Friday, July 29, 2005

Careful He Might Hear You

Some of our nice new neighbours refer to people from the wrong side of political track as moon bats. Charmingly descriptive though it is, it is not entirely accurate.

There are some lovely but completely naive people out there who really have no clue.

I submit into evidence this e-mail conversation I had with Person A (not their real name nor their nom-de-'Net) on another web site, in another online universe.

You may be interested in 'eavesdropping' on our discussion about the importance of addressing the real issues of Islamofascism and the lessons we might learn from history.

SUBJECT: Re: Link...

PERSON A: Crusades, etc.
Sorry I didn't get back to you on this sooner--I've got a lot of thoughts on it, and it's been tough to distill anything into a remotely brief response.

NORA: You are certainly right there!

PERSON A: On the Ottomans in the 15th century: that's exactly what I was thinking of when I threw in those qualifiers about times and places. Historical periodization typically ends the Middle Ages in 1500, so the real effects of the rise of the Ottoman Empire are post-medieval. I'd forgotten that there were battles as far west as Italy; typically, historians cite the major push toward Vienna as the westernmost extent of Ottoman expansion.

NORA: Okay.

PERSON A: It's funny that you mentioned Tom Madden, because his work is one of the sources I'm drawing on. I assume from phrases in your post that you're drawing from article in "Christianity Today," which is basically his quick history of the Crusades (which is what pulls us into the Middle Ages, before the rise of the Ottomans).

NORA: Yep I did - it was a link I followed after reading the film review on Kingdom of Heaven (if you're a film lover, the CT reviews are some of the best).

PERSON A: If you haven't already, though, take a look at this guest column he wrote for the National Review. I could be misinterpreting it, but what I took away from this article and from hearing him speak on the subject is that he doesn't think the Crusades had a direct bearing on the current political situation--the rhetoric of "crusade" has been adopted, but the roots are later, in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is why my post distinguished between what would be interesting (medieval history) and what would be useful (more recent history).

NORA:I've just read the column and have to answer a qualified yes on that one.

Yes, Tom is quite right in the respect you mention, however the extremist Muslims (hereby called Islamicists for expediency) have used the term Crusaders as a catchall for the west (along with all Jews/Israelis as Zionists) that forms the link between events more than half a millennium ago and today.

Sadly misguided souls who are mere foot soldiers (like the London bombers) are being told that what they are doing is liberating their lands from the infidels. The catch is it's not just Palestine, Iraq, Afganistan and Saudi Arabia (the popularly named countries in Al Q'aida dispatches). It is, in fact, the entire world.

Vulnerable Muslims are being told that there is a historical Islamic link to all the countries in the world and that action taken against the crusaders and the zionists is a right and legitimate form of action for a Muslim to take.

Before you think I'm mad - an example is here - Long story short. The Australian Mufti claims the Australian Aborigines were in fact Afghans who had mosques built all over the place until that pesky Captain Cook claimed Australia for England and the place was settled by Europeans in 1788. To explain the lack of mosques he says the English destroyed them all.

Ludicrous I hope you will agree (a brief Australian history: the Australian Aborigines are believed to have arrived via a land bridge through Indonesia about 50,000 years ago. Before Arthur Phillip there was no attempt at other external settlement but there is evidence that a single Dutch ship was shipwrecked in western Australia in the 17th century. Any date palms, camels and aborigines with Arab sounding names indeed come from Afghans who arrived in Australia in the 19th century to help explore the country's interior).

(For America)

PERSON A: The reason it's taken me so long to respond, though, is that I was pretty surprised by both of Tom's columns. I have no training in Crusade history and am reluctant to take on someone who does, but I think some historians would question Tom's argument that the Crusades were a defensive action.

NORA: Why? Christianity was well settled in the Middle East by the time Islam was formed in 610AD (A fact forgotten by many people is the indigenous Iraqis, the Assyrians, are still today nominally Christian) so the arrival of Islam by force to those areas is by definition an invasion and action to repel is defensive.

