Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Firanj Are Coming – Again

The Firanj Are Coming – Again

Arnold J. Toynbee, a British delegate at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, records an anecdote about the annoyance caused there by the flamboyant personal diplomacy of T. E. Lawrence. Though a British subject, Lawrence was a member of the Hashimi delegation of the Hijaz, wore Arab military uniform, and promoted Arab— or at least Hashimi— interests. The French already resented the British, since Britain had recently taken Mosul from under their noses, and Lawrence’s actions did nothing to diminish French resentment. Finally the British, wanting no further difficulties with either Lawrence or the French, ordered Lawrence to report to French premier Georges Clemenceau for a dressing-down:

The command from Clemenceau arrived, Lawrence obeyed it, and the engagement was soon over. “You know, Colonel Lawrence,” said Clemenceau as his opening gambit, “that France has been interested in Syria ever since the Crusades.” “Yes,” Lawrence answered, “but the Syrians won the Crusades, and they have never forgotten that.”[1]

Clemenceau was wrong about the continuous interest of France in Syria since the late eleventh century, and Lawrence was only half right about Syrian memory. The Syrians (and other Arabs, Kurds, and Turks) had indeed “won” the Crusades, but they had long since forgotten their victory and had only come to consider it in a particular context in the two generations before Lawrence. How did they (and Europeans) remember the Crusades, and what have others done with that interpretation?

The Origins of the Term

Modern citations of the term “crusade” include the title of Dwight Eisenhower’s military memoirs, Crusade in Europe. Shortly after 9/11, President George W. Bush used the term “crusade” to describe the campaign against terrorism.[2] In February 2003, Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean Christian and Iraq’s then-deputy prime minister, told the Pope that an American-led military strike against his country would be seen as a crusade against Muslims. Osama bin Laden, a Muslim professing to speak for an essentialist Islam, told his “Muslim brothers in Iraq” that same month, “We are following with great interest and concern the preparation of the crusaders to launch war to occupy a former capital of Islam.” This was largely an echo of the 1998 “Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders.”[3] Al-Nidaa, Al Qaeda’s peripatetic website, reported on April 9, 2003 that Crusader forces had entered Baghdad.

All of these got the term wrong, as had Clemenceau and Lawrence. Presidents Eisenhower and Bush used the term in a secularized version, to mean simply a moral struggle in a virtuous cause against evil. President Bush was quickly criticized for having used it. The Islamic Liberation Party compared his remark to Pope Urban II’s sermon at Clermont in 1095, the call for the First Crusade. Germany’s president, Johannes Rau, criticized President Bush’s apparent use of personal evangelical Christianity in his foreign policy. Clearly, the term had a very different meaning elsewhere in the world: the meaning that Aziz and bin Laden invoked. Aziz meant that “crusades” were Western attacks against Islam and its followers (which they were not and never had been). Bin Laden’s use of the term was similar: to him, a “crusader” is any non-Muslim who engages in violence against Muslim lands and pillages Muslim wealth. In other statements bin Laden has categorically included the Israelis among crusaders. How did such different understandings of “crusade” come about?

In Western cultures, the connotations of “crusade” can be traced from a specifically militarized, devotional, and penitential undertaking with a strictly limited goal— the recovery and strategic protection of the Holy Land— to a generalized and secularized moral struggle of good against evil. Eisenhower and Bush used the term innocently, ignorant of its history. Accordingly, Bush must be excused his historical misuse (as he indeed was by many intellectuals in the Arabic-speaking world). How Aziz and bin Laden used the term opens the more important question of what the term has meant in Arabic/Islamic cultures and what it means today.

Early Historical Thought

If one assumes a continuous, non-essentialist Arab/Islamic historical thought, one begins with the Islamic perception of Islam, the early and serious divisions and struggles within Islam, Islam’s relation to its immediate neighbors, the opening of the lands to Islam, and the designation of the Dar al-Harb (the House of War, or non-Muslim world). One might also include the pre-Islamic and later Islamic epic tradition, with favored enemies Byzantium and Persia and the insertion of the Firanj into the epic tradition.[4] Firanj(“Franks”) is the generic Arabic term for both Franks and most European foreigners. It was long used for the inhabitants of Carolingian Europe. The Byzantines, who were more interesting long-lasting, and dangerous enemies, were the Rumi (“Romans”). Muslim writers first applied the term Firanj to the Crusaders in the later twelfth century, when they realized that the Crusaders were quite different from the Byzantine invaders.

