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**Political** Crusaders and Commandos
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**Political** Crusaders and Commandos - August 13, 2007, 02:00 PM

Warning***
This post is VERY political and VERY long. It is a opinion and to be taken as such. It is open to discussion and debate.

Crusaders and Commandos

How Medieval History Effects Perceptions In The GWOT


(U) The "New Crusade" Narrative in Jihadist Though or Why does Crusade history still matter?

The idea that Islam is under assault from a “new Crusade” is at the heart of the Islamic extremist ideology and the degree to which the broader Muslim world accepts or rejects the notion is one of the best measures of US success or failure in the Global War on Terrorism.
The “new Crusade” narrative was made clear at the very start of the current conflict with al-Qaeda, in Usama Bin Laden’s “declaration of war”, his 1998 fatwa calling for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews:
The Arabian Peninsula has never – since Allah made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas – been stormed by any forces like the crusader armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations.
Here, in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the statement, is the first time that the threat is named or discussed and it is telling that he chose the word “crusader”. Indeed, in all his statements, Usama Bin Laden’s favorite term for Western forces is not “Christian,” “American,” or “imperialist.” It is “Crusader” and Bin Laden is not the only one to favor it. An Iranian editorial (one of many similar comments from Tehran-controlled media) said likewise during the 2006 Israeli incursion into Lebanon:
The offspring of those who several centuries ago used to beat the drums of the crusades wars, have today chosen a number of arenas for standing against the Islamic Ummah.
Extremists around the world, both inside and outside al-Qaeda, use it to describe their enemies because it is a term that carries a specific cache in the Muslim world. It places the extremist message inside a popular narrative and leverages themes that are long-lived and well-known in the Muslim world, themes that are taught in Muslims school and carried on colloquially in stories told in families and cafes. By framing current events as a “new Crusade” by the West, Islamic extremists gain an instant understanding and even sympathy in the broader Muslim world. This sentiment can then be built on and converted into support. The need to counter this message is immediate and vital, but it cannot be done without an understanding of the deep reservoir of Crusade history and themes in Muslim culture, history and themes that are leveraged in favor of extremism everyday in the GWOT.
The use of the Crusades s a frame of reference evokes for Muslims an image of a highly threatening enemy, one that is powerful, barbarous, long-lived, and bent on nothing short of the destruction of Islam. Consider this extremist statement dated 20 November 2001:
The history of this conflict does not go back to 11 September 2001. Nor does it go back to the bombing of a few embassies and ships. Rather, it goes back centuries from the time when the Jewish tribes gathered against the Prophet Muhammed and the Christians launched the Crusades against the Muslims in the 12th century of the Christian era. Therefore, it is not a case of ‘let’s all join hands: Muslims, Christians and Jews and wipe out terrorism’, but it is part of a deeper plot to try and destroy Islam in the World.
At the same time, Crusade history also evokes for Muslims a promise of and a plan for ultimate victory even in the face of terrible losses. Hafiz Abdur Rehman Mekki, leader of Pakistan’s largest extremist political party, Jamaat-ud-Daawa, made an entire speech detailing how Crusade history is a blueprint for Muslim resistance in the current conflict:
Since we are under attack by crusaders during these days, we discuss crusades during our training sessions. By crusades, we mean the wars that Saladin Ayubi and Sultan Nureddin Zangi, the two tigers of Islam, fought with the Christians. All brothers, especially students know whenever preaching and jihad became weaker in the Muslim world and Muslims fell victim to dreadful diseases such as chaos, internal strife, political rivalries, and sectarianism, they had to face Allah’s wrath in the shape of crusades. The crusaders have always hoped to seize Muslim territories and their resources. That is why the crusaders have always fought the Muslims. However, with the grace and help of Allah and with the grace of jihad, Muslims have responded bravely by crushing the crusaders and inflicting disgraceful defeats on them.
We are again under the attack by crusaders today. It is the same story. The crusader armies besiege powerful Muslim countries. The crusades that are the topic of today’s discussion worked the same way as they do now. This paper will first seek to provide the reader with an understanding of the word “crusader” from both a Western and Islamic perspective. Next we will examine the history of the first three Crusades both to supply the reader with a brief primer on these events and to dissect the following key themes:
why and how Muslims have constructed the image of the “Crusader” around several key points: strength, greed, and savagery,
how the brief history of the Crusader states parallels (or is perceived to parallel) certain current issues in relations between the West and Islam, with specific regard to the state of Israel and the conflict in Iraq, and
how the Islamic counter-campaigns against the Crusader states influence Muslim views on leadership and inform the plans and actions of jihadists today.
Though it may occasionally slow the pace, wherever feasible, I will includes tracts from the original medieval Islamic sources so that the reader might appreciate the narrative nature of Islamic Crusade history and how it drives perceptions to this day.
Finally, based on the themes established through the examined history, a brief discussion of ways to counter extremist use of the “new Crusade” narrative can be had

(U) A Crusade By Any Other Name - Part 1
The first thing that needs to be understood in any discussion of the Crusades is that the very words “crusade” and “crusader” have entirely different connotations in Western and Islamic culture.
The word “crusade” comes from the French croisade meaning “marked by the cross,” referring to the practice of pinning a cloth cross to the clothes to signify that one was going on armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Today, in the West, the word “crusade” is generally used in a few ways. It may be used to emphasize that a goal has an especially strong moralistic, though not necessarily religious, component. In this mode it is often associated with philanthropic causes. For example, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade or the Rhode Island Children’s Crusade for Higher Education. This sentiment of aggressive pursuit of moral, though not necessarily religious, causes occasionally carries over to military activities. General Eisenhower, on the eve of the D-Day, referred to the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe as “the Great Crusade” and Tony Blair referred to NATO action in Kosovo (and, more broadly, to internationalist foreign policy willing to use military force for humanitarian purposes) as a “new moral crusade” in a Newsweek article he authored in 1999.
In the West, when someone is referred to as a “crusader,” it is generally considered a compliment for their passion in pursuit of a worthy cause or causes. As such, it is a popular term for activists and politicians. At its most negative it might be used to describe a quixotic person, one expressing a zeal for good causes that is perhaps just beyond reason or realism. When the West does use the word is used in a religious context, “crusade” usually refers to large evangelical events or efforts, such as Billy Graham’s televised “Crusades” or Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical movement active at over a thousand colleges “in the United States and beyond.”
The West sees nothing inherently offensive in the title “crusader.” Sports clubs, newspapers, high school mascots, comic book heroes, travel agencies, investment banks, video games, marine engines manufacturers, software developers, science-fiction television series, wetsuit makers, motion picture producers, and even insurance companies bear the name “crusader.”
There are currently only three places in Western culture where “crusade” is used simultaneously in a military and religious sense.
When discussing the actual historical events of the Crusades. Even then, in Western medieval history circles, the generally accepted definition of “crusade” would be most concisely phrased as “an armed pilgrimage.” While historically accurate, it is not a particularly sinister definition.
Since September 11th and the beginning of the GWOT, some on the far fringe of Christian right-wing extremists and some neo-fascist organizations have adopted the term “crusade” to encompass their call for a war against the Muslim world in general.
By some of the more extreme anti-war and/or anti-Bush commentators who use the term to express their suspicion and contempt for a President whose leadership they view as compromised by overzealous personal views as an evangelical Christian.
Only the last two uses, present only on the far extremes of Western political culture, begin to approach the negative connotation that “crusade” carries in the Muslim world.

