Whenever we in the West are confronted with the brutality of the „Islamic State“, the mass executions, the beheadings carried out with butcher knives, the public live burning of people, the throwing of homosexuals from rooftops, the public stoning and all the other barbaric acts, all recorded on the technical equipment of the West and transmitted in the world using the infrastructure of the West, there is always someone who blurts out: „The Christians were not much better. Just think of the Crusades!“
OK, let’s discuss the Crusades!
The Crusades were preceded by a brutal Islamic expansion which began in the 7th century. Large areas were conquered militarily and entire populations were subjugated under Islamic rule. Christian areas were then settled by Arab-Muslim conquerors in the Middle East, in North Africa and in Italy. The island of Sardinia was conquered and then Rome was attacked in 846, whereby the Basilica of St. Peter was destroyed. Spain and Portugal were also conquered by the early „Islamic State“. Under the reign of the Caliph al-Hakim, the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre of Christ, one of the most significant sanctuaries of Christianity, occurred in 1009.
The First Crusade was an answer to Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos’ request for military support against Islamic expansion. On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II finally rallied Christians at the Council of Clermont for a crusade to recapture the so-called „Holy Land“.
Does that sound familiar? People ask for help against an „Islamic State“ which is raging with unbridled barbarism?
Urban II called upon Christians to push the Muslims out of the Middle East and to reclaim the holy places of Jerusalem. Back then, the „Islamic State“ didn’t face a West with enlightened democracies, but rather several absolutist Christian monarchies. At that time, many Christians were at least as fanatical and fundamentalist as many Muslims were then and still are today!
After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, crusaders who died in battle were hailed as martyrs. The Church emphasized the religious dimensions of the crusades by making participation an honorable „penance“, which was allegedly promulgated directly from God through the Pope’s words. Crusaders even made legally binding vows, similar to a pilgrimage commitment. They firmly believed in an honorable death for the Church and God. Many Christians were religious warriors as many Muslims were then and still are today.
During the Crusades, fundamentalists faced off against fundamentalists. It was a brutal, chaotic period in which all principles of reason were thrown overboard. The chaos of those times is clearly described in Heinrich Heine’s play, „Almansor“.
The play takes place in the 15th century, several centuries after the first Crusades. The rule of the early „Islamic State“ in Spain and Portugal was being terminated by Christian knights under the inquisitorial Cardinal Mateo Ximenes de Cisneros. The piece vividly describes the horrors and irrationality of this religious war.
The most famous dialogue is between two Muslims upon an act of provocation, a public burning of the Quran:
Almansor: We heard that the terrible Ximenes, at the market place of Granada – my tongue freezes in my mouth – threw the Quran into a flaming pyre!
Hassan: That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.
The craziness of this dialogue is the fact that the Muslim, Hassan, as a brutal religious fanatic, thinks it worse when a copy of the Quran is burned than if people were slaughtered. At one point he says:
„To those fighters once I had joined in the mountains, the cold sneer, fled with flaming heart. Just as the snow up there, never do the embers in our breast disappear; as those mountains never move, so never wavered our faithfulness; and how often we rolled down from those mountains as crushing stone boulders, from those heights to the Christian people in the valley; and when they died gasping, as distant whimpering mourning bells, and fear chants dully, the sound was a sweetness in our ears.“
A man, who criticizes book burning, slaughtered people. For Hassan burning a copy of the Quran is a mortal sin, but the killing of Christians resonates „sweetness in his ears“.
Does that sound familiar? There are those Islamists who are immeasurably indignant when their religion is insulted, but find it perfectly acceptable to kill in the name of religion. The Islamists of today are no different from the Islamists back then! The West, however, has changed. In the West, no longer do absolutist Christian monarchs rule; instead we have democratically elected governments that are committed to the Enlightenment. The Caliphate no longer faces a Christian empire, but rather a multicultural, democratic and enlightened West.
The question remains: How should the West react?
Of course, the West can not recruit fanatical warriors as Christian kingdoms did in the Middle Ages to combat Islam. Critical reasoning of the Enlightenment prohibits that, but the West needs a strategy to counter the „Islamic State’s” plan for world-wide domination.
Times have changed, more so for Christianity than for Islam!
Even today, Mecca, one of the holiest places in the Islamic world, may only be entered by Muslims. In Mecca, as in all of Saudi Arabia, apostasy is punishable by death; homosexuality and blasphemy, also. A person who commits adultery is stoned. Those who have sex before marriage are flogged. The hands of thieves are chopped off, also the hands and feet of robbers. All these legal punishments also belong to the repertoire of the „Islamic State“. Imagine if all that would occur at the Vatican, the Catholic equivalent of Mecca!
Christianity of the past is history. However, Islam of that time, unchanged, is still with us. Today, there’s a crusade going on, but it’s an Islamic crusade. The West would do well to quickly develop a strategy on how it intends to confront this threat.
(Translation: William Wires)