This historical model would continue with a discussion of Muslim concepts of the past, which are founded on the absolute and final truth of Islam itself; the Muslim shift from indifference to interest in Western Europe, as reflected in geographical and travel literature, commercial and diplomatic contacts, and mutual interest between Europeans and Middle Easterners.[5] It would focus on the question of the Crusades and their initially marginal appearance in Muslim historiography, and then move on to the evolving Muslim perceptions of the subsequent history of Islam and the West, from the failed second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 to the increasing Ottoman frustration with Western diplomacy. One finally comes to the later European colonization in the Middle East, from Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt to the ill-considered diplomatic rearrangement of the Middle East and the slow withdrawal of the European colonial presence from the Middle East in the twentieth century. It is here that one locates the growth of Arab nationalism and various forms of Islamism.

Another perspective, historically more influential, is the irregular record and understanding of the Crusades by both Western historians and European Arabists. This begins with the triumphalism of the early twelfth-century, Christian-European chronicles but later changes to skepticism and sharp criticism of the Crusades, especially between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.[6] One would then consider the extent to which Muslim thinkers tapped into Western debates and the state of both Western and Eastern Crusades scholarship today. Finally, who in the Muslim world uses the word “crusades” today, and with what historical knowledge?

The early crusading expeditions attracted very little attention from Muslim chroniclers, and far less than the conflicts with Byzantium and the later Mongol invasions (which were what the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds likened the U.S. war on Iraq to, comparing the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 to its conquest by the Mongols in 1258). The Crusades occurred in a politically and economically marginal area whose regularly disputed center was alternately Baghdad/Damascus or Cairo. Muslims at the time regarded the Crusades as invasions of a primitive, unlearned, impoverished, and non-Muslim people, about whom Muslim rulers and scholars knew and cared little.[7] The ethnography in Arabic histories and geographies reinforced this indifference. A heightened sense of the need for Islamic moral rearmament, a new assertion of Jerusalem’s sanctity, a broadened concept of martyrdom, and the offensive jihad emerged distinctly in mid- to late-twelfth-century Arabic thought. But not all of these remained continuously at the forefront of Arabic thought and historiography, and the expeditions in the Middle East did not last. The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted only from 1099 to 1187, and in 1291 the last Christian possession in the Holy Land, Acre, fell. There is little contemporary record of the late eleventh- and early twelfth-century Crusades, but after the middle of the twelfth century a considerable literature in Arabic developed.

The military intrusion of the Firanj was overshadowed in later classical Muslim historiography by the Mongol conquests of the mid-thirteenth century, the successful Mamluk resistance to the Mongols, and the initial great successes of the early Ottoman Empire. General histories of the Muslim world— chronicles of cities and regions, histories of regions’ dynasties, and biographies of great Muslims— shifted to the Mongols and the later Ottoman triumphs. Such memories of the Crusades as were preserved during the Ottoman period, from 1453 to 1924, were recorded in histories of the Ottoman Empire. There was no Arabic term for “crusade.” The present Arabic term, al-hurub al-salibiyya, “the wars of the cross,” did not appear in Arabic until the mid-nineteenth century, first among Christian Arab translators and historians in Syria who read and translated French histories into Arabic. The topic seems not to have resurfaced significantly in the Muslim world until 1865, when the Melkite patriarch of Jerusalem patronized the publication of an Arabic translation by Muhammad Mazlum of an otherwise unidentifiable French history of the Crusades.[8]

This marks the beginning of the process by which Western scholarship and debates about the Crusades began to filter into the Ottoman and Arabic world, either in the original languages or in Arabic or Turkish translation. This also marks the beginning of European revisionist historiography on the Crusades: the turn away from the Enlightenment philosophical skepticism of such writers as Voltaire, Hume, Robertson, Diderot, and Gibbon, which had dominated European thought in the eighteenth century. French historians were the first to focus on the critical use of original sources, reject rigid ideological categories of analysis and interpretation, and apply a new aesthetic (romantic interest in the Middle Ages) and an active, existential reengagement with crucial aspects of France’s past.

One idea originating in Enlightenment historians’ criticism that survived was the argument that the Crusades had been launched not for religious reasons but out of greed for Arab wealth and territory— an argument that seems to have originated in early criticism of the Crusades and again in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant criticism of the papal direction of the Crusades and its motives. This assertion had a long history ahead of it. The new revisionism was also strongly colored by early nineteenth-century political debates in France, Catholic thought concerning the Middle East during the Restoration and the Orleanist monarchy, and growing European diplomatic and imperial interest in the Middle East and North Africa beginning in the 1830s (particularly the French occupation of Algeria in 1830 and the English occupation of Aden in 1839).

