The Crusades
When culture and religions clash

Religious conflicts are always marked by the most vicious and appalling extremes of cruelty and depravity. Religious war is never justified, how can it be in an enlightened and advanced society of logic and scientific knowledge? We all seek spiritual salvation in our own way and we all follow a path that has only one destination. What right does one person have to insist that their path is the correct one, and that if you do not follow that path too, they will torture you and kill you and any other non-believers, in a variety of sickening ways?

In the modern world there are still those who cannot abide a differing system of belief, they use religious dogma as an excuse for the most vile crimes against their fellow human beings. At any point in time there have been a variety of belief systems that have spilled over into fanaticism and radicalism. Today, in most parts of the word, such religious fanaticism has ebbed, but all too often sadly, has been replaced by other forms of oppression and tyranny. Sadly too, in the 21st century, religious fanaticism does still exist in certain regions of our world, and its poisonous doctrines are exported to infect many other nations who are in themselves advanced, tolerant and peaceful entities.

A Knight of the Temple of Jerusalem

The Crusades

In the current politically correct times in which we live, the implication, if not the assertion, that the First Crusade was an act of fanatical Christian aggression, is so blatantly at odds with historical reality as to be nothing short of the attempted re-writing of history. It is in its own way excusing the barbarity of people who cannot abide other faiths or systems of belief, but seek to destroy them by violence and aggression.

To understand the root causes of the First Crusade, and Western Europe’s invasion and occupation of the Holy Land, one must first understand the origin and growth of the Islamic faith.

Born in 570 AD, Mohammed's early life included periods as a merchant and diplomat. By 622 AD having established the Islamic faith; he was the war-lord of Medina, leading a force of several thousand warriors in the conquest/conversion of the Arabian Peninsula; a ten year campaign which included the massacre of the Bany Qurayza Jews in 627 AD, and which culminated in the capture of Mecca in 632 AD. Within months of this victory he died.

Made invincible however, by the Heaven sent commands of a now revered Prophet, and believing Paradise awaited the fallen; between the years 622 AD and 750 AD, Islamic armies attacked and took Palestine, Egypt, Syria, North Africa, Armenia, Sicily and Southern Italy from the Byzantine Romans; conquered the Visigoths of the Iberian Peninsula; took Iraq, Persia, Afghanistan and the Indus Valley from the Sassanid Persian Empire; attacked Constantinople, fought their way up into France, and even took a large slice of central Asia from the Chinese.

The result of this Jihad/Holy War was the sacking of innumerable towns/cities, the utter destruction of the earlier cultures, and the death of possibly millions of the predominantly Christian previous inhabitants. This steel tipped religious whirlwind terrified but also weakened the neighbouring Christian cultures; and response was both muted and fragmented. In 718 AD the Spanish Reconquesta began an eight hundred year struggle which finally ended in 1492 AD; the year Columbus discovered America! Despite that victory, Islamic naval forces dominated the Mediterranean until the battle of Lepanto 1571 AD.

On 26th August 1071 the Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV deployed his army near the city of Manzikert, intent on preventing the conquest/invasion of his Anatolian provinces by the Seljuk Turks. It was a crushing Christian defeat, from which the Byzantine Empire ever recovered. Within a decade, the one thousand year old Christian Anatolian culture had been given its deathblow, as the victorious hosts of Sultan Alp Arslan slaughtered their way to the walls of Constantinople. Behind their scimitars, a mass migration by the Children of the Prophet established the Islamic Sultanate now known as Turkey.

Byzantium lost 20,000 dead, with another 40,000 wounded/captured at the battle of Manzikert alone, after which came 10/20 years of 'ethnic cleansing' during which the Byzantine population/culture of Anatolia was eradicated. The fate of the 40,000 Christian captives was particularly grim. Most had their right hand and left foot cut off as per Koranic doctrine; while huge numbers of the general Anatolian population were deliberately blinded. Thus mutilated, hundreds of thousands of these unfortunates were driven toward Constantinople, to beg or starve.

The First Crusade

This wave of human misery spread steadily north and west across Europe, begging at roadsides and church gates for a generation, rousing Europe's people to fury as they did so. Two pub names 'The Blind Beggar' and the 'Saracen's Head' still recall memories of this time. The first is self-explanatory, the second remembers the places where Christendom's warrior class, outraged by the wanton cruelty, swore on oath to 'cut off a Saracen's head' as they answered the Pope's call to "avenge the bleeding frontier crimes!" in what became known as The First Crusade.

Krak de Chevaliers in modern day Syria - the finest of Crusader castles 

That call to arms came at Clermont, in November 1095 AD when Pope Urban II, fearing the loss of Constantinople and the Islamic invasion/conquest of Europe, launched Christendom's belated response to more than 350 years of Islamic Jihad. A 'Crusade' with the aim of liberating Jerusalem, which prior to its capture by Muslim armies in 638 AD, had been the Christian city of Aelia since Roman times.

Bearing these historic realities in mind, how the politically correct apologists of radical Islam can suggest the First Crusade was anything other than a fully justified counter-attack against a mortal threat to European/Christian civilization and culture, is astounding. No people on earth would submit themselves willingly to such atrocities and threat without fighting back.

Of course, this is not to say that Christian rule in what became the Crusader States was a paragon of virtuous and tolerant government, far from it. The long swords of the Crusaders were often steeped in blood. All of this relentless killing is directly related to religious intolerance and fundamentalism, and we should be thankful that we live in a more enlightened world today. However, as previously mentioned, there are still areas of our world where the lights of tolerance have still not been switched on, and where reason and logic remain prisoners to fanatical religious dogma. We can only sincerely hope, even if it is a vain hope, that this will begin to change and that we can live in peace and believe what we choose to believe.

Return to Top

©Copyright - James of Glencarr