote something on a related topic some time ago, so I ask your indulgence to quote myself at length:

Save for a few hundred years before and after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and the last few hundred, the world has been dominated by non-Whites. This ugly question of whether Whites are more violent than others can only be judged by comparison. Though it gives me no pleasure to engage in such an exercize, I think it important and necessary to rebut Barghouti’s racist allegations.

Barghouti alludes to colonialism as an example of White violence. This is a particularly odd argument for an Arab to advance, given their lengthy indulgence in the vice.

In the classical age the civilizations around the Mediterranean and to its east vied for domination. The history of those days is one of conquest and defeat, advance and withdrawal. Empires waxed, then waned, and lost control of important resources and trade routes to an ascendant challenger. Each was to varying degrees jealous and distrustful of its rivals, each aggressively expansionist in its own right. Every one of these empires–Egyptian, Hittite, Hellenic, Mesopotamian, Carthaginian, Roman, Persian et al–occupied foreign soil and held their inhabitants in subjection without regard to race. Europeans were at various times under the control of non-White empires.

While each had technological feats to its credit, and some produced progressive leaders and events and even proto-socialist mass movements (Makdakites in Persia, Secessio Plebis and the Gracchi in Rome), all are guilty of great and sustained acts of violence and repression. I do not believe even the likes of Barghouti will insist that the White empires, Roman and Hellenic, were more guilty of violence than the others. In an age when there was little need to camouflage one’s imperial intentions, there was little to choose among them.

It is worth noting that institutionalized racism did not exist in those days. Slavery was undifferentiated and it is clear that many a Roman had more esteem for the non-White civilizations to their south and east than the blue-eyed “barbarians” on their northern border.

The collapse of Rome occasioned the rise of the Arabic Empire. Despite the liberal nonsense one hears these days, the spread of Islam was not bloodless, not by any means.

The Roman Empire in the east survived the fall of Rome by a thousand years. However, in the immediate aftermath, the Byzantine Empire had to ward off multiple attempts by Islamic conquistadors to take Constantinople. This they did skillfully, but their more distant outposts became vulnerable. Carthage was such a place. By all accounts it was a remarkable, tolerant, polyglot city. In its streets one heard Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and a dozen African tongues. Here peoples from the Maghreb, Europe, the Near East, and sub-Saharan Africa mingled harmoniously.

The Arab conquistadors twice moved west across the northern Africa only to be stopped by heroic defenses. The third effort was successful and Carthage fell. The Arabs destroyed the city, burned it to the ground. The devastation was so extensive that it remained uninhabited for over a century.

Their ferocity backfired on the Arabs. The oppressive circumstances in which the Berbers and their allies now found themselves enabled them to overcome old tribal hostilities. An enormous insurrection ensued led by the legendary Queen Kahana, she a member of the substantial Jewish contingent which participated in the uprising. The newly appointed governor, Musa bin Nusayr, whose father had been an enslaved Christian, was tasked with putting down the rebellion and converting the populace to Islam.

Musa prevailed. The precise details of what followed are disputed, but thousands were slain in the battle and its aftermath; thousands were forced to convert: and hundreds of thousands were enslaved, with thousands of those being sent back to the Caliph as his share of the loot.

The Arab invaders established Islamo-supremacy and Arabo-supremacy within it. The memory of the conquest and the subsequent subordination is still a bitter one for Berbers.

The Arabs then set their sights on Spain. The pretext for this conquest was humanitarian intervention. A civil war had followed a dispute over succession to the Spanish throne. The Muslims and their Iberian Jewish allies entered into an agreement with the losers to depose the allegedly illegitimate successor, King Roderigo, and crown the rival claimant. Thereafter, it was agreed, the Muslims would withdraw from Iberia.

However the Moors had no such intention. They had connived with their Jewish allies to seize Spain for themselves.

Again after initial failures, they subdued the country. Roderigo was forced to flee after a decisive defeat in the south of Spain.

The Arab imperialists then made for the Visigoth capital of Toledo. On the holiest day in the Christian calendar, Easter, while Christians were at their churches, the Jews surreptitiously opened the gates of the city allowing hordes of conquistadors to enter. When services ended and Christians began to file out of their churches they were set upon and slaughtered in great numbers. The Arabs, leaving their Jewish partners in charge of the defeated city, then moved on to the next.

Many thousands of Christians were enslaved; a system of tribute for Christians who would not convert was introduced; resistant cities were decimated and the women of these towns given as slaves to the very conquistadors who slaughtered their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers; and, in a flourish of cultural malice and statist terror, the invaders reintroduced the gruesome practice of crucifixion.

Much has been made of the wealth of Saracen Spain, but it was amassed in great part by the exploitation of the Christian underclass, many of them slaves. Over the course of the 700 year Arabic occupation of Spain, alliances shifted, some advances were secured by Christians (often with the help of Berber Muslims who were only too happy to oppose the hated Arabs), and, under more enlightened Islamic leadership, many Christians were emancipated and in some cases their property returned to them.

And there was even a brief period of religious tolerance or Convivencia ( living together) as it is of late called. It didn’t last long. Muslim fundamentalists from sub-Saharan Africa put a stop to such “fraternization” with infidels and reimposed Islamo-supremacy.

Liberals love to cite the Convivencia as evidence of Moorish benevolence and wisdom. Seldom if ever do they mention the religious and racial tolerance which characterized life in Carthage before the Moors destroyed it.

