By Neenah Payne
American schools teach only the history of Western Europe and the European role in the formation of the United States. So, few Americans know anything about the vast contributions to our culture of ancient Egypt, Africa, China, India, the Moors, or the 500 nations of Native America.
Since the 9/11 “attacks” on the World Trade Center in New York City, America and Europe have been taught to fear the Muslim world and to see Arabs as “terrorists”. The US has waged the endless War on Terror for over 20 years now with no signs of stopping. Australian journalist Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks exposed the many crimes of that war and has been punished for telling the truth by years of imprisonment and the threat of extradition to the US where he faces 75 years in prison!
So, the West’s very deep debt to the Muslim world will come as an enormous shock to most Americans and Europeans. For almost 800 years when the Moors ruled Spain from 711-1492 AD, Muslims brought Europe out of the Dark Ages into which it had fallen after the decline of Rome in 500 AD. Through the introduction of the Arabic numbering system, the scientific method, algebra, paper, architecture, medicine, libraries, universities, hospitals, many nutritious foods we enjoy now including oranges, rice, sugar, bananas, lemons, limes, and watermelon, coffee, cotton, many musical instruments, paved and lighted streets, heated and air-conditioned homes, baths, and much more, Muslims created the modern world we live in today.
The intolerance of the COVID era which tore families, friends, and the nation apart and during which California and other states encouraged neighbors to report on neighbors echoes the 600-year brutal Inquisition the Catholic Church waged in France, Spain, and what became Italy. A closer look at that horrific era can help us better understand many of the mistakes made during COVID.
The Brutal 600-Year Inquisition and Europe’s Dark Ages
The Catholic Church waged a brutal Inquisition for 600 years and opposed any ideas that challenged Church orthodoxy and power, holding back science and even literacy among Europeans.
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English details the horrors of the Inquisition from which we have still not recovered. The Inquisition was not only an assault on people (especially women), but on knowledge, the intuitive Right Brain, freedom, the rule of law, and common humanity.
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses examines how women-led healing was delegitimized to make way for patriarchy, capitalism, and the emerging medical industry. As we watch another agonizing attempt to shift the future of healthcare in the United States, we are reminded of the longevity of this crisis, and how firmly entrenched we are in a system that doesn’t work.
First published by the Feminist Press in 1973, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses is an essential book about the corruption of the medical establishment and its historic roots in witch hunters. Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English delve into the current fascination with and controversies about witches, exposing our fears and fantasies. They build on their classic exposé on the demonization of women healers and the political and economic monopolization of medicine. This quick history brings us up-to-date, exploring today’s changing attitudes toward childbirth, alternative medicine, and modern-day witches.
The Inquisition is rarely mentioned because it shows the intolerance and brutality of the Church. However, it continues to have a very profound effect on the West today. John Trudell, former head of the American Indian Movement, poet, and activist explained that Columbus and the “conquistadores” who followed him were so brutal because many Europeans had lost their humanity during the 600 years of the Inquisition. They had forgotten what it means to be human.
The Inquisition was designed to block the European Renaissance which was sparked by the discovery of The Hermetica, the ancient wisdom of the Egyptian god Thoth. We need a new Renaissance today to fully recover that powerful knowledge! It is the knowledge of Enlightenment. Author Peter Gandy discusses the lost wisdom of the pharaohs which was crushed by the Inquisition.
The Catholic Church put the Knights Templar, who had built the great Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, to death in 1307. The date was Friday, the 13th — a date we all know to be frightening even today without remembering why. The Church slaughtered thousands of Cathars of France — Christians who had retained some of the forbidden Egyptian teachings.
The article Inquisition Against the Cathars of the Languedoc says:
The activities of the Medieval Inquisition were so terrible that the memory of them has survived throughout Europe to the present day. Some Christians acknowledge that this body was one of the most sinister that the world has ever known, and now attribute its work to satanic forces.
So, the bloodbath began in Europe and was only later extended to the Americas, Africa, and the rest of the world. It returned to Europe in WWI and WWII. The abuse of power continues with the endless War on Terror that is bankrupting America and destroying the Middle East. So, the whole world still needs to recover from the centuries of extreme physical, emotional, mental, and psychological abuse of power.
