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Christian Jihad: The Crusades and Killing in the Name of Christ

By Craig von Buseck Contributing Writer -- Craig von Buseck: You have a book called 'Christian Jihad'. I find that to be a fascinating subject because there seems to be a lot of ignorance about Christian history. There are also a lot of stereotypes about the Crusades in the Muslim world. What motivated you to write this book?

Dr. Ergun Caner: I was a Muslim for half my life, until I was almost twenty. The only thing I ever learned about Christianity I learned from my Imam and the scholars in the mosque. Then when I began to be trained in Madras we heard even more about Christians, that they are our enemies. I would guess that the key word that we would call the Americans was the Crusaders. Right after the bombing of 9/11, when the first bin Ladin tape was released, he called us Crusaders. The Fatwa that was signed February 23rd, 1998 referred to us as the Crusaders. This is because from our world mindset -- one side of my family is Wahabi, the other side is Sunni Orthodox -- this is fundamental to understanding how they view America.

The problem is that by in large we in American culture are myopic. And now we come back to the issue of my passion. If you ask somebody, 'tell me the history of your church,' they're going to tell you the year the building was built, or when the latest pastor came, or when the gym was built. Our history only goes as far as our experience and it is to our great peril. I kept running into Christians who would say, 'Why do they call us Crusaders? America wasn't even a country then.' And that was the fundamental issue. I teach systematic theology and church history. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the Crusades. My Master of Theology was on the calling of the Crusades. So as sad as it is, as harsh as it is, I guess 'Christian Jihad' was born out of the fact that if they ever had a point -- even though it is a distant point, even though it is not an particularly on-target point -- there was a time in Christian history where we did as bad as Osama bin Ladin has done.

Orlando Bloom in Ridley Scott's 'Kingdom of Heaven'As a matter of fact, at the end of the book, at the very back my brother and I do a chart where we compare the speech of Pope Urban II at the Council of Claremont, November 27th, 1095, to bin Ladin's Fatwa. It got us in trouble. Catholics were mad and other Christians were mad, but it's true. There have always been Christians in the army. I'm not a pacifist. But there's a fundamental quantum shift that took place at the calling of the Crusades. Up until the Crusades, we had operated under a 'just war criteria.' That's what I am. I'm a 'just war' person. Of relevance today, my brother and I took a stand before the Iraq conflict on C-Span, and said that this was a necessary and also a moral war -- that this was just. It fulfilled all eleven criteria. It got us in trouble. So I don't want to come off sounding like a pacifist. But the shift happened this way. In 1095, at the Council of Claremont, Pope Urban crossed the line from a 'just war', in Latin 'bellum iustum' to 'holy war', or 'bellum sacrum.'

As inconsequential as it may sound, it is a profound difference. For instance, instead of having a secular authority -- our president is our Commander in Chief in a just war -- in a holy war we have a sacred authority -- the pope is our commander. In Islam a Fatwa has to be signed by a Caliph or a Sheik. The promise of eternal salvation, absolute assurance if you day, that was from Pope Urban. As a matter of fact, Pope Urban said 'Deus vult!' or 'God wills it!' and people basically shrugged their shoulders. There wasn't a lot of response initially. But then he said, 'If you go and kill the infidel, you will be forgiven immediately -- Paradise.' There is fundamentally, no difference between bin Laden, in that case, and the Crusades.

The third distinction that I would point out is that in a holy war there is no difference between combatant and soldier. That's why we make battlefields in our culture and our history because of 'just war'. But not in my culture. We hide in the mosque. We hide in the daycare center. Because everybody is Mujah Hadin. What about the Muslims who were in the World Trade Center Towers? As Mullah Omar put it, they were unknown and unwilling Mujah Hadin. They received the same promise. There's an al Qaeda Web site that glorifies the nineteen bombers, but it also says in Arabic, 'and to those who purchased heaven with their blood on the planes,' because again, there were Muslims on the planes, and there were Muslims in the Towers.

The final distinction between 'just war' and 'holy war' is that you are fighting to kill the infidel instead of convert the infidel. In a 'just war', every warrior wants peace. In a 'holy war', every warrior wants victory. All Islamic eschatology is based on what we are going through right now.

von Buseck: So Islam sees these times as a culmination?

