Epigraph: “There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Al Quran 2:256)
Alhambra, in Granada, Spain: A reminder of the pluralistic Spain, under the Moors
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Originally published in 2013
“Today your Holiness, twenty thousand citizens were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex.” Who said this and why? You can find the answer in this article.
Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican – a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.
They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.
Their names are unknown, apart from one man, Antonio Primaldo.
Within two months of taking office, Pope Francis has proclaimed more saints than any of his predecessors.
Colombia’s first saint, Mother Laura Montoya dedicated her life to helping indigenous people while the woman named by Pope Francis as Mother “Lupita” sheltered Catholics during a government crackdown against the faith in the 1920s.
The Italian “Martyrs of Otranto” were executed after 20,000 Turkish soldiers invaded their town in south-eastern Italy.
The Muslim Times believes in complete freedom of religion for every human in present age, who existed in the past or will be in future. We can agree with the Pope’s canonization, if he would also canonize, the Cathars and all the brave that we are proposing here.
Would the Pope also canonize, William Tyndale (sometimes spelled Tynsdale, Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1494–1536), who was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform, who was burnt on the stake, by the Church, for his translation of the Bible into English?
The respectable Pope, perhaps, has not familiarized himself with the Papal and European history. He perhaps does not appreciate that the Ottomans were not the only one in history to occasionally show lack of religious tolerance! So, let me take the liberty to provide a few sources and snapshots below.
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (Spanish: Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición), commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was a tribunal established in 1481 by Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval Inquisition which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition.
The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave.
Various motives have been proposed for the monarchs’ decision to fund the Inquisition such as increasing political authority, weakening opposition, suppressing conversos, profiting from confiscation of the property of convicted heretics, reducing social tensions and protecting the kingdom from the danger of a fifth column.
The body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the previous century.
The whole process was with the blessing of the Catholic Church. Our honorable Pope can read all the details about Spanish Inquisitions, in a Wikipedia article, which I have preserved in the Muslim Times, for the posterity.
Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (7 April 1875 – 19 May 1936) was a Western Islamic scholar, noted as an English translator of the Qur’an into English. He was perhaps the first British convert to Islam from Christianity. Pickthall was a novelist, esteemed by D. H. Lawrence, H. G. Wells, and E. M. Forster, as well as a journalist, headmaster, and political and religious leader. He wrote in an article, Tolerance: Cultural side of Islam:
There is a quality which one associates with a high degree of human culture, and that is tolerance. One of the commonest charges brought against Islam historically, and as a religion, by Western writers is that it is intolerant. This is turning the tables with a vengeance when one remembers various facts:- One remembers that not a Muslim is left alive in Spain or Sicily of Apulia. One remembers that not a Muslim was left alive and not a mosque left standing in Greece after the great rebellion in 1821. One remembers how the Muslims of the Balkan peninsula, once the majority, have been systematically reduced with the approval of the whole of Europe, how the Christian under Muslim rule have in recent times been urged on to rebel and massacre the Muslims, and how reprisals by the latter have been condemned as quite uncalled for. One remembers how the Jews were persecuted throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, what they suffered in Spain after the expulsion of the Moors and what they suffered in Czarist Russia and Poland even in our own day, while in the Muslim Empire Christians and Jews had liberty of conscience and full self-government in all internal affairs of their communities.
In Spain under the Umayyads and in Baghdad under the Abbasid Khalifas, Christians and Jews, equally with Muslims, were admitted to the schools and Universities-not only that, but were boarded and lodged in hostels at the cost of the State. When the Moors were driven out of Spain, the Christian conquerors held a terrific persecution of the Jews. Those who were fortunate enough to escape fled, some of them to Morocco and many hundreds to the Turkish Empire, where their descendants still live in separate communities, and still speak among themselves an antiquated form of Spanish. The Muslim Empire was a refuge for all those who fled from persecution by the Inquisition; and though the position which the Jews and Christian occupied there was inferior to that of Muslims it was infinitely to be preferred to the that of any Muslims, Jews or heretics-nay, even any really learned and enlightened man — in contemporary Europe.
Now let me turn to the Cathars, their genocide is remembered as Albigensian Crusade. This Crusade was a twenty year war (1209–29) called by Pope Innocent III against the Cathari, a dualist religious movement in southern France that the Roman Catholic Church had branded heretical. The Encyclopedia Britannica says the following about this Crusade:
By the middle of the 12th century, control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land was no longer the only goal of the Crusades. Rather, Crusading became a special class of war called by the pope against the enemies of the faith, who were by no means confined to the Levant. Crusades continued in the Baltic region against pagans and in Spain against Muslims. Yet in the heart of Europe a more serious threat faced Christendom: heresy, which was viewed in the medieval world not as benign religious diversity but rather as a cancerous threat to the salvation of souls. It was held to be even more dangerous than the faraway Muslims, because it harmed the body of Christ from within.
The most vibrant heresy in Europe was Catharism, also known as Albigensianism—for Albi, a city in southern France where it flourished. Catharism held that the universe was a battleground between good, which was spirit, and evil, which was matter. Human beings were believed to be spirits trapped in physical bodies.
