Muslim Perspectives on the Crusades
Posted by Naila
During the First World War, Muslims reclaimed Crusade imagery, using it to promote their own “holy wars” such as those against British Rule in India. Phrases such as “infidel rule” and “enemies of God” (Siberry 2000 p102 quoted in Pearson 2004 p62) mirror the rallying cries of Pope Urban II to the crusaders in 1095 (Peters 2008 p127 -131). The ideas associated with the Crusades had become part of Muslim consciousness, and was used as a way to persuade Muslims in to battle.
During the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Imperial forces took over the administration of Baghdad as well as Palestine. This was not perceived as a Crusade by many Muslims because the imperial forces had successfully been able to put forward their culture over the centuries and they no longer seemed strange. They had spent many decades undermining the network of support for the Khilafah system, and built up their own network of “friendly foreigners” who had accepted their gifts of gold, guns or future provinces. However some Muslims such as Sultan Abd al-Hamid II recognised the actions of Europe as a Crusade. (Pearson 2004) P63.
After the creation of Israel at the end of WWII, parallels were made in the collective Muslim conscience between the events occurring and the Crusades. Salah ad-Din was revered as an inspirational leader, who fought of the crusaders, in the name of Islam, and those who aimed to revive the struggle against western aggressors, al be it politically and not militarily, exploited this in order to portray themselves as a modern day version of Salah ad-Din.
More recent perspectives have viewed the Sykes-Picot agreement an extension of the crusades, and have also voiced the opinion that recent intervention within the Arab world has been from the “Imperial, Crusader powers”. Demonstrating the view that evolved forms of Crusades are still occurring. (Galloway on Memri TV 2012)
Contemporary Islamic campaigners view all Christian attacks on Islam, from the seventh century to the present as ideologically motivated and as a form of Crusade. With the creation of Israel Zionists and Jews also became recognised as Crusaders, who aimed to weaken Islamic territory, and ideals. Imperialism and Zionism are seen as sharing common goals. Sayid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood described this as “the Crusader spirit which runs in the blood of all Westerners’” (Qutb 1995 p235 in Hillenbrand 1999 p601-602 quoted in Pearson p64).
Other organisations such as Hamas, the Political party in control of The Gaza Strip, also view Israel and its supporters and allies as Crusading, Imperial powers, which are invading Arab, Muslim territory. The situation of Palestine has been a symbol of oppression of Islam by Crusading forces, for Muslims from across the goal. The concept of Ummah has come to the forefront of Muslim identities in recent times, encouraged by technological developments such as ease of spreading information and contacting people in other countries. With the resurrection of this concept more Muslims are emotionally connected to events in Palestine and the Middle East, and view Western interventions in this region as Crusades.
The “War on Terror” announced by George W. Bush is also viewed by some as a Crusade, based on the President’s remarks “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while and the religious imagery used in his speech of September 16th 2011, such as “rousing a mighty giant” and “fighting evil”. (Bush http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov). The Islamic Party Hizb ut tahrir view this as an attempt to divide and conquer, as the early Crusaders did, therefore diminishing the potential power of a united Islamic state. They also often report deaths in conflict zones as due to “crusading forces”. (Hizb ut Tahrir http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.info)
The banned organisation Muslims Against The Crusades also attempted to use Crusader imagery to promote its cause, and viewed the British Army as Crusading Imperialist forces, demonstrated by their infamous poppy burning stunt and their chants of “hands of Muslim lands”. (Bloxham, http://www.telegraph.co.uk).
In summary we can see that many Muslims feel there is a social, cultural, political, economic and military oppression occurring within Muslim lands, ranging from Somalia, to Chechnya, to Palestine, to Afghanistan. This, to them, fulfils the criteria of what comprises a Crusade. The perspective of many Muslim activists are that the Crusades never ended, and will not end any time soon.
However the sources used are mainly from Islamist and political groups, who use the media to promote their particular agenda, which in the case of all political parties are popular approval leading to power. This means there is likely to be elements of propaganda, and stirring up enmity within the sources, in an attempt for the groups involved to win support and recognition.
Although at the time of the first Crusades, the enemy was “strange and unexpected”, this is no longer the case. Muslims have been living in Western lands for centuries. Many consider themselves Westerners and the West is the only home they know. Foreign travel is quick and easy. They are also used to the interventions in Muslim countries by the West. It is not unexpected for “Imperial forces” such as NATO, the UN or IMF to be involved in the affairs of Muslim Countries. It has become the norm
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