Winston Churchill's family once feared that he might convert to Islam while he traveled in Muslim countries during his youth, a newly discovered letter reveals.
"Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to Orientalize . . . 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 wrote in 1907 to her future brother-in-law.
According to The Telegraph (UK)
, the letter was discovered by Warren Dockter, a history research fellow at Cambridge University, while doing research for his forthcoming book, "Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire and Diplomacy in the Middle East."
The same year that Churchill's family expressed concern for his faith, he himself wrote to British activist Constance Lytton, "You will think me a pasha. I wish I were."
Dockter said that it is unlikely that Churchill ever seriously considered converting, but that the man who would go on to be Prime Minister did have a strong interest in Muslim culture, especially the military prowess of the Ottoman Empire.
"Churchill never seriously considered converting," he told The Independent (UK)
. "He was more or less an atheist by this time anyway. He did however have a fascination with Islamic culture which was common among Victorians."
Moreover, "Churchill had fought in Sudan and on the North West frontier of India so had much experience on being in 'Islamic areas,'" he added.
Dockter said that Churchill was so enamored of Islam that he became good friends with Wilfrid S. Blunt, a poet and fierce proponent of Muslim causes.
"Blunt and Churchill met several times, at first to discuss young Winston’s impending biography of his father, but then simply as friends," said Dockter, according to The Washington Post
. "On some occasions, they dressed in Arab clothing, a tradition Blunt and Churchill would carry on into the twilight of their friendship."
Elsewhere in his writings, however, Churchill was critical of Islam.
"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it," Churchill observed in an account of Sudan. "No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith."
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