Winston Churchill on Islam

Rumor: Winston Churchill commented on the 'dreadful curses of Mohammedanism' in his 1899 book 'The River Wars.'

Claim:   Winston Churchill wrote about the “dreadful curses of Mohammedanism” in his 1899 book The River Wars.


TRUE


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2015]


Winston Churchill 1899: “Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.” Is this a true quote?

 

Origins:   An obscure quote attributed to British statesman Winston Churchill has been circulating on the Internet since at least May 2013, when Missouri State Representative Rick Stream sent an e-mail to his colleagues warning about the dangers of Islam. That e-mail cited a passage said to have been taken from a speech by Churchill, as reproduced in his 1899 book The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan:



I am sending the attached short speech from Winston Churchill, delivered by him in 1899 when he was a young soldier and
journalist. It probably sets out the current views of many but expressed in the wonderful Churchillian turn of phrase and use of the English language, of which he was a past master. Sir Winston Churchill was, without doubt, one of the greatest men of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

He was a brave young soldier, a brilliant journalist, an extraordinary politician and statesman, a great war leader and Prime Minister, to whom the Western world must be forever in his debt. He was a prophet in his own time; He died on 24 January 1965, at the grand old age of 90 and, after a lifetime of service to his country, was accorded a State funeral.
 


How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism 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 Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses 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.


The above-quoted passage did appear in The River War when it was first published as a two-volume set in 1899, but the selection was removed when the book was condensed into one volume and republished in 1902. While the one-volume abridged edition of The River War is still readily available, as of January 2015 the original two-volume 1899 version is much harder to find, a condition which may have led to confusion about the origins of the quote in question. However, the Churchill Centre has confirmed these words were indeed written by Winston Churchill.

The passage as reproduced on the Internet typically incorporates one small omission, though: it elides Churchill’s praise of “Moslems” as “brave and loyal soldiers” and covers the gap by combining the remaining part of the sentence with the previous one:



Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.


Last updated:   8 January 2015

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