This unique combination of scholarship, politico-religious interests, and proto-imperialism offered a variety of venues to the new interest and scholarship in Crusade history. The Histoire des croisades of Joseph François Michaud, published in six volumes between 1817 and 1822, was its first great monument.[9] A royalist, deputy in the National Assembly, and friend of Chateaubriand, himself a pilgrim to the Holy Land, Michaud attempted to present a balanced account of the Crusades. But he also unreservedly appropriated them for French history. The work was the best known history of the Crusades throughout the nineteenth century.[10]

Michaud was also involved in the establishment of the multi-volume Receuils des historiens des croisades [Collection of Historians of the Crusades] (1841–1906), the five volumes of which provided original-language Arabic, Greek, and Armenian sources for the Crusades as well as materials on Latin historians and laws. In 1875 Paul Riant founded the Société de l’Orient Latin, which published two volumes of the Archives de l’orient latin between 1881 and 1883. This enormous and enduring burst of scholarship, however, occurred precisely at the moment when France’s political and religious concerns could make the greatest but also the most mischievous use of it.

Michaud’s work helped inspire Louis-Philippe’s decision to convert the abandoned palace at Versailles into a museum of French history, including the Salle des croisades, five large rooms of commissioned historical paintings and coats of arms of crusaders. Louis-Philippe, like Michaud, appropriated the Crusades for France, as did the Bourbon and later Orleanist dynasties, particularly in the person and memory of Louis IX, the royal French crusading saint.[11]

Although German concerns with crusade history were not as urgent, complex, or as widely distributed as those of the French, the Germans had their parallel to Michaud’s work in Friedrich Wilken’s seven-volume Geschichte der Kreuzzüge nach morgenländischen und abendländischen Berichte [The History of the Crusades According to Eastern and Western Accounts] (1807–32), which used Arabic as well as Latin sources. Wilken, a professor of history at Heidelberg, dominated German crusade historiography throughout the nineteenth century and influenced the later editions of Michaud.

In England, Charles Mills published a two-volume History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land (1820) that criticized Hume and Gibbon, but his work was not as dominant in his country as was that of Michaud and Wilken in theirs. Mills’ history also used the theme of the role of Richard I (the Lionheart) as a crusading and royal English parallel to Louis IX. Mills’ successors opened discussion in England of the Crusades as precursors of modern colonization, with a strong tinge of British Christian Zionism.

Nineteenth-Century Popularization

But works of historical scholarship and national museums were hardly the only or even the most popular vehicles of Crusade representation in nineteenth-century Europe. The topic was popularized in travel accounts, the novels of Walter Scott and others, the language of confessional polemicists and authors of missionary tracts, journals and newspapers, poetry and drama, popular historical fiction and children’s literature, pictorial art of all kinds, and opera. In these media, as well as in scholarship, the new and highly varied Crusade discussions easily passed into various circles in the Middle Eastern world, at least for those who read Western languages or had access to translations into Arabic or Turkish.

Many in this audience were Christian Arabs, including French government workers in the colonial administrative apparatus and teachers and students at confessional and mission schools. The confessional polemics and missionary literature had a deep influence on diplomatic thought, especially in France and England. Notwithstanding the Orleanist revision of much of the Bourbon past, the royalist patronage of Charles X and Louis-Philippe was not without a confessional dimension. The prospect of a Christian recapture of North Africa (according to one proposal, to be accomplished by relocating and headquartering the Knights Hospitaller in Algeria as Christian rulers) and France’s claims to be the protector of Arabic Christians in Syria and Jerusalem were in wide circulation by the 1860s, including specific calls for a new Crusade and the idea of a French mission civilisatrice in North Africa and the Middle East. (This was the recent origin of Clemenceau’s remark to Lawrence in 1919.)

In England, too, travel accounts and diplomacy were combined with Christian devotional fervor concerning the Holy Land, colored by traditional images of Islam and current ideas about the Ottoman Empire. Siberry’s description of the Crusade ambitions of English soldier, philanthropist, and propagandist Sir William Hillary considers both Hillary’s proposal to create an English branch of the Knights Hospitaller and his more ambitious plan to achieve by diplomatic means a Christian presence in the Holy Land, which would then be ruled by the same military order. Hillary’s 1841 pamphlet, Suggestions for the Christian Occupation of the Holy Land as a Sovereign State by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, had little direct impact, but the sentiments it expressed, combined with English religious fervor during the Crimean War, mark an English parallel to the religious and diplomatic sentiment of France under Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III.