The Encyclopedia Britannica‘s article, about this Crusade against the fellow Christians, concludes with the following paragraph:
For all of its violence and destruction, the Albigensian Crusade failed to remove the Cathar heresy from Languedoc. It did, however, provide a solid framework of new secular lords willing to work with the church against the heretics. Through the subsequent efforts of the Inquisition, which was established by the papacy in the 13th century to try heretics, Catharism was virtually eliminated in Languedoc within a century.
An alleged heresy had been successfully wiped out first by Crusade and job completed with Inquisition, by marrying Catholicism with the politics of princes, nobles and lords.
Wikipedia has the following to say about the Cathars and their genocide:
The Inquisition was established in Toulouse in November 1229, and the surviving elements of Catharism were eliminated from the region, largely due to the infamous inquisitor Bernard Gui and his order of Dominicans. Under Pope Gregory IX from 1233 the Dominican Inquisition was given great power to suppress the heresy. The Inquisition proceeded by investigation, always seeking to implicate further heretics by identifying sources. Medieval judicial procedures were developed. The accused, whose guilt was assumed, had no right to see the evidence against them, or their accuser or even know their names. They were not always told what the charges were against them. They had no right to legal counsel, and if exceptionally they were allowed a legal representative then the representative risked being arrested for heresy as well. This does not amount to providing a defence in any sense we would understand the term today. Although the majority found guilty of heresy were given lighter penalties, these were not the die hard Cathars as the latter would not swear fidelity to the Catholic Church holding it as an apostate institution. Eleven percent of offenders faced prison on a first offence of heresy but death on a second offence. Even the incarceration though included being immured in the infamous wall of Carcassonne, the conditions of which were barbaric and often led to death or as some described it a living death. A letter from the Consuls of Carcassonne in 1285 to Jean Galand, an Inquisitor describes it thus:
“Life for them is an agony, and death a relief. Under these constraints they affirm as true what is false, preferring to die once than to be thus tortured multiple times … they accuse not only themselves but also others who are innocent, in order to escape their suffering in any way … those who so confess reveal afterwards that what they have said to the Brother Inquisitors [Dominicans] is not true, but false, and that they have confessed out of fear of the peril of the moment. To some of those [witnesses] that you cite you promise immunity so that they will more freely denounce others without fear”.
However, since most Cathar parfait (male) or parfaites (female) refused to recant and embrace orthodox Catholic doctrine they were burnt to death as a matter of course. And this was specifically as a result of their religious beliefs as judged heretical by the Dominican Inquisition – not due to revolt against the temporal order. The latter resulted in thousands more being executed as at the siege of Béziers in 1209 – 7000 in total amounting to the entire population. Arnaud Amoury, the Cistercian abbot-commander wrote to the Pope:
“Today your Holiness, twenty thousand citizens were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex.”
Any recanting Cathars, (first offenders only) were required to wear two yellow crosses on their clothing for the rest of their lives. Half of a Cathar’s property was seized by the Church. This included the property of the deceased whom the Dominican Inquisition would exhume, try and then burn posthumously for heresy which allowed them to seize assets and property from their heirs. Many still resisted, taking refuge in fortresses at Fenouillèdes and Montségur, or inciting small uprisings. In 1235, the Inquisition was forced out of Albi, Narbonne, and Toulouse. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel led a military campaign in 1240, but was defeated at Carcassonne in October, then besieged at Montréal. He soon surrendered and was exiled to Aragon. In 1242, Raymond of Toulouse attempted to mount a revolt in conjunction with an English invasion, but the English were quickly repulsed and his support evaporated. He was subsequently pardoned by the king.
Cathar strongholds fell one by one. Montségur withstood a nine-month siege before being taken in March 1244. The final hold-out, a small, isolated, overlooked fort at Quéribus, quickly fell in August 1255. The last known burning of a person who professed Cathar beliefs occurred in Corbières, in 1321.
Let us all affirm that never again people will be denied religious freedom, not in the twenty first century and never again should humanity allow, unilateral and single sided, witch hunt from the past centuries to condemn a people, a country, a nation or a religion.
Be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism.
Those who would want to learn more about renaissance of Europe and how religion and politics were intimately married in the centuries passed, may enjoy, Borgia (also known as Borgia: Faith and Fear), a French-German historical drama television series created by Tom Fontana. The show recounts the Borgia family’s rise to power and subsequent domination of the Papal States during the Renaissance.
Borgia debuted in North America via Netflix on 2 October 2011 (season 2 released on 1 May 2013) and in Israel on yes Drama and yes Drama HD on 22 October 2011.
The season 1 is eight hourly episodes of drama and intrigue of unparalleled quality and suspense. I have heard that you cannot stop watching the series once you see the trailer and the first hour long episode, one out of the total eight.
Pope Francis has certainly show much greater interfaith tolerance over the years than many of his predecessors. We congratulate him for that and this article is meant at only sharing information, for greater interfaith tolerance in this century in our global village.