What the Crusades Were Not

June 8, 2006 at 2:34 am (Christianity, History, Islam)

We are quite upset with the constant misrepresentation and mischaracterization of the Crusades by various elements in society. Muslims especially are completely ignorant of the facts behind these campaigns. They even use this to their advantage, comparing their straw man of the Crusades to the straw man of jihad or Islamic campaigns.

Thus, some insight into the Crusades by listing what the Crusades were not.

1. The Crusades were not wars against Islam. Although this may seem to be so at first glance, in fact the Crusades were not launched specifically to destroy Islam. This is especially clear when one realizes that no Crusader force ventured towards or for Arabia proper. The only reason why Muslims became targets is because they were threatening him who appealed to European Christians for help, who responded with the Crusades.

It cannot be denied that the Catholic Church did emphasize the status of Muslims as infidels, and that infidels were occupying the Holy Lands (which were occupied by Christians).

It also cannot be denied that Muslims, as infidels, were targets, but only in a specific region. Thus, neither was Islam nor were Muslims under attack: only certain Muslims were, specifically those occupying the Holy Land (Muslim residents were not targets), and those making pilgrimage to the holy sites dangerous.

If the Muslims had not reached Constantinople, they would not have been attacked by the Crusaders. Indeed, if they had not reached Constantinople, there would have been no need for the Crusades.

One must also keep in mind that Muslims were targeted because they were infidels. Various European communities also (lamentably) attacked Jewish communities in their anti-infidel zeal. Indeed, various Crusader campaigns were undertaken to put an end to local heresies (in some cases, this was ordered by the Church in place of Crusader campaigns to the Holy Lands). The target was not Islam. To say so would be to be ignorant of the facts.

2. The Crusades were not launched out of material greed. It cannot be denied that materialism played a role but materialism did not play the largest role in the Crusades. Crusaders were drawn by the indulgences offered by the Church, by the opportunity to do something for the Christian community, by the opportunity to liberate the Holy Lands from Muslim rule, and by the opportunity to assist fellow Christians under threat by Muslim invasion if not by doing so healing the rift between Rome and Constantinople.

The one who called for the Crusades, Pope Urban II (in response to a plea for help by Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus), would have nothing to gain from the Crusades. The Crusaders were not under the control of Papal generals, nor were the campaigns by Rome. European leaders and soldiers and people contributed to, fought in, and became a part of the Crusades.

Yes, some European leaders went to establish their own principalities. Yet consider this: Emperor Alexius I Comnenus was not a fool. He said that any territory and loot gained by the Crusaders would be at his disposal to distribute. This did not please some of the more independent-minded European leaders, especially since they were essentially coming to his rescue.

But the major motivation for most Crusaders was piety. Travelling from Europe to the Holy Lands is in itself quite difficult, even back then, let alone fighting against the Muslim forces.

Consider, also, some of the most powerful organizations to sprung from the Crusades: the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar (the real one). They existed to assist the pilgrims going to the Holy Land. Materialism was not their motivation.

3. The Crusades were not unprovoked. (A popular Muslim claim is to say that all of a sudden, with no provocation, the Crusaders descended on the tranquil and tolerant Muslims.) Emperor Alexius I Comnenus made his plea for help precisely because Muslim troops were marching towards his capital, Constantinople. This is in addition to the fall of Byzantine lands, before then and at that time, to Muslim armies. Recall that back then most of the inhabitants were Christians. So, instead of asking why the Crusaders descended unprovokedly upon the Muslims, one ought to ask why the Muslims were marching towards Constantinople, why they were conquering and annexing Christian lands. What reasons can Muslims give for their imperialist expansionism which triggered Emperor Alexius I Comnenus's plea, which resulted in Pope Urban II's call for the Crusade, from which Crusader armies went to the Holy Land?

Addendum I: This is not to say that the Crusades were perfect. Greed did motivate some, and there were abuses. Not everyone had pure intentions. But the Crusades were not the grevious injustice they have been made to be.

Addendum II: In English, and when used by Western people, the word "crusade" contains no connotation of war against Islam or Muslims. It is used to refer to a just and worthwhile cause that requires much effort. There are crusades against drugs, drunk driving, gambling, and so on and so forth. But none of these are fundmentally martial and none essentially contain any anti-Islamic connotation.

In short, Muslims should stop freaking out any time someone uses the word "crusade."

This should be all for now. For more information, do read the excellent book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades) by Robert Spencer.

innaa naHnu-l-a'lam.



  1. Wickedpinto said,

    Along the lines of things that are not.

    The “Crusader” artillery piece was not built so that western nations might use it against muslims.

    The “Crusader” self propelled artillery piece is actually a victim of a long at least 4 line history of etymological comparisson.

    There was a self propelled artillery piece, in either WWI, or WWII, I THINK WWI.

    The Driver of that piece, was posted above an armored apron, and it became a joke among the infantry that the Driver of the Self Propelled artilery piece (I don’t know the nomenclature) looked like a priest.

    So, the Nickname for the first self propelled artillery system was called “Priest” not because it was western christian, but because the driver LOOKED like a priest standing at a podeum.

    The Military, being as they are, thinking of everything that came before decided to youse religious names, specificaly proscelitizing religious titles to name all self propelled artillery pieces that followed.

    The Palladin was the next step FOLLOWING, “the priest” and so, it is natural that the follow on to the palladin would be something more well known, something just as priestish, and just as affective, so “The Crusader” offended muslims, and ended up getting Cut. for the wrong reasons, though it should have been cut easily.

    You are a liguist.

    I LOVE etymology. I just think it’s fucking cool.

    THAT is the etymology of WHY self propelled artillery pieces are nicknamed after religious characters.

  2. Muslihoon said,

    That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing that!

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