Based on previously unreleased secret documents from European Archives including the Vatican, Secret Files of the Inquisition unveils the incredible true story of the Catholic Church’s 500-year struggle to remain the world’s only true Christian religion. It traces Catholicism’s determination to maintain power at any cost in medieval France, 15th century Spain, Renaissance Italy and even into the 19th century.
How The Catholic Church Created The Dark Ages
The Dark History Of The Catholic Inquisition | Secret Files Of The Inquisition | Parable shows the parallels between the Inquisitions in France, Spain, and what became Italy and the brutality of Nazi Germany. In Spain, “Conversos” (Jews who converted to Christianity under duress) were some of the primary targets because they were envied for their financial and political success. Since the Church confiscated the property of everyone who was condemned, there was a huge conflict of interest.
Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisitor, proposed “The Final Solution”: the elimination of the Jews from Spain. When the Jews were forced out of Spain, many fled to Rome where they were welcomed by the Pope. Germans sacked Rome in 1527 and killed 12,000 people in a week. Rome was destroyed and the Catholic Church was on the brink of collapse!
However, in 1555, the new Pope Paul IV forced the Jews of Rome into ghettos where they had to retreat at sundown. They had to wear special hats and clothing to identify them as Jews. That lasted for 300 years! The Roman Inquisition became the most powerful institution of the Church. It came up with a new means of execution — drowning people at sea and boiling people alive in a mixture of oil, tar, and turpentine.
The goal of the Inquisition was not just to stop “heresy”, but to kill the Renaissance for which Europe is now credited but was actually sparked by the Moors and discovery of The Hermetica which was based on Egyptian wisdom. Rome wanted to punish the independent thought rampant in Venice. The Vatican created an Inquisition to stamp out the rise of Protestants throughout Italy. To the Church, the outstanding university of Padua was a hotbed of heresy.
The printing press — the new media of that day — threatened to undermine the authority of Rome because it allowed more people access to new ideas via inexpensive books in the local vernacular. The Church liturgy was all in Latin which only the clergy understood. Pope Paul IV had an index of prohibited books. Among the banned books were Bibles which had been translated from the Church-approved Latin into German or Italian.
The Catholic Church tortured and killed anyone who dared to think differently — including scientists. The video says, “Advances in science, particularly in anatomy, contradict the most fundamental Catholic beliefs. What scholars embrace as the birth of modern medicine, the Church condemns as the work of the Devil.” The Church was anti-knowledge. Perhaps that’s why the Garden of Eden story, the foundational story of Christianity, says Eve was punished for wanting to know more. So, “God” banned her and Adam from the Garden and punished all humanity for that great sin.
The Dark Ages were dark BECAUSE of the Catholic Church! The extreme cruelty of the Inquisitions in France, Spain, and Italy and then the abuses the Church sanctioned with The Doctrine of Discovery in Africa, the Americas, and Australia far exceed the abuses of the Mongols, Nazis, Stalin, Mao, etc. and for over the course of more than five centuries.
While the Nazis have been roundly condemned, the Church is still seen as “holy” and the Pope is revered by billions of people. Part of the reason the Church has escaped the condemnation for these horrific acts over centuries is that it hid the records of what it did until 1998 — and then opened them only on a “limited basis”.
Napoleon Tried To Abolish Spanish Inquisition
The video shows that Napoleon tried to abolish the Spanish Inquisition when he swept across northern Italy in 1796 capturing city after city for France. He brought the spirit of enlightenment and revolt. He ordered the Jewish ghettos demolished and abolished laws requiring Jews to wear yellow bonnets. Jews were free to live anywhere and to practice their religion openly. The Jews revered Napoleon as a great liberator and created a special prayer in his honor. Napoleon abolished the Spanish Inquisition when he invaded Madrid in 1808 after 330 years of violent rule. Napoleon’s men said they found instruments of torture of every kind which only the ingenuity of devils could invent!
