Jihadists have long accused the United States and her allies of engaging in a crusade against Islam. The “crusader” label has been hurled at me several times, and I’ve proudly grabbed it as it flew by.
A lot of brilliant people cringe at any suggestion that we are in the midst of a crusade. At first glance, as a Christian, taking up the cross and marching into battle sounds kind of glorious, but in reality the crusades represent a period of horrendous and largely unprovoked brutality against Muslims by Christians – a little detail a lot of Christians seem to ignore.
So, where did all this talk about a crusade get started? Are we engaged in a crusade or not?
First, it might be helpful to understand what a crusade is. According to Webster’s II New College Dictionary, a crusade is: 1) One of the military expeditions undertaken by European Christians in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to win back the Holy Land from the Muslims. 2) A holy war undertaken with papal sanction. 3) A vigorous concerted movement against an abuse or for a cause.
Setting the Stage
From the time of Mohammed, Muslims had sought to conquer the Christian world. By the end of the 11th century, Muslim armies had conquered two-thirds of it. Palestine, Egypt, and Asia Minor were all under Muslim control. The Turks were advancing westward toward Constantinople – the epicenter of Byzantine Christianity. What was left of the Christian world was going to have to defend itself or succumb to Islamic conquest.
Realizing the imminent fall of the empire, the Byzantine emperor asked Pope Urban II in Rome for help. It was a sure bet because Western Christians would either have to join the battle or face being conquered in their own lands later on.
Furthermore, Pope Urban II was trying to resolve minor squabbles in the church and so calling for a crusade would be a rallying point toward solving those problems. So, in November 1095, at the Council of Clermont, he called upon the noblemen of Europe to rise up to defend Christianity against Muslim expansion. Interestingly, he took it upon himself to promise a life in heaven for those who answered the call. He said “Accordingly, undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of heaven.”
At the time, Western Europe was a fairly primitive place compared to the Middle East. Feudalism had been the main form of government for several generations. Monarchs and central governments were just beginning to reemerge. Noblemen of modest means didn’t have many opportunities to advance socially or economically. The only things people could count on were their honor, reputation, and religion.
The First Crusade was a terrible risk for crusaders in terms of life and fortune so most of those who answered the call did so to fulfill religious duties rather than to gain economically or politically.
In contrast, Muslims were capitalizing on ancient Greek learning and had made significant advances in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. In religious terms, Islam was the most tolerant religion at the time. Socially and economically, Jews and Christians could rise and prosper; they were allowed to worship without too much difficulty. Those who had converted to Islam under duress were allowed to return to their faiths without being charged with apostasy – a crime which otherwise called for a death sentence (as it does today).
For Western Christians, the church was the primary force in most people’s lives and people lived on faith in God – or fear of his anger. Pilgrimages were very popular at the time. People frequently traveled to holy places according to their faith. Priests sometimes prescribed a pilgrimage as a way for sinners to perform penance, an act showing remorse for having been sinful. Jerusalem had been under Muslim control since 638 and pilgrimages had never been a problem before. However, Muslim conquests of holy lands led to a fear that Christians would be prevented from traveling to holy places like the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The recovery of Jerusalem to Christian control became a primary objective of every crusader.
The First Crusade
There was a military code of conduct at the time which gave ownership of not only conquered lands but also conquered people to successful armies. Cities and fortresses were heavily fortified with walls so all that was within them would not become the spoils of war to long-term attacking armies. Cities and fortresses that resisted in battle could expect to be treated more harshly than those who surrendered quickly, so defenders had to weigh carefully how well their defenses would hold. Those with weak defenses usually negotiated terms of surrender rather quickly. Those who resisted were usually put to the sack – meaning most inhabitants were either killed or sold into slavery.
Worth noting is that Muslim armies at the time were not excessively brutal so people who surrendered quickly were usually allowed to go about their lives with only modest changes to the way they lived.
Jerusalem resisted the crusader invasion to the very end. Almost four years later, in July 1099, the crusaders conquered it and, in what has been described as an orgy of killing, executed almost every man, woman, and child who lived within the city walls. The brutality shown by Christian crusaders shocked just about everyone and the conquest became a rather large stain on the Catholic Church. Militarily, however, the first crusade was a success in that Christianity was defended, Jerusalem was delivered to Christian control, and free passage was assured for religious pilgrims.
