The cultural relativists on the Left and apologists for radical Islam like to blame the Crusades for almost everything. The Muslim extremists are only responding to the deeds of Christian extremists, the argument goes. In his new book, Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies, former Muslim Ibn Warraq takes on this misleading theme intended to blame the West for the Muslim world’s troubles.
The claim that the Crusades are the starting point of Islamic jihad is basically the political application of, “For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.” It equates the Christian beliefs driving the Crusades with the Islamic beliefs driving jihad.
Ibn Warraq’s new book tackles this misconception. Islamic atrocities were not provoked by the Crusaders’ own reprehensible acts, but preceded them. Islamic jihad was not triggered by the Crusades; it preceded them.
In fact, as explained by Warraq and in books like The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and What's So Great About Christianity, the Christian world was reduced to about one-third of what it was by the sword of jihad. The Crusades were launched with the objective of, without any exaggeration, saving Europe and Western civilization from Sharia.
My personal experience in school is that the opposite was taught. The Crusades were framed as offensive and the jihads as defensive. The Crusaders were depicted as barbarians, particularly to Jews. I cannot recall hearing about a single Islamic atrocity before or during these wars.
This is a common phenomenon, Warraq explains, and it’s part of an overall trend when it comes to education about the history of Islam.
“What are seen as positive aspects of Islamic Civilization are ecstatically praised, even exaggerated, and all the negative aspects are imputed to the arrival of the pestilential Westerners, and where the Arabs, Persians and Muslims in general are seen as passive victims,” Warraq said in an interview.
As proof, Warraq and the other authors mention the countless mass killings and persecutions of Christians and Jews before the Crusades. The destruction of over 30,000 churches during a 10-year period starting in 1004 AD is little-known. So is the burning of crosses, the beheading of converts to Christianity from Islam, the destruction of Christian holy sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the forced tax for non-Muslims (the jizya) and the list goes on and on.
Modern-day Islamists and their apologists point to these times as proof of the historical tolerance of Islamic civilization. Islam-ruled Spain (Andalucia) and the city of Cordoba are held up as the golden examples of interfaith coexistence. For example, the Islamic Society of North America’s official publication included an article in its March-April issue titled, “Andalucia: Paradise Still Lost?”
One of the most interesting claims made in Waraq’s book is that the Crusades did not have a permanent impact on the Muslim psychology. Part of the reason is because the Muslim world viewed the wars as an overall victory.
“Many believe that modern Muslims have inherited from their medieval ancestors memories of crusader violence and destruction. But nothing could be further from the truth. By the fourteenth century, in the Islamic world the Crusades had almost passed out of mind,” Warraq said.
This begs the question of what revived the relevancy of the Crusades in how the Muslim world views the West.
Warraq says that the Crusades were reentered into the discourse by Europe. Imperialism was purposely framed as a continuation of the Crusades; something particularly agitating for the growing Arab nationalist movement.
“Nineteenth, and even early twentieth century Europeans unashamedly used crusader rhetoric and a tendentious reading of crusader history to justify their imperial dreams of conquest,” according to Warraq.
The Arab world’s insecurities over its falling behind were blamed on the European colonists that were viewed as Crusaders. This theme “eases the guilty consciences of the Arabs themselves: it is not their fault that they are such abject failures—it is all the fault of the Crusaders.”
In addition, attributing the backwardness of the Muslim world to the “Crusaders” allowed Sharia Law to escape responsibility. At the same time, complaining about the Crusades actually provided Muslims with hope in the face of Western superiority.
As Dinesh D’Souza explains, “So the Crusades can be seen as a belated, clumsy and unsuccessful effort to defeat Islamic imperialism.”
However, Warraq emphasizes that his point isn’t to blame the West for its use of Crusader rhetoric. The jihad existed before the Crusades and during the period when they “had almost passed out of mind” of the Muslim world.
“My point is that Islamic jihad did not end with the defeat of the Crusaders. On the contrary, in Islamic doctrine all the later Islamic conquests were seen as a part of the religious duty of carrying out jihad until the entire world submits to Islam,” he said.
Blaming the Crusades is a way of denying the Islamic supremacist ideology that has driven the conflict from the beginning.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
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