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Understanding Islam
Learn more at CBN.com's Understanding Islam section
 
COMMENTARY

1,400 Years of Christian/Islamic Struggle: An Analysis

By Richard C. Csaplar, Jr.
Guest Columnist

CBN.com I was very disappointed to see that U.S. News would publish a clearly false article, adopting the world's clearly false, politically correct (PC) view of the place of the Crusades in history. What makes it even worse, the article hides its views under the additional headline falsehood, "The Truth About the Epic Clash Between Christianity and Islam."

Let me explain.

The opening heading states, "During the Crusades, East and West first met." This is just totally in error, as any person with the slightest knowledge of history well knows. East and West had been fighting for at least 1,500 years before the first Crusade.

To give just a few examples -- the Persians invaded Europe in an attempt to conquer the Greeks in the fifth century B.C. The Greek, Alexander the Great, attempted to conquer all of Asia, as far as India, in the fourth century B.C. Both the Persians of the east and the Greeks of the west set up colonial empires founded upon bloody military conquest. The Romans established by bloody military conquest colonies in Mesopotamia, northwestern Arabia, and Assyria in the second century A.D.

A different type of bloody conquest occurred through the movement of whole tribal groups between the east and the west. Again, just to name a few, the Huns, the Goths, and the Avars came from as far away as western Asia, central Asia, and China respectively in the fifth through the seventh centuries A.D. Indeed, the Avars from northern China and Mongolia were besieging Constantinople in 626 A.D., at the very moment Mohammed was a merchant in Arabia. Indeed, the Avars, by this siege, were one of the forces that weakened the Byzantines (there were many other, perhaps more important, forces) to the extent that most of the Byzantine mid-eastern empire fell relatively easily to the Muslims.

But let's give the writer the benefit of the doubt and say that the author meant that "During the Crusades, Islam and Christianity first met." This, of course, is also totally false.

Let us review the Muslim conquest. In 624, Mohammed led a raid for booty and plunder against a Meccan caravan, killing 70 Meccans for mere material gain. Between 630 A.D. and the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., Muslims -- on at least one occasion led by Mohammed -- had conquered the bulk of western Arabia and southern Palestine through approximately a dozen separate invasions and bloody conquests. These conquests were in large part "Holy wars," putting the lie to another statement in the U.S. News article that proclaimed the Crusades "The First Holy War," as if the Christians had invented the concept of a holy war. After Mohammed's death in 632, the new Muslim caliph, Abu Bakr, launched Islam into almost 1,500 years of continual imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest and subjugation of others through invasion and war, a role Islam continues to this very day.

You will note the string of adjectives and may have some objection to my using them. They are used because they are the absolute truth. Anyone denying them is a victim of PC thinking, ignorant of history, or lying to protect Islam. Let us take each word separately before we proceed further in our true history of the relationship between the Christian west and the Islamic east.

Imperialistic

The Muslim wars of imperialist conquest have been launched for almost 1,500 years against hundreds of nations, over millions of square miles (significantly larger than the British Empire at its peak). The lust for Muslim imperialist conquest stretched from southern France to the Philippines, from Austria to Nigeria, and from central Asia to New Guinea. This is the classic definition of imperialism -- "the policy and practice of seeking to dominate the economic and political affairs of weaker countries."

Colonialist

The Muslim goal was to have a central government, first at Damascus, and then at Baghdad -- later at Cairo, Istanbul, or other imperial centers. The local governors, judges, and other rulers were appointed by the central imperial authorities for far off colonies. Islamic law was introduced as the senior law, whether or not wanted by the local people. Arabic was introduced as the rulers' language, and the local language frequently disappeared. Two classes of residents were established. The native residents paid a tax that their colonialist rulers did not have to pay.

Although the law differed in different places, the following are examples of colonialist laws to which colonized Christians and Jews were made subject to over the years:

  • Christians and Jews could not bear arms -- Muslims could;
  • Christians and Jews could not ride horses -- Muslims could;
  • Christians and Jews had to get permission to build -- Muslims did not;
  • Christians and Jews had to pay certain taxes which Muslims did not;
  • Christians could not proselytize -- Muslims could;
  • Christians and Jews had to bow to their Muslim masters when they paid their taxes; and
  • Christians and Jews had to live under the law set forth in the Koran, not under either their own religious or secular law.

In each case, these laws allowed the local conquered people less freedom than was allowed the conquering colonialist rulers. Even non-Arab Muslim inhabitants of the conquered lands became second class citizens behind the ruling Arabs. This is the classic definition of colonialist -- "a group of people who settle in a distant territory from the state having jurisdiction or control over it and who remain under the political jurisdiction of their native land."