There were literally hundreds of other crusades but none of them came close to achieving the military outcome of the first. Muslims at the time were fighting wars with many groups, and among themselves, so Christians were just another pack of infidels that would eventually need to be dealt with. After a while, fighting between Western Europeans and Muslims just stopped and each side turned their attentions to other things.
The first crusaders incurred significant costs in terms of money and blood; so much so that Voltaire quipped that leprosy was the only thing that Europe had gained from the crusades.
Fast Forward to the Present
It seems odd the Osama bin Laden often referred to Americans as “Crusaders” since Muslim expansion during the Middle Ages resulted in Islam being the superpower of the Western world until the late 16th century. With the exception of the First Crusade, literally hundreds of other crusades were unsuccessful at stopping Muslim expansionism. Al Qaeda rhetoric toward the West invoked the “Crusader” image for years as a way of inflaming hatred for the United States in the hearts and minds of people who barely knew what the Crusades were. From the Muslim perspective, the Crusades were barely worth noticing – there were no written accounts of them in Islamic literature until hundreds of years later.
During the 19th century, when Europeans began conquering and colonizing the Middle East, many historians incorrectly redefined the Crusades as Europe’s first attempt to deliver Western civilization to the barbaric Muslim world. In other words, the Crusades were redefined into imperialist wars. Islamists seized on this revisionist history to blame the West for everything bad that happened to Muslims since the crusades.
Christianity has always forbidden coerced conversion of any kind. Conversion by the sword is not possible in Christianity. Unlike jihad, the purpose of the crusades was neither to expand the Christian world nor to convert Muslims to Christianity.
According to Wikipedia, jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word translates as a noun meaning “struggle”. It appears 41 times in the Qur’an and frequently in the idiomatic expression “striving in the way of God”. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims.
There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties. The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam. This physical struggle can take a violent form or a non-violent form. The proponents of the violent form translate jihad as “holy war”.
Defensive jihad is the defense of Muslim communities. Islamic instruction holds that when Muslims are attacked, then it becomes an obligation for all Muslims of that land to defend against the attack. The Qur’an requires military defense of the besieged Islamic community.
Offensive Jihad, in contrast with defensive Jihad, is armed Jihad meant to expand Islamic domination. The fundamental purpose of offensive jihad is to expand the realm of Islam (Dar al Islam) at the expense of the House of War (Dar al-Harb). In other words, offensive jihad seeks to conquer non-Muslims and place them under Muslim rule. These principals were derived by Islamic jurists to achieve the ultimate goal of dominance of the Islamic faith and to establish social order through Sharia law. Those who are conquered are given a simple choice. Those who are not People of the Book (people who are not Christians or Jews) must either convert to Islam or die. Those who are People of the Book (Christians and Jews) must either submit to Muslim rule and live under Islamic (Sharia) law or die.
Shortly after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, comparisons between the invasion and the crusades started showing up in the media. Despite the word “crusade” being tossed about in media circles, it wasn’t until it was used by President George W. Bush in speeches honoring the lives of more than 3,000 victims of offensive jihad that the Islamic propaganda machine shifted into high gear.
President Bush said, “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient. But I can assure the American people I am determined, I’m not going to be distracted, I will keep my focus to make sure that not only are these brought to justice, but anybody who’s been associated will be brought to justice. Those who harbor terrorists will be brought to justice. It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully.”
When President Bush used the word “crusade” in his unscripted public address regarding the 9-11 attacks, he unwittingly acknowledged claims that Bin Laden had been making for years. Bin Laden said, “So Bush has declared in his own words: Crusader attack. The odd thing about this is that he has taken the words right out of our mouth. So the world today is split into two parts, as Bush said: either you are with us, or you are with terrorism. Either you are with the Crusade or you are with Islam. Bush’s image today is of him being in the front of the line, yelling and carrying his big cross”
Following the attacks on 9-11, it was immediately evident that the rest of the world would not be immune from offensive jihad as other deadly attacks took place in Spain, Bali Indonesia, and elsewhere. Despite these horrific events, the President’s use of the word was heavily criticized in Europe and Arabic-speaking countries as though it was an admission that the West was offensively at war with Islam – a belief that numerous speeches, commentaries, and diplomatic efforts tried to dispel.
