Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Pernicious Appeal of Religious Crusading

Islamic State militants could grow strong enough to target people on the streets of Britain unless action is taken, David Cameron has warned. The PM, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said a "humanitarian response" to IS was not enough and a "firm security response" was needed. It comes as Church leaders expressed concern that the UK had no "coherent" approach to tackling Islamic extremism. (BBC News)

I think that for once David Cameron is right. The Islamic State is a brutal regime, which is not merely concerned with territorial disputes, like so many political conflicts, but whose aim is to impose a harsh and dictatorial religious state of affairs across the world.

Much as the crusaders in the Middle Ages were a bloodthirsty perversion of Christianity, the Islamic State is a barbaric perversion of Islam. The Christian soldiers established Christian settlements, the so-called "Crusader States" just as these Islamic soldiers have established their own Islamic state.

Jonathan Philips describes the history of the crusades:

“In November 1095 Pope Urban II called upon the knights of France to journey to the Holy Land and liberate the city of Jerusalem and the Christians of the east from Muslim power. In return they would be granted an unprecedented spiritual reward – the remission of all their sins – and thereby escape the torments of Hell, their likely destination after lives of violence and greed.”

“The response to Urban’s appeal was astounding; over 60,000 people set out to recover the Holy Land and secure this reward and, in some cases, take the chance to set up new territories. Almost four years later, in July 1099, the survivors conquered Jerusalem in an orgy of killing.While most of the knights returned home, the creation of the Crusader States formed a permanent Christian (or ‘Frankish’) presence in the Levant.”

Before Martin Luther, and the advent of Protestantism, it is hard to find any critique from within Christianity of the Crusaders. As Thomas Madden notes:

“For Martin Luther, who had already jettisoned the Christian doctrines of papal authority and indulgences, the Crusades were nothing more than a ploy by a power-hungry papacy. Indeed, he argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness. When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his armies began to invade Austria, Luther changed his mind about the need to fight, but he stuck to his condemnation of the Crusades.”

Matters are, however, better within Islam today, as the Muslim Council of Britain has issued a strong condemnation of the Islamic State:

At an event in London called to promote peace between the world’s religions, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Shia al-Khoei Foundation and other Muslim organisations said that fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isis) were acting “contrary to the values” of their religion. They added that the extremists posed a threat to “Muslims of all demoninations and schools of thought” and expressed their outright opposition to the destruction and killing that the Islamist fighters were inflicting on the Iraqi and Syrian population.

They also appealed to all British Muslims to shun extremist ideology and to resist any attempt by extremists to lure young men and women from this country to join the fighting. The denunciation was delivered during a “Big Iftar” event celebrating Ramadan at the Imam Al Khoei Islamic centre in north London last night and followed a similar joint message at Westminster by Sunni and Shia groups.

Shuja Shafi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.”

The joint statement, which is also signed by the British Muslim Forum, the Mosque and Imam National Advisory Board and more than 50 imams nationwide, condemned “the barbaric violence and destruction perpertrated by Isis” and denounces the Sunni group’s threats to destroy Shia holy sites as “contrary to the values of Islam”.

How much effect this will have on young British Muslims who are being seduced by the radical agenda is another matter. And it also seems to me that statements like these do not seem to be getting the prominence they deserve in the media. About 500 are estimated to have joined the conflict so far and posed in propaganda videos.

Much as the religious appeal of the Crusades – with the ideal of a “holy war” – called to so many people, the lure of a fanatical idealism may have more appeal to the idealism of the young that the condemnation of their elders. More initiatives – perhaps a “Young Muslims for Peace” – needs to be given so that the energy and idealism of the young can be more profitably channelled to make the world a better place, where poverty is addressed without recourse to the gun.


1 comment:

James said...

How much effect this will have on young British Muslims who are being seduced by the radical agenda is another matter.

Probably not much, as you suggest. If you are used (as I rather suspect many young Muslim men are) to being on the receiving end of unwonted hassle from the police and both covert and overt racism, the radical agenda is always going to look attractive.