Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rodney Stark on the Crusades and 'Arab' Culture

I am always peeved when people fawn about the great accomplishments of Muslims (and especially Arab Muslims) throughout history. It is very nice and PC and does wonders for Muslims' self-worth, no doubt. But it's just not true. Rodney Stark, in his brilliant 2009 book God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, explodes many of these silly myths. An assortment of my favorite quotes and notes follows:

"Western condemnations of the Crusades were widespread during the 'Enlightenment,' that utterly misnamed era during which French and British intellectuals invented the 'Dark Ages' in order to glorify themselves and vilify the Catholic Church" (6). 

The Crusades "…had nothing to do with the hopes of converting Islam" (8). 

"…claims that Muslims have been harboring bitter resentments about the Crusades for a millennium are nonsense…" (8). 

"…superior culture and technology…" of the Europeans (9). 

"…the sophisticated culture so often attributed to Muslims (more often referred to as 'Arabic' culture) was actually the culture of the conquered people--the Judeo-Christian-Greek culture of Byzantium, the remarkable learning of heretical Christian groups such as the Copts and Nestorians, extensive knowledge from Zoroastrian (Mazdean) Persia, and the great mathematical achievements of the Hindus…" (57). 

Mostly dhimmi communities continued this learning. "The highly acclaimed Arab architecture also turns out to have been mainly a dhimmi achievement, adopted from Persian and Byzantine origins" (58). 

The impressive 'Muslim culture' was actually built on a 'complex mix of dhimmi cultures' and when they were suppressed in the 14th Century and 'Muslim backwardness came to the fore' (61). 

Muslim massacres of Christian pilgrims took place in 1022, 1026, 1040, and 1064 (p 92).   

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization still continued in the eleventh century (and for centuries to come). Pilgrims did risk their lives to go to the Holy Land. The sacred sites of Christianity were not secure. And the knights of Christendom were confident they could put things right" (98). 

What Stark calls "penitential warfare" (107). 

Cheaper to keep sons at home than send them on Crusade (112). 

Motivated by piety, not by loot (118). 

Dispenses with the idea that it was landless folks who started the Crusader kingdoms (168). 

Most Muslims were quite content in Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: "For one thing, there were no land-hungry Christians eager to confiscate their fields or animals. For another, taxes were lower in the Kingdom than in neighboring Muslim countries. Fully as important, the Christian rulers tolerated the Muslims' religion and made no effort to convert them" (171). 

Baibars as the bloodiest of all Crusade figures. broke his oaths of safe-conduct often. 1268, the second siege of Antioch, "the single greatest massacre of the entire crusading era" (quoting Madden 1999: 181). 

"…current Muslim memories about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation…" (247). 

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions" (248).

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