(U) A Crusade By Any Other Name - Part II

“Crusader” is not, nor has it ever been, a Muslim synonym for Christian. The Arabic word for “crusader” is “al-salibi,” which is a literal translation from the French meaning “one who follows the cross” or “one who raises the cross banner.” By contrast, the Arabic words for Christian are usually “al-masihi,” meaning “follower of the Messiah,” or “al-nasrani,” meaning “follower of the Nazarene.” The difference is subtle, but critical. Christians follow a revered holy man, while Crusaders follow a symbol, which is considered heresy in Islam.
It is a common misconception in the West that Muslims use the word “crusade” to refer to any war by an ostensibly Christian nation and “crusader” to refer generically to any Western soldier. Islam has, since its inception, lived alongside Christianity. There were Christian communities on the Arabian Peninsula when Muhammad first proclaimed that there is “no God but God” and destroyed the pagan idols in Mecca. When Islam expanded to conquer parts of the Roman/Byzantine Middle East (modern day Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt) it absorbed many more Christians into its population and many of these communities remain today. Historically, these native Christian communities have been generally unmolested by Islam, provided they submitted to certain Koranic strictures.
By the time of the First Crusade, Islam had conquered Christian lands as far west as Spain and had taken several former Roman/Byzantine cities with large Orthodox Christian populations, such as Nicea and Antioch. The Muslim world had fought wars, both offensive and defensive, against Orthodox Byzantium, against Roman Catholics in Spain and Sicily, but it did not refer to them as “crusaders.” The term carries a specific cache for a specific type of enemy in a specific context.
The distinction between Christians and Crusaders continues to exist today in the minds and discourse of both moderate Muslims and even in the minds of jihadists. An interview with Shayk Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen shows the distinction that even Islamists make between Christians and Crusaders:
Al-Zidani says God says the People of the Book are not all the same, and he cites the Koranic verse: “You will find that the closest in affection toward the believers are those who say ‘We are Christians’.” …
“I was pleased that at a conference here in Sanaa, the Pan-Arab Conference, there was a Lebanese priest among the leaders. He said to me: ‘Shayk Abd-al-Majid, if your country does not protect you from the Americans, come to us and I will protect you and shelter you in one of our monasteries.’”
An even more explicit example can be found in a 2004 website article attributed to Ahmad al-Wathiq-Billah and the Global Islamic Media Center, which called for the formation of a “Global Islamic Media Front.” As an appendix, the article expounded at length on the distinction between Judaism and Christianity as respectable religions and Zionism and Crusading (in both the historical and modern sense) as predatory ideologies. The appendix began with a statement to emphasize that it was clarifying the definition for those who were “confused” so that information operations could proceed from “an unambiguously Islamic manner.”
Even when the most ardent Islamic extremists do make theological attacks directly on the Christian faith, “crusader” is not the epithet of choice. “Cross-worshipper” and “Trinitarian” are preferred as they emphasize that the target is not, in their view, a monotheist.
The word “crusader” came into the Muslim lexicon during the First Crusade with more specific and sinister meaning, one it retains to this day. The West’s fundamental misunderstanding of the word belies the seriousness of the charge a Muslim makes when he uses the word. To put it another way, can one imagine a high school football team called the Rapists? Usurper Travel, War Criminal Investment Bank, or Ravenous Horde Insurance?
In this respect, President Bush’s description of the war on terrorism as a “crusade” shortly after the 9/11 attacks but before the invasion of Afghanistan has had a tremendously high cost. The event is cited frequently by Muslim writers, both extremists and moderates, as evidence of the US’ malicious intent towards Islam. At worst it is described as an intentional declaration of religion-based war and at best as a Freudian slip, betraying President Bush’s true, secret motivations. Consider the following from an Egyptian column in 2005:
Let us not forget that President Bush was the first Western leader, probably since the days of King Richard the Lionheart, to use the word “Crusades,” as he did during the planning stages of Iraq’s invasion. Even though the White House apologized for the President’s use of this word, and referred to it as a “slip of the tongue,” it was too late; the word had already been uttered, had already been heard by the world, and had already been considered by many to be a spontaneous expression that exposed Bush’s real and ulterior motives. Bush used the word crusades once more in a separate occasion, as if sending us the message that it was not a slip of the tongue, and that he did indeed mean to use it.

British-Pakistani author and scholar, Tariq Ali, puts President Bush’s statements in a more historical context:
The Franks, which was the catch all word for everyone who participated in the Crusades, were regarded for many centuries, until this day, as barbarians who came to destroy the peak of Islamic civilization, and this is a very strong thing that goes down right to this day. So the word “crusade” is electric and people know it. They know what happened in that world. …
The Crusades had a very deep impact on Arab society. They were seen as barbarian incursion and stories of those Crusades are still told in cafes and in families, as if they happened yesterday. This is something quite striking. And so, whenever the West has invaded that region again, people say “its another new Crusade”. Which is why, after the awful events of 9-11, when the American president, inadvertently one assumes, said “we now have to wage a Crusade to stop this” a shiver went down the collective spine of the Islamic world. Because they felt they knew what was coming.
As Ali says, the term “the Franks” (or, in Arabic, “al Franj”) was the original, medieval Muslim term for all the invaders from Christian Europe. That term faded from popular usage, as the Muslim world had other contacts with the French ethnic group that had nothing to do with war. Somewhere in the etymological history, the Arabic-speaking world realized that the French did more than crusade and that crusading was a political-theological action not necessarily confined to a single ethnic group, the Franks. The negative connotation of “al-Franj” was transferred to “al-salibi” (which, as noted earlier, was a literal French-to-Arabic translation of “crusader”) and, as Ali explained, that term retains potency in today’s Muslim lexicon.
The subject of Crusade history began gaining renewed potency in the Islamic world during the age of European imperialism. Historian Bernard Lewis argues:
The Crusades figure very prominently in modern Middle Eastern consciousness and discourse, both of Arab nationalists and of Islamic fundamentalists, notably Usama bin Ladin. ...
The vast and rich Arabic historiography of the period duly records the Crusaders’ arrival, their battles, and the states that they established but shows little or no awareness of the nature and purposes of their venture. …
Awareness of the Crusades as a distinctive historical phenomenon dates from the nineteenth century, and the translation of European books on history. Since then, there is a new perception of the Crusades as an early prototype of the expansion of European imperialism into the Islamic world.
The relationship of current events to the Crusades was hard-wired into jihadism as the movement bloomed in the mid-twentieth century. Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian teacher who rose to prominence in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and profoundly influenced, among others, Zawahri before being executed by the Nasser’s government in 1966. His defining work was called Milestones and has been considered a foundational document of the jihadist movement on par with the Communist Manifesto's role in Soviet ideology. He ended that work with the following statement:
We see an example of this today in the attempts of Christendom to try to deceive us by distorting history and saying that the Crusades were a form of imperialism. The truth of the matter is that the latter-day imperialism is but a mask for the crusading spirit, since it is not possible for it to appear in its true form, as it was possible in the Middle Ages. The unveiled crusading spirit was smashed against the rock of the faith of Muslim leadership which came from various elements, including Salahuddin the Kurd and Turan Shah the Mamluk, who forgot the differences of nationalities and remembered their belief, and were victorious under the banner of Islam.
Connection to the Crusade narrative has been and is still used to rally Muslims against the West in numerous ways. In Arab history books, the Crusades along with the European colonial period are interpreted as prime examples of the central historical theme: continuous resistance of Western aggression by the Muslim world. In the same way, the “new Crusade” narrative propagated by today’s extremists may be used to inspire anger and defiance in Muslims by connecting current events to the brutalities of the past.
Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the London-based radical Islamist movement Al Muhajiroun asks his potential followers:
When will people see this war in Iraq and Afghanistan for what it really is – a Christian crusade, full of indiscriminate murder, rape and carnage just like, if not worse than, the Christian Crusades of Richard the Lionheart and his own band of thugs in the past. Surely this is a wake-up call for all Muslims around the world who have any dignity left.
Similarly, al-Zarqawi was tapping into that narrative, accessing the themes of rape and humiliation when he published the following poetry:
Baghdad, we are shedding tears of sorrow and grief for you
A Muslim [city] struck with humiliation at the hands of the worst of mankind, the Crusaders.
I grieve for a girl as pure as snow, who is crying
Her chastity was violated by a dog and [a pack] of wolves.
The “new Crusade” narrative can also be used to discredit other Muslims as collaborators. The following reference was subtly used to discredit the King and government of Jordan by associating them with the Crusades in an editorial on an extremist website:
According to Time, the Jordanian King set up a special intelligence wing and gave it the responsibility to use all resources to reach Zarqawi. Those who were given this responsibility were called the Knights of God [preceding three words in English] meaning clan leaders and chieftains chosen by God. It may be recalled that Christian kings had asked Pope to give their special commanders the same title and sent them to fight Saladin.

