Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Crusades Cannot Be Compared to Jihad

It is an article of faith on the left, a standard interpretation of Western history, a big lie repeated over and over again in textbooks, newspapers, articles, blog posts and conversations: the crusades were worse than any Muslim violence and aggression in history. This is false and misleading. It is a line I fell for in my book, Rethinking Christ and Culture, and I now want to correct the record.

This is an excellent article which summarizes the facts of history concisely and precisely: "Enough is Enough: The Crusades and the Jihad are Not Equivalents" by Joe Hargrave at the American Catholic blog. You can read the work of Rodney Stark or many contemporary medieval historians for yourself or you can get an introduction to the basic issues from this excellent little piece. Let me summarize some of the main points here, but by all means please read Hargraves' post for yourself.

First, the crusades were a defensive reaction to Muslim invasion of the Holy Land and continental Europe itself. Muslims did invade, conquer and occupy by force many Christian lands including North Africa and Asia Minor. It is crucial to remember that it was the Muslims who were the aggressors and it was the Europeans who fought defensive wars for the first 1000 years of the rivalry between Islam and Christendom.

Second, when Europeans committed atrocities, such as pogroms against Jews, they acted against the teachings of their religion, whereas when the Muslims did so they acted in accordance with the teachings of their religion.

Third, Christianity has advanced over the last 1000 years and does not advocate religious violence today, whereas Islam has not advanced in a similar way and the militant and violent strains of Islam are growing not declining.

Fourth, the goals of the Crusades did not include forced conversion of Muslims to Christianity, whereas the many Islamic jihads in history have had as stated policy their intention to make conditions as harsh for non-converts as possible in order to coerce conversion to Islam.

Fifth, the Crusades ultimately failed and the forces of Islam invaded Europe occupying Spain and southern Italy and eventually failing to conquer Europe only because of European victories at Vienna in 1529 and 1683. This was a resumption of the attempt to invade Europe that was turned back by Charles Martel in 732 at Tours, France.

Sixth, it was only in the so-called "Age of Enlightenment" when anti-Christian atheism had gripped the European mind that Europe actually invaded and colonized the Middle East and North Africa. Secularism and atheism are more to blame for Western colonialism than Christianity, which has worked to mitigate many of the evils of colonialism (eg. the abolition of slavery).

In this light of these facts, the leftist slander of Christendom and whitewashing of Islam needs to be corrected and reversed.

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