President Obama has caused quite the controversy by making comparisons of ISIS’s campaign of terror to the Crusades. I will let others debate what, how and why he said everything that he did. Since this site does touch on history time to time, I will discuss his comparison. How do I put this nicely?
It’s absolutely ridiculous.
The Crusades are often brought up primarily by those looking to attack Christians or knock them down a bit. They have fed the perception that the Crusades were all about expanding empires and destroying Islam. The problem is that this perception isn’t history.
It’s revisionist history.
During the early history of Christianity, its population was centered in what we typically refer to as part of the Middle East (technically the Near East and Asia Minor). It’s hard for some to imagine that a country like Egypt was once predominately Christian. What is left out of drive-by comments about the Crusades is the part about the Muslim Conquests that swept through the region, conquering nearly all of it. Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis wrote:
At the present time, the Crusades are often depicted as an early expansionist imperialism — a prefigurement of the modern European countries. To people of the time, both Muslim and Christian, they were no such thing. The Crusade was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war — to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage.
Were the Crusades full of tragedies, horrible events and misguided people on both sides? Yes, because all war is a horrible tragedy. That doesn’t mean we rewrite history for our agendas. We let history, the good and the bad, speak for itself. We learn from it, so we don’t repeat it. Or, as George Orwell said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
The revisionism of the Crusades is such an obvious one, it’s sad to see world leaders repeat it. We’ve lost respect for the importance of history. Instead, we have replaced it with superficial study, politics and the tendency of too easily believing everything we hear. We are in danger of losing the messages our ancestors have left for us.
The very messages that can preserve humanity’s future.