For the West, terrorism is a threat on a political and economic level. The terrorist attacks that have taken place so far have not just killed and maimed innocent lives but they also impacted the economies of the countries in which they occurred.
With all the executions and beheadings of entire non-Muslim families in the name of Islam over the years, it would be difficult to describe jihadists as defenders of the oppressed. Every day we hear reports about the latest suicide bombings, videotaped threats, thwarted attacks and body counts. So many groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf, Al Jihad, Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al-Islam, and many others have declared jihad that it’s hard to keep them all straight.
From Lebanon, Syria and Egypt to Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia; from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to Pakistan and Afghanistan – in almost every country from the Middle East to the Far East, Muslims are fighting to advance their own “holy” cause of achieving Islamic domination.
Religious Leadership Supports Jihad
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam was a scholar, preacher and contemporary proponent of Jihad until his death in 1998. He argued that although offensive jihad does not have the very high priority that defensive jihad to defend Muslim lands has, it is still a religious obligation. He said, “Where the Kuffar (“infidels”) are not gathering to fight the Muslims, the fighting becomes Fard Kifaya [religious obligation on Muslims] with the minimum requirement of sending of an army at least once a year to terrorize the enemies of Allah.
Some pundits in the media have declared that we are in an “Age of Terror” and that there is no way to permanently eliminate these violent groups, so it is better to negotiate some kind of peaceful coexistence. But are we really ready to concede victory so easily? Do we really not understand – or care – that the ultimate goal of Islam is global domination and forced conversion by the sword?
In the past, I have proclaimed that I have several Muslim friends, and not a single one of them wishes me harm. I still want to believe that, but my thinking has changed. I’ve grown disenchanted with most Muslims who live among us because they, for the most part, set idly by as their “radical” brothers and sisters wreak havoc. We accept this because we believe that they must be practicing a more enlightened form of Islam. I realize now they’re not. They are “practicing” life in a non-Muslim country where they are free to live as they choose. If an individual Muslim is a peaceful person, it’s not because of Islam. It’s because of his individual choice to live his life in that manner.
When you see a Muslim who has assimilated into a Western culture, you’re seeing an individual living up to the old saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. But a good Muslim, by our standards is a bad Muslim by Islamic standards. I have tried, personally, to find a way of not throwing the baby out with the bath water on this but the reality is that good human beings who identify themselves as Muslim give Islam a good face, resulting in a false impression about what we are up against – and that is dangerous. It leads to our acceptance of stealth jihadists who have figured out how to say what we want to hear, while they scheme behind the scenes to further Islamize the West.
The Qur’an contains several passages as well as the example of Mohammad whereby Muslims are encouraged to deceive non-Muslims when doing so will protect Islam. The principle of “taqiyya” or “religious deception” arose out of a need to protect Islam when Muslims are not prepared to succeed is open confrontation. Since, according to the Qur’an, Islamic and non-Islamic parts of the world exist in a state of war, deceit is a legitimate strategy for avoiding confrontation until victory can be assured. In all fairness, deceit is a strategy used by all military commanders since the beginning of warfare. The difference here is that it is highly sanctioned by Islam. So, we are left to wonder if we can ever trust anything we hear from our Muslims “friends” – even when our very lives depend on it.
The Muslim world is where the true meaning of Islam can be found in practice. The West has been strongly criticized as being too secular, where just about anything goes because our laws and cultural beliefs allow it. If that measure works against the West, it surely works against Islam as well. People under Islamic rule endure misogyny, censorship, anti-Semitism, homophobia, wife-beatings, beheadings, honor killings, pedophilia (child marriages), the murder of infidels, burning of Christian churches (with Christian still inside), mothers who encourage their children to blow themselves up, and the list goes on and on. This is evil, and Islam sanctions every bit of it; yet we’ve been told that we have to respect Islam because it is “one of the world’s great religions”. This just doesn’t make sense.
