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The crusades were campaigns against the Islamic influence by Christian extremists in the beginning of the 11th century A.D. The Christians aimed at purging the Middle East off the Islamic influence and occupation. In addition, the crusades were motivated by the desire of the Christians to conquer the Middle East. The crusades erupted at a time when the European continent was experiencing some kind of the enlightening changes. A great deal of interaction between the Europeans and the Muslims from the East had occurred before the start of the progressively violent crusades (Foss, 1997).
The crusades had begun with a single rally by Pope Urban II. Later, they escalated into a military violence and a conflict of religious ideologies. The Pope called for radical action against the Muslim masters of the East, and particularly the Middle East. The commencement of the crusades marked the beginning of the chronic violent religious conflict between the Muslims and the Christians (Foss, 1997).
In retaliation to the Crusaders’ invasion, the Muslims waged a religious war against the invaders. The Sunni Muslims, the majority victims of the barbarian invaders, directed their vengeance on the local Jews, the Christians, and the Shi’a Muslim communities. In this regard, a class of Muslim warriors known as the Saracens emerged. The uncivilly behavior exhibited by the newcomers from the West cultivated resentment among the Muslims who went on to shun the Western culture from then. Before the crusades, the culture of tolerance had prevailed between the Muslims and the other local population constituting different religious orientations (Setton, 1989).
Origin of the Conflict
Earlier, in the 17th century, caliph Omar, a prominent Muslim, led his army to conquer Jerusalem. Here, the Christians remained under the Muslim authority for the subsequent four centuries. Initially, the invading Muslims had peacefully co-existed with their Christian subjects until the arrival of the Westerners obsessed by a spirit of conquest and Catholicism, as the extreme Christian doctrines dictated then. Pope Urban II had called for a vengeful campaign to cleanse the Middle East of the Muslims who were perceived as evil people (Goldhill, 2005). The pope developed propaganda that the Muslims were cruel people committing transgression against the Christians under their rule. However, there was no evidence of the cruelty that warranted for an action of the level that the pope advocated for; although no one cared to examine this propaganda. Furthermore, the pope was born in an aristocratic family and believed that France was superior to other nations. According to him, in order to mobilize the Europeans against the Muslim world, he had to indoctrinate Christians with the propaganda. A thorough examination of the pope’s background and the details of the first crusade reveal that the pope did not have a purely religious agenda. He was also determined to amass power by the conquest (Setton, 1989). The Christians embarked on a war without a definite cause except for the desire to conquer the Muslim world.
The crusade evoked a feeling among the Crusaders that Christians were the rightful owners of the Middle East. A culture of pilgrimage developed among the crusaders as a retaliation to caliph Omar’s entry into the city of Jerusalem and the use of the Christian temple as a prayer ground. In addition, the people of Europe took up Christianity entirely such that the religion became a main cultural aspect in Europe, especially France, after the crusades. The culture of savagery and combative nature developed in Christianity, and for the succeeding centuries, the papacy was associated with power and conquest (Goldhill, 2005).
In my opinion, the crusade was the result of the desire for material gain by the religious authorities in Europe where the pope encouraged people to start a bloody religious purification as a way of extending his influence. The resulting war and animosity cultivated the lasting conflict that still rages in the Middle East today. In addition, the crusades are the primary cause of the present day antagonism and intolerance between the Christian and Muslim worlds.
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