Readings on jihad and crusades

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Thomas F. Madden reviews The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by Jonathan Riley-Smith

On September 11, 2001, there were only a few professional historians of the Crusades in America. I was the one who was not retired. As a result, my phone began ringing and didn't stop for years. In the hundreds of interviews I have given since that terrible day, the most common question has been, "How did the Crusades lead to the terrorist attacks against the West today?" I always answered: "They did not. The Crusades were a medieval phenomenon with no connection to modern Islamist terrorism."

That answer has never gone over well. It seems counterintuitive. If the West sent Crusaders to attack Muslims throughout the Middle Ages, haven't they a right to be upset? If the Crusades spawned anti-Western jihads, isn't it reasonable to see them as the root cause of the current jihads? The answer is no, but to understand it requires more than the scant minutes journalists are usually willing to spare. It requires a grasp not only of the Crusades but of the ways those wars have been exploited and distorted for modern agendas....

It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe's lacklands and ne'er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed "turn the other cheek" into "kill them all; God will know his own."

Every word of this is wrong. Historians of the Crusades have long known that it is wrong, but they find it extraordinarily difficult to be heard across a chasm of entrenched preconceptions. For on the other side is, as Riley-Smith puts it "nearly everyone else, from leading churchmen and scholars in other fields to the general public." ...

Riley-Smith describes the profound effect that Sir Walter Scott's novel The Talisman had on European and therefore Middle Eastern opinion of the Crusades. Crusaders such as Richard the Lionhearted were portrayed as boorish, brutal, and childish, while Muslims, particularly Saladin, were tolerant and enlightened gentlemen of the nineteenth century. With the collapse of Ottoman power and the rise of Arab nationalism at the end of the nineteenth century, Muslims bound together these two strands of Crusade narrative and created a new memory in which the Crusades were only the first part of Europe's assault on Islam--an assault that continued through the modern imperialism of European powers. Europeans reintroduced Saladin, who had been nearly forgotten in the Middle East, and Arab nationalists then cleansed him of his Kurdish ethnicity to create a new anti-Western hero. We saw the result during the run-up to the Iraq War, when Saddam Hussein portrayed himself as a new Saladin who would expel the new Crusaders.

Christianity Today: The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression--an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity--and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion--has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt--once the most heavily Christian areas in the world--quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Gov. Jindal on the President's comparison of modern-day ISIS to the Crusades of the 11th through the 13th centuries:

Bobby Jindal on Friday released a statement responding to the president's remarks on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in which he cautioned Americans from getting on a "high horse" when taking a stance against radical Islam because people have committed "terrible deeds" in the name of Christianity, too.

"It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast," Jindal said. "Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

Ace on the intellectual depth of Obama's National Prayer Breakfast comments:

But Obama doesn't deliver that; Obama delivers the same low-IQ, trite, Marxism for Dummies sh** that all glittering mediocrities like himself traffic in, for they can not manage any better.

Charles Krauthammer makes this point, mostly, when he says Obama's remarks were simultaneously "banal and offensive," and says further that these remarks are "adolescent."

Indeed. These are the Deep Thoughts of the Fourteen Year Old.

But I would go one step further. All fourteen year olds are not alike; some are clever and bookish and and full of interesting ideas (if not yet any wisdom).

And some are rather dull-witted and just want to sound like they may be clever. And these slow-witted 14-year-olds tend to just repeat, in a twittering high pitched pre-pubescent voice, a dumbed-down version of Recieved Wisdom they've heard from "Cool Adults."

All the "Cool Adults" the adolescent Obama knew were radicals and communists, and he has done far more pot than thinking since he heard these banal cliches, so what you're hearing is Obama straining to remember, through a pottish haze, what his dull 14-year-old boy brain heard from his communist benefactors in the late sixties and early seventies.

Victor Davis Hanson: Appeasement as narcissism

Throughout history, without the vanity of the conceder, there would never have been appeasement.

