This article appeared in the
in The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 2.
In some schoolbooks and teachers' manuals, the passages of Muslim propaganda about the crusades are so heavy-handed and inept that they seem comical. As examples:
[In Europe during the Middle Ages] knights, lords and ladies lived in splendid feudal castles. And crusaders set off for Israel (called the Holy Land) in the name of religion, but managed to plunder and murder as they went.
And so much for all that. The writer of the book in question, Joy Hakim, tells nothing else -- absolutely nothing -- about crusaders or crusades. She doesn't even tell what "crusaders" were [see note 1, below]. Obviously, the only purpose of her cryptic sentence about "crusaders" is to teach students to associate the word "crusaders" with the words "plunder" and "murder."
While in Damascus you are attacked by Christian crusaders. [note 2].
Of course, the crusades didn't begin until the closing years of the 11th century, so there were no crusaders in Damascus, or anywhere else, during the 7th -- but chronology doesn't matter much to the Muslim agents who feed phony "history" to publishers of instructional materials.
Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West's belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world. While the Arabs were busy in the seventh through the tenth centuries winning an opulent and sophisticated empire, Europe was defending itself against outside invaders and then digging out from the mess they left behind. Only in the eleventh century were Europeans able to take much notice of the East. The event that led to the crusades was the Turkish conquest of most of Christian Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The Christian emperor in Constantinople, faced with the loss of half of his empire, appealed for help to the rude but energetic Europeans. He got it. More than he wanted, in fact.
Pope Urban II called the First Crusade in 1095. Despite modern laments about medieval colonialism, the crusade's real purpose was to turn back Muslim conquests and restore formerly Christian lands to Christian control. The entire history of the crusades is one of Western reaction to Muslim advances. The crusades were no more offensive than was the American invasion of Normandy. As it happened, the First Crusade was amazingly, almost miraculously, successful. The crusaders marched hundreds of miles deep into enemy territory and recaptured not only the lost cities of Nicaea and Antioch, but in 1099 Jerusalem itself.
Teachers can read the entire text of "Crusade Propaganda" at www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-maddenprint110201.html on the Web site of the National Review.
William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.
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