Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The Holy Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 62: “Those who believe (in the Qur’an) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures) and the Christians and the Sabians and who believe in Allah and the last day and work righteousness shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.”
New Zealand based journalist, Dave Crampton (Big News with Dave Crampton é www.scoop.co.nz) claimed last week that Islam was a violent religion “And on the topic of religion and war é you will notice that it is the Islamic people who are declaring war on Christians, not the other way around.”
Not to be outdone, Franklin Graham produced an enlightening revalation of his own on NBC Nightly News (November 16, 2001); “we’re not attacking Islam, but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”
This is the end of journalism; 21st century journalists have displayed a remarkable disregard for history, preferring to simply rewrite facts as their understanding permits. Or lack thereof.
Evangelists like Mr. Graham display an uncanny lack of historical knowledge of Christian practices during the Middle Ages and beyond. For a man who carries the Bible with him and preaches of the compassion of Christ to utter such unfathomable hatred is truly mind-boggling.
That is indeed Big News…lets all jump on the Islam-bashing bandwagon.
A revisiting of history does become necessary, however, at least for Mr. Crampton’s and Mr. Graham’s sakes.
Shortly after the Council of Nicae in 325 A.D. much of the Christian world was reeling with controversy over differing practices and beliefs. Rather than resort to dialogue and mediation, differences were often resolved by the sword. In A World Lit Only By Fire é The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, (Little, Brown & Company, 1992) William Manchester says: “In the fourth century, Emporor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian, had over 3000 Christians executed because their interpretation of the Bible did not agree with his. That is more than the number of Christians who died at the hands of the Romans.”
The need to resort to violent resolution of conflict carried on. Manchester boosts the iconoclastic image of Charlemagne by depicting him as a merciless zealot: “In 777 , Charlemagne, a devout Christian, after conquering the Saxon rebels, gave them a choice between baptism and execution. When they refused to convert, he had 4500 of them beheaded in one morning.”
This bloodlust carries on well into the Crusades, of which there is much to be told. Virtually no historian will argue the fact that the Crusades revealed the merciless, un-Christian barbarism of the self-righteous Crusaders, who claimed to rid the world of infidels and heathens ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’.
“The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is therefore glorified.” -Saint Bernard [in Durants, Age of Faith, 593].
The Crusades are believed to have begun in 1095 when Pope Urban II called for a holy war against the Turks and Arabs before a council of barons and bishops at Clermont. He urged Europe to mass armies “of the Cross” and invade Palestine and ‘liberate’ Jerusalem from the Muslims. In a riveting speech, Urban II played on the passions of his people:
“O race of Franks! Race beloved and chosen of God… From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire… Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.” [Thatcher, Library of Original Sources].
Indeed, the Crusades had begun, but not in Jerusalem. The first to feel the brunt of the sword were the Jews of France and Germany who were killed en masse. Leon Poliakov, a brilliant historian, notes in A History of Anti-Semitism (Vanguard Press, 1975) that “Along the road to Palestine, through Germany, Bohemia, Hungary and the Balkans, the crusader mob burned Jews alive in their houses and temples, forced them to baptism at swordpoint, raped and committed other atrocities against young and old. In Prague alone they murdered several thousands Jews” (Vol. I, pp.42-45). It may seem ironic to the reader that Jews were butchered by Christians, but at the time Jews were regarded as “Enemies of Christ” due to the depiction and betrayal of crucifixion mentioned in the Bible.
This was but a slice of the pie that was to be had in Jerusalem. According to Manchester, in 1122 Christian crusaders swept over Jerusalem and slaughtered men, women and children, ‘until their horses were knee deep in blood. We then went to the church to thank the Lord for his mercy.’
According to Draper’s History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (vol. ii, p.22), “when the Khalif Omar took Jerusalem, A.D. 637, he rode into the city by the side of the Patriarch Sophronius, conversing with him on its antiquities. But in the capture [of Jerusalem] by the Crusaders, the brains of young children were dashed out against the walls; infants were pitched over battlements; men were roasted at fires; some were ripped up, to see if they had swallowed gold; the Jews were driven into synagogues and there burnt; a massacre of nearly 70,000 persons took place, and the Pope’s legate were seen partaking in the triumph.”
On November 7th, former U.S. President Bill Clinton also addressed the complicity of Crusader atrocities. At Georgetown University’s ornate Gaston Hall Clinton said:”In the first Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was a Muslim on the Temple Mount.”
In 1999, the 900th anniversary of that very massacre in Jerusalem, “450 American and European Christians, most of them evangelicals, gathered in Jerusalem to ask forgiveness for the historical bloodshed and for a lingering “crusader mentality” in the church today” ( An Apology, 900 Years in the Making, Tomas Dixon; Christianity Today magazine. September 6, 1999 Vol. 43, No. 10, Page 24).
One of the organizers, Cathy Nobles, training director of the reconciliation initiative, made quite a poignant observation when visiting the homes of various families in the Jerusalem area: “Visiting people’s homes has changed my view of the Middle East forever. Stereotypes like all Muslims are fundamentalist terrorists vanish when you eat together and share your hopes and worries.”
Mr. Crampton and Mr. Graham would greatly enhance their understanding of and compassion for the world if they were to sit and ‘break bread’ with one of the families that they claim belongs to an evil and wicked religion.
This revision of history is not meant to mount an ethical attack on Christianity or Christians. Or Jews for that matter. It is a lesson in wisdom. History cannot hold religions, as Islam, Christianity, or Judaism accountable for the crimes commited in their names by the reckless few. We cannot take God to the gallows, only the people who are misguided and abuse the commandments He has given us.
One God, One Humanity
It is regrettable that many confuse Allah as an entirely different god than the one worshipped by Christians and Jews. It is absolute fact that Muslims believe in a long chain of divinely inspired prophets and teachers who preached the same message of one God. This includes all prophets from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Jacob, Isiah, Joseph, John and Jesus.
“These are they whom God has blessed among the Prophets of the seed of Adam, and of those We bore with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and of those We guided and chose” (Quran, Mary: 58) “And We gave to Moses the Book, and after him sent succeeding Messengers; and We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit” (Quran, 2:82).
The Prophet Mohammad is not a deity but a mortal man who was divinely inspired to continue and seal the divine missions of the aforementioned. Muslims do not make any distinction between any of the Prophets nor do they put one above the other é Mohammad is the last of the prophets and none shall come after him – such is the message of the Quran, the last Revelation of God.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Muslim Canadian journalist living on the Pacific Coast.