Ethiopia plays a special role, as a Christian kingdom, in both the history of Islam and the history of Christianity. Because of an event that supposedly took place during Muhammad’s lifetime, when many dozens of his followers found refuge from enemies in Ethiopia, a refuge freely offered by the Negus, Ethiopia was given a special status in Islam, and for many centuries was supposedly therefore not the object of Muslim attack.
Whether or not that was observed or honored in the breached is unclear. Certainly Arab slavers worked to the north in what is now the Sudan, to the west in the Congo (Tippoo Tib was not the only Muslim slavers about whom Stanley and Livingston presumed) and to the south. Pemba and Zanzibar were under the control of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman for centuries, and were used as a holding pen for black slaves then later brought by dhow to the Arab and Ottoman slave markets. And certainly Arab Muslims conducted Da’wa — through violence as well as missionary work — on the Horn of Africa (see Somalia, see Eritrea).
And now it is clear that since Muslims have the way, they certainly have the will to boldly go after the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, conducting campaigns of Da’wa and intimidation deep within Ethiopia. All you have to do is find and debrief any number of Christian Ethiopian students in this country. They will set you right.
In the history of Western Christendom, the role of the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia is also as singular. If in Islam a special pass was for some time honored in regard to Christian Ethiopia, which might explain its continued existence as an independent Christian kingdom, Islam imperiled Christian Europe. Europe was constantly under assault, sometimes by Arab armies both East (Spain and into France) and West (Byzantium, and much of southeastern and central Europe, as far north as Hungary). It was also under constant assault by Muslim raiders up and down the coasts of Italy and France and all the way to England and Ireland. The raiders even on one famous occasion went to Iceland, destroying villages, killing many, and kidnapping and then enslaving others — men, women, and children — who were then brought back to Muslim lands. There they worked as slaves and were islamized, with their own pasts erased.
In this, hope was needed, and hope arose in the form of a myth: the myth of a powerful Christian kingdom, ruled by a benign and powerful Christian king, Prester John. And where was this powerful Kingdom of Prester John? It was far away, on the other side of the lands seized by and now ruled by Muslims. It was a distant, yet powerful dream-ally, comforting to the imagination of fearful Christians. At first their imagination placed the Kingdom of Prester John in distant India. Later, in an act of geopolitical remue-menages (and remue-meninges, to quote the only memorable pun Jack Lang ever made) — the Allied-Van-Lines of the European imagination transferred the Kingdom of Prester John, in its imaginary location, to Ethiopia. Fear-inducing Islam prompted the necessary comforting myth. The European mind did the necessary lifting, moving the whole kingdom several thousand miles from India to East Africa. Quite a feat.
Look into Ethiopia. See why the American government, instead of wasting so much in Iraq, ought to be helping the Christian government to maintain itself, and to campaign against and shut down wherever possible the campaigns of Da’wa being ceaselessly conducted within the borders of Ethiopia. And if the American government actually had a clever grasp of things, it would right now be stationing troops and giving money to the Ethiopians, as it should to black African Christians everywhere — so that they can combat the instruments of Jihad, including all those Saudi-built and Saudi-maintained mosques transforming the syncretistic, easygoing Islam of the marabouts of West Africa as well. (See the horrifying transformation of Islam taking place in Niger; try to get bigshots to pay more attention to that, and a bit less attention to the entirely trivial and uninteresting saga of the trivial and uninteresting Joseph Wilson et ux.).
Study up on Ethiopia and how an American force in southern and eastern Sudan, there to “rescue the people of Darfur,” would do so much to draw attention to the Arab Muslim aggression against black Africans, whether Christians and animists or non-Arab Muslims. (Those non-Arabs are, simply by virtue of being non-Arabs, expendable in the eyes of Arabs, because they are inferior Muslims.) An American force there would also do much to raise the morale of black African Christians, or Hamitic ones — in the once and possibly future Kingdom of Prester John.
You will discover that there is more to learn about Ethiopia than tips on collecting Ethiopian Coptic textiles, the brouhaha over that obelisk taken from Axum to Rome (and recently returned), the precise place from which Pushkin’s ancestor likely came, Father Ludolf, Johnson’s “Rasselas,” and Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book on Haile Selassie, and of course those who, in Marcus-Garvey fashion, saw in Selassie, Ras Tafari, the leader of that cult or possibly religion (what’s the difference? who decides?) of Rastafarians who, as Robert Lowell once wrote, could be seen downtown in the Village, combing curlicues of marijuana out of their hair.