In my book Onward Muslim Soldiers, a study of global jihad, I spend a chapter debunking the myth of Muslim Spain — the idea that Al-Andalus was in the Middle Ages a beacon of tolerance where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in harmony. I thought this was important to do because the myth of tolerant Al-Andalus is used as a weapon today for political ends. Most ominously it is used to deflect anti-terror efforts and to encourage non-Muslims to let their guard down in the face of restive and growing Muslim populations in Western countries, even though no effort has been made or will be made to determine what percentage of those Muslim populations is still attached to the Sharia.
The political significance of this kind of whitewashing of history is summed up by this Telegraph headline. It refers to a new film about the Crusades being filmed by Ridley Scott: “Ridley Scott’s new Crusades film ‘panders to Osama bin Laden’.” (Thanks to LGF. Ridley Scott is the guy who made Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, and Black Hawk Down. When Black Hawk Down was shown in the Muslim world, some crowds cheered when the Americans were in trouble. Now Scott is planning to give them something else to cheer about:
Sir Ridley Scott, the Oscar-nominated director, was savaged by senior British academics last night over his forthcoming film which they say “distorts” the history of the Crusades to portray Arabs in a favourable light.
The Â£75 million film, which stars Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, is described by the makers as being “historically accurate” and designed to be “a fascinating history lesson”.
Academics, however – including Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, Britain’s leading authority on the Crusades – attacked the plot of Kingdom of Heaven, describing it as “rubbish”, “ridiculous”, “complete fiction” and “dangerous to Arab relations”.
The film, which began shooting last week in Spain, is set in the time of King Baldwin IV (1161-1185), leading up to the Battle of Hattin in 1187 when Saladin conquered Jerusalem for the Muslims.
In a particularly silly example of dhimmi wishful thinking (at best), the film invents a multiculturalist cooperative, the “Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians.” In reality, of course, such a thing did not exist and would not have existed. If Ridley Scott and the others making this film had bothered to pierce through the deceptive half-truths about Islamic tolerance that no doubt led them to invent this, they would have known that dhimmis were (and are) forbidden by Islamic law to fight alongside Muslims in jihad. Nowadays, doubtless inspired by their allies in the peace movement, radical Muslim spokesmen often spin this as “Dhimmis were excused from military service!” But in a culture that valued strength and honor above all things, this was just another sign of the humiliation of the subject peoples.
Predictably, the Christians are the villains in this script:
The script depicts Baldwin’s brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan, who succeeds him as King of Jerusalem, as “the arch-villain”. A further group, “the Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians”, is introduced, promoting an image of cross-faith kinship.
“They were working together,” the film’s spokesman said. “It was a strong bond until the Knights Templar cause friction between them.”
The Knights Templar, the warrior monks, are portrayed as “the baddies” while Saladin, the Muslim leader, is a “a hero of the piece”, Sir Ridley’s spokesman said. “At the end of our picture, our heroes defend the Muslims, which was historically correct.”
Prof Riley-Smith, who is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University, said the plot was “complete and utter nonsense”. He said that it relied on the romanticised view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter Scott in his book The Talisman, published in 1825 and now discredited by academics.
“It sounds absolute balls. It’s rubbish. It’s not historically accurate at all. They refer to The Talisman, which depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.”
Prof Riley-Smith added: “Guy of Lusignan lost the Battle of Hattin against Saladin, yes, but he wasn’t any badder or better than anyone else. There was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians. That is utter nonsense.”
Dr Jonathan Philips, a lecturer in history at London University and author of The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, agreed that the film relied on an outdated portrayal of the Crusades and could not be described as “a history lesson”.
He said: “The Templars as ‘baddies’ is only sustainable from the Muslim perspective, and ‘baddies’ is the wrong way to show it anyway. They are the biggest threat to the Muslims and many end up being killed because their sworn vocation is to defend the Holy Land.”
Dr Philips said that by venerating Saladin, who was largely ignored by Arab history until he was reinvented by romantic historians in the 19th century, Sir Ridley was following both Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, the former Syrian dictator. Both leaders commissioned huge portraits and statues of Saladin, who was actually a Kurd, to bolster Arab Muslim pride.
Prof Riley-Smith added that Sir Ridley’s efforts were misguided and pandered to Islamic fundamentalism. “It’s Osama bin Laden’s version of history. It will fuel the Islamic fundamentalists.”
Amin Maalouf, the French historian and author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, said: “It does not do any good to distort history, even if you believe you are distorting it in a good way. Cruelty was not on one side but on all.”
Sir Ridley’s spokesman said that the film portrays the Arabs in a positive light. “It’s trying to be fair and we hope that the Muslim world sees the rectification of history.”
Sure. You make a complete whitewash and rewriting of history, and then present it as a redressing of grievances. What may be more unfortunate than the film itself is that untold numbers will believe it. After all, Riley-Smith won’t be in theaters to tell them the truth. And the march of dhimmitude will continue.