CRUSADES CAUSED JIHAD? Hardly — Getting the History Right

Written by Suzanne Olden on February 11, 2015

While reading this, keep in mind that everything you heard in the media, from two Presidents and probably from your history teachers, was wrong. History has a way of rearing its ugly head, for sure, but in this case the truth of the matter is that terrorism today is the same (albeit with more destructive weapons) as it was centuries ago, and the Crusades were not the cause. In fact, the Crusades were in response to the same kinds of Islamic aggression we see today.

“If the Muslim right to Jerusalem was solely by force of conquest, why wouldn’t the Crusaders have the right to take it back by force?” – Dinesh D’Souza

I have always been an avid student of history, but realized that I needed to look to true experts to write this. I found two of the best experts: Thomas F. Madden, Professor of History and History Department Chair at Saint Louis University, and Jonathan Riley-Smith, a historian of the Crusades, former Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. I’m quite sure their degrees and decades of study on the matter will trump Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s “understanding” of what truly happened.

The general school of thought put forth today is that Christians, tricked into it by the evil Catholic Church, attacked peaceful Muslims completely unprovoked. They did this so they could seize lands that had always belonged to the Muslims, to rape, pillage and sack because they were greedy “lacklands and ne’er-do-wells” and “religious zealots” to use Professor Madden’s terms. As one of my Facebook friends so judgmentally put it, Crusaders were never “true Christians.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In fact that last part, that the Crusades were a perversion of Christianity is, in Madden’s words “one of the most profound misconceptions about the Crusades…” Riley-Smith likes to say that Christ, in fact, did not condemn the profession of the soldier: he praised the Roman Centurion and told his disciples at the Last Supper “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”” (Luke 22:36-37)

St. Paul also said “He does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4) They were following the words of Christ: “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” They heard Christ’s words “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” and saw the fight as a cross to take up, a burden in defense of others.

St. Augustine also said that Christians could use violence to halt aggression or stop a greater evil, but that it must be a defensive war, a reaction. The Crusades met that criteria to a T.

How? The First Crusade, started in 1095, and those that followed, were in response to attacks against Christians and the Church (both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). Attacks and incursions like the Turkish conquest of Christian Asia Minor, an Arab conquest of the Christian-held Holy Land, the Muslim conquest of Edessa in 1144, the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem and most other Christian lands in the Levant (today’s Middle East) in 1187.

It was noted in the media, though usually in Conservative press, that the Nineveh region of Iraq, and its capital, Mosul, had been Christian since the 1st century AD. Large areas of present day Turkey, Armenia and Central European countries, as well as most of Spain were attacked and taken over by Muslims, areas that had been Christian since at least 500 years prior to those aggressive incursions. The Crusades were in defense of those attacks and Muslim aggression in taking over Christian lands, as well as attacks on pilgrims to Jerusalem and along trade routes to the Middle and Far East for centuries. They lived then, as they do now, by “convert or die.”

crusade map 2It wasn’t until the rise of Protestantism that it started to turn into “the evil Catholic Church was the anti-Christ leading true Christians away” kind of reasoning. Later, the advent of liberalism brought in the “it was all about greed and pillaging those poor Muslims” twist, added to the “evil Church” mix.

The thought that the Muslim world sat and stewed over the Crusades is ridiculous. Riley-Smith and Carole Hillenbrand, another historian writing about the Crusades, both put forth the truth that once medieval Muslims took and held the Holy Land, they had little interest in them. By 1291 the Crusades dropped from their collective memories, not to be resurrected until western writers started their twisting centuries later. In fact it wasn’t until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century when that twisting was finally responsible for the creation, if you will, of a Muslim “memory” of the Crusades as an assault upon Islam. Historical writings before then don’t support such a “memory” at all.

The point also needs to be made that regardless of whatever atrocities, real or imagined, perpetrated by Christians during the Crusades, using them as a justification for violence by Islam today is pathetic.

I know, I know, it doesn’t fit the narrative so it must be revised and truth wiped from our collective memories. Sorry Obama, I can’t let you get away with that! History, non-revisionist history, says otherwise.




Suzanne Reisig Olden is a Catholic Christian, Conservative, married mother of two, who loves God, family and country in that order. She lives northwest of Baltimore, in Carroll County, Maryland. She graduated from Villa Julie College/Stevenson University with a BS in Paralegal Studies and works as a paralegal for a franchise company, specializing in franchise law and intellectual property. Originally from Baltimore, and after many moves, she came home to raise her son and daughter, now high school and college aged, in her home state. Suzanne also writes for The Firebreathing Conservative website ( and hopes you'll come visit there as well for even more discussion of conservative issues.