Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, BBC Takes Time Out to Claim King Henry II Considered Converting to Islam

London BBC headquarters (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has contracted the coronavirus and spent a night in the intensive care unit, while Britain, like the world at large, remains on edge about how this virus can be stopped, and how many people will die before it is stopped. But all that has not prevented the BBC from returning to one of its perennial themes: that Islam is as English as bangers and mash, and thus anyone who opposes mass Muslim migration into the country is not only racist and bigoted, but traitorous to his or her own culture and heritage.

Yes, it’s ridiculous, but when did that ever stop the BBC – or, for that matter, the establishment media on this side of the pond as well? And so in an article entitled “King Henry II: the Muslim monarch of medieval England?” that was published Monday in BBC History Magazine, Claudia Gold, who is identified as “a historian, and author of King of the North Wind: The Life of Henry II in Five Acts” (and thus presumably should know better), claims that “in the spring of 1168, Henry II, King of England, wrote to Pope Alexander III. While correspondence between monarch and pontiff was a matter of course, this letter was notable for the menace it projected. For Henry was threatening to convert to Islam.”

The implications of this, Gold tells us, are very large. After all, “since 1097, European crusaders had been fighting the forces of Islam in the Middle East and tenaciously hanging on to their conquests: the kingdom of Jerusalem, the principality of Antioch, the counties of Edessa and Tripoli. Muslims were seen as Christendom’s enemies.” Not surprisingly, Gold omits from this potted history all mention of the 450 years of jihad attacks against Christian Europe that preceded the Crusades, and that are explored in detail in The History of Jihad; they don’t fit her narrative.

“If Henry was serious,” Gold writes breathlessly, “the ramifications across 12th-­century Europe would be seismic.” And she wants us to believe that he was serious: “Henry was familiar with Islam. He would have studied the works of Petrus Alfonsi, physician to his grandfather Henry I, who wrote the earliest credible account of Muhammad, as well as Peter the Venerable, who ordered the first translation of the Qur’an into Latin. Although he saw Islam as a heresy, Peter thought it the greatest of all heresies – the one that most deserved to be answered.”

Not only that, but “alongside Islam, Henry also developed an admiration for Arabic learning from an early age.” He had, Gold tells us, “high regard for Islam and Arabic culture.”

And only after that, ten full paragraphs down in her story, does Claudia Gold tell us what King Henry actually said about Islam. This information is the foundation of her entire case, but it is easy to see why she buried it: Henry, she says, “tells Pope Alexander he ‘would sooner accept the errors of Nur al-Din [the Sultan of Aleppo] and become an infidel, than suffer Thomas [Becket] to hold sway in Canterbury Cathedral any longer.’”

Yes, that’s it. That’s the sole basis for this absurd flight of fancy about Henry II converting to Islam and compelling all of England to do so as well, for that is what his conversion would have required, according to Gold: “Henry’s conversion would presumably have required the mass conversion of all the different peoples in the lands under his rule, from Northumberland to Aquitaine. The administrative implications alone would have been immense. What would have become of the thousands of bishops and priests? Would Arabic have replaced Latin as the lingua franca? Would there have been a new curriculum in the universities? Would Henry have developed Arabic rather than English law? With which caliphates would he have forged his new alliances? What would have been the effect on the crusades?”

All right. But back on the planet earth, the BBC should know, and probably does, that King Henry’s statement is an example of what is known as hyperbole. It does not in any way actually mean that Henry was thinking of converting to Islam. In fact, it makes it clear that he considers that possibility inconceivable, and so he uses the prospect of his conversion as a rhetorical device to emphasize how his putting up with Becket was even more inconceivable.

It’s like this. If I say, “I would rather have my teeth pulled out with rusty pliers than see a Star Wars movie,” this does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that I am considering having my teeth pulled out with rusty pliers. It means that I would never under any circumstances see a Star Wars movie.

Is the BBC really this stupid, or just intent on normalizing Islam for its captive audience, no matter how much it has to stretch the truth to do so?

This is just another example of the British intelligentsia’s ongoing efforts to compel Britons to believe that Islam is part of their own culture and heritage, so that they will be shamed into fearing to oppose mass Muslim migration into Britain, as well as jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women and others. It’s just more of Britain’s continuing cultural suicide.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.