So… Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who fancy themselves historians.
This morning, Twitter was full of them — many of whom were slamming President Obama for comments he made at the National Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday, in which he compared the barbarism of ISIS, and their “betrayal” of Islam, to the comparably heinous acts committed by the Crusaders beginning in the 11th Century.
“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” said Obama at the event. “And in our home country, slavery, and Jim Crow, all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
This did not sit well with several pundits — including FOX News contributor, Michelle Malkin, who tweeted: “ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades.”
ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades. http://t.co/ifTnJGw2wJ
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) February 5, 2015
Not sure if Michelle actually listened to what the President said, but he didn’t “blame” the Crusades for ISIS — he compared them. That’s kind of a big difference. And it seems to be a fairly apt comparison considering the fact that the Crusaders did many of the same things ISIS has done.
At the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Muslims and Jews, fighting side-by-side to defend their city against the First Crusade, were slaughtered by the thousands — among them men, women and children. According to the Gesta Francorum (“The Deeds of the Franks”), “[our men] were killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles…”
Many of the city’s Jews were burnt alive in their own synagogue by the Frankish crusaders. As the Muslim chronicler, Ibn al-Qalanisi, claims “the Jews assembled in their synagogue, and the Franks burned it over their heads.”
Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT A JUSTIFICATION, BUT A COMPARISON.
There were also those who attempted to make the argument that because something happened a long time ago, they are no longer relevant. Managing editor at MRC Culture, Matt Philbin was among them.
So Obama’s not interested in fighting radical Islam today because of stuff Christians did in the 11th Century. #NationalPrayerBreakfast
— Mattphilbin (@Mattphilbin) February 5, 2015
Again… Not sure if Matt actually listened to the speech but pretty sure Obama didn’t say anything close to that. Either way, if you’re gonna make the argument that things that happened in the past don’t matter, you should tell that to the Vatican.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II apologized to the Orthodox Christian Church for the rampage beset upon the city of Constantipole (modern day Istanbul) by the Crusaders in 1204. Why does this matter? 1) Clearly, the Pope thought it was important enough to apologize 800 years later, despite the ecclesiastical divide that remains between the two churches and 2) the sack of Constantinople, in which thousands of Christians were butchered by other Christians, still resonates in the subconscious of Orthodox Christians to this day.
These are not opinions, but facts. This is not, and should not be turned into, a liberal vs. conservative issue. This isn’t even necessarily a Muslim vs. Christian issue. The Crusades, like Jihadism (or radical Islam, or whatever the hell you want to call it), are, and were, economically and geopolitically instigated wars masquerading as holy wars.
Young, disenfranchised men with no future, in a crumbling economy, become radicalized by religion, and take up arms against a foreign power thousands of miles away…
Wait… Are we talking about the Dark Ages or the 21st Century?
In very broad strokes… During the Middle Ages, the Muslim world was wealthy (as it sat on the Silk Road between Europe and the Far East); well educated (as it preserved much of ancient Roman and Greek knowledge after the fall of Rome); and was relatively tolerant of other cultures and religions (and I stress relatively). Now, contrast that with the modern world, in which the West (dominated by Christianity) is affluent, free-thinking, and educated compared to its contemporary Middle Eastern counterpart, and you’ll find that the conditions are undeniably similar. Upon this backdrop, it is hard not to draw parallels between the Crusades and the radical form of Islam, known as Jihadism.
“This is not unique to one group or one religion,” Obama claimed at the breakfast. “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith. And in today’s world when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to combat such intolerance. But God compels us to try.”
As the President is trying to point out, and something many people clearly missed, is that ISIS (again — Jihadism, radical Islam, or whatever you wanna call it) does not represent Islam in the same way the Crusades do not represent Christianity. Obama wasn’t “blaming” the Crusades for ISIS, or “justifying” it — he was merely comparing the two.
So, to all those people telling the President to pick up a history book, maybe you should look in the mirror.
Watch the President’s speech courtesy of C-SPAN.