With the rise of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Boko Haram, and the continuing threat of al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, it’s all too easy to think of Islam as a religion of hate. Just as the Arab Spring began to cause Westerners to think of Muslims as lovers of freedom and democracy, groups like these rise up to tarnish that image once again. It doesn’t help that the media — especially Western media — constantly focuses on these groups instead of all the good that Muslims do around the world. What’s conveniently left out of the anti-Muslim propaganda is that less than six percent of all terrorist attacks in the United States were committed by Muslims. What’s also conveniently left out is that without Islam, the United States would not have come into existence.

In the seventh century, Islam exploded from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Under the leadership of Mohammed of Mecca, the armies of Islam conquered the entire Arabian Peninsula between 622 and 632. Then, under the leadership of Mohammed’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, Muslim armies conquered much of present-day Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and Syria. Bakr’s successors expanded the Caliphate to encompass Northern Africa, the entire Middle East, most of western Asia, even most of Spain. It was only the Battle of Tours in 732 — in which a Frankish-Burgundian alliance defeated a Muslim invasion force — that prevented the Muslim conquest of Europe. Six years later, the Battle of Rajasthan saw a Hindu alliance halt the Caliphate’s eastern advance.

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As a result of the Islamic conquests, the Levant — containing the city of Jerusalem cherished by the Jewish and Christian religions — came under control of the Caliphate. Most Muslim rulers were very supportive of the Jewish and Christian populations, allowing them to pray and live in relative peace. The non-Muslims were required only to pay jizya, a tax that was proof of their acceptance of Muslim rule; in return, they were allowed freedom of religion, limited autonomy, exemption from Muslim taxes and military service, and protection from external threats. While some Muslim rulers were more hostile to Jews and Christians, the majority were very tolerant.

However, the idea of the Christian “Holy Land” in the hands of “infidels” enraged Christian Europe as well as Byzantine royalty, still smarting from their defeats in the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 (which saw the Levant conquered by Muslim armies) and the Battle of Manzikert (which saw Anatolia fall under Muslim leadership and set the stage for the later rise of the Turks). In 1095, Pope Urban II convened the Council of Clermont, a council of the Catholic leadership. During this meeting, Urban II called for a crusade to take back Jerusalem and the surrounding lands from the Muslims.

The carnage of the Crusades — in which the worst atrocities were often perpetrated by the Crusaders themselves — led to deep anti-Western resentment by subsequent Muslim generations. When the Ottoman Empire rose to power in the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries, the Ottomans remembered the brutality of the Crusaders. When the Ottomans destroyed the Byzantine Empire and conquered Constantinople — present-day Istanbul — in 1453, they also cut off Europe’s trade routes with China. As a result, western nations began searching for sea routes to Asia. This led to Columbus’s stumbling upon the Americas, and the subsequent European conquests and rise of the United States.

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If Islam had never existed, the Crusades never would have happened. If the Crusades had not occurred, the Ottomans would not have been filled with anti-Western resentment and cut off Europe from Chinese trade. And if that hadn’t happened, then the Americas would not have been reached until much later. And if that hadn’t happened…no United States.

It’s ironic that so many people in the United States hate Islam so much…when without it, the United States wouldn’t even be here.