Friday, November 27, 2015
Like Most People, President Obama Gets The Crusades Wrong
Greg Scandlen, below, makes many good points in telling us what the crusades were really about -- points which are accurate and well-informed as far as I can see. And I speak as someone who has made something of a study of the Byzantine period. He points out the basic truth that the Crusades were a response to the Muslim invasion of Christian lands, not an invasion of Muslim lands. The crusaders simply took back lands that had belonged to Christendom for a thousand years -- Biblical lands.
But the main point surely is to ask: WHY is something that happened a thousand years ago any excuse for something happening today? Why are the crusades any excuse for anti-Western violence by Muslims today? No-one would normally think that a sane proposal to make but when you are dealing with Muslims and their apologists reason flies out the window. If it were sane we would have Britons going to Germany and bombing Germans because Germans invaded Britain a thousand years ago.
The whole idea is a version of punishing children for the misdeeds of their parents, which is generally recognized as a breach of natural law: You should not be punished for something you didn't do
If we were to use Muslim reasoning, we should be making random raids on Muslim lands to steal their property, kill their men and rape their women -- because that is what the Muslim corsairs of North Africa did to coastal Europe right up until the 19th century -- until finally terminated by the French conquest of Algiers in 1830.
In light of President Obama’s recent remarks comparing the brutality of the Islamic State to the Crusades, it might be time to take a fresh look at those events. Were they really the one-sided Dark Ages barbarism we have been taught? Were they an early manifestation of Western imperialism and global conquest?
In his landmark book, “God’s Battalions” (HarperOne 2009), Baylor University social sciences professor Rodney Stark suggests otherwise. It is a well-researched chronicle, including 639 footnotes and a bibliography of about 300 other works, yet reads like an adventure story full of military strategy and political intrigue.
What Prompted the Crusades
He begins in the final years of Mohammed and describes how a newly united Arab people swept through (Zoroastrian) Persia and the (Orthodox Christian) Byzantine- controlled areas of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa. (Byzantine refers to the Greek-speaking eastern remainder of the Roman Empire.) Eventually Arabs took over control of the Mediterranean islands, most of Spain, and the southern part of Italy, and even reached as far as 150 miles outside of Paris before being turned back by the Franks, or early French.
The Muslims were brutal in their conquered territories.
The Muslims were brutal in their conquered territories. They gave pagans a choice of converting to Islam or being killed or enslaved. Jews and Christians (other People of the Book) were usually but not always treated somewhat better, and allowed to retain their beliefs but under conditions of Sharia subjugation.
But the Muslim-held territories were not monolithic. Stark writes:
"Perhaps the single most remarkable feature of the Islamic territories was the almost ceaseless internal conflict; the intricate plots, assassinations, and betrayals form a lethal soap opera. North Africa was frequently torn by rebellions and intra-Islamic wars and conquests. Spain was a patchwork of constantly feuding Muslim regimes that often allied themselves with Christians against one another."
Not surprisingly, there was intense Christian resistance and determination to take back lost territories. Especially effective were the Normans and the Franks in Spain and Italy.
The Golden Middle Ages Belonged to Europeans
Western scholars have often characterized this clash of cultures as an Islamic Golden Age versus a European Dark Age, but Stark demolishes this as a myth. He says the best of the Islamic culture was appropriated from the people Muslims conquered—the Greeks, Jews, Persians, Hindus, and even from heretical Christian sects such as the Copts and Nestorians.
He quotes E.D. Hunt as writing, “the earliest scientific book in the language of Islam [was a] treatise on medicine by a Syrian Christian priest in Alexandria translated into Arabic by a Persian Jewish physician.” Stark writes that Muslim naval fleets were built by Egyptian shipwrights, manned by Christian crews, and often captained by Italians. When Baghdad was built, the caliph “entrusted the design of the city to a Zoroastrian and a Jew.” Even the “Arabic” numbering system was Hindu in origin.
And, while it is true that the Arabs embraced the writings of Plato and Aristotle, Stark comments,
"However, rather than treat these works as attempts by Greek scholars to answer various questions, Muslin intellectuals quickly read them in the same way they read the Qur’an – as settled truths to be understood without question or contradiction…. Attitudes such as these prevented Islam from taking up where the Greeks had left off in their pursuit of knowledge."
