Because we're all in this together
The first was mentioned on Gates of Vienna today and I thoroughly enjoyed my time browsing through it. It's a pity I hadn't found it earlier. ECAW's blog is written by a chap who identifies as a Leftie - a fact which I hope will help us all settle in our minds that the issue of Sharia and the growing numbers of Muslims is not only of concern to those dreadful people on "the Right" but to everyone who values our freedoms.
Have a good look through it, he has spent a few years going through Islamic sources, history and authoritative sources and so far I haven't found him going astray on any significant point. He has lots of useful resources and is very thoughtful & articulate.
I found a link there to an article on the popular religious "historian" Karen Armstrong (excuse me, I've come over all queasy for some reason) on Dr Andrew Holt's blog. He examines her view of the Crusades and it's an excellent piece. Many people still think she is a reliable student of history and a fair commentator on the relationship between Islam, Christianity and the West.
Many people would be very wrong.
I'm going to paste the start of the piece here and recommend you follow the link at the end to finish the article.
Crusade Historians and Karen Armstrong
Karen Armstrong is a former nun who writes broadly on political and religious issues including the crusades and Islam. As a well known critic of modern western attitudes towards Islam, Armstrong has often sought to draw attention to what she sees as historical injustices carried out by westerners in the East. She lists the crusades among these injustices. For example, in her work, Islam: A Short History, she writes:
It was, for example, during the Crusades, when it was Christians who had instigated a series of brutal holy wars against the Muslim world, that Islam was described by the learned scholar-monks of Europe as an inherently violent and intolerant faith, which had only been able to establish itself by the sword. The myth of the supposed fanatical intolerance of Islam has become one of the received ideas of the West. [pp. 179-180]
Of all of those currently writing on the crusades, her work is probably among the most popular and well known to the general public. In my case, I have had history students who have read her books in other settings come to me confused about apparent contradictions between what they were learning in my class and what they read in her book. I also once had a member of the general public, after reading a guest column I once wrote for the Florida Times Union, email me for the same reason, seeking clarification. The reason for these contradictions is because I have been trained as a medieval historian and work within the current dominant historiography of the crusades, much of which is decidedly at odds with some of the claims Armstrong makes in her works.
The most influential living historian of the crusades is unquestionably retired Cambridge University scholar Jonathan Riley-Smith. His work over the last forty years, including more than a dozen books, has, in many ways, revolutionized our understandings of the crusades. In contrast to Armstrong’s suggestion noted above (to use only one example) that the crusaders “instigated” conflict through the calling of the crusades, Riley-Smith points out that “the original justification for crusading was Muslim aggression.”
What explains this difference in views between Jonathan Riley-Smith, perhaps the world’s leading scholar of the crusades, and Karen Armstrong, one of the world’s most popular authors of the crusades?
Let’s unpack it a bit.
From my point of view, the idea that the crusades represented a case of medieval Christians “instigating” wars against Muslims seems to falsely suggest that serious conflict between Muslims and Christians only began with the crusades. This ignores an entirely different framework that crusade historians often work within when considering the origins of the crusading movement. Crusade historian Paul F. Crawford has, in at least two essays, outlined the history of conflict between Christians and Muslims from shortly after Muhammad’s death all the way to the crucial years just prior to calling of the First Crusade. During the period of the Arab Conquest, from the seventh to eighth centuries, Muslim armies conquered more land (from the coast of modern Portugal to the Hindu Kush) than the Roman Army held at its height and perhaps two-thirds of the Christian world, including much of the Byzantine Empire, the Levant, North Africa, Spain, and even pushed into France during the eighth century. Continued conflict took place between Christians and Muslims from the eighth through the late eleventh centuries that saw the establishment of the Emirate of Sicily, attacks on Italy (and twice on the city of Rome itself), and significant overall shrinkage of Byzantine Christian territories.
Read the rest HERE.