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26 November 2005

the Next Crusade, the New Crusade

Scene from Ridley Scott's 2005 motion picture epic about the Crusades, "Kingdom of Heaven." In a fairly exhaustive Google Image Search, Vleeptron has so far been unable to find a single image from the movie which shows a single Arab or Muslim, alive or dead or in combat or parley. At least insofar as the marketing of "Kingdom of Heaven" was concerned, the Crusades did not seem to have involved Muslims or Arabs. Please send Vleeptron any web images from "Kingdom of Heaven" which actually show one or more Muslims or Arabs.

Please feel free to skip Bob's Lengthy Hot Air, and go directly to The Reason for This Post, at the bottom. That's where the Hot Parts are, and we are deeply indebted to U.B. von Berlin for these Hot Parts. As we begged for coffee this morning, this woke us up like a big-ass mug of triple espresso.

* * *

In a tiny, unimportant, troublesome (though nothing the Roman Army couldn't handle), obscure corner of the Roman Empire, a place nobody had ever heard of and nobody who had heard of it wanted to go to, a religious reform rabbi and itinerant preacher lived, caused a little trouble for the Roman-run puppet government, and finally was given a kangaroo court trial and was executed in a horribly cruel way which was a common form of execution for troublemakers throughout the vast Roman Empire. No independent trace of his life can be found today, even in the notoriously efficient Roman tax records; we only know about the life of Jesus from stories his friends told to people in the region, stories that eventually were written in letters to other people interested in Jesus' life and ideas.

The religion his life and ideas inspired, Christianity, caught fire not in the Middle East, where Jesus had lived, or Western Asia, but it finally caught fire in the minds and hearts of Europeans. Christianity infiltrated, contaminated, displaced and replaced the Roman Empire itself and took on its administrative infrastructure and its language. Where once "Rome" had meant the terrible cruelty of the Roman Army, now and ever since "Rome" meant the Christian, or, after the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church.

The body of what today is the Koran/Quran was first revealed to Muhammed, another obscure figure in the middle of another Nowhere, the desert of Arabia, around 610 A.D. (in the Western calendar). As Muhammed began preaching this revelation to his neighbors, he very quickly ceased to be obscure. By the time he died in 632, nearly all of the Arabian peninsula, and big chunks of Beyond, followed his religious teachings, and a highly organized Islamic army had already made its first attack against the Eastern Roman Empire -- the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity -- in Constantinople. (Eventually, in 1453, they succeeded; Constantinople is now Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, and city and nation are thoroughly Islamic.)

Now two great faiths, Islam and Christianity, which had both been born from more ancient Judaism, were competing, with persuasion and with fire and sword, for the minds and the lands of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Jerusalem, the city where Jesus had spent his last week and had been crucified and resurrected, and where Muhammed ascended to Paradise, fell to the Army of the Islamic Caliphate in 638. European Christendom came soon to regard this as an abomination and a cancer in the soul of Christianity.

Christian leaders also recognized a need to divert the ferocious fratricidal war tendencies of Christian princes to Something Else, and eventually ambitious military campaigns to retake Jerusalem and "The Holy Land" from Islamic rule were launched. At the urging of the Pope, a coalition of European Christian kings and princes launched The First Crusade, and the Crusaders recaptured Jerusalem in 1099.

Eight more military campaigns by various European kings and princes to conquer important cities in the Middle East were also called Crusades. The Ninth Crusade was launched in 1271, but was militarily unsuccessful; by 1291 Muslim Armies had recaptured every city and region which Christian crusaders had once held.

In the USA and the West, critics of the War in Iraq have often or occasionally accused the Bush administration of motives which essentially explain the war as, consciously and intentionally (though secretly), a Next or New Crusade. Vleeptron has on several occasions focused on the deep marbling of the American war effort with a political and missionary infrastructure with deep roots in the American Protestant Fundamentalist Evangelical church community.

When the question is asked in America: "Who on earth is an enthusiastic champion of this disastrous, corrupt, unwinnable war?", unhappily there are answers to that question in the votes and political activities of millions of American Fundamentalist Christians.

Some of these see the War in Iraq as a heaven-sent opportunity to convert a huge number of conquered, defeated, politically powerless Muslims to Christianity (at sword-point and starvation-point -- conversion to Christianity in exchange for generously distributed canned pork protein products).

A smaller but very active and very vocal and fervent subset sees the wars throughout the region -- the violent difficulties between Muslims and Jews in Israel, Palestine, the violence between Christians and Muslims in the Balkans and Central Asia, and the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- as evidence of End-Time Prophecies from the Book of Revelation of Saint John the Divine. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation ) To them, the more ghastly, violent, murderous, fratricidal, toxic and grotesquely inhumane a state the region descends into, the clearer it is that the Christian myth of the End of the World and the return of Jesus to Earth are getting closer. The point is not military victory or success for any side; and the last thing these people want is any kind of peace or cessation of hostilities.

The point is to speed political and military events as quickly as possible to The End of the World. (There are sects of ultra-Orthodox Jews primarily in Israel who are cooperating with the Christian End-Timers for their own theological purposes -- the rebuilding and re-sanctification of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.)

Officially, from any podium or on any website directly associated with the military Coalition (USA leading UK and a variety of other European -- nominally Christian -- nations) which invaded and claims sovereignty over Iraq, this is Not A Crusade. The very accusation is absurd, insulting and provably untrue.

So what do Muslims and Arabs think?

