History · Islamic State · Politics

Why Celebrating Columbus Day is Like Celebrating ISIS Day

Columbus, the Cross, and the Sword
Columbus, the Cross, and the Sword

My elementary school teachers brainwashed me. I am sure they would never admit to it, but it is true. I was taught that Christopher Columbus, the Catholic Italian explorer, discovered a “New World.” I – like millions of other naive American children – was told that he was a brave and curious hero who brought progress and civilization to a backward people. Years later, when I was a teenager, my perspective on these matters changed while I read the book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James Loewen, who presented a more honest story of what happened when Columbus arrived on “America’s shores.” This book, for the record, should be required reading for all American school children today.

I am thirty years old now, but people still try to brainwash me, albeit for different reasons. Fox News, CNN, and other media outlets tell me that ISIS is special for its barbarism and its project of mixing religion, morality, and politics. While I certainly agree that ISIS is out of control and evil, I do not think this entity is unique by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Columbus and other early Americans were equally atrocious in carrying out genocide on indigenous peoples.


Sailing from Spain on behalf of the Spanish Catholic Monarchy, Columbus embarked upon a Crusade against the indigenous people of what is now referred to as the Caribbean islands. These islands were not “uninhabited,” as my elementary school teachers told me. A whole civilization was there. The land was abundant with natural resources, beautiful people, and a range of rich cultures. The indigenous tribes who lived there had their own customs, social values, religions, and systems of governance. Columbus’s goal upon arriving to this land was not to learn about these things or build bridges of understanding. All he wanted to do was steal, destroy and conquer. It was that simple.

Columbus’s objective was straightforward: take natural resources off of the land and convert indigenous people to Christianity. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella supported these objectives by giving Columbus a document to justify genocide. This decree was a clear declaration of war on a group of people who posed no threat to the Crusaders, to Spain, or to Christendom. The stipulations of the document were made clear to the indigenous people: recognize the Catholic Church and the Pope as the new ruler. If the indigenous tribes did not accept this condition, the Crusaders would make war everywhere and in every way that they could.

The Monarchy gave Christians permission to indulge in a particular heinous act: capturing indigenous people and turning them into slaves. Columbus himself supported these crimes against humanity. Writing in his “Journal,” he stated: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.” By using this type of language, Columbus – in alliance with the Spanish Monarchy – condoned war and territorial expansion in the name of Jesus Christ and God. They carried out a Holy War. My school teachers never told me that.

Columbus not only demanded that the indigenous people give him and his soldiers food, gold, cotton and other forms of capital, but indigenous women were forced into sex slavery with Crusaders. Sex slaves were of particular interest to Columbus, as he discussed in a letter to a friend: “A hundred of them are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm… there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to then are now in demand.”

Columbus presents captured people to the King and Queen of Spain
Columbus presents captured people to the King and Queen of Spain

Other horrific genocidal acts carried out by the Spanish Catholics included cutting off the ears, hands, and noses of indigenous people who committed even the smallest offense. Las Casas, the writer who translated Columbus’s “Journal,” stated succinctly that Columbus’s goal upon arrival to the “New World” was to “ravage, kill, mangle, and destroy.” In other words, the aim was to torture and to carry out genocide.

The Catholic arrival to the Caribbean islands also meant the destruction of ancient social structures and cultural practices of the indigenous people. Before Columbus showed up, important tribal conclaves often included women, because women played the crucial role of food producers and people of good judgment. The Crusaders, however, pushed women outside of decision-making processes and made governing a process which only men could partake in. Columbus and his fellow Catholics suppressed other social norms too. The indigenous people practiced polytheism, but their gods were considered blasphemous in the eyes of Catholic leaders in Spain and Italy. “Convert or die!” was the slogan of the Crusaders.

Like Columbus and his allies, ISIS is driven to acquire land, profit, and conversion. ISIS believes that their territorial expansion into Syria and Iraq is justified in the name of God.


While Columbus and his Crusaders carried out a holy war against so-called “native savages,” ISIS undertakes a perverted jihad in order to conquer, enslave, and kill so-called kafirs, or non-Muslim “infidels.” Members of ISIS want to wipe non-Muslims – and even some Muslim groups – off the map of the Middle East. To be clear, total supremacy is what ISIS seeks. In order to enforce its will, ISIS resorts to brutal acts of violence such as beheadings, burning people alive, raping, and selling women into slavery. Basically, the same stuff Columbus carried out on the indigenous people of the Caribbean islands. Although ISIS has emerged 500 years after the Catholic Crusade in the “New World,” it looks and sounds very similar to Columbus and his soldiers.