PERSON A: The Byzantine emperor who requested European aid against "Islam" (Alexius Comnenus) wanted mercenaries to help him take back land in Asia Minor lost to the Seljuk Turks. He had no interest in retaking the Holy Land and gave no military support to the European campaigns to do so (though he did support Crusader armies as they went through Turkey on the way there).

NORA: Like any leader he was simply concerned with his patch. Naturally survival (personal or political) is going to trump an ideological or religious-inspired aim like preserving the Holy Land.

PERSON A: It's hard, IMHO, to argue that the Crusades began as a Christian defense against Islam when the Christian emperor who was directly affected the expansion of a Muslim power did not share the Crusaders' military goal.

NORA: It's easy when the call for the liberation of the Holy Land came from Pope Urban II.

PERSON A: To the best of my knowledge, other historians across the board see the period from 1000 - 1500 as a period in which Christian Europe expanded aggressively, into both Muslim areas in Iberia and Italy, and into pagan areas in eastern Europe and the Baltic. Also to the best of my knowledge, Europe was not under direct threat of invasion from any of those regions. European expansion into Muslim Spain and Italy actually preceded the Crusades to the east, and so they were not in response to any immediate Muslim threats or victories. And by about 1350, Latin Christendom had about doubled in size from around 950.

NORA: An interesting perspective…

And to expand on my previous brief remark - by the year 200 A.D., Christian communities existed throughout the Middle East and Turkey, and there were several in Greece and Italy as well. By the third century it was the official religion of Rome. By the end of 7th Century Christianity had spread right across western Europe.

So therefore it can be legitimately argued (as I believe Tom Madden is) that rather than the period of 1000-1500AD being an expansive aggression into Islamic land by Christian Europe that it is a defensive action to recapture lands that were previously Christian.

PERSON A: If we posit that the Crusades were a "defensive" action in response to the expansion of Muslim powers in the 11th century, then we've pretty much opened the door to argue that the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the 14th century was a defensive action against the spread of European culture.

NORA: Yes indeed, which as all history does, brings us back full circle to present times (ah, who said history doesn’t repeat itself).

It can be argued (and Daniel Pipes has been doing a fabulous job for years) that today’s Islamic insurgency is a ‘defensive action against the spread of European (now focused on America’s military, social and cultural dominance) culture.

PERSON A: I've got to wrap this up, but the final quick point to make is that I categorically disagree with lumping the various independent and sometimes mutually hostile Muslim powers all together into the umbrella of "Islam."

NORA: I’m not sure how to answer that one, so I might have to start with a question.

What do you mean when you say you disagree with lumping the various independent and sometimes mutually hostile Muslim powers all together into the umbrella of "Islam”?

Islam is the religion practiced by all Muslims. According to there is no difference of opinion amongst Muslim schools that the religion of Allah is Islam. This is also an excellent primer written from a Muslim perspective about the essential difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites who I presume you mean by mutually hostile Muslim powers.

PERSON A: I can't even *begin* to get into the problems inherent with that. Jeez.

NORA: Yet people don't seem to have that problem lumping together all Christian denominations…

PERSON A: Obviously, there are limits to the nuances one can do in short columns, but

NORA: Nuances? - You’ve not been taking lessons from John Kerry have you? ;-)

PERSON A:If you're going to look at the complexities within Christian civilization, then you shouldn't simplify Islamic civilization that much.

NORA: Believe me, I’m expanding my knowledge all the time.

PERSON A: Tom's a brilliant scholar and you'll never hear me say otherwise, but...let's just say I'm surprised about how he framed these issues.

NORA: I’m still not sure why you’re surprised at Tom’s perspective. As Tom has said, medieval history is still an active area of study.

PERSON A: Again, sorry it took so long to answer--like I said, it's taken forever to cut down into something manageable

NORA: Likewise I apologise for the length of this reply but I believe such a fulsome and thoughtful e-mail as yours deserved the courtesy of an equally full response.

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