Truth about Crusades; They Roasted Babies and Raped Nuns-And That Was Just the Christians:as George Bush Launches His 'Crusade against Terrorism', What Can We Learn from This Most Terrible Period in History?
O'Casey, Sean, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: JOHN CASEY
PRESIDENT BUSH has called his war against terrorism 'a crusade'. That is a word we like to use in the West because it suggests a righteous fight, a battle for good against evil.
But 'crusade' has a very different and ominous meaning in the Arab and Moslem world. There, they take it literally as referring to the warfare Christendom conducted against the Moslems from the 11th to the 15th century.
To Christians, Crusades were chivalrous, high-minded battles inspired by the highest of ideals - the recovery of the land of Christ's birth for his followers.
In Moslem memory, the Crusaders were a collection of rude, licentious barbarians, moved by bloodlust and greed, who erupted into the centre of civilised Moslem order and attempted to impose European power on the Middle East through a puppet state centred on Jerusalem.
These opposite interpretations of the Crusades eerily resemble the disputes between the Arab world and the West about Western interference in the Middle East since World War I and the establishment of the state of Israel after World War II.
Behind the Crusades lies the memory of the Christian lands lost to the Moslems by force of arms. Before the rise of Islam, North Africa, Syria, Palestine and Egypt were great Christian countries.
However, the greatest beacon of faith in the Christian east was Constantinople (now Istanbul), a surviving Greek section of the Roman Empire, ruled by Emperors who were accepted as God's representatives on earth.
Constantinople was an incredibly wealthy and sophisticated city, the centre of commerce, art and scholarship which ruled the Christian east.
Then, suddenly, in the seventh century, this world began to implode. The tribes of Arabia - who had previously played no role in history - were united by the Prophet, Mohammed, partly by persuasion and partly by force of arms, and converted to a belief in one God.
The Moslem Arabs swept out of Arabia into the ancient Christian lands of the Midthedle East. In 637AD, Jerusalem itself fell to the armies of Islam. To the Christians, this was 'the abomination of desolation'.
JERUSALEM was sacred to all three faiths. To the Jews, it was the site of their ancient temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, while Christians revered the place where Christ had risen from the dead.
Moslems venerated Jerusalem as the place from where Mohammed was transported one night into the Seventh Heaven where he had a vision of God. So then, as now, the possession of Jerusalem was bitterly disputed.
Within a century of the Prophet's death in 632AD, Moslems had acquired an empire that embraced Spain, southern France, Central Asia and India.
By the 12th century, the Moslem Turks were beginning to threaten Constantinople.
Christians were horrified by the rise of Islam. They regarded Mohammed as a false prophet who had destroyed half of Christendom by conquest. Suddenly the Moslem world looked much more powerful than the Christian one. They felt threatened.
From the beginning (as related in Stephen Runciman's classic History Of The Crusades), the Crusades were represented as a Holy War - the exact equivalent of the Moslem jihad.
The First Crusade was proclaimed by Pope Urban II in 1095AD. He promised that anyone who died in battle fighting for the Church would go straight to heaven - exactly as the Moslem suicidebombers and hijackers were convinced that Paradise awaited their own act of jihad and martyrdom.
The First Crusade was led by a minority of noble Knights from France, England, Germany and Italy - and accompanied by a variegated throng of peasants.
One of its stars was Peter the Hermit, a French monk, who had visions, was a powerful and charismatic preacher and lived on fish and wine.
His followers, described by contemporaries as 'stinking', dressed in sack- cloth and filthy rags, set out in their thousands for Jerusalem, via Balkans and Constantinople-foraging in the countryside, which they stripped bare, for they had no supplies. …