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Games Muslims Play

 The Crusades


The Game:

Muslims love talking about the Crusades... and Christians love apologizing for them (a strategy that has backfired in spectacular fashion).  To hear both parties tell the story, one would think that Muslims were just peacefully minding their own business in lands that were legitimately Muslim, when Christian armies decided to wage holy war and "kill millions."


The Truth:

Every part of this myth is a lie.  By the rules that Muslims claim for themselves, the Crusades were justified, and the excesses (though beneath Christian standards) pale in comparison with the historical treatment of conquered populations at the hands of Muslims.

Here are some quick facts...

The first Crusade began in 1095… 460 years after the first Christian city was overrun by Muslim armies, 457 years after Jerusalem was conquered by Muslim armies, 453 years after Egypt was taken by Muslim armies, 443 after Muslims first plundered Italy, 427 years after Muslim armies first laid siege to the Christian capital of Constantinople, 380 years after Spain was conquered by Muslim armies, 363 years after France was first attacked by Muslim armies, 249 years after the capital of the Christian world, Rome itself, was attacked by a Muslim army, and only after centuries of church burnings, killings, enslavement and forced conversions of Christians.

By the time the Crusades finally began, Muslim armies had conquered two-thirds of the Christian world. 

Europe had been harassed by Muslims since the first few years following Muhammad’s death.  As early as 652, Muhammad’s followers launched raids on the island of Sicily, waging a full-scale occupation 200 years later that lasted almost a century and was punctuated by massacres, such as that at the town of Castrogiovanni, in which 8,000 Christians were put to death.  In 1084, ten years before the first crusade, Muslims staged another devastating Sicilian raid, burning churches in Reggio, enslaving monks and raping an abbey of nuns before carrying them into captivity.

In 1095, Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Comneus began begging the pope in Rome for help in turning back the Muslim armies which were overrunning what is now Turkey, grabbing property as they went and turning churches into mosques.   Several hundred thousand Christians had been killed in Anatolia alone in the decades following 1050 by Seljuk invaders interested in 'converting' the survivors to Islam.

Not only were Christians losing their lives in their own lands to the Muslim advance, but pilgrims to the Holy Land from other parts of Europe were being harassed, kidnapped, molested, forcibly converted to Islam and occasionally murdered.  (Compare this to the Quran’s justification for slaughter simply on the basis that Muslims were denied access to the Meccan pilgrimage).

Renowned scholar Bernard Lewis points out that the Crusades, though "often compared with the Muslim jihad, was a delayed and limited response to the jihad and in part also an imitation.... Forgiveness for sins to those who fought in defence of the holy Church of God and the Christian religion and polity, and eternal life for those fighting the infidel: these ideas... clearly reflect the Muslim notion of jihad."

Lewis goes on to state that, "unlike the jihad, it [the Crusade] was concerned primarily with the defense or reconquest of threatened or lost Christian territory... The Muslim jihad, in contrast, was perceived as unlimited, as a religious obligation that would continue until all the world had either adopted the Muslim faith or submitted to Muslim rule... The object of jihad is to bring the whole world under Islamic law."

If someone takes your wallet and you take it back, who is the thief? 

The Crusaders only invaded lands that were Christian.  They did not attack Saudi Arabia (other than a half-hearted expedition by a minor figure) or sack Mecca, as the Muslims had done (and continued doing) to Italy and Constantinople.  Their primary goal was the recapture of Jerusalem and the security of safe passage for pilgrims.  The toppling of the Muslim empire was not on the agenda.

The period of Crusader “occupation” (of its own former land) was stretched tenuously over about 170 years, which is less than the Muslim occupation of Sicily and southern Italy alone - to say nothing of Spain and other lands that had never been Islamic before falling victim to Jihad.  In fact, the Arab occupation of North Africa and Middle Eastern lands outside of Arabia is almost 1400 years old.

Despite popular depiction, the Crusades were not a titanic battle between Christianity and Islam.  Although originally dispatched by papal decree, the "occupiers" quickly became part of the political and economic fabric of the Middle East without much regard for religious differences.  Their arrival was largely accepted by the local population as simply another change in authority.  Islamic radicals even lamented the fact that many of their co-religionists preferred to live under Frankish (Christian) rule than migrate to Muslim lands.

The Muslim world was also split into warring factions, many of which allied themselves with the Frankish princes against each other at one time or another.  This even included Saladin, the Kurdish warrior who is credited with eventually ousting the "Crusaders."  Contrary to recent propaganda, however, Saladin had little interest in holy war until a rogue Frankish prince began disrupting his trade routes.  Both before and after the taking of Jerusalem, his armies spent far more time and resources battling fellow Muslims.

For its part, the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) Empire preferred to have little to do with the Crusader kingdoms and went so far as to sign treaties with their Muslim rivals on occasion.

Another misconception is that the Crusader era was a time of constant war.  In fact, very little of this overall period included significant hostilities.  In response to Muslim expansion or aggression, there were only about 20 years of actual military campaigning, much of which was spent on organization and travel.  (They were from 1098-1099, 1146-1148, 1188-1192, 1201-1204, 1218-1221, 1228-1229, and 1248-1250).  By comparison, the Muslim Jihad against the island of Sicily alone lasted 75 grinding years.

Ironically, the Crusades can be justified from the Quran itself, which encourages Holy War in order to "drive them out of the places from whence they drove you out" (2:191).  In this case, the objective wasn't to expel Muslims from the Middle East, but to bring an end to the molestation of pilgrims.  Holy war is not justified by New Testament teachings, which is why the Crusades are an anomaly, the brief interruption of centuries of relentless Jihad against Christianity that began long before and continued well after that event. 

The greatest crime of the Crusaders was the sacking of Jerusalem, in which at least 3,000 people were said to have been massacred.  This number is dwarfed by the number of Jihad victims, from India to Constantinople, Africa and Narbonne, but Muslims have never apologized for their crimes and never will. 

What is called 'sin and excess' by other religions, is what Islam refers to as duty willed by Allah.

Further Reading

Games Muslims Play Index

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