Winning Converts at the Point of the Sword

I want to propose a question to you. What is one thing modern democracy shares with Islam?

It’s the way it (attempts) to spread by converting individuals at the point of a sword or muzzle of a gun. I am going to run through the basic history of Islam and its followers conquests through out history. By the time I talk about the spread of democracy in the last century to today, you will see the shocking similarities. I often argue that democracy is mob rule and inherently violent as a political system and I think this comparison can illustrate just that.

The Origins of Islam

Islam is the teachings of the prophet Mohammed who lived between 570 to 632 AD.1 During this time, much of the Middle East was polytheistic in its teachings and theology and “Allah” was the primary god among many. Society was divided into two people groups: the city dwellers and the Bedouins. Among these very different people, conflict was rampant.2 In 610 Mohammed claimed to experience visions. Among the Islamic teachings “revealed” to him in visions are “the 5 pillars.” The 5 Pillars are the confession of faith, ritual prayer, the alms tax, the Ramadan fast and the pilgrimage to Mecca.3, 4 It took some convincing, but Mohammed’s religion began to catch on among the urban dwellers and the Bedouin people. This unification gets us to the interesting part because it is after Mohammed’s death 632 that we begin to see rapid expansion of this theology and the mass conversion of people under pain of death.

Rapid Expansion

Islamic Expansion

Under this spiritual unification, the religion spread like wildfire. In 636 the Caliphate (Islamic State) conquered Syria and defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636 and the a Christian fleet of ships at the battle of the Masts in 655.5, 6 They eventually invaded and conquered present day Spain in 711. Muslim rule would extend for generations until it finally was eradicated in 1492.7 What makes much of this fascinating for us today is that we always hear about European colonialism and slavery, but never of Islamic slavery during this time. We always hear about the European crusades but never about the violent expansion of the Muslims that preceded the famous crusades to take the Holy Land. Christians and other Europeans lived under crushing taxes and often had their sons conscripted, castrated, and made soldiers in the army. These warriors were the Janissaries.8 In the end, the muslims, over 12 centuries, enslaved 11.5 million people.9 You can see how the religion spread so rapidly. Conversions under pain of death, a massive slave trade and zealous militarism all played a role in spreading the religion from Mecca and beyond. You might be saying: “yeah, that’s great but what does this have to do with democracy?” I’m glad you ask.

The Spread of Democracy

What I have laid out is so far may be somewhat unknown to most people, but since it isn’t “us”, there is nothing controversial about it. In fact many (particularly on the Christian Right) look at what I have described above with disgust and horror. “These evil and wicked Muslims committed atrocities” they say. “We have to go over sees and stop this bloodshed and end this Tyranny!” Even today with modern terrorist and extremist organizations we see the coercive conversion of worshipers and acolytes in the Islamic religion. Unfortunately for those that advocate for a “humanitarian” war, they are just as zealous for a deity as the Muslim caliphate invaders that took Spain for 700 years. Instead of Allah, they worship democracy and their government and they are willing to fight and die to convert potential worshipers to the democratic way of life, not by the sword now, but the barrel of the gun.

As the above image shows, the democratic mission of the United States has put to shame the commanding amount of land the Muslim’s controlled in the Medieval era. To a rational person looking at history without any biases, it seems hypcritical for the modern day American to open a history book and condemn the Janissaries and caliphates of the time. No doubt what they did was atrocious, but so have the actions of the United States been in the name of Democracy.

As far as the US government is concerned, it has 37 victim nations accumulating around 20 million people since WWII.10 Forget about even conflicts of fairly recent memory like Vietnam. The US has killed thousands without firing a missile by starving the innocent civilians of Iraq prior to the second Iraq war. Over 500,000 children starved to death due to a lack of access to medicine and food caused by the trade sanctions of the US and it’s allies.11 The irony of all of that is that the US invaded Iraq afterwards under the pretense of saving the Iraqi people from their dictator and stopping the supposed human rights violations going on. Much like the Muslims of the Middle Ages, we saw others living in ways we disagreed with and thought violent coercion was justified in getting them to see the truth of our cause. We then have the audacity as a people to think that we are better than them. Both sides are soldiers and degenerates cut from the same violent cloth.

20 million people are dead around the world because the US thought that democracy was something worth exporting at the point of a sword. 11.5 million people were enslaved, castrated and brutalized so that the cogs of the Islamic war machine could continue to plow through Europe in the Middle Ages. All for the expressed goal of converting people to “truth” or killing them as infidels. This ideology is really no different than American foreign policy. The American people may not use the term “infidel”, but they have no problem killing those that get in the way of spreading the religion of Democracy. Both ideologies convert people at the point of the sword. It is why both ideologies are at odds with each other. Not because they are different but because they are fighting over human capital.

  1. Jewell, J. (n.d.). Liberty Classroom – Western Civilization to 1500: Lecture 29. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. What are the Five Pillars?. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2016, from Jewell, J. (n.d.). Liberty Classroom – Western Civilization to 1500: Lecture 29. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from
  5. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2016, from
  6. Denny, F. (2007). Atlas of the World’s Religions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  7. Muslim Spain. (2009, April 9). Retrieved April 18, 2016, from
  8. Arm & the Military Ranks. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from
  9. Lovejoy, P. E. (2009). Transformation in slavery: A history of slavery in Africa. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  10. Crossette, B. (1995). Iraq Sanctions Kill Children, U.N. Reports. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from
  11. Lucas, J. A. (2015, November 27). US Has Killed More Than 20 Million People in 37 “Victim Nations” Since World War II. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from

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