(U) The Frist Crusade: Origins of the Crusader Image - 1 of 3
For Muslims, the character of the Crusades, and by extension the very definition of the words “crusade” and “crusader” was established early in the campaign and reinforced through several key events. It consisted of three main components: ferocious martial strength, rapacious greed, and barbaric savagery. The next three posts will discuss events during the First Crusade that laid the foundation for this image: the Battle of Antioch, the Cannabilism at Marrat, and the Fall of Jerusalem.
The Battle of Antioch. The Franj (as Muslims of the time called them) poured across the Bosporus into modern-day Turkey in 1096 where they seized Nicea and decimated a Muslim army under Turkish chieftain Kilij Arslan. The Crusaders then advanced south towards Antioch, a rich commercial city dating back to Antiquity and taken from the Byzantine Empire in the early years of the Caliphate. The siege of Antioch (in modern day southernmost Turkey, just west of the Syrian border) was the major battle of the First Crusade, and the place where the image of the “crusader” was established for the Islamic world. As a piece of military history, it stands as a classic story of bold maneuver overcoming superior numbers and overstretched logistics.
Antioch was the gatekeeper city of the Holy Land. The First Crusade could not move on Jerusalem, the ultimate goal, until it took Antioch from the Muslims, but the city, backed against a mountain and with six gates, proved beyond the Crusader army’s ability to strangle. The siege began in October of 1097, but made little progress towards taking the city. The Crusaders instead concerned themselves mostly with simply sustaining the army through foraging and occasionally engaging in cavalry skirmishes in the surrounding countryside.
On 31 December 1097, a major Crusader foraging expedition under two of the primary commanders was taken by surprise by a Muslim army from Damascus and the main Crusader force had to beat back an attack by garrison forces out of the city. The Foraging Battle turned the Muslim army back to Damascus at the cost of the expedition’s infantry detachment and all the supplies that had been gathered; likewise, the Muslim garrison had captured the banner of the papal legate in their sortie, which they flew tauntingly from Antioch’s walls.
By February, 1098, the alliance of Crusader princes was near the breaking point: there was no news of reinforcement from Europe or Byzantium, hunger was threatening to collapse the army at-large, they were unable to build siege engines, and they were short of the horses vital to their heavy cavalry. To make matters worse, another Muslim prince, this time from the city-state of Aleppo, was bringing an army of 12,000 to Antioch. The Crusader foot soldiers were left to maintain the siege while the cavalry, now numbering only 700 knights, was sent against the army from Aleppo. In a masterful piece of maneuver the Crusader cavalry routed the Muslim force The siege could continue, but the Crusaders were no closer to taking the city.
By the late spring of 1098, one of the Crusader princes had made a clandestine contact inside the walls, an Armenian Muslim armor-smith named Firuz who commanded a portion of the wall. Firuz (also called Ruzbih), is damned by medieval chronicler Ibn al-Athir in his account of Antioch and, to this day, remains a reviled character in Muslim Crusade stories.
At the same time as the contact with Firuz was made, intelligence was received that an even larger army led by Kerbogha (Muslim ruler of Mosul) was approaching from the east. This prompted the Crusaders to a daring scheme. In the early hours of 3 June an advance party of 60 men scaled the wall on a rope ladder thrown down by the contact. Then, in an example of acumen worthy of modern special forces, killed the patrolling watchmen and sleeping guards ‘without an outcry.’ With surprise, shock, and darkness on their side, the Crusaders revealed their attack, seized key points inside the city, set the defenders to panic and flight, and signaled the main force outside the walls to begin their attack. One of the richest cities of the Muslim world had been overthrown in stunning fashion by an army that only months before had been on the verge of disintegration.

The siege of Antioch, according to contemporary witnesses from both sides and modern historians of both the Western and Muslim world, ended in an indiscriminate slaughter of Antioch citizens of all faiths, ages, and sexes. As just one example of the brutality, Crusaders frequently disemboweled Muslims looking for gold that had been swallowed in an attempt to save it from the conquerors. Dr Taef el-Azhari of Helwan University in Cairo, comments that this massacre had the effect of “proving that [the Crusaders] are really superior, and that they are the true and new master to the territory.” This statement is perhaps telling in that it hints at the Muslim belief that the massacres committed by crusaders (this would be the first of many) were not examples of an army out of control with bloodlust and frenzy, but rather an intentional method of intimidation and coercion.
On 4 June, the very next day, the massive Muslim army from Mosul arrived and began to lay siege to the new masters of Antioch. Once again under dire logistical strain (from a lack of food and horses) and pounded by constant assaults, the Crusaders were buoyed by the “discovery” of the Holy Lance (the Christian relic of the spear that pierced Jesus’ side at the crucifixion) on 14 June. The authenticity of the Holy Lance was questioned even at the time and modern Western scholars are skeptical. Muslim historians, medieval and modern alike, are contemptuous of the story.
On 28 June, in combination of religious fervor and military desperation, the Crusaders staged a breakout from Antioch and shattered the cordon maintaining the siege. Kerbogha, attempting to force a full scale confrontation and achieve a decisive end, waited to commit the main Muslim force until the entire Crusader force had come out for battle. However, when he did commit the main force, they failed to break the Crusader force and then fell into a rout. An audacious plan combined with the hardened nature of the Crusader force had combined to overcome staggering odds. Muslim scholars, both current and contemporary, lay varying degrees of blame on Kerbogha for incompetent command. Their argument, originally advanced by Ibn al-Athir, is that Kerbogha allowed the Crusader attack to gain momentum, leading to the rout:
The Muslims said to Kerbuqa: ‘You should go up to the city and kill them one by one as they come out; it is easy to pick them off now that they have split up.’ He replied: ‘No, wait until they have all come out and then we will kill them.’ He would not allow them to attack the enemy and when some Muslims killed a group of Franks, he went himself to forbid such behavior and prevent its recurrence. When all the Franks had come out and not one was left in Antioch, they began to attack strongly, and the Muslims turned and fled. This was Kerbuqa’s fault, first because he had treated the Muslims with such contempt and scorn, and second because he had prevented their killing the Franks. The Muslims were completely routed without striking a single blow or firing a single arrow.
Over the course of the Battle of Antioch, the Crusaders had survived near starvation conditions, defeated larger armies from multiple Muslim city-states (including the major city of Mosul) in stunning fashion, “discovered” a holy relic, captured a major Middle Eastern city, and committed a terrible slaughter of Muslim civilians. Their reputation in the eyes of the Muslim world had been established and would be further underlined as the campaign continued to Jerusalem. To quote Syrian chronicler Usamah Ibn Munqidh:
All those who were well-informed about the Franj saw them as beasts superior in courage and fighting ardour but in nothing else, just as animals are superior in strength and aggression.