Appeasement also always subordinates the interests of vulnerable third parties to the appeaser's own inflated sense of self. When Chamberlain and the French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier signed the 1938 Munich Pact, they worried little about the fate of millions of Czechs who lost their country -- and less about millions of Poles who were next in line for Hitler's Blitzkrieg.

Reset diplomacy with Russia in 2009 was not much concerned about the ensuing danger to Crimeans or Ukrainians. When the Taliban takes over, hundreds of thousands of reformist Afghans will die.

Obama sees a deal with Iran as a way to cement his legacy as a breakthrough statesman. In comparison, the long-term consequences of a nuclear Iran on the security of tiny Israel or on the stability of the largely Sunni Arab Middle East are future and more abstract concerns for others.

Even major concessions never satisfy aggressive powers. It is a traditional Western liberal delusion -- brought on by our wealth, leisure and the good life -- that autocrats appreciate magnanimity rather than see it as timidity to be exploited further....

In truth, appeasement, not deterrence, is the more reckless path. With serial concessions, democratic leaders convince aggressors that they must be stronger than they actually are. Those fantasies increase the likelihood that weaker dictators and terrorists will miscalculate and set off a deadly confrontation down the road.

Yet the public often prefers appeasement. Military preparedness and investment are too costly. Backing up threats seems too scary. Churchills and Reagans sound shrill. Alliances, deterrence and balance of power sound so old-fashioned. Evil and good are derided as too simplistic. Defusing a crisis now is preferable to ensuring one down the road.

Appeasement continues not because it works, but because it serves the pretensions of narcissists.

Political Islam: The Muslim as dhimmi

To try to illustrate the conditions suffered by members of a "protected" minority in an Islamic state, Bill Warner turns the tables: What if Muslims were forced to live as dhimmis in the US?

Every one of the following examples I'm going to give you were the conditions under which Christians in Islamic countries were subjugated. To start off with: Muslims are forbidden to build new mosques. Muslims are prohibited from issuing their call to prayer any louder than can be heard from the sidewalk of the mosque. (This is a corollary of the prohibition of Christians' freedom to ring church bells loud enough to be heard by their congregation.) A minaret shall not be higher than 15 feet. Muslims cannot build houses greater in height than the height of houses owned by Christians. Muslims are forbidden from attaining any position of authority over Christians. Muslims shall not vote nor will they be recognized as citizens in any Kafir nation. Muslims are prohibited from serving in the military, police force nor hold any government position. Muslims shall not testify in Kafir courts nor will they be permitted to sue any Kafir. Muslims shall not give shelter in their mosque or homes to any jihadi. Muslims shall not teach Islam to any Kafir. Muslims shall not manifest Islam publicly and they shall not attempt to convert any Kafir and they will not prevent any Mohammedan from leaving the religion of Islam if they so wish. Muslims shall not own or carry any weapons. Muslims shall not drive cars, although they will be able to operate mopeds and ride bicycles. Muslims shall not display their books in the marketplace and Muslims will pay the Islamic tax (Jizya) of 50% of their income. Once a year they will shave their heads and kneel before the Kafir to present the Jizya. Any act of disobedience by an individual Muslim could result in collective punishment and nullify the Dhimma and cause the Kafirs to riot, murder and burn down the homes and mosques of the Muslims.

Now as you hear these rules, and it should be absolutely clear that if these laws were enacted and enforced in America Muslims would leave or they would apostatize and convert, which is exactly what Christians did in Turkey, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East. The same thing happened to the Buddhists and the Hindus when they were forcibly subjected to rules just like these and so, after a while, in utter desperation, they converted. It may have taken centuries, but they converted or escaped from the totalitarian Islamic countries.

