The rise of the Islamic State has set some people sighing for the good old days of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Certainly it has earned its reputation for savagery with deeds. However, as one of today's articles points out, ISIS did not drop from the sky. Since the foundation of Islam in the 7th Century, there have been many fanatics who claimed to represent the true Islam, and enforced their doctrines and discipline with great ferocity.
The most recent of these was "the Mahdi", a charismatic leader who declared a caliphate in the Sudan in the 1880s, expanded his territory with explosive energy, captured Khartoum, slaughtered and enslaved its inhabitants, and displayed the head of Britain's most revered warrior, General Gordon, on a post. It must have been a fearsome time for Britain, for there were fears that the Mahdi might take Egypt. Soldiers from as far away as Australia fought in the Sudan campaign which was eventually won by the British.
It was almost a dress rehearsal for the conflict with ISIS more than 100 years later. The words of Winston Churchill, who wrote a book about the conflict, foreshadow op-eds of today's newspapers.
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 civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
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