During the late nineteenth century, even historians of the Crusades used the language of colonization to describe the events of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But critical European scholarship continued to develop, despite some of the moral and political uses to which much of it was put. The best of it in England by the 1930s may be the work of Ernest Barker, most notably his essay inThe Legacy of Islam (1931).[12]

By the end of the nineteenth century, virtually every component of late twentieth-century conceptions and terminology of the Crusades— both honorific and pejorative— was in place in western Europe, however mutually incompatible they may now seem: Enlightenment accusations of Crusader greed and self-interest; heightened European veneration of a heroic and virtuous Christian military past, partially secularized; a largely disparaging European and Christian view of the Ottoman Empire, Arabs, and Islam often bordering on contempt, the imaginary exotic, or both; European military, diplomatic, and commercial intrusion; and everywhere, in all of its meanings, the ubiquity of the catchword, “crusade.” There was also a growth of scholarship sympathetic to both Arabs and Islam, from the work of European Arabists such as Gustave Le Bon to that of Louis Massignon and his successors. Through such sympathetic scholarship, which increased throughout the twentieth century, and the popular fascination with Middle Eastern culture and society, both of which were later dismissed as “Orientalism,” the imagery and language of Crusade permeated Europe on the eve of World War I.

The Crusades also became a topic of polemic in Turkish intellectual and political circles at the end of the century. An abbreviated version of Michaud’s Histoire des croisades, translated into Turkish around 1870, elicited a history of Saladin and other earlier heroes appropriated by the Ottomans, the Evraq-i perishan, by the young Ottoman intellectual Namik Kemal. Kemal was highly critical of Michaud’s treatment of Saladin and inaugurated the long career of Saladin as an Ottoman and later a modern Arab and Muslim hero.[13] Nor was such enthusiasm confined to intellectuals. Sultan Abdulhamid II (r. 1876–1909) frequently referred to a European “Crusade” against the Ottoman Empire. The sultan’s charge was disseminated in the pan-Islamic press and echoed in the Egyptian historian Sayyid Ali al-Hariri’s Al-akhbar al-saniyya fi’l-hurub al-salibiyya, “Great Accounts in the Crusading Wars” (1899, reprinted 1912). This was not only the first history of the Crusades written by a Muslim, but also a work that drew heavily on original Arabic sources. In his introduction, al-Hariri praises Abdulhamid II:

The sovereigns of Europe nowadays attack our Sublime Empire in a manner bearing a great resemblance to the deeds of those people [the Crusaders] in bygone times. Our most glorious sultan, Abdulhamid II, has rightly remarked that Europe is now carrying out a Crusade against us in the form of a political campaign.

Early Twentieth Century

In 1901 Yusuf al-Dibs, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut, devoted half a volume of his history of Syria to al-Ifranj al-Salibiyyun, “The Frankish Crusaders.” But far more influential throughout the Arabic- and Anglolexic world was the1899 work of the prolific Indian Muslim scholar, Syed Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens. Ali faithfully repeated the critical view of the Crusades found in Enlightenment histories— he cites Gibbon, Mills, and Michaud on Crusader excesses and savagery, concluding that the Crusades were waged without cause by greedy and brutal Christian religious fanatics. Although Ali’s book was influential among Arab historians, Sivan has found only nine articles and ten books in Arabic on Crusade history that used modern historical methods between 1900 and World War II. During that period, however, other urgent concerns emerged in the Middle Eastern world, three of which in particular touch on our subject.[14]

The first concern was the increasing European presence in the Middle East. Early twentieth-century Ottoman rulers increasingly emphasized their Islamic identity, claiming to be caliphs, proclaiming the jihad when they entered World War I on the side of Germany, and urging Muslim subjects and citizens of the Allied powers not to fight on their behalf. The defeat and subsequent dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire between 1919 and 1924 created new European mandates and new states in the Middle East, from Turkey to Morocco, and also bred a number of (often conflicting) theories of Turkish, Arab, and Islamic political and religious identity.[15] The second great concern, from European Zionism and the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to the creation of Israel in 1948, was the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The third was the emergence in the second half of the twentieth century of political Islam— Islamism in several varieties, each with its own distinctive view of history and way of confronting the problem of modernity.

These concerns generated varied responses in the Middle East. Here we follow only a few strands in the extremely diverse world of Arab/Muslim thought, considering only those groups of thinkers whose use of the terms “crusade” and “crusaders” shaped the views of Tariq Aziz, Osama bin Laden, and others similar to them. (It should be noted that the Arab world is no less diverse in this regard than Europe and the United States, where both the fact and the term are often misunderstood and misused in journalistic and other media.)