The White Christians of Spain never stopped fighting Arab imperialism, but it took 700 years to drive the invaders from their shores. The final liberation, the Reconquista, is still celebrated every year.

This is how the Arabs spread Islam to the west. Its path down the east coast of Africa was equally violent. In the Saudi Kingdom and elsewhere in the Arab world people are still held as slaves. Apologists for this hideous custom often trivialize it as “paternalistic” to contrast it with the long-dead trans-Atlantic trade. (Arab man’s burden?)

I wonder if the slaves see it that way.

Before slandering other races, perhaps “Comrade” Barghouti might take a closer look at the history of his own people. Khalid bin Waleed, Tariq ibn Ziyad, Musa bin Nusayr , Uqba ibn Nafi, Hassan ibn al-Numan, these men were not evangelists! They were the Hernan Cortez, the General Gordon, and the Tommy Franks of their day. Arab imperialism followed on the heels of Roman imperialism, and like its European predecessor it too was won and maintained by violence. It too cruelly exploited the labor and natural resources of the lands it held in subjugation. Ironically it was the success of Ottoman imperialism with its conquest of Constantinople and seizure of the lucrative trade in spices which launched a new wave of European imperialism. Was it racism which set these events in motion?[1]

Majeed:

That year 1492 was also the year when a new system of social classification – a racial system – of the population of the world came into being. This new system created the Western/European vs. the non-Western/non-European distinction. Europeans were seen to be ‘fully human’ and superior to non-Europeans and non-Europeans were seen to be ‘sub-human’ or ‘non-human’.

I have no idea what he is citing, and he doesn’t say. I do know, however, that the “racial system” did not come into being in what is now the US until about 1650, after the English Civil War. Perhaps the Spanish empire initiated such a regime shortly after 1492, but in that case it cannot be said that it was a “world” system.

Then:

When Europeans arrived in the Americas in the 16th century and saw the indigenous population, questions of ‘humanity’ or ‘who is fully human’ formed their core debates.

Again, I don’t know what he is talking about. It is quite possible that within the Spanish world such debates took place and I am unaware of them, but in the anglophone world the chattelization of slavery and Black people began in the late 17th century, after Bacon’s rebellion. This vile business was accompanied by a large-scale propaganda campaign on both sides of the Atlantic. [2]

Given the importance of England and then the United States in creating and enforcing White supremacy, I believe Majeed’s version of events is inaccurate.

More nonsense:

After his death, Eurocentric ideological power was in full swing attempting to co-opt [Nelson Mandela] into the Eurocentric narrative by ignoring the racial system which led to centuries of black suffering and the circumstances requiring his struggle.

Who is this guy? Doesn’t have any regard for the truth? Where are his editors? Does anybody do any fact-checking at Ceasefire?

After Mandela’s death the struggle against apartheid and his role in it were ignored? Majeed must be mad! The world’s media talked of nothing else? No single piece which I saw failed to mention apartheid. Absolutely none of them “ignored” it.

What in fact did get ignored was Mandela’s role in neoliberalising S. Africa’s economy after he expressly said he would not. The endless chatter about apartheid in fact provided the cover for ignoring the widening of income inequality Mandela’s cozy deal with the IMF has occasioned.

Still more detritus:

Las Casas described the Native Americans with high admiration. They were seen to be very hospitable and had an extraordinary belief in sharing. In contrast, all Columbus wanted was gold, epitomising his fellow Europeans’  materialised conception of religion, kings, and an obsession with wealth.

Overt racism here.  Only a hopeless racist would suggest that Europeans have a more materialized conception of religion, a greater penchant for political hierarchy, or are more obsessive about the acquisition of wealth and power. Throughout its history, Europe has more often been the victim of these vices than its perpetrator. When measured against the entire scope of recorded history, Majeed’s partisan attacks dissolve quickly, like the vapors they are. Indeed, they cannot withstand a head to head comparison to Arab history, which, like any other, is full of conquest, the gross exploitation of other people’s (most abusively Blacks), and fratricidal succession disputes and on and on and on. Were White empires more acquisitive than the others? The question is absurd on its face. Were the British more brutal than the Mongols? Certainly most Arabs don’t think so. (Do they Majeed? You need to hold a mirror to your own culture.)

What is important about this execrable article is that it is racism masquerading as antiracism. What is Majeed’s main thesis? That a race is to blame for the injustices that exist in the world. This idea, fascist to the core, is an obstacle to interracial and international proletarian solidarity, without which these injustices will never end.

 

[1] In the interests of fairness, I added this: My purpose is to debunk Barghouti’s racist theory. I have focused mainly on Arab imperialism as he is an Arab. In the interests of fairness, I happily point out that the Islamic Empire produced a remarkable civilization, with a lengthy, impressive list of cultural, scientific, and artistic accomplishments to its credit. Like the previous European civilization it borrowed so heavily from, and the subsequent European civilizations to which it bequeathed so much, it’s intellectual achievements continue to inform and inspire. Like any empire, it was born in blood and its economic practices were deplorable. Nevertheless, its fertile, literate ethos is justly a source of pride for Arabs, and cause for gratitude for the rest of us.

[2] The Invention of the White Race, by Theodore Allen, describes the racialization process, and The Many-Headed Hydra, by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, details the propaganda campaign.

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