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The More Things Change
by Alan Caruba
30 April 2004

Thousands fought and died for ownership of the Holy Land during the Crusades, and thousands continue to do so today.


I was watching a television documentary about the Crusades and it occurred to me that nothing much had changed from 1096 AD, when the first of a series of efforts were made to conquer Jerusalem and the Holy land, to take it back from the Muslims who occupied it. The whole thing would last about 250 years.

Looking for a way to keep Christians from warring among each other in Europe, Pope Urban II decided to mobilize the mob into a great army that would secure Jerusalem for the Church. The Muslims have never forgiven Christians for their desire to insure their most sacred places remain under their control. Jerusalem, today, is divided into various quarters where Christians, Jews, and Muslims warily live side by side amidst the holy places.

Jews, however, cannot visit their most holy place, the Mount where the rock upon which Abraham is said to have been ready to slaughter Isaac sits under the now famed Dome of the Rock, a mosque whose golden dome proclaims that it is the third of Islam’s most holy places after Mecca and Medina. Never mind that Mohammed never set foot out of Arabia. The Muslim belief is that he was transported to the site in Jerusalem in a dream.

The point of the documentary was that thousands fought and died for the ownership of these places. My point is that thousands continue to do so.

We are, in the year 2004, still killing one another over whose God is the true God.

Islam is divided by its followers into Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The former is the zone of Islam where the Koran is -- as in the case of Saudi Arabia -- the nation’s constitution, and other nations where, like Turkey, a civil government rules while Islam remains the dominant religion. Dar al-Harb is the zone of war. It is that part of the world not ruled by Islam and therefore presumably to remain under siege until it is.

Spain used to be ruled by Islam before Christians drove out the Muslims. Spain is now a place where Muslims killed about 200 people peacefully riding trains to work. The Muslims want Spain back. They also want France and the rest of Europe. “Old Europe” is ripe for the taking. Its native population is not producing a new generation in sufficient numbers and Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East have been moving in for decades.

Everywhere one looks, Muslims are killing infidels (non-believers) and, as often as not, killing each other. Some kind of madness has infected Islam. Or maybe it’s just the perception that the Crusades have once again come to their homelands in the Middle East and elsewhere?

This time, though, the Crusaders come, not just as an army, but via the influence of Western culture and ideas. They arrive via radio, television, films, books and newspapers. They are openly sexual, they celebrate personal freedom, and they eat forbidden foods. To the faithful, they are an infection, a virus, a disease that challenges the tenets of Islam and, the one thing no Muslim must ever do is question Islam.

The very word “Islam” means submission.

Unlike the many different versions of Christianity, Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Mormons, Methodists, Baptists, as well as the Eastern Church, Islam does not suffer disunity willingly, nor have they hesitated to make war on one another. There is Sufism, a mystical kind of Islam, but ultimately, all Muslims face Mecca when they pray and they are expected to pray five times a day, on their knees, forehead pressed to the ground.

Originally, Mohammed designated they pray facing Jerusalem, but after Jewish tribes in Arabia refused to convert, he slaughtered them, took their wealth, and then marched a great army to Mecca, whose citizens decided Islam was just fine with them.

For all the talk of Islamic tolerance, the religion does not care much for other religions. Under the rule of the Taliban, some ancient, huge statues of Buddha carved into the side of a mountain in Afghanistan were literally blown to smithereens. Like the Jews from whom Mohammed borrowed much of Islam, graven images are forbidden in Islam. Like the Jews, pork is forbidden. There are other borrowed similarities, but the Koran ultimately tells its readers not to make friends with either Christians or Jews “as they are friends only to each other.” A lot of Jews might take issue with that, given the long history of persecution they encountered from Christians. More than a half century after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is rife in Europe again.

So now, a lot of Christians, many of them armed with the most advanced weapons ever invented, are in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a number of other Middle Eastern nations, shooting at Muslims who resent having been liberated from some of the worst tyrants of modern times.

It is also one of the reasons American and coalition soldiers are under attack. Neither Iraqi Muslims, nor others, want to live even under the temporary rule of an infidel. Daniel Pipes, an expert on the Middle East, counsels removing our occupying forces “quickly” to leave the cities and, “when feasible,” to leave the country. Dr. Pipes forgets that any show of weakness only brings new attacks by the Islamic Jihad.

More important to understanding this struggle is the way Islamic fundamentalists are fighting to remain disconnected from the rest of the world. They are fighting to keep the influences of North and South America, Europe, and other areas of the world from affecting their belief in the purity of their faith.

The current US policy appears to be to turn political, i.e., civil control, to Iraqis, but it seems to me we will be keeping our military in Iraq for some time to come. The road to the end of the Islamic Jihad ultimately runs through Baghdad, Damascus, Syria, and ends in Tehran, Iran.

Leaving quickly is hardly an acceptable end to our stated intention to create a modern, democratic nation in Iraq. Iraq was slapped together by Britain and France after WWI from remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Iraq may well break apart into several small, independent nations. The schisms between Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds are deep. It would not surprise me to see Iraqis spend time killing each other until they find their own solution. Most certainly, Afghanistan is still far from becoming a democratic nation.

Too many Americans think you can help draft a constitution and just walk away. Democracy, something no one in the Middle East except the Turks have ever experienced, takes a long time to establish. It has many enemies as does freedom everywhere.

These are ancient places in a part of the world that often appears to be immune to modernity, thanks to deep religious and other divisions. Mostly, it is a culture that those of us in the West find primitive in the way it views human rights, freedom, self-rule, et cetera.

The US has put its soldiers in harm’s way to liberate and help Muslims in Kosovo, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. But, to the Islamic Jihad, we are “crusaders” to be driven out of their Islamic paradise where the likes of Saddam Hussein and a host of others have thrived by jailing and murdering anyone critical of them.

The United States of America has demonstrated it can kick butt anytime and anywhere it wants. The rest of the world has taken note of this and, predictably, is now angry and fearful, but this nation is not in quest of an empire. We are seeking to transform a part of the world that is a threat to peace in its own region, to America and to the “connected” world we call globalization. Meanwhile, we shall continue to be accused of being “crusaders.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Alan Caruba is the author of Warning Signs, published by Merril Press. His weekly commentaries are posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.

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