Meanwhile, back in Europe was an explosion of technology that made ordinary people far richer than any people had ever been. It began with the development of collars and harnesses that allowed horses to pull plows and wagons rather than oxen, doubling the speed at which people could till fields. Plows were improved, iron horseshoes invented, wagons given brakes and swivel axels, and larger draft horses were bred. All this along with the new idea of crop rotation led to a massive improvement in agricultural productivity that in turn led to a much healthier, larger, and stronger population.
Technology was also improving warfare with the invention of the crossbow and chain mail. Crossbows were far more accurate and deadly than conventional archery, and could be fired with very little training. Chain mail was almost impervious to the kind of arrows in use throughout the world. Mounted knights were fitted with high-back saddles and stirrups that enabled them to use more force in charging an opponent, and much larger horses were bred as chargers, giving the knights a height advantage over enemies. Better military tactics made European armies much more lethal. Stark writes:
"It is axiomatic in military science that cavalry cannot succeed against well-armed and well-disciplined infantry formations unless they greatly outnumber them…. When determined infantry hold their ranks, standing shoulder to shoulder to present a wall of shields from which they project a thicket of long spears butted in the ground, cavalry charges are easily turned away; the horses often rear out of control and refuse to meet the spears."
In contrast, Muslim warriors were almost exclusively light cavalry, riding faster but lighter horses bareback with little armor, few shields, and using swords and axes. Their biggest advantage was their use of camels, which made them much more mobile than foot soldiers and gave them the ability to swoop in and out of the desert areas to attack poorly defended cities.
Muslims Slaughter, Rape, and Pillage
These differences provided Crusader armies with huge advantages, but what would prompt hundreds of thousand Europeans to leave their homes and travel 2,500 miles to engage an enemy is a desert kingdom—especially after the Muslim conquest of Europe had been turned back?
There had been long-festering concern about the fate of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. After his conversion to Christianity in the early 300s, the Roman Emperor Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of what was believed to be Jesus’ tomb, and other churches in Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives. These sites prompted a growing number of European pilgrims to visit the Holy Land, including Saint Jerome, who lived in Bethlehem for the last 32 years of his life as he translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. By the late fifth century, Stark reports, more than 300 hostels and monasteries offered lodging to pilgrims in Jerusalem alone.
But in 638 Jerusalem surrendered to Muslim invaders, and mass murders of Christian pilgrims and monks became commonplace. Stark includes a list of select atrocities in the eight and ninth centuries, but none worse than the some 5,000 German Christians slaughtered by Bedouin robbers in the tenth century.
Throughout this period, control of Palestine was contested by several conflicting Muslim groups. Stark writes, “In 878 a new dynasty was established in Egypt and seized control of the Holy Land from the caliph in Baghdad.” One hundred years later, Tariqu al-Hakim became the sixth caliph of Egypt and initiated an unprecedented reign of terror, not just against Christians but against his own people as well. He burned or pillaged some 30,000 churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the tomb beneath it.
Soon enough, newly converted Turkish tribes came out of the north to seize Persia and Baghdad (by 1045) and press on to Armenia, overrunning the city of Ardzen in 1048, where they murdered all the men, raped the women, and enslaved the children. Next they attacked the Egyptians, in part because the Turks were Orthodox Sunnis and the Egyptians were heretical Shiites. While the Turks did not succeed in overthrowing the Egyptians, they did conquer Palestine, entering Jerusalem in 1071. The Turks promised safety to the residents of Jerusalem if they surrendered the city, but broke this promise and slaughtered the population. They did the same in Ramla, Gaza, Tyre, and Jaffa.
Emperor Alexius Pleads for Help
Finally, they threatened Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Alexius Comnenus wrote to Pope Urban II in 1095, begging for help to turn back the Turks. This was remarkable given the intense hostility between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Perhaps the pope saw an opportunity to unite or at least reduce tensions between the two Christian churches, but he responded with a call to create an army that would go to the Middle East.
I am not going to regurgitate all the battles of the Crusades themselves. It is a fascinating history well worth studying in part for its parallels and lessons for today. Let’s just say that the Crusaders were extremely effective militarily, often defeating far larger Muslim armies, despite having traveled some 2,500 miles into an alien desert climate. Their biggest enemies were disease, starvation, and political betrayal. Plus, the Crusades were expensive and home countries grew weary of paying the taxes needed to support them (sound familiar?)
The Crusaders ended up establishing their own kingdoms in the Holy Land, which lasted for about 200 years or, as Stark notes, almost as long as the United States has existed; but without ongoing support from Europe they could not survive constant attacks from the Muslims.
