By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, Israel

December 18, 2002

The vast expansion of the Islamic empire from the mid 600's through World War I was primarily achieved with the persuasive power of the sword. The first victims of the Mohammedan belief that Islam must subjugate all infidel faith communities were the Jewish and non-Islamic tribes inhabiting the Arabian peninsula during Mohammed's lifetime. The story of the conquest and exploitation of these tribes is both commanded and recorded in the Quran, Islam's central text. As Islam expanded throughout the Middle East, the local Christians and other non-Moslems struggled to preserve their communal honor under denigrating Islamic laws, and were often subjected to murder and collective extortion. In Europe, the Moslems eventually brought even Spain under the crescent moon and the scimitar. In North Africa, the native Berber tribes put up a valiant struggle against the Arab Moslem invaders, under the leadership of a Jewish woman, Queen Kahena. However, an Islamic commander ultimately successfully employed a divide-and-conquer approach, and 50,000 Berbers and Jews were killed when the conquering Arabs offered them the familiar choice of Islam or death.

However, one nation suffered the most brutal depravities in order to "persuade" its members to accept Islam - the Indians. This year, November 24, according to the Sikh Nanakshahi calendar, or December 8 in the Hindu Bikrami calendar, marks the commemoration of the martyrdom of Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. The traditional story of his encounter with Islam will undoubtedly strike most Jewish readers as reminiscent of the ancient and modern persecutions suffered by the Jews under other empires, including the Hellenist Syrians of the just-completed Chanukah holiday.

In 1669, after having taken the throne of Mughal (Islamic) India by imprisoning his father and killing his brothers, Alamgir ("world-shaker") Aurangzeb implemented policies designed to convert all the peoples of India to Islam. He issued orders to all his governors and officers throughout India to use all possible means to accomplish his jihad for Allah. Non-Moslems were not given jobs, additional taxes were imposed on them, torture and murder were used as tools of persuasion, and even Moslems who stepped in to defend their neighbors were put to death. Many temples were destroyed and were replaced by mosques - similar to the policy implemented by the earlier Moslem ruler Babar in Ayodhya, which has come to the fore with modern Hindu nationalists demanding the restoration of the temple and the elimination of the currently existing mosque. Aurangzeb's policy of forced conversion began in the Kashmir region of northwest India, where Islamist terrorists today continue his traditions and slaughter Hindus and Buddhists at prayer, on the roads and in their beds.

Eventually, the Hindus of the Kashmir region approached the leader of the more militant Sikhs, Tegh Bahadur Sahib, and asked for his help. Tegh Bahadur told the Kashmiri Brahmin delegation to inform Aurangzeb that if he could convert the Sikh guru Sahib to Islam, then all the Hindus and Sikhs would convert as well. When the guru was eventually taken into custody and brought before the Moslem ruler in Delhi, he was offered one of three options: 1) Accept Islam and be given part of the empire and all the comforts of life; 2) Show a miracle proving holiness and be released; or, 3) Be prepared to face death. The Sikh leader replied: 1) "I cherish my faith and I am not prepared to give it up. Forcing someone to give up one's faith is not only a sin but rather a deadly sin and such interference is against the principles of a true religion"; 2) "Showing a miracle is against the will of Waheguru and is act of shame and cowardice. The real miracle is to be truthful and attain union with Waheguru"; and, 3) "The threat of physical death possesses no terror for me. You make your preparations and you shall also see the miracle."

Needless to say, Aurangzeb decided to try more brutal methods to force Tegh Bahadur Sahib to accept Islam. The Sikh was kept in chains and imprisoned for three days in an iron cage designed to be shorter than the prisoner's height, with sharp spikes pointing inwards, so that the victim could neither stand, nor sit, nor lean against the walls of the cage. The Moslems then moved on to exploiting Tegh Bahadur's humanity by cruelly putting three of his disciples to death in front of him. The torturous deaths need not be described here, but, as a Jew, it is interesting to note the statement made in traditional Sikh sources regarding this incident: "the three disciples died with the name of God on their lips...." Many, many Jewish martyrs died the same way - at the hands of pagans, Moslems, Christians and atheists.

Ultimately, Aurangzeb failed to convert Tegh Bahadur Sahib to Islam, and he ordered the execution of the stubborn Sikh. On November 11, 1675, Bahadur Sahib was executed in the Chandni Chowk in Delhi. At the site of the execution stands Gurdwara Sis Ganj, commemorating the supreme martyrdom offered by a Sikh believer in the face of 17th century Islamic jihad.

Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and others today face a reinvigorated jihad mentality, which, as the original version, has its roots in the Arab world. The Jews are again a focal point of the Islamic rage, as we have established a state of our own in the midst of what remains of the Moslem empire; however, we are far from alone as targets, as New Yorkers, Balinese, Indians and Muscovites all know first hand. The threat posed by al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat Islamiyya and their ilk is emphatically not a result of India's Kashmir policy, US intervention in the Gulf, Jewish settlement in Gaza, or any other cause to which the Islamists hook their cart. The threat must be recognized for what it is - an imperialist war of conquest for the sake of Islam. If we fail to look that threat in the eye, we may one day be forced, like the Kashmiri Brahmin, to desperately search for men like Tegh Bahadur or the hero of Chanukah, Judah Maccabee, and there is no guarantee that they will be found.


Nissan Ratzlav-Katz is the opinion editor for Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) and recently became a member of the Advisory Board of the Freeman Center For Strategic studies.