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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