Sir Winston Churchill’s family, fearing his fascination with Islam, had urged him not to convert, a newly uncovered letter has revealed. The surprise discovery on the young Churchill, who would later lead Britain in World War II, was dated 1907.
The letter sent by Churchill’s sister-in-law-to-be, Lady Gwendoline Bertie, who later married his brother, was discovered by Dr Warren Dockter, of University of Cambridge whilst researching his life. She wrote: “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.” She added, “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.”
In the same year, Churchill had wrote to Lady Lytton: “You will think me a pasha [a rank of distinction in the Ottoman Empire]. I wish I were.”
Dockter was conducting research for his upcoming book, Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire and Diplomacy in the Middle East, when he came across the letter. He believed the Prime Minister was not serious about converting.
The discovery contradicts Churchill’s earlier harsh criticisms on some Muslim cultures. In his book The River War (1899), his account of the frontier war in Sudan, he wrote, “Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith.”
During the Iraqi revolt (Ath Thawra al Iraqiyya al Kubra), in the period of the British Mandate, the use of tear gas was considered as shown in a War Office minute of May 12, 1919 in which Churchill argued: “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas…I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.”
Despite this, in 1940, as Prime Minister, he gave his support to build what became the London Central Mosque, in Regent’s Park. He allocated £100,000 for the purpose, in the hope of winning the support of Muslim countries in the war. He told the House of Commons that “many of our friends in Muslim countries” had expressed appreciation for this “gift”.