So, what to make of all this?
The current idea that Jews in Israel are usurping the rights of indigenous people is nonsense. This has always been a hotly contested area. In the Old Testament, the Jews wrested control from the Canaanites, then were overrun by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, then the Greeks, then the Romans. The Romans of Jesus’ time were displaced by the Greek Byzantine Empire, then replaced by the Arabs, then the Egyptians, then the Turks, and finally by the British. For most of human history the wealth of a society was created by conquest and plunder. It is hardly unique to Christians, and certainly not to Jews.
The Crusaders were unique in that they did not seek to plunder or enslave.
Actually, the Crusaders were unique in that they did not seek to plunder or enslave. They didn’t even try to forcibly convert anyone to Christianity. Their sole interest was to protect the pilgrims and Christian holy sites. They sometimes sacked cities that refused to provide food to a hungry army, but they didn’t take riches back to Europe. There were few riches to be found. Rather than exploiting indigenous resources to benefit Europe, Europe sent money and resources to the Middle East. Pilgrims were quite lucrative for host countries, just as tourism is today.
War was a nasty and brutal business at the time, and had been for all of recorded history. Cities fortified themselves as protection against invading armies. A siege of a city meant surrounding the area and cutting off supplies until the population surrendered, often by starving. In the Bible, II Kings 6:24-33 relates the story of the siege of Samaria, in which two starving women agree to kill and eat their sons.
The rule of war at the time was that, if a city surrendered, the population would be spared, but if it resisted and the invading army had to take it by force all the inhabitants would be killed or enslaved. But Stark notes that Muslim armies often violated even this rule—promising sanctuary, then slaughtering the population that surrendered. (Before we get too smug and condescending about the savagery of these ancients, let’s not forget the rocket bombing of London, the firebombing of Dresden, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a mere 70 years ago.)
One way in which Muslim fighters today have advanced over their forebears is that during the Crusades they did not adopt new tactics to counter the technological advantage of the Europeans. They never used crossbows or shielded infantry, even after several hundred years of fighting. Today, Muslim warriors quickly evolve to make the most of Western technology, although they still never seem to develop anything of their own.
An Enduring Clash Between Inquiry and Submission
One final thought on this. As Stark indicates above, there is in too many Muslim countries a sense of obedience that precludes robust debate or new ideas, let alone technological innovation. In his classic, “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman quotes Osama bin Laden as saying,
"It is enough to know that the economy of all Arab countries is weaker than the economy of one country that had been part of our (Islamic) world when we used to truly adhere to Islam. That country is the lost Andalusia. Spain is an infidel country, but its economy is stronger that our economy because the ruler there is accountable. In our countries, there is no accountability or punishment, but there is only obedience to the rulers and prayers of long life for them." (pp. 400-401)
Friedman confirms that this is based on a 2002 report, the first Arab Human Development Report. This report, written by Arabs, found that Spain had a larger gross domestic product than all 22 Arab states combined!
I think Stark is closer to the mark than bin Laden. The problem is a cultural way of thinking that starts with the Qur’an and the Prophet and emphasizes unquestioning obedience. The very name of the religion, Islam, means “submission.” The thinking of bin Laden that emphasizes punishing poor rulers is a complete misunderstanding how progress is made. European cultures place a high value on questioning everything, even the divinity of Jesus Christ. Certainly there have been exceptions to this, but in the sweep of history it is an unmistakable trait.
So we have perhaps the starkest conflict of worldviews imaginable: on one hand, a robust and virtually unlimited spirit of inquiry, and on the other a fervent dedication to universal obedience and submission. How this plays out is the story of our times.
Muslim Guilt Trip Trojan Horse
By Jim Croft
Marty Skinner asks: Syria has had a civil war for almost 5 YEARS. Why all the “refugees “NOW and why so all of a SUDDEN and why in such VAST NUMBERS?
With an Honors degree in History and a lifelong student of the subject, I smell a rat. This is a highly organized, well oiled, mobilized invasion of Muslims and Jihadists into the Western World. It’s been in their plan for a long time. Momar Gadhafi predicted and explicitly stated that Muslim domination of Europe would happen without a conventional war and he said it 30 years ago. 95% of these economic “refugees” many who have cellphones are men between the fighting ages of 20 and 40. Very few women and children from everything I’ve seen.