This perception of Crusader martial strength established at Antioch was enhanced by their victories throughout the Crusades and it lives on today. According to the narrative, any “crusader” army that accosts Muslim lands is expected to be powerful, even initially irresistible. However, as all Muslims know, the Crusades were ultimately defeated. So the use of the term “crusade” in regard to a current military campaign is at once humiliating and inspiring for Muslim defenders. Humiliating because an infidel army has been allowed to violate Muslim lands, but inspiring in the sense that, in spite of all its strength, it will initially be turned back (this will be discussed in further detail later). In a sense this makes those who subscribe to the “new Crusade” somewhat immune to “shock and awe”-type intimidation. Their ancestors weathered Frankish cavalry charges and sieges, and so they will weather American commando raids and precision bombing. Antioch was lost in a stunning defeat, but it was eventually retaken, why should Kabul or Baghdad be any different?

(U) The First Crusade: Origins of the Crusader Image - 2 of 3
Cannibalism at Marrat. The Crusaders did nothing to ease Muslim anxieties when they continued the campaign. A force of Crusaders proceeded to the Syrian city of Marrat (Ma’arra or Maarat an-Numan) where they sacked and pillaged the city. It is consistently recorded by Christian and Muslim chroniclers of the time that, following the fall of Marrat, the Crusaders committed acts of cannibalism and that “the Moslems were quick to seize upon such incidents as further evidence of Christian depravity.”
Whether the Crusaders were motivated by hunger or zeal is a matter of some historical debate, but the historical truth of the motivation hardly matters. Sack and pillage were ugly, but somewhat to be expected in medieval times. Cannibalism was an entirely different level of crime. It carried an air of metaphysical depravity, for Muslims especially, who take dietary restrictions as a matter of faith. Associating cannibalism with the invading Crusaders was like pouring gasoline on the fire of Muslim fears. Antioch had already cemented the image of Crusaders as a mighty army, Marrat cemented their image as a ravenous horde completely without moral restraint.
Terrible as it is to acknowledge, the horrors perpetrated at Marrat did have some positive effects on the crusaders’ short-term prospects. News of the Franks’ brutality soon reached nearby Muslim towns and cities. One crusader noted that ‘the infidels spread stories of these and other inhuman acts of the [crusaders], but we were unaware that God had made us an object of terror’. [Marrat], combined with tales of the Latin sack of Antioch, was enough to convince many Muslim commanders and garrisons that the crusaders were bloodthirsty barbarians, invincible savages who could not be resisted. In the coming months, most quickly decided that it would be better to accept costly and humiliating truces with the Franks rather than face them in battle.
As we see above, while Western historians acknowledge and discuss the Marrat cannibalism, they tend not dwell on it as a major event in the First Crusade. Thomas Asbridge, in his definitive book The First Crusade, spends only four pages out of 408 (including the passage cited above) discussing events at Marrat and only one on the actual cannibalism. He describes it as “an unexpected and shocking turn” when “without princely guidance, the most destitute crusaders went to appalling lengths to alleviate their hunger.” Furthermore, he goes on to emphasize how the actions at Marrat were reviled by other Crusaders and the rest of the Christian world. In short, he discusses Marrat as an isolated incident.
Again, for the purposes of this discussion, the historical facts of Marrat are not necessarily the point, the difference of perception is. Muslim historians take a decidedly opposite tact from Asbridge. El-Azhari describes Marrat as “the violent legacy” of the First Crusade and Lebanese Muslim author Amin Malouf devotes an entire chapter to it in his book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.
Perhaps even more telling, Tariq Ali makes an interesting comparison, when he refers to the Crusader cannibalism at Marrat as a medieval version of “shock and awe”:
When you fight a war, the aim of that war is to defeat your enemy. They involve violence. They involve threats. They involve propaganda. And, they involve, lets put it like this, ‘shock and awe’. And the eating of human flesh was designed to strike fear in the heart of the enemy. ‘Here we are. We are strong. We are tough. If necessary we will eat you up alive.’ To a certain extent, that succeeded.
As with El-Azhari’s comment on the massacre at Antioch, it is important to note the implication Ali makes: excessive brutality is not an unfortunate consequence of war, not just something that spontaneously occurs when, as Asbridge asserts, desperate soldiers are out of the control of their officers. Ali is asserting that the Crusaders committed the most horrible crime imaginable (in the context of the medieval world, even more horrible than mass rape and genocide), as a premeditated method of coercion. The same sort of differing perceptions exist today about abuses at Abu Ghraib, collateral damage incidents, and the like. Reports of sexual abuse of Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are a particularly potent analogue to Marrat; in both cases the taboo nature of the crime offends Muslim sensibilities in a particularly potent way.
As for Ali’s Iraq War reference, it is unclear exactly what kind or the degree of parallel Ali was trying to draw between Crusader cannibalism and US air attacks on Iraq. It should be noted that Ali is a graduate of Oxford, an avowed leftist with a long history as a prominent critic of American foreign policy, and a life-long atheist. Although he can hardly be considered an “average Muslim” himself and his politics vis-à-vis the US may be slanted, he grew up in Pakistan and is an acknowledged expert on the Islamic world and Crusade history. So his opinion on what the Muslim world perceives cannot be dismissed. The very construction of the parallel between medieval Marrat and modern Iraq, regardless of its specific intent or source, is telling because it shows that the Crusade narrative survives and continues to color opinions in the Islamic world, specifically with regard to the coercive use of force

