Imagined Enemies

On Crusaders and Terrorists in the Middle East

Seminar Paper, 2010

23 Pages, Grade: 1,0



Introduction: Introduction: The assumed tradition

1. The Ancient Conflicts
1.1. The Crusades: ‘ Deus lo vult!
1.2. The Ottoman Empire and Habsburg: Crescent and Cross

2. The Modern Conflicts
2.1. The Middle East: Defeat of the Ottomans and Inventing the Mandates
2.2. The Muslims and Israel: Androcles against the Lion

Conclusion: Intervention and Demonization


Introduction: An assumed tradition

In September 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks on America, President George W. Bush announced his “Crusade” against terrorism - a Crusade that was aimed mainly at Islamic fundamentalists. One Millennium after the first Crusades, that conflict seemed still going on and the connection to that fateful day in September 2001 was drawn easily. The fight had been going on since the first expansion of Islam into the former Christian world.

An everlasting conflict between Christians in the West and Muslims in the East seems so obvious that we take it for self-evident when we perceive our political world. Authors have written and modified it repeatedly. Not long ago, Bernard Lewis wrote his Islam and the West telling us about the history of these cultures as a history of military conflict. Even supporters of the Arab point of view back this idea of the continuous conflict. The conclusion of Amin Maalouf suggests that “there can be no doubt that the schism between these two worlds [the Arab East and the West] dates from the Crusades, deeply felt by the Arabs, even today, as an act of rape.”[1] One more famous book takes that approach to take a look at the recent development in world politics and predict its Clash of Civilizations. Huntington shows the post-Cold War world by explaining global politics along cultural lines.[2] One of the most important of these lines is, not surprisingly, the one between the Islamic and the Western Civilizations. The “Islamic Resurgence” is recognized as rejection of Western culture.[3] Therefore the conflict is inherent. Huntington notices a “Muslim unity” and increasing cooperation[4] that might enable Turkey to abandon Ataturk’s legacy and become the leader of Islam.[5] His vision closes with the scenario of the Muslim civilization eventually joining China in opposition to the West.[6] The inevitable conclusion comes from another author. Robert Spencer views the Islamic revival with fear and describes the potential of a civilization lead by faith, only to calls for a new Crusade to defeat the international Jihadist. He goes further to say that converts from Islam to Christianity in the USA must live in fear for their lives.[7] It is here, where the Crusade against terrorism equalized with Islam begins.

But what if we take a closer look on what appears to be behind the ambiguous history of Crusades and Holy Wars. Are there perhaps more sophisticated explanations. We have to differentiate the motives for the main campaigns in an assumed “continuous conflict.” Therefore we will see over the Crusades, the fierce war at the front between Christendom and Islam under Ottoman rule and finally the modern antagonisms to verify or falsify that theory of a causally determined cultural conflict.

A number of books have been written to suggest different interpretations of the sources and to revise ancient one-sided reflections on the Crusades. One of the latest publications is The new concise history of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden. However, I will strongly rely on Steven Runciman’s three volumes A History of the Crusades. It provides a very detailed analysis of that period. Concerning the Ottoman era, we have to regard works like Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab world: the roots of sectarianism by Bruce Alan Masters and Jürgen Luh’s “Religion und Türkenkrieg (1683-1699) – neu bewertet“ as well as Klaus-Peter Matschke’s Das Kreuz und der Halbmond - Die Geschichte der Türkenkriege. When we get to the modern conflicts, the most important works appear to be Western imperialism in the Middle East 1914-1958 by David Kenneth Fieldhouse and David Fromkin’s A Peace to end all Peace. In addition to these sources, one other book is indispensible: Emran Qureshi and Michael Anthony Sells have edited The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy and thus provided a new view on our topic. A combination of these texts enables us to really understand the “everlasting Crusade vs. Jihad.” The purpose of this paper will be to draw the big picture and compare it to theories that have very much influenced the “Crusade” against terrorism.

1. The Ancient Conflicts

1.1. The Crusades: ‘ Deus lo vult! ’

Before the Crusades ever took place, Jerusalem, all of Syria, and North Africa were lost to the Muslims. Occasional raids over the Pyrenees frightened the Europeans even more. The idea that Charles Martel “saved Europe from a final and complete conquest” in 732 is wide spread.[8] However, individual heroes like Martel who had defeated Saracen raids did not turn things around for Christian Europeans.[9] The West, an “internally divided region” was apparently on the “brink of conquest by a powerful empire.”[10] In the 11th century, Turks had come from central Asia as mercenaries to fight the Byzantine Empire, which had been controlling most of the remains of the Roman Empire. Rome itself struggled with Muslims in Italy and southern France at that time. When the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus called for help, the church had gained power over the western kingdoms. The battle for Spain during the eleventh century had developed into a holy war after which the Crusades could be modeled. Thus the church established itself as the head of Christian ambitions to fight the Muslim world.[11] Pope Urban II made Byzantium’s call for help not only an effort to defend Christendom, but to reclaim the holy lands.[12]

