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The Evolution of Arab Conceptions of the Crusades

The Evolution of Arab Conceptions of the Crusades

By John “Garick” Chamberlin

Strategic Insights, Vol.6:2 (2007)

Introduction: The Crusades are an extremely emotional issue among Muslims today. Bitterness about the Crusades shows up in some very anti-Western, and sometimes very violent, contexts. Libyan propaganda in the early 1980s attempted to mobilize its population against America, which was presented as having launched “the offensive of the Cross against Islam.” Mehmet Ali Agha, before his attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981, wrote in a letter “I have decided to kill John Paul II, the supreme commander of the Crusades.” The most famous of these uses of anti-Crusader rhetoric is Usama Bin-Laden’s fatwa of 1998, in which he called for the killing of Americans. It was titled “Text of World Islamic Front’s Statement Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” What is not so clear is that this is a case of still being bitter, rather than new bitterness. This article shows the process of the re-telling the Arab history of the Crusades based on different historians’ current contexts.

A review of the pertinent primary medieval Arab histories does not reveal the outrage expressed by modern sources. Neither at the time of the invasion itself , nor for much of the time of the Western Christian “Crusader States” in the Levant, were the Crusades seen as a unified issue or a momentous problem for the local polities. Instead, the invaders were seen as just one more in a series of actors in the region. The presumptive ideological motives that give “the Crusades” their historical unity in the West was not apparent to the other side. Muslim chroniclers of the time were unconcerned with this Western concept and simply saw what we think of as “the Crusades” as more in a series of conflicts involving various enemies. They are certainly chronicled, not as a distinct event, but as multiple events within a chronological framework.

Click here to read this article from the Naval Postgraduate School

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