We will talk about "bloody" as we proceed. Because the U.S. News article related only to the Christian west against the Muslim east, except in this paragraph I will not describe the almost 1,500 years of Muslim imperialistic, colonialist, bloody conquest and subjugation of others through invasion and war to the east of Arabia in Iraq, Persia, and much further eastward, which continues to this day.

In any event, because it was the closest geographically, Palestine was the first Western non-Arab area invaded in the Muslim imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest and subjugation of others. At the time, Palestine was under the rule of the so-called Eastern Roman Empire, ruled from Istanbul by Greek speaking people, and was Eastern Orthodox Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox rule was despotic and the Eastern Roman Empire was in serious decline. The Eastern Orthodox rulers were despots, and in Palestine had subjugated the large population of local Jews and Monophysite Christians. Because the Orthodox were imperialist, colonialist, and bloody, and majored in religious persecution to boot, the Muslim imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest and subjugation of Palestine, and then Egypt, was made easier. Because of Orthodox weakness and the relative speed of the conquest of Palestine and Israel, I have often seen this Muslim, imperialist, colonialist bloody conquest described by Muslim and PC writers as "peaceful" or "bloodless." This statement is simply not true.

The Muslim imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest and subjugation of Palestine began with a battle, the August 20, 636, battle of Yarmk (it is believed that 75,000 soldiers took part -- hardly bloodless). With the help of the local Jews who welcomed the Muslims as liberators, the Muslims had subjugated the remainder of Palestine but had not been able to capture Jerusalem. Beginning in July 637, the Muslims began a siege of Jerusalem which lasted for five (hardly bloodless) months before Jerusalem fell in February 638. Arabs did not sack the city, and the Arab soldiers were apparently kept in tight control by their leaders. No destruction was permitted. This was indeed a triumph of civilized control, if imperialism, colonization, and bloody conquest can ever be said to be "civilized." It was at this conquest that many significant hallmarks of Muslim colonialism began. The conquered Christian and Jewish people were made to pay a tribute to the colonialist Muslims. In addition, Baghdad used the imperialist, colonialist, bloody wars of conquest throughout the life of its empire to provide the Caliphate with a steady stream of slaves, many of whom were made eunuchs.

The Muslim conquest of (Christian) North Africa went relatively easily until the native peoples of North Africa (most importantly the Berbers) were encountered west of Egypt. The North African people fought so strongly against the Muslims that the Muslim imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest in the west was brought to an almost complete stop between Tripoli and Carthage for more than a quarter century. The Muslims broke through in a series of bloody battles followed by bloody (revenge) massacres of the Muslim's (largely Christian) opponents. This Muslim imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquest continued through North Africa and through what is now Spain, Portugal, and southern France, until they were stopped at the battle of Poiters (hardly bloodless) in the middle of France.

I believe that if I had the time, I could show that the Muslims, in their western imperialist, colonialist, bloody conquests, killed two to three times as many Christians as the Christians killed Muslims in all of the Crusades combined.

But let us return to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem

The U.S. News article states that after Saladin conquered Jerusalem, "the victorious Saladin forbade acts of vengeance. There were no more deaths, no violence." True, as far as it goes. The article goes on to say, "most Muslims [will] tell you about Saladin and his generosity in the face of Christian aggression and hatred." Thus, the PC people and the Muslims ignore 450 years of prior Muslim aggression and approach the Crusades as being Christian or Western aggression against Islam, beginning out of the blue, without any prior history. Let us go back to the Muslim colonialist occupation of Jerusalem.

When we left our truthful history of Jerusalem, the Muslims, headquartered in Arabia, had just captured Jerusalem. For approximately 100 years, chiefly under the Umayyads, Jerusalem prospered under Muslim rule. Under the succeeding Abbasids, Jerusalem began to decline -- beginning at approximately 725 A.D. The occasion, among other things, was the decline of the central Muslim government, the breaking away from Arabia of far-flung provinces, the growth of warlike revolutionary groups, the growth of extremist Muslim sects, and, perhaps most important, the decision (relatively new) that Muslims had an obligation to convert all Christians and Jews (and "other pagans") to Islam. Thereafter, the true colonial nature of Jerusalem became more apparent. The Abbasids drained wealth from Jerusalem to Baghdad for the benefit of the caliphs, and Jerusalem declined economically. The language of the government became Arabic, and forcible conversion to Islam became the Muslim policy.