The work of ISIS
The work of ISIS

ISIS is carrying out genocide against several groups including Yazidis living in Syria and Iraq. ISIS tortures and kills Yazidi men and rapes Yazidi women, some of whom have been sold into slavery. In December 2014, 3,500 Yazidi women and girls were captured by ISIS, and many of these women and children were sold as sex slaves. These women and girls are also subject to physical beatings and threatened with being sold off as “temporary sex gifts” to ISIS men.

Across Syria and Iraq, ISIS carries out ongoing waves of atrocities against Christian communities including the Assyrians and Chaldeans. In March 2015, ISIS militants blew up parts of the ancient monastery of Mar Behnam near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul. Similarly, in July 2014, ISIS burned down a 1,800-year-old church in Mosul. That qualifies for genocide.

Christians in Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, have also felt the wrath of ISIS. In September 2014, ISIS blew up a 7th century Christian site known as the “Green Church.” Ironically, Hussein restored the Green Church because of its dilapidated condition in 2000. The Christian population of Mosul, which was estimated at 35,000 at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, is now nearly nonexistent.

Critics who claim that Muslims are more prone to religious extremism and violence have either forgotten or consciously ignore “the West’s” own dark history of genocide. Honoring Christopher Columbus by giving him “Columbus Day” is akin to glorifying the genocidal acts of ISIS by celebrating “ISIS Day.”

5 thoughts on “Why Celebrating Columbus Day is Like Celebrating ISIS Day

  1. Firstly, Dr Considine is being disingenuous in referring to Columbus as a Crusader and his expeditions as a Crusade. They happened hundreds of years after the Crusades and were never regarded as such. Rather, they have always been known as Conquests and the men who carried them out as Conquistadors. They are only Crusades because Dr Considine wants to link them with other acts which he and his readers are accustomed to regard as evil.

    Secondly, yes we all know the Spanish Conquistadors did terrible things, sanctioned by the Catholic Curch at its furthest departure from the actual teachings of Jesus, but what is the point of comparing ISIS with the Spanish Conquests? A far more relevant comparison would be with the conquests of the man whose example ISIS claim to follow so exactly, Mohammed.

    Let’s take the relevant actions as Dr Considine brings them up:

    1. Slavery – Mohammed owned slaves himself and sold captives as slaves, for instance the women and children of the Banu Qurayza tribe. (Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasoul Allah ch 18)

    2. Robbery – Mohammed started his military/political career as a caravan raider and thereafter took 20% of the booty captured in battle. (Ibn Ishaq ch 12)

    3. Sex slavery – “And also prohibited to you are all married women except those your right hands possess….” (Koran 4:24)

    4. Mutilation of enemies – “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and his messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off…” (5:33)

    5. Torture – “The apostle of Allah handed him [Kinana] over to al Zubayr, saying, ‘Torture him until he tells what he knows’, and al Zubayr kindled a fire on his chest so that he almost expired; then the apostle gave him to Muhammad b. Maslama, who struck off his head.” (Ibn Ishaq ch 20)

    6. Forced conversion – See Mohammed’s letter to the Christian chiefs of Aylah “Thou hast to accept Islam, or pay the tax, and obey God and his messenger….But be careful lest thou do not satisfy them [Mohammed’s emmissaries], for then I shall not accept anything from you, but I shall fight you and take the young as captives and slay the elderly.” (John Andrew Morrow’s “Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World” ch 1)

    7. Beheadings – The Banu Qurayza again. Mohammed had 600 – 900 men beheaded in the market place in Medina. (Ibn Ishaq ch 18)

    8. Burning – See poor Kinana above, plus “Certainly I decided to order the Mu’adh-dhin (call-maker) to pronounce Iqama and order a man to lead the prayer and then take a fire flame to burn all those who had not left their houses so far for the prayer along with their houses.” (Bukhari 1.11.626)

    Seems like a pretty good fit doesn’t it, and the relationship with the actions of ISIS is causal not just coincidental as with Columbus.