(U) The First Crusade: Origins of the Crusader Image - 3 of 3
The Fall of Jerusalem. The Crusader conquest of Jerusalem was no mean feat, but by no means was it the operational miracle that Antioch was, so there is no need to discuss the military events in the same detail. What should be noted is that, like Antioch, the conquest of the city was followed by a heinous massacre, one that is all the more notable because it occurred in the Holy City itself. According to one of the Crusader princes, Raymond of Aguilers:
With the fall of Jerusalem and its towers one could see marvelous works. Some of the pagans were mercifully beheaded, others pierced by arrows plunged from towers, and yet others, tortured for a long time, were burned to death in searing flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet lay in the houses and streets, and men and knights were running to and fro over corpses.
Many Muslims fled to the Temple Mount where a major portion of the slaughter occurred. Another Crusader eyewitness reported similar to Raymond of Aguilers:
All the defenders fled along the walls and through the city, and our men went after them, killing them and cutting them down as far as Solomon’s Temple, where there was such a massacre that our men were wading up to their ankles in enemy blood.
It is interesting to note that this slaughter is so well-studied by modern jihadists (including Zarqawi) that they will even quote European medieval sources, like Raymond of Aguilers. This account becomes all the more powerful when one considers that when the medieval European source speaks of “Solomon’s Temple,” he is actually referring to the Al Aqsa mosque. The slaughter at the Al Aqsa mosque is corroborated by Muslim sources as well and it was not just confined to the Temple Mount. It ranged city-wide and included women, children, and even infants.
When news of the slaughter reached the Caliphate in Baghdad it met with great and dramatic lamentation. Ibn al-Athir relays this poem written by Iraqi poet Abu al-Muzaffar al-Abiwardi:
We have mingled blood with flowing tears, and there is no room left in us for pity
To shed tears is a man’s worst weapon when the swords stir up the embers of war.
Sons of Islam, behind you are battles in which heads rolled at your feet.
Dare you slumber in the blessed shade of safety, where life is as soft as an orchard flower?
How can you sleep between the lids at a time of disasters that would waken any sleeper?
While your Syrian brothers can only sleep on the backs of their chargers, or in vultures’ bellies!
Must the foreigners feed on our ignominy, while you trail behind you the train of a pleasant life, like men whose world is at peace?
When blood has been spilt, when sweet girls must for shame hide their lovely faces in their hands!
When the white swords’ points are red with blood, and the iron of the brown lances is stained with gore!
At the sound of sword hammering on lance young children’s hair turns white.
This is war, and the man who shuns the whirlpool to save his life shall grind his teeth in penitence.
This is war and the infidel’s sword is naked in his hand, ready to be sheathed again in man’s necks and skills.
This is war, and he who lies in the tomb at Medina seems to raise his voice and cry: ‘O sons of Hashim!
I see my people slow to raise the lance against the enemy: I see the Faith resting on feeble pillars.
For fear of death the Muslims are evading the fire of battle, refusing to believe that death will surely strike them.’
Must the Arab champions then suffer with resignation, while the gallant Persians shut their eyes to their dishonour?
In addition to the wanton slaughter, the Crusaders systematically pillaged the city and divided the spoils such that many poor men became rich and a new European-born nobility was instantly created in the Holy Land. Though often overshadowed by the “war crime” issue, the “new Crusade” narrative does not ignore plunder as a motivation either. Numerous references can be found in modern extremist statements to a Crusader desire for Muslim resources, by which, of course, they mean oil. The following from the Tehran Mehr News Agency, takes that sentiment and adds to it a modern socialist spin:
The objective of the Crusades, however, had little to do with religion. The Crusades largely consisted, through military action, in challenging the dominion of Muslim merchant societies, which controlled the Eastern trade routes. …
America’s Crusade in Central Asia and the Middle East is no exception. The “war on terrorism” purports to defend the American Homeland and protect the “civilized world”. It is upheld as a “war of religion,” a “clash of civilizations,” when in fact the main objective of this war is to secure control and corporate ownership over the region’s extensive oil wealth, while also imposing, under the helm of the IMF and the World Bank (now under the leadership of Paul Wolfowitz), the privatization of state enterprises and the transfer of countries economic assets into the hands of foreign capital.
Furthermore, the seizure of Muslim homes in the Jerusalem by aggressive outlanders from Europe has powerful parallels to current Muslim charges against Israel.
Perhaps most shocking from the modern point-of-view is that the Crusaders capped off the sack of Jerusalem by completing their mission with prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site of the Crucifixion, only after evicting and torturing the Orthodox clergy who had been living in peace with the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem ever since their coming in 638 AD.
The image of crusaders wading through the streets of Jerusalem up to their ankles in blood and gore, systematically pillaging the city, and then hypocritically going to worship is perhaps the single most lasting impression of the Crusades for the Muslim world. Research for this paper found it referenced multiple times by multiple extremist groups. It is also figures prominently, usually in stark contrast to the chivalrous nature of Saladin (which we will discuss later), in history textbooks throughout the Arab world.
It is the egregious hypocrisy of the sacking of Jerusalem that bears specific note in relation to current events, because it creates a perception of the West that allows suspicions and accusations of war crimes against US forces to fit squarely into the Crusader paradigm. It may be abuse at Abu Ghraib or the alleged killing of Iraqi civilians by US Marines in Hadithah, or any other incident real or perceived. For those who subscribe to the “new Crusade” narrative, that the US came to Iraq under the auspices of democracy and pays such public heed to human rights, completes the fit: the Americans are perverting universal democratic principles in the same way their ancestors perverted universal religious principles.
Attempts to counter this perception of hypocrisy will meet with little success. What the West sees as isolated events in an otherwise moral campaign fought with conscious restraint, do not fit into the “new Crusade” narrative. Obvious differences in the scale of the atrocities do not unseat the thematic point; other efforts at just operations go unnoticed, and subsequent disciplinary actions against offenders make little difference in the face of such a powerful narrative construct. Once the audience accepts the “new Crusade” paradigm, extremists can credibly use isolated examples to paint the entire US counterterrorism effort as one of endemic viciousness (and when no such examples are available, fictional or exaggerated ones will be accepted almost as easily), because the idea of the brutal, marauding, hypocrite Westerner is what fits the expected narrative.


(U) The Crusader States: Occupation Under Siege
The fledgling Kingdom of Jerusalem did not rest with the conquest of the Holy City. They rode out, in yet another example of bold maneuver overcoming superior numbers, to defeat an Egyptian Fatimid counter-invasion near Ascalon. They followed that victory with a string of conquests over Muslim cities to solidify their hold on Palestine. By the time of the conquest of Tyre in 1124 the Crusaders held the entire coast, with the exception of Ascalon (which they would eventually take in 1153 to open the way for an invasion of Egypt). Though they found themselves in a land totally alien to them, perpetually out-numbered and surrounded, the Crusader states survived, even thrived for most of two centuries. With the initial invasion over, the Crusaders faced the typical array of post-conflict issues: political organization, economic revitalization, and future defense.
Those who accept the “new Crusade” narrative see parallels between the Crusader states and the current Western presence in the Middle East, as well as an even starker parallel to the modern state of Israel.


