In reply to John Barich (AD2000 February 2004):
1. Despite Mr Barich's implication to the contrary, it is possible to come to a broadly correct conclusion, but to do so "thoughtlessly". I regularly mark undergraduate essays that suffer from this fault.
2. Mr Barich has taken exception to a comment I made in passing where I said, "I believe that even Keith Windschuttle would agree that the Black Line in Tasmania and the activities of the Queensland Native Mounted Police are phenomena reminiscent of a civil war rather than a peaceful settlement."
Windschuttle is yet to write on the Mounted Police, but he wrote in The Fabrication of Aboriginal History that the Black Line was "a general mobilisation of the white population of the colony", and "a similar muster of the military to capture the hostile tribes or permanently expel them". (p. 172)
The white forces were divided into "three divisions, which were then divided into smaller corps, all under the command of military officers". (p. 174) In Windschuttle's opinion, the whole operation was an unsuccessful "military move against the Aborigines" (p. 178). It sounds reminiscent of civil war to me.
3. At no time did I deny that violence has been associated with the spread of Islam, but Mr Barich is mistaken in his assertion that the spread of Islam was everywhere linked to "the sword". In fact "the sword" played a very limited role in the glacially slow Islamicisation of Syria (8th-14th century), which is the unfortunate choice of example Mr Barich used to illustrate his assertion.
As in Spain, the Muslim conquerors of Syria ruled for centuries in peace with their Christian subjects. Resort to violence and widespread conversions to Islam became systematic in Syria only after many Christian tribes aligned themselves with the Crusades in the 14th century.
This brings me to my next point. If Mr Barich reads some European, African, Middle Eastern, South American or Asian history, he will find that the Catholic Church's record has itself been soiled by violence. I am pleased to learn from Mr Barich that a history of the Catholic Church in the Kimberley Ranges will show a better side. Indeed there are many, many places where the spread of Christianity and/or Islam was conducted peacefully.
Finally, may I return to the point I was making in my original letter. Thoughtless articles undermine the standing of your journal and should be avoided at all times.
University of Queensland
St Lucia, Qld