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The Crusades

U.S. News and World Report (4/8/02) has an excellent feature article entitled "The Crusades. The truth about the epic clash between Christianity and Islam". It is the truth, nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth. It rightly calls attention to the opposing views of the Crusades in the West and in Islam, but it omits a key element: Spain. It says that as a result of the Crusades, there was a "proliferation of Crusader epics like the French Song of Roland", but that epic deals with the crusade in Spain: Charlemagne's attack on Moorish Saragossa, which was part of the crusade to free Spain from the Muslims who had overrun it. How can one say then that "The Crusades were an absolute failure"? The excellent map shows, in addition to the land routes, the sea routes around Spain to the Holy Land, but Spain itself is left blank. The Reconquest of Spain was a great success.

This omission invalidates the whole article, the theme of which is that the Crusaders were literally bloody fools, unlike the enlightened and magnanimous Saladin. Although merchants took Islam to the Far East, the conquest of North Africa and Spain was as bloody as any of the Crusader episodes. But for Charles Martel, who stopped them at Poitiers, the Islamic armies might have conquered all of Europe, which was their aim. It was this which led Christianity to seek revenge in the Crusades.

Going back to the origins of the two faiths, Christianity was founded on the pacifism of Jesus which inspired the perhaps misguided pacifism of the Quakers. His comment on those who crucified them was "Forgive them. They know not what they do". On the contrary, under Mohammed 600 Jews in Medina were slaughtered because they refused to recognize him as a prophet. He conquered Mecca not by peaceful persuasion but by a military campaign which was the first jihad. However pleased Muslims may be by an article which depicts them as victims of crazed Christians, is turns history upside down.

Ronald Hilton - 4/4/02