Dr. Caner: This is eschatological. This is prophecy for them. Especially if you read Arabic, you read this passionate message that Allah is going to judge because the world is becoming Muslim -- and the world will become Muslim because we are fighting. Now let's say for the sake of argument that only one percent of Muslims believe in Jihad -- of course we know that's not true. That's sixteen million Muslims. And so the fact that everyone is putting their heads in the sand and doing what I call the patriotism -- it's cool to make fun of America -- that's head-in-the-sand kind of stuff. It's going to be around for awhile. And it will not stop unless we see a clear head-on-a-stick victory. Whether we like it or not, that's not the point, it's still there. It's like the peace protesters who follow me around. I tell them, 'hold up your sign high, but that doesn't mean that they don't want you dead. Paint a target on it, because you're still an al-Kufr -- you're still an infidel.

von Buseck: They actually appreciate what you're doing because it disarms the enemy.

Liam Neeson in Ridley Scott's 'Kingdom of Heaven'Dr. Caner: I call Michael Moore the American Al-Jazeera, because he sings their propaganda. His words are an insult to my people who have died. That spits in the face of my countrymen. What America is doing in a 'just war' is giving my people the freedom to speak their mind -- forget about anything Christian for a second -- but just having the right to dissent without being stoned to death as a consequence.

Everything in Islam is Theocracy. You understand how hard it was for me going into college, and now becoming a Christian, everything changes, obviously. But also my entire worldview changes because everything up until that point was prescribed -- everything was dictated, when you eat, what you use, what hand you wash with. The Iraqi constitution looks like it will allow freedom of dissent. America has given us the freedom to speak without having our head slowly severed.

von Buseck: A man was speaking in our chapel and he said that he was praying and he believed this would be a key time among Muslims because there would be fair-minded Muslims -- and you know this very well -- who would look at the actions of groups like al Qaeda and say, is this what Islam is supposed to be about? And this would give them the opportunity to step back and say, 'let's reevaluate.' Do you see it this way?

Dr. Caner: I do debates and in America it's becoming kind of like the gospel according to Jerry Springer -- you know, there's yelling and screaming. But there were two polls that came out recently. One said that there were eight million Muslims in America -- and this is the one that C.A.I.R. supported (the Counsel of American/Islamic Relations). And another one came out that did a survey of a thousand mosques, and they asked how many Muslims they had. Now in the mosque, the Imam was doing the answering -- but only ascribed to those who are adherents, those who are active. They came back and they said they had only 1.1 million Muslims. Now C.A.I.R. screamed to the high heavens. The media came to me and asked me what I think. I said I believed they are both right.

We have something in America that we have never seen in Islam. When I came to America in the 1970s, the first thing that shocked me was that I didn't know what the 'Nation of Islam' was -- this is Detroit, not Saudi Arabia. That was a political movement I didn't know much about. The second thing was cultural Islam. We have cultural Christianity, for sure. People come to church twice a year, maybe. Islam has never known culture to be casual, even in my country, Turkey -- I'm twenty some odd generations Turkish. You do not call yourself a Muslim in public if you're not practicing.

I speak to American media groups on the top ten things that Christian media organizations get wrong about Islam -- not just the fundamental things like 'Allah is not Jehovah -- the 'Allah-lujah movement' -- but fundamental issues that will happen. If you remember after the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein, they were hitting it with their shoes after it fell to the ground. What happened from them doing that to now the Iraqis crying 'get out America'? Iraq was established by Winston Churchill, Lord of the Admiralty, post World War I as a Sunni minority government over a Shi'a majority population. They were just thrilled that now there would be a Shi'a majority government. So who is scared now? The Sunni insurgent minority who are going to be ruled by the Shi'a majority. That's why Saddam Hussein bombed Mohamed's grandson's shrine -- he was bombing a Shiite shrine, and he was not a very good Sunni. But then bin Laden stood with Hussein -- that's the brilliance of bin Laden, if I could use that word cautiously.

von Buseck: Just like Hitler was brilliant.