In 1809, Napoleon abolished all political powers of the Papacy and crowned himself Emperor. He ordered the entire Vatican Archives sent to Paris. The convoys carried more than 3,000 crates — enough information to document the corruption of the Papacy. Although 10 crates were lost, a total of 2,339 chests containing more than 100,000 volumes arrived in Paris.
Painter Francisco De Goya was finally free to portray the terror of the Inquisition. Juan Antonio Llorente, the Inquisitor in Madrid who secretly opposed the Inquisition was free to publish the files. Between 1547-1699, of the 85,000 accused, 12,000 (15%) had been burned at the stake. For the Church, these revelations were devastating. For compiling the first history of the Inquisition and giving its victims a voice, Llorente is awarded the Order of Spain by Joseph Bonaparte whom Napoleon had installed as King of Spain.
Napoleon was the greatest champion of the separation of church and state. By 1810, his dream of humiliating the Church was well underway. However, he was defeated in France in 1814 and his occupying armies were forced to leave Spain. A royal proclamation in Spain said anyone who had supported the French would be executed! The Inquisition accused Francisco de Goya of obscenity for painting a naked woman. He was also accused of collaborating with the French, but was freed through the mercy of the king. He escaped to Bordeaux where he continued to paint until his death in 1828. Llorente also fled to France where he published his greatest work on the Inquisition in 1818.
In Italy, a new Pope returned as head of the Papal states and the Roman Catholic Church. He ordered that the archives stolen by Napoleon be returned to Rome. Nearly, 60% of the materials stolen by Napoleon were deemed expendable and were sold. The Jews of Italy were herded back into the ghettos and again forced to wear the yellow bonnet.
In the Papal States, the Inquisition endured for another four decades! However, the GREAT IRONY OF THIS STORY is that Pope Pius IX was dependent on loans from James de Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family to keep the Papal states afloat! Yet, even in the face of pleas from his own Jewish financier, the Pope refused to budge in helping return the abducted son of a Jewish family.
The Inquisition was still going on in the second half of the 19th century. Up until 1870, Jews were confined to ghettos in Rome and were forbidden to associate with any Christians, to own property, to attend universities, or to travel freely. They were required to attend sermons urging them to convert. These laws were enforced by the Holy Office of The Inquisition. Although Jews had been banned from Bologna 200 years earlier and ordered never to return, 200 Jews lived in Bologna illegally in fear of the Pope’s deputy, the Inquisitor of Bologna.
Establishment of Italy and a Nation
The nation of Italy did not exist in 1858. The north was dominated by Austria and the south was controlled by Spain. The Pope ruled as king of the Papal States across the middle of the peninsula. Bologna always posed a threat to the power of Rome. In 1858, it was a hotbed of revolutionaries who hoped to overthrow the Pope/King and create a unified Italy which the Church opposed. For almost half a century, revolutionaries had dreamed of a unified Italy.
After protecting the Papal states for 200 years, the Austrian army was forced to withdraw from Italy and left Pope Pius IX’s regime vulnerable. The Inquisitor responsible for the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was arrested in the middle of the night by the former Papal police who then worked for the new civilian government! They demanded the Inquisition’s secret files on the Motarra case, but the Inquisitor refused to hand them over. The Inquisitor was brought to trial on kidnapping charges.
By 1861, all that was left of the Pope’s temporal kingdom was Rome and the area immediately around it. Throughout the peninsula, a new secular kingdom of Italy had been proclaimed. In 1870, the Italian army reduced Pius IX’s kingdom to the Vatican buildings. Pius IX lost his earthly kingdom and never set foot outside the Vatican — a swath of land a mere 100 acres — again.
September 20, 1870 is a key date in Italian history. It was the date when the Italian army broke through the walls of Rome, the last part of Italy ruled by the Pope who would retreat to the buildings of the Vatican. Rome would become the capital of the new Italian state.
For 1,000 years, Papal power struggled to maintain the Catholic Church as the world’s only true religion. Through rigid doctrine enforced by the powers of The Holy Office of the Inquisition, the Church has reigned supreme. Now that reign had come to an end. In 1908, the name of The Holy Office of The Inquisition was changed to The Congregation For The Doctrine of The Faith. However, the Church did not abolish the Index of Prohibited Books until 1966!
