Boston Globe columnist James Carroll pronounced recently in the Globe that “among the factors leading to the French and Dutch rejections of the European constitution last week, none looms more ominously than the nightmare of antagonism between ‘the West’ and Islam. … Where once Communists threatened, now Muslims do. A new wall is being built.”
Carroll sees this war heating up today: “Given escalations of the war in Iraq together with widely reported instances of Koran-denigration by U.S. interrogators, such trends in Europe make the global war on terror seem expressly a war against Islam.”
The 9/11 attacks go unmentioned, but for Carroll, some history is important: He tells us that in order “to make sense of this dangerous condition, it can help to recall some of the forgotten or misremembered history that prepared for it, from the remote origins of the conflict to its manifestations in the not so distant past.” This demonization of Muslims began with the Crusades, of course.
“As the story is usually told in Europe and America,” Carroll tells us, “the problem began when a jihad-driven army of ‘infidel’ Saracens, having brutalized Christians in the ‘Holy Land,’ threatened ‘Christendom’ itself with conquests right into the heart of present-day France. Charles Martel is the hero of primal European romances because he defeated the Muslim army near Tours in 733. But for Martel, Edward Gibbon wrote, ‘the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford.’” Carroll downplays the idea that “across subsequent centuries, in the European memory, Islam posed the great threat to the emerging Christian order.” In fact, he says, “Lombards, Normans, Vikings, forces from the Slavic east, and violent contests among Christians themselves all wreaked havoc in Europe, even in Martel’s time.”
Lombards, Normans and Vikings, oh my. In fact, all were already Christian or soon Christianized. The jihad threat was perceived as greater because it would have entailed the utter destruction of Christian society, or, as Carroll puts it with sneer quotes, ‘Christendom,’ and its replacement with Sharia. But for Carroll, the Islamic threat “the crusading impulse presumed a demonizing of Saracens that was justified neither by the threat they actually posed nor by their treatment of Christians in Palestine.”
But what if Martel had lost at Tours? Where would the jihad armies have stopped? How much of Europe would they have had to occupy and subjugate for Carroll to acknowledge that the threat from them was genuine?
And as for the treatment of Christians in Palestine in the decades just before the First Crusade, I discuss it at some length in my forthcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), coming August 8 from Regnery—a Human Events sister company. In 1056, the Muslims expelled 300 Christians from Jerusalem and forbade European Christians from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. When the Seljuk Turks swept down from Central Asia, they made life difficult for both native Christians and blocked pilgrims from making pilgrimages. In 1077 they conquered Jerusalem; the Seljuk Emir Atsiz bin Uwaq promised not to harm the inhabitants, but once his men had entered the city, they murdered 3,000 people. I guess Carroll would say they all committed suicide.
Carroll concludes that “this conflict has its origins more in ‘the West’ than in the House of Islam. The image of Muslims as prone to violence by virtue of their religion was mainly constructed across centuries by Europeans seeking to bolster their own purposes, a habit of politicized paranoia that is masterfully continued by freaked-out leaders of post-9/11 America.” I doubt if Carroll has read a page of the Koran, or has any idea that there exists in Islam an elaborate legal superstructure mandating warfare against unbelievers and endorsed by all the major schools of Sunni jurisprudence.
If there weren’t so many people in government who believe as Carroll does, he would be beneath notice. In Holland and France there are significant numbers that seem to know better, but the elites are going to take a long time to catch up.