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According to Historian Bernard Lewis in his essay The Revolt of Islam:

"Followers of many faiths have at one time or another invoked religion in the practice of murder, both retail and wholesale. Two words deriving from such movements in Eastern religions have even entered the English language...."

Assassin is one of them. What is the other?

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Answer: thug

According to Lewis, "Two words deriving from such movements in Eastern religions have even entered the English language: "thug," from India, and "assassin," from the Middle East, both commemorating fanatical religious sects whose form of worship was to murder those whom they regarded as enemies of the faith."

The word assassin derives from the Arabic hashishiyyin, hashish-users. It denotes an Ismaili Muslim political-protest movement whose members ate hash and stabbed opponents - in that order.

The word thug derives from the Marathi thag, swindler. According to somebody at the Wikipedia, "The thuggee religion was allegedly a cult with Hindu, Muslim and some Sikh members who practiced large-scale robbery and murder of travellers." [I'd find a better source but I'm too lazy.]

Note: Lewis's complete essay can be found at:


Salesman ought to be the other.
ltasker at

I believe that Thuggees specialised in garrotting their victims, using a sacred scarf for the purpose. However, the victims were not chosen on the grounds of religion or because they were "enemies of the faith" but, as your Wikipedia source says, because they were travelling through and had something worth stealing.
fmcloughlin at

I've just read a segment on the Thugs in James Morris' At Heaven's Command. Jesus, what a violent nutty bunch THEY were!
Chuck Davis

I heard that Shakespeare invented the word assassination.

[Mootguy: The first OED citation for the word is from Macbeth: 1605 Shakes. Macb. i. vii. 2: If th' Assassination Could trammell up the Consequence, and catch With his surcease, Successe. However, this doesn't prove that Shakespeare invented the word. He might have heard someone else use it and then made it his own.]
fourhclover at

The standard work on thagi is Sleeman's Confessions of a Thug. Sleeman was the British army officer who discovered how widespread the practice was.
mre at

Good question, but Bernard Lewis is notoriously innacurate regarding Islam. Despite his reputation, he is an "orientalist" who imposes a Western prejudice on the Muslim world. His "clash of civilizations" falderall is typical of his simplistic, Judeo-Christian mentality.
gregf at

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