Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — intriguing uses of the terms Islamism and brotherhood in US newspapers a century ago, also the Ahmadiyya ]


Here are the opening paragraphs of a fascinating article in the Ogden Standard Examiner, June 1922, titled Trying To Make Christian America Mohammedan. Marisa Urgo pointed to it in a tweet yesterday, with the comment “Reads like some blogs I know. I kid you not…” I noted it because it contained the word “Islamism” – surely an early use of that term? – and found much of interest when I read it more carefully this morning:

The Christian people of America are spending millions of dollars every year in the effort to spread the gospel of Christ all over the earth and convert the people of every nation under the sun to Christianity.

And while this tremendous outlay is being made to maintain thousands of devoted missionaries in foreign lands, one of the world’s other great religions is making a determined effort to gain a foothold in Christian America.

The leaders of Mohammedanism, not content with the 227,000,000 or more adherents that faith now has in Turkey, India and other countries, are turning their attention to the United States and Canada, with the hope of making both those nations strongholds of Islamism.

They aim to make their picturesque mosques and the towers from which the muezzins issue their calls to prayer as numerous as our churches, and when that day arrives they are confident it will not be long before the crescent will overshadow the cross and a great majority of Americans will be following the precepts laid down in the Koran.

To the millions of American Christians who have so long looked eagerly forward to the time when the cross shall be supreme in every land and the people of the whole world shall have become followers of Christ the plan to win this continent to the faith of the “Infidel Turk” will seem a thing unbelievable. But there is no doubt about its being actually well under way or that it is being pressed with all the fanatical zeal for which the Mohammedans are noted.


The article as a whole is about the Ahmadis, followers of a nineteenth century Mahdi claimant, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad — and we should note what Wikipedia calls “the Ahmadiyya concept of Jihad in a peaceful format”:

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. They believe that he divested Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices by championing what is in their view, Islam’s true and essential teachings as practised by the Prophet Muhammad.

For this and various other reasons, the Ahmadis have been widely considered non-Muslim by orthodox Sunni and Shi’a, and notably persecuted, see for example Attackers Hit Mosques of Islamic Sect in Pakistan.

The article also includes a hypothetical question and answer between Jesus and a US customs official, when the former attempts to enter the US from India. While not as fine a work of literature as Dostoevsky‘s Grand Inquisitor, it has its Life of Bryan moments…


On early uses of the term Islamism – I haven’t consulted OED, which would probably be wise, but Marisa Urgo also pointed to a use of the same term in a 1912 New York Sun piece, Rallying to Defend Islam:

But Islamism is even more than a faith, it is brotherhood…