  2. In response to your above article, I wanted to draw your attention (and your readers) to several considerations. I wish to acknowledge that I am sure terrible abuses were committed by both parties, but you lack to address the other side at all. Moreover, your glaring error of ‘presententism’ in the above article weakens your credibility as a sociologist and a journalist. Please see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentism_(literary_and_historical_analysis)

    I believe your article is misleading and strangely ignores important facts. Foremost among them is that native peoples themselves practiced slavery (as well as “sex trade”, cannibalism (with man-eating religious rituals) and unspeakable cruelty. Furthermore, common 16th century European punishments would widely be considered as cruel by modern standards. Yet, these were common practices in and out of Europe. When you state half of the story and not its entirety, truth is not served. First, one must be very cautious in judging societal behavior from centuries long past through 21st century eyes. Second, please take a good look at some of these interesting points to consider that shed additional light on Christopher Columbus. I note that these are not my words, but taken from native peoples, historians and scholars.

    1. Quote taken from NEW YORK TIMES (IN PERSON; In Defense Of Columbus, By MARY ANN CASTRONOVO FUSCO, Published: October 8, 2000)As a man of the Renaissance, Columbus operated under a set of assumptions that ”sound terrible to modern ears,” Mr. Connell allowed. ”He justified slavery in the Caribbean as being a way of bringing people into the Christian faith.”But the European concept of slavery was rooted in the Aristotelian concept that ”if a person is captured in war, they’re legitimately a slave,” he explained. ”There was nothing racial about it.”Moreover, widely spread accounts that Columbus’s followers wiped out the Taino people of the Caribbean were inaccurate, says Jorge Estevez, himself of Taino lineage, who is a program coordinator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan. Mr. Estevez says that although many natives were murdered, fell victim to European diseases, or were taken captive, others intermingled with the Spanish settlers. And the settlers who were given Tainos as slaves were required to pay taxes on them, resulting in the undercounting of the Tainos as a form of tax evasion and leading to reports of their eradication.”Columbus didn’t start slavery,” said Mr. Connell. ”He brought the entrepreneurial form of slavery to the New World. It was a phenomenon of the times. With all great figures of the past, we need more understanding, critical understanding that sees the person’s flaws and the inaccuracies and myths that have arisen around him, but we shouldn’t forget the tremendous changes that they created.”The scholar went on: ”I think we have to be very careful about applying20th-century understandings of morality to the morality of the 15th century.”

    2. Evidence of cannibalism of Carib peoples during the time of Christpher Columbus Taken from the book, “CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUSAND THE NEW WORLD OF HIS DISCOVERY” A NARRATIVE BY FILSON YOUNG CHAPTER VI.THE SECOND VOYAGE“The villagers were not altogether unfriendly, although they were shy at first; but red caps and hawks’ bells had their usual effect. There were signs of warfare, in the shape of bone-tipped arrows; there were tame parrots much larger than those of the northern islands; they found pottery and rough wood carving, and the unmistakable stern timber of a European vessel. But they discovered stranger things than that. They found human skulls used as household utensils, and gruesome fragments of human bodies, unmistakable remains of a feast; and they realised that at last they were in the presence of a man-eating tribe. Later they came to know, something of the habits of the islanders; how they made raiding expeditions to the neighbouring islands, and carried off large numbers of prisoners, retaining the women as concubines and eating the men. The boys were mutilated and fattened like capons, being employed as labourers until they had arrived at years of discretion, at which point they were killed and eaten, as these cannibal epicures did not care for the flesh of women and boys. There were a great number of women on the island, and many of them were taken off to the ships—with their own consent, according to Doctor Chanca. The men, however, eluded the Spaniards and would not come on board, having doubtless very clear views about the ultimate destination of men who were taken prisoners. Some women from a neighbouring island, who had been captured by the cannibals, came to Columbus and begged to be taken on board his ship for protection; but instead of receiving them he decked them with ornaments and sent them ashore again. The cannibals artfully stripped off their ornaments and sent them back to get some more.The peculiar habits of the islanders added an unusual excitement to shore leave, and there was as a rule no trouble in collecting the crews and bringing them off to the ships at nightfall. But on one evening it was discovered that one of the captains and eight men had not returned. An exploring party was sent of to search for them, but they came back without having found anything, except a village in the middle of the forest from which the inhabitants had fled at their approach, leaving behind them in the cooking pots a half-cooked meal of human remains—an incident which gave the explorers a distaste for further search.