In approximately 750, the Caliph destroyed the walls of Jerusalem, leaving it defenseless (they were later rebuilt, in time to defend against the Crusaders). The history of the following three hundred years is too complex and too tangled to describe in a single paragraph. Jerusalem and its Christian and Jewish majority suffered greatly during alternating periods of peace and war. Among the happenings were repeated Muslim destruction of the countryside of Israel (970-983, and 1024-1077) of Jerusalem; the wholesale destruction by the Muslims of Christian churches -- sometimes at the direct order of the Caliph, as in 1003, and sometimes by Muslim mobs; the total destruction of Jerusalem by the Caliph of Cairo in the early 1020s; building small mosques on the top of Christian churches; enforcing the Muslim laws limiting the height of Christian churches; attacking and robbing Christian pilgrims from Europe; attacking Christian processions in the streets of Jerusalem; etc.

Why the change after nearly 100 years of mostly peaceful Muslim rule? From what I read, there is a general view among the historians that the caliphs had begun to add a religious importance to their conquests, setting conversion to Islam as an important priority; their later caliphs had no first-hand remembrance of Mohammed; the vast distances of the empire led to independent rulers being established in Spain, North Africa, Cairo, Asia Minor, etc.; and the instability of the caliphates and resulting civil wars.

The point about conversion to Islam I find particularly interesting. Many historians believe that the first one hundred years of Muslim conquest were imperialist and colonialist only with little significant forced conversion content. With respect to Jerusalem, there was a particular problem in the fact that generally the Christians and their churches (and to a lesser degree, the Jews) were significantly wealthier than the Muslims. This was largely because beginning in the early 800s with Charlemaigne, Europe adopted a sort of prototype "foreign aid" program for the churches located at the holy places in Jerusalem, where, to the embarrassment of the Muslims, Christian churches and monasteries outshone their Muslim rivals. Many of these churches and monasteries were run by western religious orders reporting directly to Rome under western leaders appointed by Rome (more were subject to Constantinople). Literally thousands of European Christian pilgrims made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from such places as Germany, France, and Hungary (particularly in the years 1000, 1033, 1064, and 1099). Finally, Muslim rulers and European rulers frequently sought to enter into treaties of support with each other. As a result, Christian churches became the target of Muslims when enemies of those with whom there were European ties were victorious in a civil war. From time to time, Christian churches were rebuilt with Muslim funds when pro-western rulers came to power.

So much for the PC, U.S. News, Muslim outright lie that begins with the statement, "During the Crusades, East and West first met," and that later in the article called the Crusades, "the first major clash between Islam and Western Christendom." What about the long, prior conquest by Islam of Spain and Portugal? What about the battle of Portiers?

The following is just an aside, which I cannot prove, but I have noticed that PC and Muslim statements frequently cut off history when it is not in their favor. Thus, the article gives credence to the widespread belief in Islam that east-west history began with the Crusades. See also as an example of this tendency to begin history where it is convenient, today's Muslim description of the current Israeli occupation of the West Bank without mentioning the fact that the current occupation was caused by the widespread cold-blooded murder of Israeli civilians by Muslims.

But let us move on to the Crusades themselves.

The Crusades

First, a word about my personal view of the Crusades. I believe that the murderous and pillaging acts of the Crusaders when they entered Jerusalem were barbaric, unchristian, and evil. This is particularly so as those barbaric, unchristian, and evil acts were carried on in the name of a religion of peace, love, and forgiveness. I believe that the vast bulk of thinking Christians agree with me. I cite as evidence the large numbers of Christians who have recently taken long pilgrimages in the footsteps of the Crusaders, repenting for the Crusader's acts, seeking for forgiveness, and giving penance for the Crusader's barbaric, unchristian, and evil acts.

A question occurs to me here. How many Muslim groups have taken long pilgrimages in the footsteps of the Muslim conquest repenting, seeking for forgiveness, and giving penance for the Muslims imperialist, colonialist, and bloody conquest of Palestine, Egypt, Syria, North Africa, and Spain? This is particularly important as the U.S. News article claims, "For [Muslims] imperialism is a dirty word" Where is Muslim repentance for its imperialism, geographically the largest in all of history, which permits Muslims to call Western imperialism a dirty word?

Let us rewrite the beginning of the U.S. News article as follows: "In 1095, after suffering from the murderous invasions of Muslim conquerors who killed tens of thousands of Christians through four-and-one-half centuries of Muslim imperialist, colonialist conquest, made slaves and eunuchs of Christians for the pleasure of the caliphs, burned down or sacked the holiest churches in Christendom, robbed and killed thousands of Christians on holy pilgrimage, brutally sacked and pillaged Jerusalem, and pillaged the countryside of Israel, western Europe, under the leadership of the Pope, decided to free the people of the Holy Land from their brutal masters and reclaim Christianity's holiest places for free Christian worship."

Now, I fully realize that the previous paragraph is one-sided, that the six centuries of Muslim colonial, imperialist occupation were more complex than are shown in the previous paragraphs, and that the Christians were not always blameless, little babes. However, the previous paragraph has the benefit of not being an outright lie, which is more than I can say for the U.S. News article.