Odd that the 5 wealthiest Arab States including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are taking “no refugees” thanks and feel quite self righteous about it. No guilt what so ever? They are even laughing at us for doing so.
Ask yourself, why would Germany Belgium, Holland, France, Sweden and others want to destroy their own cultures from within? It doesn’t make any sense? If this keeps up Europe will be burning daily within a very short few years if not months. Civil war in the streets between civilizations. Muslims vs Kefirs, that is to say, everyone who is not a Muslim.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Muslims are just not like any other immigrants. They don’t want to assimilate, they want to set up separate enclaves and implement Sharia Law. Another problem is that while the civilized West rightly abhors violence, conversely Muslims daily display their love of violence. They live it and embrace it. In many Muslim countries public beheadings and stoning to death for adultery for example. It’s a part of their culture precisely because Islam is, dare I say it, a death cult.
Islam is a supremacist, totalitarian, bigoted, fascist political ideology masquerading as a religion. It literally means “submission”. The Quran MANDATES death for blasphamy, for adultery, for apostasy, for family honor, for being gay, Jewish or a Kafer as well as ten other “crimes” many not even considered to be so in the West. Death for drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs for example. Why let in vast numbers of these brainwashed people especially men of that age when past experience has already demonstrated the tragedy, not to mention the financial, social, and political costs of rampant multiculturalism in Europe. Ordinary citizens are against this immigration but strangely, their governments are not?
Someone or some organization is pulling some strings here is what I see. Is this invasion part of the New World Order’s plan to depopulate the planet? Maybe there’s not even any such an organization but it’s all over U-tube and other social media. The major media are implicit in selling gullible citizens of the West the righteousness of the “refugees” cause and openly siding against Western culture.
One drowned child’s picture in the right places sparks outrage and sympathy world wide for the movement and resettlement of vast numbers of Muslims. However the implementation of Sharia Law, No Go Zone ghettos in most countries in Europe and Muslim rape gangs go unreported. In radical Islamist countries honor killings, beheadings, stoning’s, cutting off limbs, whipping and torture, pedophilia, child bride marriages, rape and misogyny go unreported DAILY and are dismissed as culturally ingrained.
Where is the indignity and the outrage over people doing this every day to their own populations? Yet a staged picture a drowned baby on a beach sparks a world outcry? Muslim birthrates are 8 children per family while Europeans average 1.4. When these current millions bring in their multiple wives, children and extended families 85% of whom live on state benefits (England’s experience) you can multiply their number by at least 10x, maybe 20x or even more.
By 2050 Europe will be Muslim dominated just by demographics alone. When their numbers are sufficient they will legally vote in their own kind and then Sharia Law. Europe as we know it will be lost forever. Two thousand years of civilization will be destroyed by the same fanatical bearded, bigoted, brutal, boneheaded, belligerent bastards who are now slaughtering their own kind and blowing up ancient and irreplaceable world heritage buildings, monuments, books, manuscripts and other historically significant art treasures in Iraq, Syria and other conquered territories.
Canada (America) should not get sucked into this quagmire of political correctness just to show how polite, civilized. politically correct and Canadian we are. We should learn a lesson from our Australian counterparts.
VA Christmas Tree Ban Causes Yuletide Uprising
Folks around Salem, Virginia, were ready to jingle the government’s bells after they implemented a ban on Christmas trees and religious Christmas carols in the public spaces of the local VA hospital.
The holiday hullabaloo began last week when workers received an email announcing that Christmas trees would no longer be allowed in public spaces at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“Trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year,” the email stated.
According to the federal government’s telling of the Christmas story, not only did the three wise men delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh, they also brought along a Douglas fir adorned with sparkling lights.
The VA also warned employees that “public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season.”
In other words, candy canes are good, the Baby Jesus is bad.
“Displays must not promote any religion,” they noted.
The VA went so far as to tell workers what kind of “holiday” music was permissible according to government standards.
“Music travels and should be secular (non-religious) and appropriate to the work environment,” the email stated.
The VA decided to go into full Grinch-mode and ban visiting entertainers from warbling any Christmas carol that included the words “Christ” or “Christmas.”
“They told me I could sing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ but I couldn’t sing about Christ,” Pastor John Sines, Jr. told me. “I couldn’t sing about anything that had the word Christmas in it. I could sing what they referred to as ‘holiday’ songs.”
