“Crusaders were the perpetrators of violent attacks across Europe and the Middle East on Muslims, Jews and pagans.” The attacks on innocent people of any religion cannot and should not be excused, but the BBC seriously misleads its readers when it presents the Crusades as an unprovoked exercise of proto-colonialism directed against a peaceful Muslim world. The Crusades were in reality a late, small-scale defensive response after 450 years of jihad attacks had conquered and Islamized what had previously been over half of the Christian world. Armies animated by the jihad ideology (or that eventually justified their actions by recourse to it) had occupied much of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain, as well as Persia and much of India, centuries before a Crusade was even contemplated. They had entered France, and besieged Constantinople.
The Seljuk Turks’ victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071, when they took the Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes prisoner, opened all of Asia Minor to them. In 1076, they conquered Syria; in 1077, Jerusalem. The Seljuk Emir Atsiz bin Uwaq promised not to harm the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but once his men had entered the city, they murdered 3,000 people. The same year the Seljuks established the sultanate of Rum (Rome, referring to the New Rome, Constantinople) in Nicaea, perilously close to Constantinople itself; from here they continued to threaten the Byzantines and harass the Christians all over their new domains. The Eastern Roman Empire, which before Islam’s wars of conquest had ruled over a vast expanse including southern Italy, North Africa, the Middle East, and Arabia, was reduced to little more than Greece. It looked as if its demise at the hands of the Seljuks was imminent. The Church of Constantinople considered the pope a schismatic and had squabbled with him for centuries, but the new Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118) swallowed his pride and appealed for help. And that is how the First Crusade came about: it was a response to the Byzantine Emperor’s call for help against Muslim invaders who threatened to destroy the Christian empire.
The Crusaders committed many atrocities. At the same time, the period of 1099-1291, when the Crusaders were present in the Holy Land, saw a complete cessation of Islamic attacks in Europe, and probably saved Europe from total conquest and Islamization.
So why shouldn’t English soccer fans dress as Crusaders and take pride in their own culture and heritage? Because, of course, that culture is spent, and weak, and confused, and anxious to appease a much more confident alternative culture that regards the Crusades as an affront.
“BBC Warns Football Fans Dressing as Crusaders ‘Offensive’ to Muslims,” by Donna Rachel Edmunds, Breitbart, June 4, 2016:
The BBC has warned English football fans not to dress as crusaders when attending the Euro 2016 tournament this summer as they might cause offence to Muslims.
Posing the question: “Is it wrong to dress as a crusader for an England match?” the answer appears to be a resounding “yes”.
“Crusaders were the perpetrators of violent attacks across Europe and the Middle East on Muslims, Jews and pagans,” the website intones, suggesting that fans may simply want to don the English flag instead, as “this has nothing to do with crusaders or what they stood for”.
And although it can’t help musing: “The English flag used to have connotations with far-right nationalism,” it is forced to concede that: “Today the flag is flown by local authorities and individuals in a purely patriotic sense.”
Digging deeper into the history of the crusades, the website depicts crusaders as “wading ankle deep in blood, killing civilians and resorting to cannibalism,” although it admits that accounts of such actions “may have [been] exaggerated,” while a source is cited describing the leader of the Muslim forces, Nur ed-Din as “a just prince, valiant and wise, and according to the traditions of his race, a religious man”.
Breezing past the fact that the Christian Holy Roman Empire was “losing territory to Muslim Turks in the East,” the website recounts the history of the crusades in terms depicting the Christian forces as the equivalent of today’s Islamic State: religion-crazed extremists who ravaged the Middle East in an attempt to win favour in heaven.
It wasn’t the Holy Roman Empire, it was the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire.
The English king Richard the First, we are told, slayed his captives while his forces “massacred” the people of Constantinople and plundered the city….
A spokesman for the BBC insisted that the iWonder website doesn’t take a view on any topic. “iWonder guides are not the BBC passing judgement, they cover a huge range of topics and are designed to ask questions which encourage debate. In this instance, the users were given the opportunity to express their own views by voting on the topic,” he told The Times.
But the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) has suggested that fans take heed of the BBC’s warning and leave the crusader costumes behind when travelling to France for the tournament this summer.
Chris Doyle, director of Caabu, said the word “crusade” has powerful negative connotations in the Arab world, which could potentially open fans up to being targeted by extremists.
“I would hope Muslims do not take offence but there may well be people who do. They may present themselves as more of a target to any extremist,” he said.