European Presence. The overwhelming European presence in the Middle East in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries implied to many Arab historians an equally formidable European presence in the twelfth and thirteenth. Accordingly, they drew sharper identifications of the Crusades with the modern period. Such a view was strengthened by what Sivan terms the “topicality” of the Crusades in some twentieth-century Arab thought:

The concept of the topicality of the Crusades stems, then, from a belief in a certain parallelism between the twelfth to thirteenth centuries and the last hundred years … the Crusades as well as current developments are part and parcel of the same historical process— the age long struggle between East and West.[16]

Because many Muslim thinkers did not regard Islamic expansion in the seventh and eighth centuries as a conquest, but rather as the peaceful opening of the lands to the message of Muhammad, they assumed the Crusades to have been a Western initiative rather than a counter-offensive, just as Turkish and Arab writers and political leaders perceived the nineteenth- and twentieth-century European presence in the Middle East.

The defeat of the Crusaders in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries may well indicate in some circles the likelihood of a defeat of the political and economic imperialists in the near future. As Muhammad Kamal Husayn observed in 1957, “The struggle waged today by the Arab movement of liberation is the same struggle conducted by the Ayyubids and the Mamluks in order to beat off the Crusaders. As the Arabs gained the victory in the past, so they will gain it nowadays.”[17] Such a view found consolation in the verses of patience, al-sabr, in the Quran (XII 17–18), which advised the endurance of adversity until the intruders are defeated, go away, or are assimilated into the Islamic community. In this and similar lines of Arab thought, regardless of the ethnicity of the Ayyubids and Mamluks (and occasionally the Turks), the victory was Arab and Muslim, and Saladin and his successors were Arab and Muslim heroes. This view readily ignored or selectively incorporated such modern scholarship on the Crusades as was read in the original European languages or translated into Arabic, Persian, or Turkish.

The historical dimension of the post-Ottoman Middle Eastern world consisted of several different pasts: those of the Turks, Islam, Arabdom, and the new territorial states— Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. Turkey needed and used the Crusades the least to construct its past, since it had defied the Versailles settlement in 1923 and established under Kemal Ataturk the only secularized republic in the Middle East. A number of reformers in other Middle Eastern states also experimented with the adoption and Arabization of some features of Western modernization, including the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq and the modernizing leftist movements in other countries. In the other new states, history was applied to the problem of state-formation. Pan-Islamism, pan-Arabism, and territorial statehood (particularly in Syria and Egypt) could easily retain the formulation of a concept of crusade that had begun in the late nineteenth century as continuing, or renewed, Western wars against Islam, Arabdom, or a particular state. The successful Israeli military, with its U.S. support (especially since the 1967 war), and the increasing visibility and presence of the United States in parts of the Middle East considered sacred to Muslims, simply drew the United States into the by now well-established category of “crusaders.”

Israel.The founding of the State of Israel provided a convenient locus for this kind of thought. Imposed, so it seemed, by Western powers, located precisely in some former Crusader territories, and peopled by European and some American Jews, Israel quickly became another kind of crusading state in many Arab and Muslim eyes. From this perspective, Israel was not simply the original Holy Land of the Jews, but a colony of European Jews instrumentalized by Western powers in indifference to or contempt of Arab/Muslim (and later specifically Palestinian) rights and sensibilities. From the mid-seventeenth century, Christian millenialist thinkers had argued that Jews should settle in the Holy Land as harbingers of the Eschaton and be militant in suppressing any local resistance.[18] Originally, Zionism had little connection with Eretz Israel. However, several substantial movements of European Jewish migration to Palestine took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the 1917 Balfour Declaration included a vague statement that the English government “views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Several varieties of Zionism came to focus on Palestine as, alternatively, a Jewish religious state, a democratic European-type state, or a socialist state. These were generally incompatible with Arab national movements before and after Versailles, and eventually the form of militant Zionism that had been first propounded by the Russian Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s was adopted.[19]Jabotinsky had proclaimed Zionism as a colonizing venture, echoing the terminology of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British and French propagandists, Crusade historians, and diplomats.

It is a short step from some Zionists’ invoking the language of the Crusades that Europeans had used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to Arabs’ taking up the theme that had been incipient in Arabic historiography and political propaganda since at least 1865: modern Europeans were identical with the Crusaders, and European-exported Zionists were the next Crusaders, another chapter in the Ilm al-karitha (“The Science of the Catastrophe”). According to Sivan, the first comparisons were drawn by some Arab political leaders as early as the eve of World War I and then made their way into the world of the Arab intelligentsia. Even before Israeli independence in 1948, several Arab historians drew parallels between Zionist settlements in Palestine and the earlier Crusader states. Subsequent military conflicts in the region simply hardened the idea on both sides. [20]

Moreover, the originally French argument that the Crusades were Europe’s first ventures into colonization was also used in the path-breaking scholarship of the great late twentieth-century French historian of the Crusades, Jean Richard, and the French-trained Israeli historian Joshua Prawer, pioneer and patron of modern Israeli Crusade studies.[21] Both, however, used the term in the context of contemporary theoretical debates about the nature and history of colonialism. This focus, as well as subsequent post-colonialist theory, have kept the subject of the Crusader states and modern Israel as colonies in the forefront of modern scholarly debate.

