Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Crusade Historians Reveal That Islamic Violence Was One Cause of Crusades

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Crusade Historians Reveal That Islamic Violence Was One Cause of Crusades

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Holt

President Barack Obama's comments at a National Prayer Breakfast caused controversy when he compared medieval crusaders with modern ISIS militants.

The president warned Christians against getting on their "high horse" by pointing out that religious violence is not unique to Islam as during the crusades (among other things) Christians "committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."

In the days following his speech, Christian commentators and conservative pundits expressed outrage at the comparison, arguing either that it was a false equivalency or irrelevant since the crusades took place centuries ago.


But beyond these critics, another group also expressed concerns with the president's comments - crusade historians.

Thomas Madden, a historian at St. Louis University, stated, "I don't think the president knows very much about the crusades. ... He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS. ... The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that had been conquered, due to Muslim conquests."

Similarly, Paul Crawford, a historian at California University of Pennsylvania, has commented, "The comparison is unjustified by the sources of medieval history. ... There is no moral equivalence between the crusades and Islamic terrorism."

Thomas Asbridge, a historian at the University of London, argued that to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the medieval crusades is "grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence."


Regardless of such comments, I am certain that these leading crusade historians would agree with the president that terrible acts were sometimes committed in the name of Christ during the crusades.

I know of no serious historian of the Middle Ages who would claim otherwise. So then, what were they upset about?

There has been a significant, even dominant, view in crusades scholarship for decades that holds that the crusading movement began at least partly in response to Islamic violence directed toward medieval Christian societies. …

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