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August 13, 2007, 02:01 PM

Political Organization. Patterned on the European feudal system, the Holy Land was organized into four states running the full length of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders that remained to settle (as opposed to completing their pilgrimage and returning to Europe) had the most powerful motivation possible to make the stabilization work: they planned to live there.
Ironically, for all their zeal and brutality, post-conflict political stabilization was something the Crusaders did exceptionally well. Their native feudal system was inherently a form of military government anyway, so there was no question of civilian authority and the format was easily applied to an occupation. The land was quickly divided among the nobility/officer corps for decentralized administration and defense. The Crusaders made no concerted effort to Christianize the population and abuse (at least by medieval standards) was the exception rather than the rule. After all, why abuse those who worked your land?
Even the Knights Templar (founded after the conquest of Jerusalem to protect the pilgrim roads and renowned on both sides as fierce and fanatical warriors) had a record of religious tolerance off the battlefield. They made their headquarters in the occupied Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount available as a prayer site for Muslim guests and Muslim scholar Usama Ibn Munqidh (who called the Templars his friends) recorded a story wherein the Templars protected him from abuse by another Crusader recently arrived from Europe.
It did not end at religious tolerance. Many of the European settlers learned Arabic and adopted local customs. Partly this was for practical purposes such as management, diplomacy, and intelligence, but it was also simple humanity. At the least, the Crusaders ate better, had access to better medicine, and lived in greater comfort than they did in Europe. Many Muslims looked on this approvingly (and perhaps appropriately) as the Crusaders adopting the superior culture of the East. Usamah Ibn Munqidh, amid scandalized accounts of the barbarities of the Franj (including the horrors of trial by combat, the brutalities of Western superstition as “medicine”, and the liberal way the Franj allowed their wives to converse with other men), remarked on how some of the Occidentals were becoming civilized by their life in the East:
Among the Franj we find some people who have come to settle among us and who have cultivated the society of the Muslims. They are far superior to those who have freshly joined them in the territories they now occupy.
Indeed, after the initial conquest, there was constant tension between the transplanted Europeans of the Crusader states, who (while by no means forsaking violence or warfare) had a much more pragmatic approach to life with the Muslims, and those newly arrived zealous pilgrims from Europe who were constantly passing through the Holy Land (sometimes in very large groups) with a mind simply to kill Saracens and seek plunder.
The distinction is not unlike the stories (by now becoming stereotypes and cliches) of the Special Forces (or likewise culturally literate units) who lament the arrival of gung-ho “big Army” units that squander their carefully cultivated cultural understanding with abrasive behavior and heavy-handed tactics.
There are no reports of grassroots Muslim rebellion against their new rulers, quite the opposite. One might initially ascribe this to the coercive brutality of medieval rule (regardless of religion), but contemporary Muslim accounts suggest otherwise. According to Ibn Jubayr: Upon leaving Tibnin (near Tyre), we passed through an unbroken skein of farms and villages whose lands were efficiently cultivated. The inhabitants were all Muslims, but they live in comfort with the Franj - may God preserve us from temptation! Their dwellings belong to them and all their property is unmolested. All the regions controlled by the Franj in Syria are subject to the same system: landed domains, villages, and farms have remained in the hands of the Muslims. Now, doubt invests the heart of a great number of these men when they compare their lot to that of their brothers living in Muslim territory. Indeed, the latter suffer from the injustice of their coreligionists, whereas the Franj act with equity.
Usamah Ibn Munqidh also expressed surprise at some of the proto-democratic tendencies of the Crusader states, specifically the idea of checks on the ruling authority: “when the knights render a judgment, it cannot be modified or annulled by the king.”
Extremists, generally speaking, make poor political scientists, so there is little appreciation for the complex interactions between Muslim autocracy and European feudalism. However, liberal academics of the Muslim world sometimes draw on this period to effectively criticize Islamic political history while dodging accusations of apostasy by presenting their arguments as “reasons why the Crusaders were successful against us.” For example, in the epilogue to The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Amin Malouf notes that the success of the Crusader states demonstrated a great weakness of Arab civilization: their inability to create stable institutions. He argues that whereas the Crusader states had a system that allowed for transitions of power, checks on the monarch, and a recognized role for the clergy, the Islamic states of the time invited civil war and succession struggles at every power transition.
Collective Defense. At every phase, from the initial invasion to their ongoing defense, the Crusades were an exercise in coalition warfare. The initial invasion was a cooperative effort of between five and nine major nobles (depending on how one defines “major”) from northern and southern France, western Germany, and Sicily, along with official representatives of the Catholic Church, popular religious leaders, and, to a lesser extent, the Byzantine Empire and Orthodox Church. The political system founded in the Holy Land by the First Crusade was no less of a coalition. It was made up of the four states, along with representatives of the Church, the monastic military orders, and the continuing ebb and flow of new Crusaders from Europe. While broad participation was what made the Crusades possible, balancing the interests of so many parties was a constant impediment to the defense of the Crusader states and the major cause of the entire movement’s ultimate failure.
The modern West has similar struggles managing coalitions and a student of Crusade history, as Bin Laden is reported to be, would likely seek to exploit that weakness just as it was exploited by the Muslims of the 12th and 13th centuries. Bin Laden’s message of July 2004, which proposed “reconciliation” with Europe and leveled criticisms at the UN, can be viewed in this respect as an attempt to split the West.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the Crusader states’ defense were the two military-monastic orders: the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon and the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem; these names were commonly contracted to Templars and Hospitallers. Originally created to protect the pilgrim roads, they evolved into much more. In a sense the military-monastic orders were the first professional military in the post-Roman world. They lived and trained together year round and, although they took personal vows of poverty, their standard issue kit was on qualitative par with the wealthiest knights. Also of note, like many of today’s special mission units, the military-monastic orders had their own shortened chain of command; although they participated in operations with the Crusader states, each order was technically responsible only to the Pope in Rome. This gave them a great deal of leverage in the war councils of the time.
The orders were exempt from taxes and tithes and over time the Templars would establish an economic and intelligence network spanning Europe and the Middle East. They would pioneer the concept of checks and credit, all to provide logistic support to their military operations in the Holy Land.
The orders were also two of the few units of the time, on either side, to engage in standardized military discipline and unit training. Consequently, their heavy cavalry was able to maneuver as one and, perhaps more importantly, to reform after the initial charge. In a time when warfare, on the tactical level, was, generally speaking, one mob against another, this was a major advantage.
On the operational level, the military-monastic orders acted simultaneously as elite heavy cavalry and as special operations forces (SOF). In these roles they were, as Ibn al-Athir put it, “the backbone of the Frankish armies.” When the Crusader army was on the march, the orders would be placed at the front and rear for their skill and reliability. When not gathered to the army, the orders were deployed throughout the Holy Land at their own castles, carrying out missions on their own authority. They were also frequently used on diplomacy and intelligence gathering missions because many of them had learned Arabic and understood the local culture.
Although no evidence was found to this effect, it is not unreasonable to think, given the high profile role that SOF have played in the GWOT, that those who subscribe to the “new Crusade” narrative might easily create a parallel between the modern SOF and the military-monastic orders. If so, this would make SOF units highly sought after targets for symbolic reasons as well as the obvious operational ones.
<><>The Templars are specifically referenced with some regularity in jihadist writing. One such example,<> titled "Blackwater Lies Before You. Fall on it and Destroy it," was posted to a jihadist message forum. The article, in a statement resembling Ibn al-Athir's "backbone" reference, says "know that this company is the pillar of the US Army and the main artery that feeds it. If this artery is severed, the entire US Army will collapse." The jihadist message (which apparently draws heavily on the writing of US journalist Jeremy Scahill) also talks extensively about how Blackwater, through its CEO and founder Erik Prince, is an arm of the Order of the Knights of Malta, a descendant organization of the Templars. The message goes on to associate Blackwater with war crimes and other themes typical of the "new Crusade" narrative. <>
Diplomacy. Although they had arrived as zealots, the Crusader states quickly found faith in realpolitik. Just as many Crusaders learned Arabic and their courts adopted much of the opulent lifestyle of the East, the Crusader states also naturally became players in the regional game of dueling sects, princes, and city-states.
In 1115, they joined forces with the Muslim princes of Syria against an army of the Seljuk sultan in Baghdad and turned it back.
In 1140 the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Muslim Damascus exchanged embassies and made military alliance. Malouf actually describes it, with a hint of disdain, as amounting to Damascus becoming “a Frankish protectorate.”
In the 1160s, the Crusaders dealt and allied with Fatimid Egypt against the rising tide of Nur al-Din.
Through these and other diplomatic events, the Crusader states became fixtures in regional politics and survived by leveraging their strength against the fractious nature of the Muslim world around them. In the same way, extremists view Western diplomacy today bent on creating and benefiting from disunity in the Muslim world.
The Assassins. Although never allied, the Crusaders also sometimes indirectly benefited from the acts of the Assassins of Syria (a radical Shi’ite sect) against the Sunni powers who dominated the region and led the counter-Crusade. The Assassins are well remembered for their skill at infiltration (to include feigned adoption of enemy cultures and religions) and for their fanatical devotion to their mysterious leader, known as the Old Man of the Mountain. Most of the Muslim world (reportedly even Saladin) both despised the Assassins as a heretical cult and greatly feared their near-supernatural clandestine reach. Military utilitarianism combined with the Assassins’ extreme sectarian antipathy towards the Sunni powers (which was returned in kind) made the Assassins much more of an enemy to the Muslims than to the Crusaders.
The Assassins were effectively held in check by the Templars and were even forced to paid tribute to the warrior-monks. Reportedly, after the Shi’ite Fatimid caliphate in Egypt fell to Saladin, the Old Man offered to convert the sect wholesale to Christianity and unite with the Crusaders against the Sunnis. However, the Templars were unwilling to give up the income (they would not have been allowed to exact tribute from fellow Christians) and soured the deal by ambushing several of the Assassin peace envoys.
It is also interesting to note that the Assassins’ favored tactic of killing enemy leaders had little effect on the Crusaders (especially the military-monastic orders) because the latter had a much more efficient process for replacing leaders than did the Muslim armies of the day. One can imagine a very similar targeting calculus being done by al-Qaeda today. For example, the strategic impact of killing US General McCrystal (roughly the modern US equivalent of the Templar Grandmaster) would pale in comparison to killing Pakistan’s President Musharaf (roughly the functional equivalent of a sultan), precisely because the former is much more easily replaced by their organization than the latter.
The Crusader States and Modern Israel. Muslims in general tend to focus on either the crimes of the invasion itself or the glories of the Muslim counter-campaign. Generally, little, if anything, is said about the nature of the Crusader states themselves besides the fact that they were the product of usurpation and that they existed only so long as the Islamic world was not sufficiently unified to destroy them.
A common reference to the Crusader states, especially in extremist literature, is to make an analogy to the modern state of Israel. The parallel is not difficult to draw.
Geographically, Israel is nearly identical to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Politically, whether one traces Israel’s birth to the actual establishment in 1948 or all the way back to the British takeover of Palestine after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, both Israel and the Crusader states were established by Western powers over Muslim objection.
Demographically, both the Crusader states and Israel were populated largely by European transplants.
Militarily, both the Crusader states and Israel, though outnumbered and surrounded on all sides by Muslim states, were regional powers with connections to even greater military resources from outside the region.
Economically, Israel remains far more prosperous than its Muslim neighbors thanks to its connections with the West, just as the Crusader states benefited greatly from their control of trade, connections with Italian merchants, and the Templar banking network.
Diplomatically, Israel has made peace with two moderate Muslim regimes (Egypt and Jordan), just as the Crusader states periodically made alliances of mutual interest with Muslim city-states (Damascus and Fatimid Egypt) in the medieval period and, in both cases, peace is painted by extremists as betrayal of Muslim unity.
Politically (and ironically), as discussed earlier, Muslims in the Crusader states enjoyed greater personal rights than anywhere else in the medieval world just as the Arab-Israelis of today are the most civically empowered Arabs in the Middle East.
In much of the Islamic world, the parallel carries the same sense of injustice. Consider the following from Jedda Arab News:
There is a similarity between the circumstances of the rise of Jerusalem’s Latin Kingdom and the establishment of the state of Israel.
In fact, both of them were founded on the basis of colonialism, occupation of land, displacement of the original population, and unlawful seizure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Hence, both states were based on hatred, violence and terrorism.
As the Jerusalem Latin Kingdom could not last or survive, Israel too will not last or survive nor can they coexist with the Palestinians or its neighboring countries.
If we continue through with the analogy, the final line that “Israel too will not last or survive nor can they coexist” is particularly telling. It betrays an underlying belief in much of the Muslim world that eventually the injustice will, without a doubt, be corrected; if only the Islamic world can unite in purpose it can destroy this Crusader state just as it did its medieval predecessors. The Crusaders occupied the Holy Land for 192 years (1099-1291), from the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 to the final loss of Acre in 1291. The lesson for much of the Muslim world is that time and unity of purpose will bring victory over the Zionist state, just as it did over the Crusader states. If this logic holds in the greater Muslim world, it may be 2140 before Israel’s right to exist can even begin to gain general acceptance.