Political Islam. The various forms of political Islam that appeared beginning with eighteenth-century Wahhabism often appropriated the earlier Turkish and Arabic views of the Crusades, deploying it in a religious context. But not all Islam is militant, and not all militant versions of Islam are the same. Emmanuel Sivan has traced several lines of Islamic thought, starting with the late thirteenth-century political theorist Ibn Taymiyya and his disciple Ibn Kathir, whose work began the application of sharia to particular governments and states rather than to the single caliphate.[22] The periodic rediscovery of the political Islam of Ibn Taymiyya— by eighteenth-century neo-Hanbali Wahhabism and its revived twentieth-century version; by the Muslim Brotherhood from 1928 and its leading spokesman Sayyid Qutb; and by the Pakistani Muslim thinker Syed Abul-Al’a al-Maududi— shaped the character of twentieth-century political Islamism, directing it initially, however, toward what they considered the non-Muslim regimes of existing Middle Eastern states rather than toward the West.[23]

By 2003, when Tariq Aziz and Osama bin Laden used the term “crusades,” they were speaking in a conceptual language that had taken shape since the mid-nineteenth century in several very different cultural contexts. They certainly did not invent the application. But they are not the only users of the term in the Middle East, and the term itself is, in a manner of speaking, “hardwired” into certain Middle Eastern vocabularies, not all of which represent political Islam. If the term is a stereotype, it is still for many a useful one. It is kept alive because of this and other elements, one of which is the long debate about “Orientalism” and “Occidentalism,” in which each side of a great divide regards itself as possessing an absolute truth and regards the other side as imperialist, contemptuous, essentialist, and unchanging.[24] It is a memory that clothes itself in age, as the exchange between Clemenceau and Lawrence suggests.

And it has traveled far down the Arab street, used not only by Islamist and other historians, journalists, and governments, but in educational systems as well. A 2003 report issued by the American Jewish Committee and the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, “The West, Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabian Schoolbooks,” is a sobering reminder of the Wahhabi influence on broad reaches of the Saudi population. It includes this quote from a geography of the Muslim world for Saudi-Arabian eighth-graders: “There is no doubt that the Muslim power irritates the infidels and spreads envy in the hearts of the enemies of Islam— Christians, Jews and others … a malicious Crusader-Jewish alliance [is] striving to eliminate Islam from all the continents.”[25] In a tenth-grade course on Hadith and Islamic culture, the Jewish role in instigating all modern revolutions is illustrated by the only quotation from an English-language source: the rabidly anti-Semitic conspiratorial fantasy, Pawns in the Game, by William Guy Carr.[26] Citations of works in Arabic of a similar kind abound in the report. Carole Hillenbrand rightly notes that “the psychological scars left by the Crusades [are] deeply etched into the modern Islamic consciousness.”[27] But etched scars and damaged psyches may be deliberately cultivated, and cultivation of this kind is not an effective way to heal them.


Expressed in the terms of T. E. Lawrence, Europeans handily survived “losing” the Crusades. By the seventeenth century they were rather embarrassed by and generally considered themselves well rid of that chapter of their history, in much the same way that they tend to think about colonies today. But against Lawrence is the punning opinion of the Tunisian historian Matawi: “All the profit (ghunm) of these wars fell to the lot of the Crusaders, all the damage (ghurm) was the share of the Muslims.”[28]Notwithstanding its relatively short history, this view may also have a long and troublesome future.

[1] Arnold J. Toynbee, Acquaintances (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 187–8.

[2] New York Times, Feb. 15, 2003. For Eisenhower’s usage, see Christopher Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 123; and Elizabeth Siberry, The New Crusaders: Images of the Crusades in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Aldershot and Burlington, USA: Ashgate, 2000), pp. 100–01. On Bush’s usage, see Garry Wills, “With God on His Side,” New York Times Magazine, Mar. 30, 2003.

[3] Al-Quds al-’Arabi (London), Feb. 23, 1998.

[4] See Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991) and Islam in European Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); and Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, eds., The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2001), pp. 41–51.