To beat the dog one more time, you may have noted that I stated above that Muslim imperialism has continued until the present. Muslim imperialism has continued without any let-up from ten years before Mohammed's death until today.

Consider the Ottoman invasion of Christian Eastern Europe in which the Ottoman Empire invaded the west and conquered and colonized Greece, all of the Balkans, Romania, Bessarabia, and Hungary, and was stopped only at the outskirts of Vienna in 1529. Consider also the Muhgal conquest of Northern India in the early 1600s. But today? Of course! In the 20th century alone:

1. Muslim Turkey has expelled approximately 1,500,000 Greeks from its empire in the east and replaced them with Turks. They have massacred approximately 2 million Armenians and replaced them with Turks in the west.

2. Muslim Turkey has invaded and occupied northern Cyprus, displacing the Greeks living there.

3. Muslim northern Sudan has conquered much of southern Sudan, literally enslaving its Christian and pagan population.

4. Indonesian imperialism has occupied all of non-Islamic western New Guinea and incorporated into Indonesia.

5. Muslim Indonesia has invaded and conquered Christian East Timor with horrible loss of life.

6. This very day, Muslim Indonesia is attempting to destroy Christianity in what used to be called the Celebes.

7. A half-dozen Arab countries have fought two to four wars (depending how you count) in an attempt to destroy Israel and occupy its territory, and is currently continuing the attempt this very day with the publicly voted consent of 55 of the world's 57 Islamic nations.

8. For no good reason, Muslim Libya has blown up western aircraft, killing many civilians.

9. Muslim Iraq, in an imperialist war of aggression, invaded and occupied Muslim Kuwait.

10. Muslim Iraq, in an imperialist act of aggression, invaded Muslim Iran with a resulting (some estimates say) death of 2 million people.

11. Muslim Albania, this very minute, is attempting to enlarge its borders at Christian Macedonia's expense.

12. Muslim Northern Nigeria has been (and is currently) an aggressor against the Christian south.

13. Muslims expelled approximately 800,000 Jews from their homelands between 1947 and 1955.

14. During Jordan's occupation of the West Bank, the kingdom undertook an unsuccessful attempt to make Jerusalem a Muslim city by forcing out approximately 10,000 Christian inhabitants.

Yes, I know that the reverse has been true. For example, Christian Serbia entered and massacred Bosnian Muslims. The western response was instructive. The west sent troops to protect the Muslims. Serbia gave up its leader to be tried for the crime by an international panel. Will Indonesia do the same with respect to Timor? Or Sudan with respect to southern Sudan?

Question: What is the title of the shortest book in the world? Answer: "The list of Muslim nations who have risked the lives of their soldiers to protect (as with the U.S. protection of Muslims in Kuwait) Christian or Jewish citizens from Muslim imperialism."

Yes, I also know that in the 20th century the west fought two of the bloodiest wars in history. But in the past more than 55 years, the west has developed methods that have led to peace among the west, and all but totally ended western imperialism and colonialism. With former colonies having a large majority in the UN, and the example of the west before it, Islam has continued its imperialist, colonial, bloody wars unabated.

One final point. Muslims base their claim to the city of Jerusalem upon the belief that Jerusalem has been a Muslim city for centuries. It may be that Muslims were never a majority in Jerusalem. We cannot prove this for all time periods, but we know that Muslims were a minority in the first several centuries after the Muslim imperialist conquest and during the century of Christian occupation during the Crusades. And we know that in the Middle Ages, Jerusalem was not considered important to the Muslims, but it was to the Christians and Jews. The Muslims made cities other than Jerusalem the capital of their Palestinian colony. Many Caliphs never even visited Jerusalem. Therefore, there was a steady stream of Jewish and Christian (but not Muslim) immigrants into Jerusalem throughout the Middle Ages, including a major immigration of Karaite Jews in the late eighth and early ninth centuries, and a steady stream of Armenians for hundreds of years, until there were so many Armenians that an Armenian Quarter was established in Jerusalem. Finally, we know that for at least more than the last 160 years, Muslims were a clear minority in Jerusalem. The Muslim Ottomans, and then the British and Israelis, kept careful census record showing the following percentages of Muslim population in Jerusalem:

1844 -- 33%

1896 -- 19%

1910 -- 13%

1922 -- 22%

1931 -- 22%

1948 -- 24%

1967 -- 21%

1972 -- 23%

1992 -- 25%

Learn more at CBN.com's Understanding Islam section


Richard C. Csaplar, Jr., is a member of the Board of Trustees of Regent University and an attorney with Day, Berry, and Howard of Boston, Massachusetts, where he specializes in financial law.

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