After his call for the first Crusade, thousands of people, many Knights, the elderly and women looking for salvation took the pilgrimage. Contrary to a wide spread theory, rather few went to plunder. The motivation was indeed religious. One theory was that Christian nobles had sent their second and third sons who would not inherit their land.[13] However, the nobles who led the armies were lords of their own estates. In fact, the Crusades were financially exhausting enterprises and “it seems certain that most Crusaders returned home impoverished—if they ever got home again at all.”[14] For warriors, the Crusade had a different and much more important advantage. It provided the chance for them to turn their talent as means of their own salvation, by serving their God.[15] The Crusades were seen in the context of Salvation by contemporaries. The Crusaders finally took the Levant and established the Crusader states of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem. Centuries of warfare between the Muslim forces and theirs followed. Saladin took back the city of Jerusalem in 1187 before the Crusader states ceased to exist after the fall of Acre in 1291. The theory of the “long memory” of Muslims accounts for the siege of Jerusalem never being forgotten - especially when Saladin entered the city 88 years later.[16] Even the West refers to the Crusades throughout history. After conquering Syria in 1920, Henri Gouraud said: “Behold, Saladin, we have returned.”[17] And recently George W. Bush announced his Crusade insensitively for the Muslims who, according to Maalouf, remember the real Crusades to well.

What exactly did Maalouf argue? He claimed an eternal memory of the Christian cruelty. In his book The Crusades through Arab Eyes, he quotes the following: “All those who were well informed about the Franj [Crusaders] saw them as beasts[…].” Yet, his book is rather a summary of contemporary Arab writings than an analysis of these. There is no doubt that Maalouf offers an important part to writing the history of the Crusades. However, it is only through contemporary Arab eyes, far from being academic, and general in its approach.[18] Usama ibn Munqidh’s memoirs provide another popular source for the Arab point of view. Instead of reflecting two opposed worlds at the Levant, he lived among Franks as diplomat at one time and fought them another time. Even though, Munqidh wrote Arabic literature (adab) to please and instruct the reader by describing the barbarians than telling the “truth”, his memoirs tell a different story.[19] His life among Christians, where he even made friends suggests a more complex reality than a confrontation between Christians on the one side and the Muslims on the other side. Heinz Halm describes him as a lord who did not distinguish himself much from the Franks in his knightly habitus.[20] In fact Munqidh had negotiated an alliance with the Franks. That kind of blurring the lines was no rare exception. When the second Crusade failed to conquer Damascus, the city was allied with the Crusader-state of Jerusalem.[21] And in 1174, Damascus had already appealed for help to the Franks against Saladin who was conquering Muslim cities.[22] The Franks even saved Muslim Alleppo.[23] On the other side, Saladin himself arranged truces with the Christians to fight his fellow Muslims (1175, 1180, 1183, and 1185).[24] As territorial struggles in the Middle East grew, the tension eventually led to multiple Muslim-Crusader alliances.[25] It was especially the lack of unity among Muslims that enabled the Crusaders to succeed. Only an end of the struggle between Sunni Seljuk and Shi’it Fatimid could have stopped them.[26] The tradition however was the opposite. Long before the Crusades, Byzantine was allied to the Fatimids of Egypt against Sunni Abbasids and Turks. Now, the Frankish principalities drove a wedge into the Muslim world.[27] The Crusader-states did not divide Muslim forces. They rather had a special purpose in the foreign political environment. They served as buffer between the Muslim factions.[28] When this buffer began to occupy more and more territory, it began to direct animosities on itself. When the Crusaders reached Palestine and kept Antioch for themselves, Byzantine ended its support for them.[29]


[1] Amin Maalouf, The crusades through Arab eyes (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1985), 266.

[2] Samuel P. Huntington, The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 19.

[3] Huntington, 109.

[4] Huntington, 176.

[5] Huntington, 179.

[6] Huntington, 314.

[7] Robert Spencer, Islam (and the Crusades). The Politically Incorrect Guide to (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005), 221.

[8] Mike Paine, The crusades (Harpenden, UK: Pocket Essentials, 2005), 20.

[9] Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades, vol. I, The First Crusade and the Foundation of

the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), 88f.

[10] Thomas F. Madden, The new concise history of the Crusades (Oxford, UK: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), 213.

[11] Runciman, vol I, 90.

[12] Madden, 7.

[13] Runciman, vol I, 92.

[14] Nikolas Jaspert, The crusades (New York, NY; London, UK: Routledge, 2006), 62.

[15] Madden, 11.

[16] Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (New York, NY: Routledge, 2000), 316.

[17] Madden, 215.

[18] Hillenbrand, 12.

[19] Hillenbrand, 260.

[20] Heinz Halm, “Die Fatimiden,” Geschichte der Arabischen Welt, 3rd ed. ed. Ulrich Haarmann (Munich, Germany: C.H. Beck, 1994) 194.

[21] Hillenbrand, 23.

[22] Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades, vol. II, The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), 404.

[23] Runciman , vol. II, 408.

[24] Heinz Halm, “Die Ayyubiden,” Haarmann, 202.

[25] Hillenbrand, 21.

[26] Hillenbrand, 48.

[27] Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades, Volume II, The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957, 8.

[28] Hillenbrand, 83.

[29] Runciman , vol. II, 15.

Excerpt out of 23 pages


Imagined Enemies
On Crusaders and Terrorists in the Middle East
East Tennessee State University  (History Department)
Origins of Problems in the Middle East
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
406 KB
Terrorismus, Terrorism, Islam, Islamismus, Kreuzzüge, Crusades, Clash of Civilizations, Muslim, Middle East, Naher Osten
Quote paper
Magister Artium Steve Nowak (Author), 2010, Imagined Enemies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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