[5] See Chase F. Robinson, Islamic Historiography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Tarif Khalidi, Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); and J. W. Fück, “Islam as an Historical Problem in European Historiography Since 1800,” and Bernard Lewis, “The Use by Muslim Historians of Non-Muslim Sources,” both in P. M. Holt and Bernard Lewis, Historians of the Middle East (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1962). On Muslim perceptions, see Emmanuel Sivan, L’Islam et la croisade (Paris: Librarie d’Amérique et d’Orient, 1968) and “Modern Arabic Historiography of the Crusades,” ch. 1 of Interpretations of Islam: Past and Present (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1985); Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2000); cf. Nabil Matar, In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century (New York and London: Routledge, 2003).

[6] Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades, is the best general survey. See also J. J. Saunders, Aspects of the Crusades(Canterbury, 1962); Jonathan Riley-Smith, “The Crusading Movement and Historians,” in Riley-Smith, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Peter Partner, God of Battles: Holy Wars of Christianity and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Maxime Rodinson, “The Western Image and Western Studies of Islam,” in The Legacy of Islam (Oxford: The Clarendom Press, 1974); Franco Cardini, Europe and Islam (Oxford-Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001); Kenneth M. Setton, Western Hostility to Islam and Prophecies of Turkish Doom (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1992); and Michael Gervers and James M. Powell, eds., Tolerance and Intolerance: Social Conflict in the Age of the Crusades (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2001).

[7] Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969); Robert Irwin, “Islam and the Crusades, 1096–1699,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades; and Nikita Elisséeff, “The Reaction of the Syrian Muslims after the Foundation of the First Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,” in Thomas F. Madden, ed., The Crusades: Essential Readings (Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002).

[8] M. Monrond, Tarikh al-hurub al-muqaddasa fi l-Mashqir Harb al-Salib [A History of the Holy Wars in the East, otherwise called the Wars of the Cross] (Jerusalem, 1865); Sivan, Interpretations of Islam; Werner Ende, “Wer ist ein Glaubensheld, wer ist ein Ketzer? Konkurrierende Geschichtsbilder in der modernen Literatur islamischer Länder” Die Welt des Islams (1984), pp. 70–94. On late Ottoman historiography and the reform movement, see Ercüment Kuran, “Ottoman Historiography of the Tanzimat Period,” in Holt and Lewis, Historians of the Middle East, pp. 421–29.

[9] Joseph F. Michaud, Histoire des croisades, 6 vols. (Paris, 1812–1822); 7th ed., J. L. A. Huillard-Bréholles, 4 vols. (Paris, 1849). On Michaud, see Siberry, The New Crusaders, pp. 5–8 and 69; Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades, pp. 116–117; and Kim Munholland, “Michaud’s History of the Crusades and the French Crusade in Algeria under Louis-Philippe,” in The Popularization of Images: Visual Culture under the July Monarchy, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Gabriel P. Weisberg, eds. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 144–65, 253–4.

[10] Michaud also published a four-volume collection of original sources in French translation, Bibliothèque des croisades, (1829) and the correspondence of his journey to the Middle East in seven volumes (1833–35).

[11] Francis Haskell, History and Its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 281–82; Siberry, The New Crusaders, pp. 51–53, 208–11; and Adam Knobler, “Saint Louis and French Political Culture,” in Medievalism in Europe II, Leslie J. Workman and Kathleen Verduin, eds., Studies in Medievalism VIII (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 156–74.

[12] On France, see Knobler, “Saint Louis,” and Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades, pp. 117 and 122–23. On England, see Siberry, The New Crusaders, pp. 64–86, and Armstrong, Holy War, pp. 502–08. On early Christian missionizing, see Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toward the Muslims (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), esp. pp. 159–88. The Christian argument that warfare against Muslims was justified if Muslim rulers denied Christians the right to missionize in their lands was repeated in 1639 in Thomas Fuller’s history of the crusades. It is not clear to what extent later Muslim historians knew of this connection between mission and Crusade. See James M. Muldoon, “Christendom, the Americas, and World Order,” in Horst Pietschmann, ed., Atlantic History: History of the Atlantic System 1580–1830 (Göttingen:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002), pp. 65–82. Contemporary American evangelical Christian proposals to bring material aid and Christian missionizing to postwar Iraq are thus taking a great risk. See Ernest Barker, “The Crusades,” in Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume, eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931), pp. 40–77.

[13] On Kemal, see Ercüment Kuran, “Ottoman Historiography,” in Holt and Lewis, Historians of the Middle East, pp. 426–28. On the revival of Saladin and his reputation, see Ende, “Wer ist ein Glaubensheld,” pp. 79–94; Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp. 592–600. On Saladin’s “Arabization,” see Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography,” pp. 15–23.