The Rev. Sines, the pastor at Rock Pike Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia, was a bit flustered by the rules. All he wanted to do was entertain the veterans. “My agenda wasn’t so I could push Jesus on the veterans,” he said. “I just wanted to honor the veterans and to say thank-you.”
So the good reverend politely told the VA Hospital that he was not going to abide by the rules. “I let those folks know I wasn’t going to be bullied into their way of thinking,” he said. “We’re rednecks. We don’t have no problem standing our ground.”
Pastor Sines said he wasn’t trying to cause any trouble — he just wanted to do what the Constitution allowed him to do. “I have a Constitution that protects my freedom and I have God who said He would protect me from everything else,” the pastor told me.
In addition to Pastor Sines, the VA had to contend with outraged employees and veterans and the local townsfolk. So on Friday, they reached a compromise.
Pastor Sines said he was re-invited to perform and Christmas trees will once again be allowed in the public spaces — so long as other faiths are also represented.
That includes “the Jewish Menorah, or Hanukkah Lamp, and the Kwanzaa Mkeka (decorative mat) or Kinara (candleholder).”
They cited VA Directive 0022, titled, “Religious Symbols in Holiday Displays in VA Facilities.” The directive states that religious symbols may only be allowed in a public area if they display does not favor one religion over another, and conveys a primarily secular message.
So the only way folks can celebrate Christmas is if they also celebrate Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.
“This compromise allows for the Salem VAMC to be in full compliance with Federal mandates that prohibit US government facilities, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, from ‘favoring one religion over another’ while providing the diversity and flexibility for employees and Veterans to celebrate the holidays according to their individual faith structure,” the VA stated.
Sounds to me like somebody’s been smoking too much mistletoe.
The federal government may cite VA directive 0022 for its definition of Christmas, but I prefer to cite the holy Bible. And the Good Book declares that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, not a decorative mat.
Sen. Lankford: People of Faith Targeted with a New ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) spoke out Thursday on his concerns for religious liberty in America, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and the recent case of a football coach placed on paid leave for praying publicly after games.
“People of faith in the workplace and in public settings have become the new individuals who are targeted towards don’t ask don’t tell: If you have faith, don’t tell anyone, and don’t ask anyone if you have faith, and if you have it, don’t live it out publicly, because people don’t want to see it,” Lankford said at a Family Research Council event on defending religious liberty.
He voiced concern over the implications of the legalization of same-sex marriage for people of faith as well as concern over the “undercurrent of conversations” with the assumption that if you’re for religious liberty “you’re exclusive, you are divisive, you’re a person that needs to be isolated.”
Lankford gave some examples of recent challenges to freedom of religion, citing the example of Bremerton High School assistant coach Joe Kennedy, who was placed on paid administrative leave by his school district last month for praying on the field after football games.
He said that the school district in this instance “set a new principle that is very interesting for us as we deal with the issue of religious liberty.”
“The new principle that the school district set was: a school district employee cannot have a visual display of faith,” Lankford said, “because if they can see you practicing your faith, then they might take that as the school district establishment of faith.
“It’s an odd statement for them to make that no court has ever stood up but for this district they’re trying to push this one principle,” he said.
Lankford went on to argue that “universities in the country right now are dealing with a new norm as well” following the same-sex marriage ruling.
“A university in my state this year closed married student housing - closed it - understanding full well that there were gay students that would apply to the school and would immediately say I want to get in to married student housing,” Lankford explained.
“Because of the oncoming onslaught of lawsuits, they knew they would face and where they were as a school, they chose to just say we won’t offer married student housing at all,” he said.
“I don’t criticize them for that,” Lankford added. “They’re trying to figure out how do we actually function under a nebulous new court ruling.
“This is not a settled issue in America, and the way the Supreme Court settled this, it will not be a settled issue 40 years from now,” he emphasized regarding the same-sex marriage ruling.
“What is unresolved and what will be the unpacking now - and I think it’ll be first in the universities - is trying to force universities to be able to give up faith principles,” Lankford said.
“The weapons that they have in their tool box for the federal government is accreditation, is Pell Grants, and student loans,” he warned, “They have all three of those weapons in their tool box and say if you don’t do XYZ in your university and recognize XYZ, we’ll take away accreditation, student loans, and Pell Grants and your university’s shut.
"Very few universities could survive that,” Lankford said.
“That’s the kind of stuff that accelerates now after this summer’s decision,” he concluded. “It’s the yes you can have any opinion you want as long as it’s ours.”
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.