Conversion Conveyor Belt

‘Although they [the Jews] agree with the Turke in circumcision, detestation of Images, abstinency from swines-flesh, and divers other ceremonies: neverthelesse the Turkes will not suffer a Jew to turne Mahometan, unlesse he first turne a kind of Christian.’

George Sandys, A Relation of a Journey Begun Anno Dom. 1610, Observations of the Egyptians and Jews.

George Sandys was a poet and travel writer who visited Venice, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine. As a member of the Virginia Company he also spent time in the North American colony. In the above quote from the Relation Sandys describes how Jews seem to have much in common with Muslims, but that if a Jew wishes to convert to Islam they must first become Christian. This succeeds in placing Judaism at the foot of a hierarchy of faith, but also indicates that the movement between religions could be very complex indeed. Sandys’ account has to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it raises the question of whether conversion between the three religions of the book was ‘equal’. For instance would a Jewish convert to Christianity be more acceptable than a Muslim? Were converts from the Americas who were often described as having no faith, a more desirable catch than Europeans who had been polluted with heresy?

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