War Over WordsThe SpineThe Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-MuslimsThe American Thinker
The historical context for these words--which were likely written by Manuel II Paleologus between 1391 and 1394--turns out be much more banal, albeit unknown to fulminating Muslims and Islamic apologists of all ilks, especially the disingenuous Muslim and hand-wringing non-Muslim promoters of empty "civilizational dialogue".

When Manuel II composed the Dialogue (which Pope Benedict excerpted), the Byzantine ruler was little more than a glorified dhimmi vassal of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid, forced to accompany the latter on a campaign through Anatolia. Earlier, Bayezid had compelled the Byzantines under Manuel II to submit to additional humiliations and impositions--heavier tribute, which was already onerous--as well as the establishment of a special quarter in Constantinople devoted to Turkish merchants, and the admission of an Ottoman kadi to arbitrate the affairs of these Muslims.

During the campaign he was conscripted to join, Manuel II witnessed with understandable melancholy the great metamorphosis--ethnic and toponymic--of formerly Byzantine Asia Minor. The devastation and depopulation of these once flourishing regions was so extensive that often, Manuel could no longer tell where he was. The still recognizable Greek cities whose very names had been changed into something foreign became a source of particular grief. It was during this unhappy sojourn that Manuel II's putative encounter with a Muslim theologian occurred, ostensibly in Ankara.

Manuel II's Dialogue was one of the later outpourings of a vigorous Muslim-Christian polemic regarding Islam's success, at (especially Byzantine) Christianity's expense, which persisted during the 11th through 15th centuries, and even beyond. The Muslim advocates' (particularly the Turks) most prominent argument was the indisputable evidence of Islam's military triumphs over the Christians of Asia Minor (especially Anatolia, in modern Turkey). These jihad conquests were repeatedly advanced in the polemics of the Turks. The Christian rebuttal, in contrast, hinged upon the ethical precepts of Muhammad and the Koran. Christian interlocutors charged the Muslims with abiding a religion which both condoned the life of a "lascivious murderer", and claimed to give such a life divine sanction.

Manuel, and generations of Christian interlocutors, argued that the "Christ-hating" barbarians could never overcome the "fortress of belief," despite seizing lands and cities, extorting tribute and even conscripting rulers to perform humiliating services. Manuel II's discussions with his Muslim counterpart simply conformed to this pattern of polemical exchanges, repeated often, over at least four centuries.