[14] Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography,” p. 5; Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp. 592–3; Hourani, The Arab Peoples; Ende, “Wer ist ein Glaubensheld,” pp. 81–2; Siberry, The New Crusaders, pp. 66–86 and 214; Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, pp. 60–61; C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War “Made in Germany” (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915); and Syed Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens (London and New York: Macmillan, 1900 [1899]).

[15] For an overview, see Hourani, The Arab Peoples and Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983 [1962]). See also William E. Watson, Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003); Roy Parviz Mottahedeh and Ridwan al-Sayyid, “The Idea of Jihād in Islam before the Crusades,” in Laiou and Mottahedeh, eds., The Crusades, pp. 23–29; Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (London: Tauris, 2002); M. J. Akbar, The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity (London: Routledge, 2002); Kamil J. Asali, ed.,Jerusalem in History: 3000 BC to the Present Day (London and New York: Kegan Paul, 1989; rev. ed. 1997); Pierre-Jean Luizard,La question irakienne (Paris: Fayard, 2003); Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihad and Modernity (London and New York: Verso, 2002); Bassam Tibi, Islam between Culture and Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2001); and Fariba Adelkhah,Being Modern in Iran (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

[16] Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography,” p. 7.

[17] Ibid., p. 12.

[18] Adam Knobler, “Crusading for the Messiah: Jews as Instruments of Christian Anti-Islamic Holy War,” in Tolerance and Intolerance, Gervers and Powell, eds., pp. 83–89.

[19] The Balfour Declaration is cited from Armstrong, Holy Wars, p. 83. For Jabotinsky, pp. 102–03, and Michael Stanislawski,Zionism and the Fin de Siècle: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism from Nordau to Jabotinsky (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002). The deliberate imprecision of the Balfour Declaration and subsequent reinterpretations of it by Britain made it possible for different peoples affected by it to interpret it in different ways. On the U.S. component, see Douglas Little,American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

[20] On the Ilm al-karitha and the Crusades, Armstrong, Holy Wars, pp. 125–26; Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography,” pp. 4–12, 15–23; Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp. 605–09; Partner, God of Battles, pp. 232–38; cf. Richard Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers (rpt. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), esp. pp. 228–231; Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, pp. 64–102.

[21] Tyerman, Invention of the Crusades, p. 122; and B. Z. Kedar, H. E. Mayer, R. C. Smail, “Joshua Prawer – An Appreciation,” inOutremer: Studies in the History of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem Presented to Joshua Prawer, B. Z. Kedar, H. E. Mayer, R. C. Smail, eds. (Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Institute, 1982), pp. 1–4.

[22] Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 84–107; and Antony Black, The History of Islamic Political Thought From the Prophet to the Present (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 154–59. On changes in the interpretation of sharia among Muslims, see Indira Falk Gesink, “‘Chaos on the Earth’: Subjective Truths versus Communal Unity in Islamic Law and the Rise of Militant Islam,” American Historical Review 108 (2003), pp. 710–33.

[23] Sivan, Radical Islam; Black, The History, pp. 308–345, esp. 219–323; Partner, God of Battles, pp. 232–53; Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp. 600–05. American journalism has recently discovered one major thinker in this sequence, Sayyid Qutb. See Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003). Qutb has long been well-known to the scholars cited herein and has been extensively discussed in their work. On the influence of the Palestinian question on historians, Sivan (“Modern Arab Historiography,” p. 6) cites the 1956 study by Juzif Yusuf, Louis IX in the Middle East, The Palestine Problem in the Middle Ages (Arabic) (Cairo, 1956).

[24] The debate is neatly summed up in Alexander Macfie, Orientalism (New York: Longman, 2002). See also Emmanuel Sivan, “Edward Said and His Arab Critics,” in Sivan, Interpretations, pp. 133–54, and Tibi, Islam between Culture and Politics.

[25] Arnon Groiss, ed., The West, Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabian Schoolbooks, abridged version (Jerusalem and New York: The American Jewish Committee and the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, 2003), available at, pp. 8–9, 11–12. Armstrong (Holy War, p. 316) points out a 1988 study conducted by the Israeli Institute of Military Studies which found that students in Israeli Jewish religious schools expressed a stronger dislike of Arabs than did students in Israeli secular schools.

[26] William Guy Carr, Pawns in the Game (currently distributed by Hidden Mysteries, Yoakum, Tex.), originally published in the 1950s, is an anti-Semitic diatribe of no value whatsoever. That it should be cited in the present context is extremely dismaying.

[27] Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp. 589, 611.

[28] Cited in Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography,” p. 29.