    3. Spanish were all to blame? There was a mixture of peoples who were sailors/mutineers That question was the wrong one to ask. It took a nudge from Jorge Estevez, a self-described Taíno from New York City, to remind me that notions of racial purity went out the window with Adolf Hitler and the eugenics movement. “These concepts are really outdated,” said Estevez, who coordinates educational workshops at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. “There’s no such thing as a pure Taíno,” he continued, “just like there are no pure Spaniards. It’s not even clear about the ethnicity of Christopher Columbus! The guys who came with him were mixed with Moors, with Sephardic Jews, with Basques—a great mixture that was going on. That story continues.”

    Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/what-became-of-the-taino-73824867/#u4cJQZlCuxURhrge.99Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGvFollow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitterhttp://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/what-became-of-the-taino-73824867/?no-ist=&adsafe_type=df&page=3

    4. History of the Tainos, Puerto Rico natives as recounted by Magaly Rivera, a proud to be Puerto RicanAbout 100 years before the Spanish invasion, the Taínos were challenged by an invading South American tribe – the Caribs. Fierce, warlike, sadistic, and adept at using poison-tipped arrows, they raided Taíno settlements for slaves (especially females) and bodies for the completion of their rites of cannibalism. Some ethnologists argue that the preeminence of the Taínos, shaken by the attacks of the Caribs, was already jeopardized by the time of the Spanish occupation. In fact, it was Caribs who fought the most effectively against the Europeans, their behavior probably led the Europeans to unfairly attribute warlike tendencies to all of the island’s tribes. A dynamic tension between the Taínos and the Caribs certainly existed when the Christopher Columbus landed on Puerto Rico.

    5. The Catholic Church did have great defenders of the native peoples in the name of Bishop De Las Casas. Please consult In Defense of the Indians: The Defense of the Most Reverend Lord, Don Fray Bartolome De Las Casas, of the Order of Preachers, Late Bishop of Chiapahttp://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875805566/ref=ase_escapetopuertori/002-1109365-1424840De Las Casas was a Dominican bishop and considered to be a late scholastic, polemicist. “He spent great amounts of time and effort in order to ensure the equitable treatment of the American natives by the Spaniards.” “Bartolomé de Las Casas championed the rights of the Indians of Mexico and Central America, disputing a widely held belief that they were “beasts” to be enslaved. In a dramatic debate in 1550 with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Las Casas argued vehemently before a royal commission in Valladolid that the native inhabitants should be viewed as fellow human beings, artistically and mechanically adroit, and capable of learning when properly taught.” Taken from reviews and description of the above mentioned book on De Las Casas including those of the Times. “In Defense of the Indians, Las Casas’s classic treatise on the humanity of native peoples, had far-reaching implications for the policies adopted by both the Spanish Crown and the Church toward slavery in the New World. This carefully reasoned but emotionally charged defense addresses issues such as the concept of a just war, the relationships between differing races and cultures, the concept of colonialism, and the problem of racism. Written toward the end of an active career as “Protector of the Indians,” the work stands as a summary of the teaching of Las Casas’s life.Available in its entirety for the first time in paperback, with a new foreword by Martin E. Marty, In Defense of the Indians has proved to be an enduring work that speaks with relevance in the twentieth-first century. Skillfully translated from Latin by the Reverend Stafford Poole, it is an eloquent plea for human freedom that will appeal to scholars interested in the founding of the Americas and the development of the New World.”

    6. Columbus was taken to the Spanish court to be tried for mistreatment during his reign as governor in 1499. Scholars quote that some of the charges may have been manufactured by his political enemies, including Bishop Juan de Fonseca who was also an enemy of Bishop las Casas.

    For further study, you may wish to consult as well Richard Clark “Old and new lights on Columbus” as well as Count Antoine Roselly de Lorgues, “La Croix dans les Deux Mondes”

    Thank you. It is a duty to search out the truth just as Columbus sought out new lands, I encourage the author and all readers to Explore history like a navigator and not to accept standing on the shore of simple and hollow buzz words and superficial media solipsism.


  3. The first comment here shows how Dr Considine ignores or minimises the Islamic connection to the matter in hand, religiously inspired violence. The one by gennyliv shows how he misrepresents and maximises the Christian connection to it. This is consistent with most of the posts I have read on this blog.

    Why this clear dishonesty? It does not reflect well on his status as a sociologist, after all the social sciences still claim some connection with impartial scholarship. Nor does it reflect well on his involvement in interfaith dialogue. One expects propagandising for Islam from the imams involved, but from a self professed Catholic? Isn’t that very odd indeed?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s