The Crusades on the History Channel

I have been watching the History Channel's special on the Crusades, The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross. Overall it has been very informative, though there is a tendency, no doubt thought to be "balanced" by some, to split time between scholars from Muslim lands and scholars from Christian lands. On one hand the input from Muslim scholars is a welcome change. On the other hand, it is not entirely successful. Because the scholars from Muslim lands see things very much from the Muslim perspective, whereas the scholars from Christian lands seem to have little affection for the Christian perspective, the effect is not balance but a tilt towards the Muslim perspective. As I said, though, taken as a whole I thought the series was pretty good.

Yet there were two scenes that I found particularly troubling. One was at the end of the series when one of the Muslim scholars said that stories of the Crusades were retold today in Muslims nations "as if they happened yesterday." The other scene showed one of the Muslim scholars speaking to a score or more Muslim children on the site of the siege of Antioch. He explained to the children in detail how the Christians had laid siege to Antioch and after through treacheary having gained entrance to the city they set about slaughtering the Muslim occupants. The account was true enough, but is it really a story for children without the context of the times or an explanation as to how things have changed since the Crusades? There was no mention of Nur ed-Din's slaughtering of Franks after re-taking Edessa. Nor was there any explanation about how Jerusalem and Antioch were originally Christian lands that the Muslims had obtain by conequest. Nor was there any explanation about how the Muslims were regularly attempting to spread Islam, by force of arms, further West by conquering Constantinople and toppling the Byzantine Empire. Nor did the Muslim scholar mention that one of the series of events that precipated the Crusades was the actions of the Sixth Caliph, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. Al-Hakim had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- Christianity's most holy site -- destroyed down to the foundations. He also persecuted Christians to so great a degree that pligramiges had to cease from Christian lands (though they were later resumed to some extent after Al-Hakim's passing).

My point is not that Christians were the good guys in the Crusades. They inflicted truly terrifying atrocities that can be considered Christian in no way, such as the slaughters following the conquests of Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as the severe persecution of Jews in Christian and Muslim lands. The point is that long and narrow-minded memories on either side is a dangerous thing. To a large extent, the West has moved on. There is no impetus for reclaiming "Christian lands." Indeed, there is no mechanism to do so. Christian nations sided with the Muslims against the historically Christian serbians in the recent post-Yugoslavian crisis. At nearly the same time, Christian nations did nothing to help the Christians being oppressed by Muslims in the Sudan. As a Penn State historian notes, "For the West at least -- if not for Islam -- the age of the Crusades is long past." Phillip Johnson, The Next Christendom, page 186. The West and Christianity is better for it, and so too would be the Muslim nations and peoples be if they adjusted similarly.


Peter said…
yah... I'm pretty peeved at the tip-toeing around those peaceful moslem conquerors...... boo
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