Dr. Caner: Yes, I use that word cautiously. The genius in an evil way. In 1,300 years of Islamic history, we have fought for 1,100 years. So there have been only 200 years of peace in Islam, by-in-large. In 1,110 years we have either fought each other or a common enemy. And there have only been two times where fighting a common enemy has been unifying. We fight each other like the Iraq and Iran war. The irony there was that there were Shi'a in Iraq fighting under Sunni commanders that they didn't like, shooting at their brethren who were other Shi'a. That's why Saudi Arabia was against Iraq being freed, because Saudi Arabia is Wahabi Sunni, and Iraq will now be another Shi'a country. There are only two times where all the different sects of Muslims have been united -- the first time was Saladin, the one who fought Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades. The second one was bin Laden.

The signing of the Fatwa included six nations. That's why they called bin Ladin the Saladin. He was able to capture the great secret of Islam -- which is, give them a common enemy.

von Buseck: Islam seems to be a sleeping giant and it seems like the various parts are coming together -- though warily -- there is some commonality along the whole spectrum of Islam.

Dr. Canar: It's almost like a, if I may use child's illustration, a Transformer. It has all these different parts, but in a Transformer -- my child has one -- it comes together to be one giant. Right now that's the way it is with Islam. You have the Sunni, who operate out of Pakistan. You have a Sunni sect, the Wahabi, who operate out of Saudi Arabia. You have al Qaeda, which is spread all over the place, but they're also in Iraq. That's why the media was screaming, 'no connection' [between the 9/11 terrorists and Iraq]. Are you insane? Ask any Muslim if there is a connection between Iraq and the bombers of 9/11. We all know.

von Buseck: So it's not even a question?

Dr. Caner: No.

von Buseck: So do you laugh at the liberal media when they take this position, argue, and pound their fists?

Dr. Caner: I say, let me ask you a set of questions. If you can answer any one of them I'll be happy. Where did Abu Nadal hide after he bombed two airports as an al Qaeda operative? Oh, Iraq. Uh, how much did the bomber's families get after the bombing of 9/11? Fifty-three thousand -- twenty-five thousand from the Saudi government, twenty-eight thousand from Saddam Hussein. Michael Moore made a statement in his movie that Saddam never killed a single American. Was he not awake in 1991 during the first Gulf War. America went after it because Iraq is a harbor. It's like cutting off a bank from a terrorist. You cut of the financing they will shrivel and die. We are cutting off the only places they can hide -- Afghanistan, Iraq, I hate to say it, but probably Iran, Indonesia, and the South of the Philippines. I know that the president says that we are not at war with Islam -- and I agree with that. But a significant part of Islam is at war with us. And for them it's a holy war. If you misunderstand a holy war, you lose. For them, they die, they go to paradise -- seventy perpetual virgins are there with pomegranates and couches. Guys who live on eight hundred dollars a year are being told all this. There is no shortage of people willing to get on planes or into trucks.

von Buseck: Exactly, they're pulling them from poverty. So they get the best of both worlds.

Dr. Caner: Yes, you are seen as humble. You're family is held up in great honor. Let's be honest. I'm trying to be fair, and that's what I'm trying to do in 'Christian Jihad'. I'm trying to answer the example that every intellectual Muslim in the world brings up where we did Jihad. Let's be honest. There are guys today who bomb abortion clinics. There are people today who establish their own compound, named it after their daddy, and are killing in the name of Christ. But here is the fundamental point. When these people kill in the name of Jesus, they are doing so in absolute defiance of the teachings of Christ. A Muslim will always bring up the Old Testament, David and Solomon. I say, that's great, but they're not my leader -- Jesus is. Jesus is God. That's the central point of Christianity. If Jesus isn't God I'm wasting my time. Back to my point -- these people do these violent things in defiance of Jesus' teaching. 'Pray for those who persecute you.' When a Muslim does these things in the name of Allah, he is doing so in strict adherence and allegiance to the teachings and example of Muhammad. That is the fundamental distinction between our war right now. It proves this is a just war.

Message Board: Do you believe the media offers a fair treatment of Christians and Muslims when they talk about the Crusades?

E-mail your thoughts on this interview

For more from Dr. Ergun Caner see his Web site

More from's In-depth look at the Crusades

More Church History on the Spiritual Life Channel

More from Craig von Buseck on

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