The Muslim Brotherhood
So, the West is under incredible social pressure to trust people who we should not trust about a peaceful religion that is not peaceful. The values that we cherish as free people are placed on a collision course with a religion that seeks to undermine and destroy our freedoms. The whole situation is mind-boggling and very troubling. Thankfully, our President’s new best friend in the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood, is here to help us understand a new and gentler kind of Islam. It seems reasonable that the best source of information about Islam according to the Muslim Brotherhood would be from – where else – the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a very active public relations presence and they are always happy to explain Islam according to their view. The problem is that the principal of “taqiyya” or “religious deception” should rightfully cause us to feel a little discomfort about trusting anything we hear. So, the most trustworthy source of information about the Muslim Brotherhood might be information the organization provides to other Muslims. It is reasonable that these sources of information might be withdrawn by the Muslim Brotherhood if/when they realize non-Muslims might overhear what they are saying to other Muslims. Thankfully, information that gets published to the Internet can be almost impossible to remove. Such is the case here.
Let’s take a look at the Arabic–speaking website of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is archived at: http://web.archive.org/web/20030915173813/http://www.ikhwanonline.com/Who.asp
Note: This link is to an archive of the original Arabic language website. Unless you read Arabic, you will need to translate the page to a language you understand. This can be accomplished by most modern web browsers. If all else fails, use the Google Translate service.
Clicking the links “The Goals of the Muslim Brotherhood” and “Muslim Brotherhood Measures” leads to explanations of jihad based on the writings of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. Jihad, he says, is Islam’s most important tool in effecting a gradual takeover, beginning with Muslim countries under secular rule, moving on to reestablishing the Caliphate over three continents in preparation for a conquest of the West, and finally instituting a global Islamic state. The following are quotations from the organization’s website:
We want a Muslim individual, a Muslim home, a Muslim people, a Muslim government and state that will lead the Islamic countries and bring into the fold the Muslim diaspora and the lands robbed from Islam and will then bear the standard of jihad and the call [da'wah] to Allah. [Then the] world will happily accept the precepts of Islam….The problems of conquering the world will only end when the flag of Islam waves and jihad has been proclaimed.
The goal is to establish one Islamic state of united Islamic countries, one nation under one leadership whose mission will be to reinforce adherence to the law of Allah…and the strengthening of the Islamic presence in the world arena….The goal…is the establishment of a world Islamic state.
According to the Muslim Brotherhood, jihad, that is, holy war against the infidels, is one of the fundamental elements spread by the organization. Their ideology, as it appears on the official website, regards “the Prophet Muhammad as its leader and ruler, and jihad as its path.” Jihad has a global strategy beyond self-defense; it is the unceasing attack on every infidel rule, intended to widen the borders of the Islamic state until all mankind lives under the Islamic flag.
Now, aren’t you glad that the United States is pumping suitcases full of money and military hardware into the hands of Egypt’s newly-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who was himself a founding and senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood until he distanced himself from the organization to further his bid for the election?
So, Are We Crusaders?
Despite the years that have passed since the First Crusade, Muslims are still in the middle of a battleground. The issues that keep them there are different today but they do share some commonalities. Islamic expansion and a never-ending obligation to establish a global caliphate has placed Muslims in direct confrontation with the non-Muslim world – and that is not going to change…ever. In both the Crusades and the War on Terror, the West was called upon by besieged free-thinking people to mount a unified challenge against Muslim expansionism – a threat faced by the entire non-Muslim world.
The question has been asked: Are non-Muslims in the midst of a final conflict with Muslims over the installation of a global Islamic caliphate, or is the notion of another crusade merely a propaganda tool being used by evil people to justify a bloody and unholy war?
An article in the August 2001 issue of The Philadelphia Trumpet, a Protestant magazine entitled The Last Crusade opened with the lines “Most people think the crusades for Jerusalem are a thing of the past – over forever. They are wrong. Preparations are being made for a final crusade, and it will be the bloodiest of all!” I think they got it right.
Regardless of whether we see ourselves as crusaders, it is clear that the enemy does. We have mistakenly called this a War on Terror far too long. It is time we stop with the political correctness and accept the “crusader” label jihadists have given us. We should wear it proudly like a cross on our chest, and we should fight jihadists today with just as much determination as crusaders did in the past.
The West is not at war with Islam; Islam is at war with the West. If we fail to recognize this truth much longer, then only Jesus Christ will be able to save us.