(U) Unifying Leadership: Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, and the Muslim Reconquest - 1 of 4
The effects of disunity. For most of the Muslim world the chief lesson of the Crusades is that disunity leaves the Islamic world open to and even invites attack and defeat at the hands of the West. Indeed, historians on all sides agree that the First Crusade likely would not have succeeded in taking Jerusalem in the first place if not for divisions in the Muslim world. That disunity is a grave weakness is a lesson Muslims carry over to the events of today. Consider the following statement by Lebanese professor, Mustafa Alam, from 15 July 2006, during Israeli attacks on Lebanon:
The dismal response of Middle Eastern leaders and their disparaging sectarian comments is reminiscent to the very reaction of medieval leaders of the various Muslim fiefdoms and provinces in Arabia to the brutal Crusader-occupation of the Holy Land.

Pan-Arab secularism has experienced a downfall and in recent years Arabs, and Muslims have learned that resistance against Zionism and Israel’s brutality has to come from a united pan-Islamic front. At such a crucial moment in history, will we as an Ummah let our sectarian and theological differences come in the way as Muslim lands are bombed? Israeli US-made bombs don’t discriminate and differentiate between Shiite and Sunni – they kill all.
Or this 2004 statement from Hafiz Abdur Rehman Mekki, leader of Jamaat-ud-Daawa, a Pakistani extremist party:
We face what we have to face today in such circumstances. Muslims are divided along sectarian lines. Our religious leaders and forces, our spiritual people, our big religious schools, and all others are fighting for their sects. Our rulers and our politicians fight for power and for their interest. It is because of these circumstances that a hooligan and alcoholic from Texas launched a crusade against the entire Muslim world. It was a similar circumstance when Baghadad [of the Abbasid] ceased to be the powerful, magnificent, and formidable capital and lost a grip on the Muslim countries. Those who were very knowledgable stopped preaching Islam. Their preaching focused on their sects, factional opinions, their problems, their interest, and their interpretations of Islam.
Or this 2007 statement by Saudi cleric Shaykh Abd-al-Rahman al-Barrak:
The US declaration of war against the Taliban government in Afghanistan is unjust, aggression, and a crusade against Islam, as the US President said. It is a great catastrophe if Muslim countries do not support them at this critical time, let alone support the infidels. …

The reason why Muslims are humiliated and are subordinate to their enemies is because they are abandoning their religion; their faith is weak; they are divided; and have abandoned jihad in the name of God.
Or this 2004 quotation of Muslim jihad theorist Ibn Taymiyah (who lived through the final decades of the Crusader states and whose thought must have been very much influenced by Crusade history) by Usama Bin Laden: “If a nation divides, it would become corrupt and then perish. If a nation unites it would be competent and would rule because unity is mercy and division is torture.”
The Muslim reconquest of the Holy Land is inextricably bound to the rise of a unified leadership. Over three generations, the Islamic world west of Baghdad saw three leaders, each building on the successes of the previous, unify Islam and begin to destroy the Crusader states. It is this story of unifying leadership and reconquest that supplies guidance and example to today’s extremist movement.
Zengi and the willingness to be “hard”. In 1124, Zengi (or Zangi), a former governor of Basra, was entrusted by the sultan with rule of Aleppo and Mosul. Zengi was the first strong leader that the Muslims had seen since the arrival of the Crusaders. History shows that his coming, and the Islamic unification that he began, was the beginning of the end for the Crusader states and he is revered accordingly. As Malouf describes him:
All this changed with Zangi. For eighteen years this indefatigable warrior would travel the length and breadth of Syria and Iraq, sleeping on a straw mat to protect himself from the mud, fighting with some, sealing pacts with others, and intriguing against everyone. Never did he dream of residing peacefully in one of the many palaces of is vast fiefdom.