====================================

Al Jazeera is the Arabic world's CNN, an incredibly popular news and culture satellite-broadcast television network. Its headquarters are in Qatar, a tiny kingdom on the Arabian peninsula on the Persian Gulf. Whatever else Al Jazeera is or has been accused of being, Al Jazeera is Not A Media Stooge for the Coalition governments.

====================================

U.B. said...

From Al Jazeera Hompage:

US and British occupation of Iraq is regarded as the re-emergence of the old colonialist practices of the western empires in some quarters. The real ambitions underlying the brutal onslaught are still highly questionable - and then there are the blatant lies over weapons of mass destruction originally used to justify the war. There were no great victory marches by the occupiers, nor were they thrown garlands of flowers and greeted in triumph. More US soldiers have died in Iraq since George Bush declared an end to the war on 1 May 2003 prompting the question: Will Iraq turn into a new Vietnam eventually bringing the US to its senses ... or perhaps to its knees?

Iraq's history, and along with it that of the Arab Muslim world, speaks of several similar encounters. In the past, enemies attacked from East and West before they were swallowed by the moving sands of the region, or forced to retreat, leaving behind a phoenix-like people who adore life and still accept to die for their freedom.

The escalating Iraqi resistance seems to be setting the stage for another act which might usher in a new Arab World or set the clock ticking for the end of yet another empire.

3 Comments:

Anonymous patfromch said...

Unable to supply any mages of Ajrabs in the movie but since I inctly saw it this friday with me mates i can tell you that the portrait of the Arabs in the fillum is by no means negative. Sal'a is portrayed as a good-mannered and intelligent man, the Evil guys are all on the crusader side (Reymond de chantillion and the Temple Knights.) Of course this is Hollywood, not the History Channel and the film is not a masterpiece, but not as bad as i had feared.
if you want to know more about the impact of the Crusades in the Arab World then you MUST read "The Crusades through Arab Eyes" by Amin Maalouf (available as paperback or audio book).
Steven runcinan's "History of the Crusades may also be of interest)
Funny that americans find a resemblence to the Crusades, our european intellectuals haven't noticed that yet.
I for one cannot agree but if it helps questioning this stupid war and making people aware of what's going on then why not ?

11:37  
Blogger Bob Merkin said...

whoa yes yes that Amin Maalouf book looks really interesting. I've heard of the Runci?an book too. (Just waking up and injecting hot coffee directly into my eyeball, but there's a Rogue Neuron in my brain that seems to recall the spelling is RunciMan. amazon.com will Know All.)

Did you read my recent Vleepatronic posts about the Big Republican Scandal that's brewing about the Indian/Native-American gambling casinos? They revealed (to me, anyway) the actual Machinery and Nuts and Bolts about how Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians have become such a huge power in American politics in the last ten years. Pat (I'm sorry about his name) Robertson and other tele-vangelists don't just spout off Hot Air sermons and Jesusbabble and then pray for you to send them your money.

They became highly organized, with telephone trees and websites and e-mails. Now groups like The Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family can decide to Do Something Politically, and within 24 hours, 2,000,000 people are phoning and SENDing and bombarding various political targets exactly the way CC or FoF tell them to.

The lobbyist Jack Abramoff called his old pal Ralph Reed, who ran the CC after Pat (sorry) Robertson, and asked him to get his Religious Mob to target all the political and media bullseyes to prevent The Wrong Indians from getting a license to open a new casino. (Abramoff and Reed were getting $$$$ from The Right Indians, who already owned a casino and didn't want any competition.)

So essentially, to a non-Fundie like me, this Fundie Christian Mob is invisible. But when their leaders, their Svengalis, want Something political, WHAM! SHAZAM! It happens. In huge numbers. One thing they wanted in 2004 was to re-elect our Holy Christian President Bush. WHAM! SHAZAM! He's the President again.

I'm a great fan of Ridley Scott's movies. Ain't seem "Kingdom of Heaven" (was ist auf deutsches?), and I'm sure you can see lots of Muslims in the movie itself. But I tried to clarify this very interesting nuance: If you just image-search the web for stills from the movie that show any Arabs or Muslims -- they aren't there! And that must have a lot to do with the studio marketing for the movie. I suspect the studio was very nervous about releasing a major movie that anyone might consider to be Muslim-bashing. Theater owners really don't like it when they open a new blockbuster movie and there are 40 angry Muslims on the sidewalk with signs.

btw a new movie of "Oliver Twist" is about to be released. I don't know who's playing Fagin this time (Alec Guinness in the most famous old version), and I don't know how the screenplay has softened Fagin for the New Millennium, but you can expect 40 angry Jews on the sidewalk in front of the MultiCinema Quadruplex Odeon.

I never understood the controversy. Fagin fed and educated and sheltered all these street orphans. The government wasn't helping them.

25 years later, Alec Guinness played the British spy George Smiley in leCarre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," and at the beginning of the film, in a moment of disgust, said to a younger colleague: "I've been reviewing my situation." That of course was old Fagin's line, when he realized he better leave town before the cops came and he was hanged.

14:32  
Anonymous patfromch said...

The name is definetly Runcinan. His book is THE standard work for the history of the Crudades. The book is a pretty thick bastard, but it is worth it. You MUST also buy this book by Maalouf
(I have a soft spot for medieval history and literature)
Your argument with the fundie Bastards makes sense, but I find it dangerous for the left to compare the occupation of Iraq with a Crusade. Analogies like these can cause a lot of trouble nowdays. Of course it's easier from my side of the pond to consider recent activities of the Fundie Bastards as mere side effects of this stupid bloody Occupation.

15:16  

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