Editor’s note: The following account was written for RaymondIbrahim.com by an anonymous American teacher in the Muslim world.
Shortly before I left Tripoli a few weeks ago, a co-worker (Marco) took me to Algeria Square, where we sat at an outdoor coffee shop to discuss the current issues facing the city since the Islamists took over in late August. As he was talking about the improved security situation (leaving out the killings of opposition supporters), I couldn’t keep my eyes off the beautiful Mosque (the Maidan al Jazair Square Mosque) that faced us on the other side of the roundabout. I apologetically interrupted Marco and said, “That is a Mosque worthy of a photo.”
I took out my camera, got up, and snapped a few shots. As I returned to my seat, I noticed a grin on his face, so I asked, “What’s so funny?”
Pointing towards the Mosque, he answered, “That was the Tripoli Cathedral before it was converted into a Mosque.”
I faced Marco and said, “No wonder it’s worthy of a photo. What else do you know about it?”
He continued, “Well, it was built by the Italians in the 20s during the colonial era [it opened in 1928]. Qaddafi ordered that it be transformed into a Mosque. Christians and Muslims used it jointly for a while [1970s – 2000], but it eventually became the exclusive domain of Muslims.”
I stared at what was once a beautiful Cathedral and said, “What a shame!”
With a serious tone in his voice, Marco then replied, “They simply reclaimed what was theirs. This was their country. The Italians colonized Libya just as the French and British colonized the rest of North Africa. They brought Christianity into Muslim lands.”
At that moment, I remembered an interview Raymond Ibrahim had with Isil Abla last May in which he mentioned the topic of Islamic colonization in this part of the world. I smiled and shot back,
“And how about the Islamic colonization of Libya and the rest of North Africa. These “Muslim lands” were once “Christian lands”. Following the death of Jesus Christ, Christians spread their faith throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East in a peaceful manner and the population of these lands freely adopted Christianity as a way of life.
However, the same cannot be said about Islam. From the 7th century onwards, Muslims conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe by the sword and subjugated the local populations by giving them the choice to either convert, pay the jizya – a tax for non-Muslims, or die. It seems to me that Muslims brought Islam to Christian lands…
Thus, by using your logic, the European Christians in the 19th and 20th centuries were simply reclaiming what had been taken from them centuries ago. And using your logic once more, Christians would have been in their right to convert Mosques into Churches, which they didn’t. So please tell me who colonized whom in Libya?
By the look on Marco’s face, he wasn’t happy. His “logic” was used against him. His progressive belief that Muslims were always the victims of western aggression was thrown back at him. In his defense, he has been brainwashed by academics, the media, and politicians into believing that Islam is a noble and peaceful religion and that Muslims have “grievances” against the west. But then, in the present age of information, he could have easily taken the initiative to inform himself on what the other side has to say on these issues.