The true history of Europe and Islam
Our political leaders, our mainstream academics, and media keep lying to us about the history of Islamic imperialism. The crusades were a minor distraction, and merely a response, to Islam's ongoing war against Western civilisation
US President Barack Obama’s recent condemnation of medieval Christian history to exonerate modern Islam is a reminder of how woefully ignorant (or intentionally deceptive) a good many people in the West are concerning the true history of Christian Europe and Islam.
The problem is that those who condemn things like the Crusades -- including “mainstream” academics, journalists, movie-makers, and politicians -- do so without mention of historical context.
Worse, they imply “we” already know the context: evil popes and greedy knights exploiting Christianity to seize Muslim lands and wealth. Or as Karen Armstrong put it, “the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam.”
The true story of Christendom and Islam is the antithesis of such claims. Consider some facts for a moment:
A mere decade after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, the jihad burst out of Arabia. Leaving aside all the thousands of miles of ancient lands and civilizations that were permanently conquered -- including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and parts of India and China -- much of Europe was also, at one time or another, conquered by the sword of Islam.
Among other nations and territories that were attacked and/or came under Muslim domination are (to give them their modern names in no particular order): Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Belarus, Malta, Sardinia, Moldova, Slovakia, and Montenegro.
In 846, Rome was sacked and the Vatican defiled by Muslim Arab raiders; some 600 years later, in 1453, Christendom’s other great basilica, Holy Wisdom (or Hagia Sophia) was conquered by Muslim Turks, permanently. (Till this day, Turkish Muslims celebrate the sack of Constantinople, which saw much rapine and slaughter.)
The few European regions that escaped direct Islamic occupation due to their northwest remoteness include Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany.
That, of course, does not mean that they were not attacked by Islam. Indeed, in the furthest northwest of Europe, in Iceland, Christians used to pray that God save them from the “terror of the Turk.” This was not mere paranoia; as late as 1627, Muslim corsairs raided the northern Christian island seizing four hundred captives and selling them in the slave markets of Algiers.
Nor did America escape. A few years after the formation of the United States, in 1800, American trading ships in the Mediterranean were plundered and their sailors enslaved by Muslim corsairs.
The ambassador of Tripoli explained to Thomas Jefferson that it was a Muslim’s “right and duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.”
In short, for roughly one millennium -- punctuated by a Crusader-rebuttal that the modern West is obsessed with demonizing -- Islam daily posed an existential threat to Christian Europe and by extension Western civilization.
And therein lies the rub: Today, whether as taught in high school or graduate school, whether as portrayed by Hollywood or the news media, the predominant historical narrative is that Muslims are the historic “victims” of “intolerant” Western Christians. (Watch my response to a Fox News host wondering why Christians have always persecuted Muslims.)
So here we are, paying the price of being an ahistorical society: A few years after the Islamic strikes of 9/11 -- merely the latest in the centuries-long, continents-wide jihad on the West -- Americans elected (twice) a man with a Muslim name and heritage for president; a man who condemns the Crusades while openly empowering the same Islamic ideology that European Christians fought for centuries.
Surely the United States’ European forebears -- who at one time or another either fought off or were conquered by Islam -- must be turning in their graves.
But all this is history, you say? Why rehash it? Why not let it be and move on, begin a new chapter of mutual tolerance and respect, even if history must be “touched up” a bit?
This would be a somewhat plausible position -- if not for the fact that, all around the globe, Muslims are still exhibiting the same imperial impulse and intolerant supremacism that their conquering forbears did. The only difference is that the Muslim world is currently incapable of defeating the West through a conventional war.
Yet this may not even be necessary. Thanks to the West’s ignorance of history, some Muslims are flooding Europe under the guise of “immigration,” refusing to assimilate, and forming enclaves which in modern parlance are called “ghettoes” but in Islamic terminology are the ribat -- frontier posts where the jihad is waged on the infidel, one way or the other.
All this leads to another, perhaps even more important point: If the true history of the West and Islam is being turned upside its head, what other historical “orthodoxies” being peddled around as truth are also false?
Were the Dark Ages truly benighted because of the “suffocating” forces of Christianity? Or were these dark ages -- which “coincidentally” occurred during the same centuries when jihad was constantly harrying Europe -- a product of another suffocating “religion”?
Was the Spanish Inquisition -- also condemned by Obama -- a reflection of Christian barbarism or was it a reflection of Christian desperation vis-à-vis the many Muslims who, while claiming to have converted to Christianity, were practicing taqiyya and living as moles trying to subvert the Christian nation back to Islam?
Don’t expect to get true answers to these and other questions from the makers, guardians, and disseminators of the West’s fabricated epistemology.
In the future (whatever one there may be) the histories written about our times will likely stress how our era, ironically called the “information age,” was not an age when people were so well informed, but rather an age when disinformation was so widespread and unquestioned that generations of people lived in bubbles of alternate realities -- till they were finally popped.
Raymond Ibrahim, a Fellow of the Hoover Institution, is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians
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