Was Churchill a strong admirer of Islam?

2015 marks Churchill’s 50th anniversary. Winston Churchill began his career as a colonial policeman in the North-West borderlands of India, and this experience was the beginning of his long relationship with the Islamic world.

Overturning the widely-accepted consensus that Churchill was indifferent to, and even contemptuous of, matters concerning the Middle East, this book unravels Churchill’s nuanced understanding of the edges of the British Empire.

Warren Dockter analyses the future Prime Minister’s experiences of the East, including his work as Colonial Under-Secretary in the early 1900s, his relations with the Ottomans and conduct during the Dardanelles Campaign of 1915-16, his arguments with David Lloyd-George over Turkey, and his pragmatic support of Syria and Saudi Arabia during World War II.

Challenging the popular depiction of Churchill as an ignorant imperialist when it came to the Middle East, Dockter suggests that his policy making was often progressive when compared to the orientalist prejudices of many of his contemporaries.

Sir Winston Churchill ‘s family feared he might convert to Islam. The discovery of a letter to Sir Winston Churchill from his future sister-in-law has thrown new light on his fascination with Islam and Muslim culture. Sir Winston Churchill’s long political career earned him a place among the greatest of Britons.

He was a strong admirer of Islam and the culture of the Orient — such was his regard for the Muslim faith that relatives feared he might convert.

churchill
Winston Churchill
Lady Gwendoline Bertie, Churchill’s sister in law had written a letter to him in August, year 1907, in which she urges him to rein in his enthusiasm on Islam.The letter was discovered by Warren Dockter, a history research fellow at Cambridge University. In it she goes on to write, “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise [fascination with the Orient and Islam], Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”
“If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.” Lady Gwendoline Bertie.Churchill’s strong fascination led him and his close friend Wilfrid S. Blunt, a poet and radical supporter of Muslim causes, to teach him more. 

In the late 1940’s, Britain faced its darkest hour against Nazi Germany, Churchill approved plans to build a mosque in central London and set aside a huge sum of £100,000 for the project.

He continued to back the building of what became the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park – he hoped this would win support for Britain and faced public criticism.

In December 1941, he told the House of Commons: “Many of our friends in Muslim countries all over the East have already expressed great appreciation of this gift.”

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One thought on “Was Churchill a strong admirer of Islam?

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