Dr. Stephen Flick provides a summary of the the Christian Crusades and the Muslim crusades that preceded them:

The Christian Crusades against Muslims began nearly 470 years after the first Muslim Crusades against Christians were initiated in 630, when Muhammad himself led the way. From late in the eleventh century until the middle of the thirteenth century, waves of Christian crusaders attempted to recover lands lost to the Muslims after 630. Nearly 470 years passed from the time that Muslims began to crusade against Christian lands until Christians responded with the First Crusade, beginning on August 15, 1096. It should be noted that originally Christians did not conquer these lands with the sword, but with the life changing influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During the lifetime of Muhammad, Islam began a bloody campaign of conquest that has continued to the present era. A map of the progress of Islam will demonstrate the way in which Islam put to the sword Christian nation after Christian nation.

The Christian Crusades were attempts by Christians to save other Christian nations from the sword and dominance of Islam. It is a historical fact that sometimes Christian crusaders became opportunistic and even pillaged other Christians, but the original intent of the Crusades was to take back what Islam had taken from Christianity.

James M. Arlandson: Timeline of the Islamic Crusades. His conclusion:

Though European Crusaders may have been sincere, they wandered off from the origins of Christianity when they slashed and burned and forced conversions. Jesus never used violence; neither did he call his disciples to use it. Given this historical fact, it is only natural that the New Testament would never endorse violence to spread the word of the true God. Textual reality matches historical reality.

In contrast, Muslims who slashed and burned and forced conversions did not wander off from the origins of Islam, but followed it closely. It is a plain and unpleasant historical fact that in the ten years that Muhammad lived in Medina (622-632), he either sent out or went out on seventy-four raids, expeditions, or full-scale wars, which range from small assassination hit squads to the Tabuk Crusade, described above (see 630). Sometimes the expeditions did not result in violence, but a Muslim army always lurked in the background. Later on, Muhammad could exact a terrible vengeance on an individual or tribe that double-crossed him. These ten years did not know long stretches of peace.

Therefore, it is only natural that the Quran would be filled with references to jihad and qital, the latter word meaning only fighting, killing, warring, and slaughtering. Textual reality matches historical reality.

But this means that the Church had to fight back or be swallowed up by an aggressive religion over the centuries. Thus, the Church did not go out and conquer in a mindless, bloodthirsty, and irrational way--though the Christian Crusades were far from perfect.

Islam was the aggressor in its own Crusades, long before the Europeans responded with their own.

Totalitarian political movements must conquer and destroy societies governed by competing ideologies in order to survive. If an obstacle is too strong to conquer (as was the United States during the rise of Soviet Communism), then subversion is the plan. The Muslim Brotherhood, the same group that briefly took over Egypt, has a plan for America:

In the basement of [Ismail Elbarasse's] home [in Annandale, Va.], a hidden sub-basement was found; it revealed over 80 banker boxes of the archives of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America. One of the most important of these documents made public to date was entered into evidence during the Holy Land Foundation trial. It amounted to the Muslim Brotherhood's strategic plan for the United States and was entitled, "An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America." The Explanatory Memorandum was written in 1991 by a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and senior Hamas leader named Mohammed Akram. It had been approved by the Brotherhood's Shura Council and Organizational Conference and was meant for internal review by the Brothers' leadership in Egypt. It was certainly not intended for public consumption, particularly in the targeted society: the United States. For these reasons, the memo constitutes a Rosetta stone for the Muslim Brotherhood, its goals, modus operandi and infrastructure in America. It is arguably the single most important vehicle for understanding a secretive organization and should, therefore, be considered required reading for policy-makers and the public, alike....

Another extraordinarily important element of the Memorandum is its attachment. Under the heading " A List of Our Organizations and Organizations of Our Friends," Akram helpfully identified 29 groups as Muslim Brotherhood fronts. Many of them are even now, some twenty-two years later, still among the most prominent Muslim- American organizations in the United States. Worryingly, the senior representatives of these groups are routinely identified by U.S. officials as "leaders" of the Muslim community in this country, to be treated as "partners" in "countering violent extremism" and other outreach initiatives. Obviously, this list suggests such treatment translates into vehicles for deep penetration of the American government and civil society.

From the memorandum itself:

"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 6, 2015 6:20 PM.

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