Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan. (Previous article in this series can be found in the May 1, 2004 issue, p. 351.)
“And the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
I Chronicles 12:32
…On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race (Muslim, c.k.) from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.1
This clarion call from Clermont, France by Pope Urban II in 1095 aroused Western Christendom to action. The thousands of people assembled to hear Pope Urban’s speech responded with shouts of “God wills it! God wills it!” To fuel their enthusiasm further, the pope had red cloth cut up into strips, which were sewn together in the form of little crosses to be affixed to the sleeve of everyone who agreed to take part. Thus began the two hundred-year period of the “crusades.”
While there were a number of motives for the crusades, high on the list were the more than four centuries of conquests during which Islam had taken control of two thirds of the old Christian world (see SB, May 1, 2004), and the pressure of Islamic jihad on Europe.
Four years after Pope Urban’s call to arms, in April of 1099,
…the Crusader army marched on to Jerusalem, and on June 7 besieged the city. The attack began July 14, 1099—the date destined to live in anti-Christian infamy centuries later — and the next day the Crusaders entered Jerusalem from all sides and slew its inhabitants, regardless of age or sex. The soldiers of the Church Militant, as it turned out, could not only outfight but also out-massacre their Mohammedan foes.2
However, ninety years later the Muslims retook Jerusalem under the able leadership of Salah-ed-Din (Saladin). This devastating loss to Christendom produced the Third Crusade, which succeeded in regaining Jerusalem in 1229. But by this time the strength and unity of the crusading cause was waning, and in 1244 the city fell again to the Muslims, never to be regained, even though numerous other crusading armies were deployed for that purpose.
Jihad vs. Anti-Jihad Comparisons
It would be futile to attempt to justify the Western church’s involvement in the crusades. It was, no doubt, wrong for the church to make territorial gains its goal, especially in light of the Lord’s clear pronouncement that “His kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). And it was in seeking territorial gains that the crusades were similar to Islamic jihad. Having said that, however, we must point out that an honest comparison of Muslim jihad with Christian jihad (crusades) does reveal a striking difference. While it is true that both claimed to be fighting holy wars, and both were often merciless in the process, the Scriptures forbid such activity by the church, while the Qur’an demands it of its Islamic adherents.
Declare war upon those to whom the Scriptures were revealed but believe neither in God nor the Last Day, and who do not forbid that which God and His Apostles have forbidden, and who refuse to acknowledge the true religion until they pay the poll-tax without reservation and are totally subjugated. The Jews claim that Ezra is a son of God, and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of God.” Those are their claims that do indeed resemble the sayings of the infidels of old. May God do battle with them!3
Serge Trifkovic explains this passage of the Qur’an as follows: “The Muslims are obliged to wage struggle against unbelievers and may contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never its complete abandonment short of the unbeliever’s submission.”4
Further, it should be noted that while the pope and various Protestant groups have recognized the error of and apologized for the role of their spiritual forefathers in the crusades, “no major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of armed jihad.”5
While defenders of Islam are quick to blame Christendom and her crusades for all the problems between Islam and the West, it should be noted that Islamic jihad both predated and postdated the crusades. In other words, the crusades had a beginning and an end, whereas Islamic jihad has been constant since its beginnings with Mohammad. The great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun acknowledges this and even observes that this is one of Islam’s advantages over the other religions, when he writes, “The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for the purpose of defense. It has come about that the person in charge of religious affairs in (other religious groups) is not concerned with power politics at all.” He goes on to relate that Muslim leaders are concerned with power politics because Islam is “under obligation (emphasis, c.k.) to gain power over other nations.”6
Therefore it is not surprising that Islamic jihad continued after the crusades. The crusades were, after all, only a temporary setback for the endless jihad of Islam. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Christian communities in the Balkans came under Muslim domination. The annual “blood levy” of Christian boys was but one price they had to pay:
On a fixed day, all the fathers were ordered to appear with their children in the public square. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy and handsome children in the presence of a Muslim judge. Any father who shirked his duty to provide children was severely punished. This system was open to all kinds of abuse. The recruiting agents often took more than the prescribed number of children and sold the “surplus” children back to their parents. Those unable to buy back their children had to accept their being sold into slavery….7
Only a spirited, persistent resistance by the Austrians during the Muslim siege of Vienna in 1529 prevented the exposure of the rest of Europe to similar abuses of Islamic jihad.
