Ibn Warraq: Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History (Part 46)
CONCLUSIONS: CRUSADES NOT BARBARIC.
Often when criticizing Islam, I am interrupted by the remark that of course Christianity was also once equally culpable of similar crimes. The fact that Christianity certainly was once intolerant does not mean that my criticisms of Islam”s intolerance are any less valid. If a Christian makes a specific criticism X of Islam, and Christianity was once also guilty of X, it does not follow that the criticism X is invalid.
Second, Islamic intolerance is presently a far more immediate danger to all, whereas Christian intolerance is a thing of the past, and is no longer a threat to civilization. Christendom”s crimes have been recorded by Christians themselves, but, in the present climate of political correctness, many are reluctant to voice any criticism of Islam.
Of course, there is a sense in which one could well agree with criticisms of Islam”s intolerance, but go on to insist that Christianity was also once intolerant in order to, perhaps, point out the possibility of Islam evolving in a similar fashion towards tolerance. One could also point out similar shortcomings of Christendom in order to relativize the atrocious behaviour of Islamic civilization, in order not to demonise Islam alone. However, this principle should work both ways; we should equally not demonise Christendom, and be prepared to point to similar shortcomings of Islam. In a recent (December, 2008) television programme, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, presented a rather biased programme on the Crusades, but biased against the Christians, laying the blame of the Crusades entirely on the Christians, who are always depicted as barbarians. He pointed out at that Christians in Spain after the expulsions of the Moors converted a mosque into a church, and called this act “vandalism”. However, he failed to point out that the Crusades were a reaction against over three hundred years of jihad when the Eastern Christians were persecuted, and hundreds of churches destroyed. He also failed to mention the conversion of the magnificent Byzantine Hagia Sophia into a mosque, (though admittedly this took place after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 — it was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. But my point is that Islamic Jihad did not end with the defeat of the Crusaders. On the contrary in Islamic doctrine all the later Islamic conquests were seen as a part of the religious duty of carrying out Jihad until the entire the world submits to Islam.)
The Muslim persecution of Christians, or for that matter, all non-Muslims, varied from country to country, ruler to ruler, or century to century. The treatment of non-Muslims, and its scriptural source and justification will be discussed below. Here I can only adumbrate the situation in the Holy Land a hundred years before Pope Urban II”s call in 1095 for a crusade to liberate Palestine. The cruelties of Caliph al-Hakim have been recorded by Christian and Muslim historians. In 1003, al-Hakim began the persecution of Jews and Christians in earnest. Historian Ibn al-Dawadari tells us that the first move in a series of acts was the destruction of the church of St. Mark. Al-Musabbihi, a contemporary, recounts that the Christians built this church without a permit — the building of new churches was not permitted. The Al-Rashida mosque was built in its place, eventually extending over, and desecrating Jewish and Christian cemeteries; surely an act of vandalism. The height of al-Hakim”s cruelties was the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection, possibly the most revered shrine in Christendom, since it is considered by Christians as Golgotha, (the Hill of Calvary), where the New Testament says that Jesus was crucified, and even the place where Jesus was buried, and hence, of course, the site of the Resurrection. He ordered dismantled “the Church of the Resurrection to its very foundations, apart from what could not be destroyed or pulled up, and they also destroyed the Golgotha and the Church of St. Constantine and all that they contained, as well as all the sacred grave-stones. They even tried to dig up the graves and wipe out al traces of their existence. Indeed they broke up and uprooted most of them. They also laid waste to a convent in the neighbourhood”¦.The authorities took all the other property belonging to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its pious foundations, and all its furnishings and treasures.” According to Muslim sources the destruction began in September, 1007 C.E. “Most of the Muslim sources view the destruction as a reaction to its magnificence and the fact that it was a world centre for Christian pilgrims, among them many Christians from Egypt; to the splendid processions that were held in the streets of Jerusalem, and to the “˜Paschal fire”"¦.”
To be continued.