The Crusades, part I

I. Accusations and History collide

Let us remind ourselves of what we’ve heard so far regarding the history in this area:

The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is ‘incompatible with the nature of God’ is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history.

After the… crusades in the Muslim world… and even the coining of the phrase ‘holy war’ by Pope Urban II, I do not think the Church should point a finger at extremist activities in other religions

Now, apart from the decontextualization of the quote itself (which is another issue altogether), allegation of “distortion of facts” and “ignorance of… Islamic history” somewhat amuses me, since the facts and history point to Islamic expansion by the sword, which in turn provoked the “crusades in the Muslim world” and the “holy war”. Perhaps history is taught differently in the Middle East, I don’t know, but the evidence seems clear to me. Take the World Book Encyclopedia (a handy reference source on my computer), for example. Under the Subheading, “How the Crusades began”, it details the following:

During the A.D. 500’s, the Byzantine Empire – a Christian empire centered in southeastern Europe – controlled much of the land bordering the Mediterranean Sea (see BYZANTINE EMPIRE). This area included southeastern Europe, Asia Minor (now part of Turkey), Palestine, Syria, Italy, and parts of Spain and North Africa.In the 600’s, Arab Muslims conquered Palestine, including Jerusalem… During the 1000’s, Seljuk Turks from central Asia conquered Asia Minor, Palestine, and Syria. The Seljuks, who were Muslims, crushed the Byzantines in the Battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor in 1071.

In 1095, Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus asked Pope Urban II for assistance in fighting the Seljuk Turks. Urban agreed to help. He wanted to defend Christianity against the Muslims and to recover the holy places.

In the autumn of 1095, Urban held a meeting of church leaders in Clermont, France. At this Council of Clermont, Urban called for a crusade.

So, clearly, the popular prejudice and history as we know it contradict each other. Could the West have recorded the history wrong, perhaps? How do we know which is true? Let’s examine this in the next post.

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