Although Islamic jihad was temporarily stymied in the West, it was making significant progress in the East. Already in the thirteenth century some rulers in Sumatra embraced Islam. From this beginning, widespread Islamic influence resulted throughout the Southeast Asian region. Java, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines proved to be fertile areas of expansion. At present, Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country in the world.
Unlikely as it might seem, Christian Europe and Islam would clash next in such faraway places as Africa and the Far East. The scramble for colonies by the European powers would provide the occasion:
Historians speak of the “Grab for Africa” and the “Scramble for China, ” with vast areas carved up between leading European powers. In fact, over half the world’s population, including almost all of Africa and Asia, passed under varying degrees of control by Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and new imperial powers such as Japan and the United States. The colonized peoples included many of the world’s Muslims….
Thus Christian Europeans were threatened by Ottoman expansion (in the Balkans, c.k.) and incursions from the east. Meanwhile Muslims throughout much of the world were threatened by Christian European colonialism in India, Africa, and other locations. The complex legacy of rivalry and enmity between Christianity and Islam was being fueled even further.8
For the most part, during this period of colonial expansion by the European powers, Islam was forced to give ground. This was not because Islam had given up on jihad, but rather because she was at this time no longer able to challenge the West. Islam’s glory days were over. Stuck in the past she could no longer compete with the developing industrial West. That she had not given up on jihad can readily be seen, for example, by the first 9-11 type experience of the United States with Islam. This confrontation was initiated in the Mediterranean area by the “Barbary pirates.” However, they weren’t really pirates at all. Although they looted ships and bought and sold slaves, they saw themselves engaged in jihad and called themselves “mujahidin” (jihad warriors). In the fall of 1793, these Algerian mujahidin seized 11 U.S. merchant ships and enslaved more than 100 Americans. President Thomas Jefferson responded by urging the building of a navy to rescue American hostages and deter future attacks.
Lesser known is the example of a more modern Islamic jihad that took place in Turkey during the early 1920s. It involved the burning of the city of Smyrna and the massacre and scattering of its 300,000 Christian inhabitants. The conclusion of this dastardly affair and the shameful non-role on the part of the West is described by Serge Trifkovic:
The carnage culminated in the burning of Smyrna, which started on September 13, when the Turks put the Armenian quarter to torch, and the conflagration engulfed the city. The remaining inhabitants were trapped at the seafront, from which there was no escaping the flames on one side, or Turkish bayonets on the other…. English, American, Italian, and French ships were indeed anchored in Smyrna’s harbor. Ordered to maintain neutrality, they would or could do nothing for the 200,000 desperate Christians on the quay…9
These and other examples of Islamic jihad demonstrate that though Islam has been unable to expand its borders by means of jihad in more recent centuries, jihad was still practiced — albeit often on its own non-Muslim citizens.
But all that was way back then, what about now? Surely Islamic jihad is a thing of the past! It’s not possible that cultivated, modern man could think, much less act, in such an archaic, barbaric way in the twenty-first century, is it? Think again!
To be concluded.
1.Bongars, Gesta Dei per Francos, 1, pp. 182 ff., trans. in Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History (New York: Scribners, 1905), 513-517.
2.Serge Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet (Boston, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, Inc., 2002), 99.
3.Qur’an, Surah 9:29-30.
5.Robert Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003), 10.
8.Peter G. Riddell and Peter Cotterell, Islam in Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 113-114.