For more information, see Inquisition against the Cathars of the Languedoc.
1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization
1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization takes readers on a journey through years of forgotten Islamic history to discover one thousand fascinating scientific and technological inventions still being used throughout the world today. Take a look at all of the discoveries that led to the great technological advances of our time; engineering, early medicinal practices, and the origins of cartography are just a few of the areas explored in this book. 1001 Inventions provides unique insight into a significant time period in Muslim history that has been looked over by much of the world. A time where discoveries were made and inventions were created that have impacted how Western civilization and the rest of the world lives today. The book will cover seven aspects of life relatable to everyone, including home, school, hospital, market, town, world and universe.
Cisneros Ordered Arab Books in Spain Burned
In Spain, after the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian armies, Muslim culture and thought were systematically extirpated.
In 1492, the Jews were expelled. In 1499, on the orders of Cisneros, the archbishop of Toledo, all Arabic manuscripts (except those dealing with medicine) were set ablaze in Granada’s public square. More than a million books burned. Over the course of the sixteenth century, Muslims who remained in Spain were forcibly converted to Christianity. In 1609, all were expelled.
The Missing 1,600 Years
1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization points out that Western history is taught as though nothing much happened for 1,600 years between the Greeks/Romans and Renaissance. That period is passed over as “The Dark Ages” or “The Middle Ages”. However, it was during those centuries that the Arab world created the foundations for the world we live in today. The Catholic Church burned and banned books to erase the memory of these amazing contributions. It’s time to remember now.
Muslims introduced paper books to Europe which led to the printing press. How the Renaissance Challenged the Church and Influenced the Reformation discusses the impact of the printing press.
After the incorporation of the heritage of science and technology inherited from ancient cultures, the scientific tradition of the Islamic world developed genuine and original knowledge in the field of science and technology. Unfortunately, only a meagre mention is made in school curricula and popular history of science books of a great many contributions, discoveries, and inventions from Muslim civilisation.
The figure below shows diagrammatically a rudimentary timeline of the various civilisations that contributed over the centuries after ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and earlier civilisations. The grey colours are what is taught by our educational establishments, showing a gap of more than a thousand years that used to be referred to as the Dark Ages (or more recently, the medieval ages).
As one can see, the gap in the grey misses the Indian, Persian, Chinese and in a big way, Muslim civilisation, shown in yellow. It is surprising to notice that Al-Andalus (Spain and Portugal when they were Muslim) are not included, albeit European. If one includes the scientific advances from Al-Andalus, Europe would not have the so-called Dark Ages. Such a major anomaly must be corrected for a stable future socio-political environment in Europe and America.
In the video below, Tariq Ali points out that Western culture is often referred to as “Judeo/Christian”. However, it should be called an “Islamo/Judeo/Christian” culture because of the many contributions of the Islamic world – almost too numerous to count in a very broad range of fields.
Ali, born in Lahore in 1943, is a writer, journalist, and film-maker. Educated at Oxford University, he owned his own television production company, Bandung, which produced programs for Channel 4 in the UK during the 1980s. Ali is a broadcaster on BBC Radio and contributes articles and journalism to magazines and newspapers including The Guardian and the London Review of Books. He is editorial director of London publishers Verso and is on the board of the New Left Review, for whom he is also an editor. Ali is the author of many fiction and non-fiction books.
The fall of the Kingdom of Granada in 1492 coincided with the expulsion of Jews from Catholic Spain, while the Muslims were expelled in 1526. With these ethnic cleansings and forced conversions in place, a single-identity Europe was created. Virtually everything witnessed in 20th century Europe: the secret police, inquisitions, burning of heretics, Jews, gypsies, had all been experienced in late medieval Spain and Portugal. How does all this refract on contemporary Europe with large Muslim minorities numbering 24 million across the continent?
Tariq Ali, one of the important critical thinkers of our time, lives in London and is an editor of New Left Review and director of its associated publishing house, Verso Books. He is also a novelist and filmmaker, and a long-time political activist.
Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post
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