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The Troubling Past and Frightening Future of Jihad, Part 1

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

During the Egyptian uprising, shortly before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office, I was a guest on CNN Newsroom with anchor Don Lemmon. As the Egyptian government was collapsing, I argued that the Western media were missing the real story. Western journalists were praising and celebrating the Arab world uprisings as a popular demand for democracy and freedom.

"That's not what is actually happening," I said. "The concept of democracy is really a Western concept. Here in America and in the Western democracies, we believe that power rises from the people, and We the People empower the government to rule. But this idea is unknown in the Egyptian experience."

If the chain-reaction of uprisings across the Middle East are not pro-democracy, pro-freedom revolutions, then what are they? I'm convinced they are the latest form of Islamic Jihad. They are yet another way by which radical Islam seeks to conquer secular pro-Western regimes.

Now, in saying this, I am neither prophesying nor conjecturing. I am simply looking at the history of Islam's relentless drive to conquer the Christian West, then projecting events of the past on into the future. The history of Islam is a history of invasions and conquests of the West, beginning with Umar ibn al-Khatt?b (the companion and successor of the Prophet Mohammad), who invaded and conquered Christian lands in the mid-600s.

Historian William J. Federer, in his book What Every American Needs to Know About the Quran, has chronicled the history of Jihad. He points out that one of the key symbols of Islamic conquest was the conversion of non-Muslim places of worship (including churches, synagogues, and pagan temples) into mosques. Here is a summary of his findings:

In 634, Caliph Umar conquered Christian Syria and converted the Church of Job in Ash Shaykh Sa'd into the Mosque of Job; three years later, Umar conquered Hebron, including the second holiest Jewish site, the Cave of the Patriarchs, the traditional burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Today the Ibrahimi Mosque stands on that site. In 638, Umar conquered Jerusalem, where the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques were later built on the holiest Jewish site, the Temple Mount.

Around the same time, Muslim armies conquered Damascus and converted the Church of St. John the Baptist (built during the reign of Emperor Constantine I) into the Umayyad Mosque. Muslims also conquered Gaza and converted a fifth-century Byzantine church into the Great Omari Mosque of Gaza.

During the 8th century Islamic conquest of Spain, Emir Abd ar-Rahman converted the beautiful Visigothic Church of Saint Vincent into the Great Aljama Mosque of Córdoba. Also during the 8th and 9th centuries, Muslim conquerors in Egypt converted Coptic Christian churches and Jewish synagogues into mosques, and Muslim invaders in Palermo, Sicily, transformed the Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption into the Great Mosque of Bal'harm.

In 1387, Turkish Muslims conquered the Greek city of Thessaloniki (the city of the 1st century church of the Thessalonians) and converted the Katholikon Monastery and the Church of Aghia Sophia into mosques. In 1453, Muslim armies under Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and converted a beautiful Byzantine church, the Hagia Sophia, into the Ayasofya Mosque. The church's brilliant gold mosaic tiles were painted white and covered with verses from the Quran. A similar fate befell Saint Clement's Macedonian Orthodox Monastery in the Balkans, the Toulon Cathedral in France, the Church of Saint John the Forerunner in Constantinople, and several cathedrals in Cyprus.

In 1923, Muslims drove Greek Christians out of Turkey and turned their Orthodox churches into mosques. Half a century later, in 1974, Turkish Muslims invaded the island of Cyprus and again converted Greek Orthodox churches into mosques.

After the Al-Qaeda terror attacks of September 11, 2001, a Muslim group called the Córdoba Initiative (named for Córdoba, Spain, the site of an early Islamic conquest) purchased a building which had been damaged by debris from the attacks, proposing to convert that building near Ground Zero into a 13-story, $100 million mosque and Islamic cultural center. To anyone who understands the history of Jihad, the so-called Park51 center (known to its opponents as the "Ground Zero Mosque") is but the latest in a long succession of mosques used as symbols of Islamic conquest.

And what of the recent uprisings in Egypt and throughout the Arab world? Are these events connected to Islamic conquests of the past? Are they connected to activities in the U.S., at the "Ground Zero Mosque" and elsewhere?

We will explore these questions in Part 2.

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