Back in February 2015, at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama stated that the radical Islamic terrorist group ISIS’s actions were similar to what Christendom did during the Crusades. Was he right?The short answer is no, he was not. He is a excerpt of President Obama’s remarks:
But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions…
…lest 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.
You can read the full transcript of President Obama’s speech on the National Archive’s Obama White House archive site.
Even if the comparison were accurate, this speech was made about a week after ISIS released a video of them burning alive a captured Jordanian fighter pilot. “You don’t lean over backwards to be philosophical about the sins of the fathers, you have to deal with the issue that is in front of you or don’t deal with it at all when you talk about faith,” said Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC correspondent. Even if the sins of the fathers could be pinned on the sons, many of today’s Muslims are descendants of Christians from that time period, and many of today’s Christians are descendants of Muslims from that time period. So which sons get blamed for which fathers’ sins? Also, It isn’t the year 1095, the Crusades happened long ago. As mentioned by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, “The world has changed a bit since then, as has the state of human knowledge. We understand, for example, that deadly epidemics are caused by germs — not by the failure to burn enough witches or slay enough infidels.”
The bigger problem is that the comparison is not at all accurate. The Crusades are not what many believe they are. The commonly held misconception is that the Crusades was an attempt by Christian Europe to conquer and subdue the peaceful Muslims in the Middle East. That it was not a Holy War, but an act of religious intolerance, an attempt to purge the land of a group of non-believers that Christianity felt was beneath them. And that Crusaders were nothing but greedy, evil men that would slaughter men, women and children in their conquest for more land and riches.
The reality is that the Crusades were very much a defensive war. At the start of the Crusades, Christianity and the west had already tolerated several centuries of Muslim aggression and expansion by war, an aggression that grew ever fiercer in the 11th Century. When the first Crusade was called for by Pope Clement in 1095, Christianity had already suffered tremendous loss of land for over 450 years by Muslim aggressors. It was only when Islam was getting ready to conquer Constantinople, and was on Europe’s doorstep, that Christianity decided to act. At some point, what was left of the Christian world would have to defend itself or simply succumb to Islamic conquest.
The centuries before the Crusades
At the birth of Islam, most of the Middle East and Africa were Christian lands. From the birth of Islam