His entourage was made up not of courtesans and flatterers but of seasoned political advisers whom he had learned to heed. He ran a network of informers who kept him regularly apprised of what was afoot in Baghdad, Isfahan, Damascus, Antioch, and Jerusalem, as well as his own cities of Aleppo and Mosul. Unlike the other armies that had fought the Franj, his was not commanded by a multitude of autonomous emirs ever ready for treason or internecine quarrels. Discipline was strict, punishment merciless at the slightest infraction. …
Zangi was possessed of severity, perseverance, and a strong sense of state, all qualities tragically lacking in the leaders of the Arab world. Even more important for the future, Zangi was concerned about legitimacy. … This element of cohesion that he introduced in the Arab world would not have its effects for several years yet.
Malouf makes two key points on how Zengi helped set the standard for the idea of unifying Islamic leadership: Zengi accepted personal hardship and he valued and enforced unity. Note the first part of Malouf’s description: despite being a powerful ruler, Zengi travels constantly and is renowned for living rough with his men. He is a serious, earnest man. The parallel to Usama Bin Laden, a man who declined a life of ease in Saudi Arabia to live the hard mujihadeen life in Afghanistan, should be readily apparent.
The second part, Zengi’s willingness to enforce unity through violence and subterfuge is no less telling. If Zengi had been a Western ruler he would be remembered as a tyrant like Cromwell, Napoleon, or Stalin, but because he brought unity and made progress against the Crusaders, he has an honored place in Islamic history. Again, the comparison to Bin Laden is apt and many in the Islamic world are willing to forgive Bin Laden’s crimes because they come in the service of jihad and because he is the first leader to strike an effective blow against the West in over a century.
Historically speaking, Zengi’s actual accomplishments against the Crusaders were relatively few. He failed to take Damascus in 1135, but succeeded in retaking Edessa in 1144 (it would be retaken and lost again in succeeding years). Nevertheless, he is viewed as the first in a chain of strong Muslim leaders who turned the tide against the Crusaders.

(U) Unifying Leadership: Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, and the Muslim Reconquest - 2 of 4
Nur al-Din and the role of piety. Nur al-Din (Noorudin or Nurredin Zangi, meaning “Nurredin son of Zangi”) succeeded Zengi, his father, in 1146. Unlike his father, who was a coarse man, Nur al-Din was revered above all for his piety. In fact, Malouf entitles chapter eight of his book “Nur al-Din, the Saint-King.” Ibn al-Athir states his opinion of Nur al-Din in no uncertain terms:
I have read the lives of the kings of old, and after the right-guided Caliphs and Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz I have not found one more upright or a sterner advocate of justice. I have written about him at length in my history of the dynasty, and am giving only an extract here, in the hope that men in authority will read it and take him for their model.

Among his virtues were austerity, piety and a knowledge of theology. His food and clothing and all his personal expenditure came out of income from properties bought with his legal share of booty and money allocated for communal Muslim interests. His wife complained to him of his austerity, and so he allotted to her, from his private property, three shops in Hims that would bring her in about twenty dinar a year. When she objected that this was not much he said: ‘I have no more. Of all the wealth I have at my disposal, I am but the custodian for the Muslim community, and I do not intend to deceive them over this or to cast myself into hell-fire for your sake.’

He often got up to pray at night, and his vigils and meditations inspired praise. As the poet said:

He unites prowess in war with devotion to his Lord; what a splendid sight is the warrior at prayer in the Temple!

Also according to Ibn al-Athir, Nur al-Din was an excellent student of the law and made his own case when called to court, instructing the tribunal to treat him without favor. He set up “Houses of Justice,” madrasas, hospitals, Dervish monasteries, and the Great Mosque of Nur ad-Din in Mosul. He honored and revered religious scholars, often corresponding with them in his own hand. When extremist leaders painstakingly make their case in a video message (or go as far as to write a book, like Zawahri) using both theological and judicial arguments, they are building on Nur al-Din’s archetypal example of the pious, learned warrior. Indeed, according to reporting by a London Arabic newspaper, Zawahiri employs the alias "Professor Nur" in correspondence because of his admiration for Nur al-Din, whom he has reportedly studied intensely.*
When his aide encouraged him not to rush into battle himself for fear that Islam would be overthrown if he were killed, Nur al-Din’s response was the very picture of Muslim humility:
And who is Mahmud [Nur al-Din’s familiar name] to be spoken to like this? Before I was born there was another to defend Islam and this country, and he is God, apart from whom there is no God!’ Although there are no indications that his piety was feigned, Nur al-Din was not above using it as leverage to gain support for his campaigns. Note the complaints, as relayed by Ibn al-Athir, of an emir of Jazira regarding Nur al-Din’s invitation to campaign against the Franj:
If I do not rush to Nur al-Din’s aid, he will strip me of my domain, for he has already written to the devotees and ascetics to request the aid of their prayers and to encourage them to incite the Muslims to jihad. At this moment, each of these men sits with his disciples and companions reading Nur al-Din’s letters, weeping and cursing me. If I am to avoid anathema, I must accede to his request.
The leveraging of piety to engender support is a technique that the al-Qaeda senior leadership and other jihadi organizations have readily adopted. The constant output of propaganda touting the personal piety of the jihadi leadership (Bin Laden most especially), criticizing the excesses of more moderate Muslim leadership, and marshalling religious justifications for the extremist cause draw on Nur al-Din’s example and are key means in mobilizing the broad popular support (or at least sympathy) that makes global jihad possible.
Battle of Damascus. Historically speaking, Nur al-Din’s great accomplishment was to put an end to the question of Damascus, the myth of Crusader invincibility, and the threat of continued eastward expansion of the Crusader states.
In 1148, in response to the loss of Edessa, a massive new Crusader expedition led by Conrad of Germany and Louis VII of France arrived and combined with the forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. However, motivated by greed more than strategic sense, they set Damascus as their target. Damascus, which until then had been at odds with the other Muslim city-states under Zengi and now Nur al-Din and had even allied with the Crusaders in the past, was driven to Nur al-Din for help.
The Crusaders laid siege to Damascus and a pitched battle was fought in the environs around the city, especially in the orchards. It was in the defense of Damascus that one of the most famous Muslim stories about the Crusades (one that is still told today to children and in cafes) originated. As passed on by Ibn al-Athir:
For a while the Franks kept up the siege, and then on 24 July they moved in to attack, cavalry and infantry together. The army came out of Damascus to meet them and fought relentlessly. Among the soldiers was the lawyer Hujjat ad-Din Yusuf ibn Dibas al Findalawi of the Maghrib, a very old man and a lawyer of absolute probity. When Mu’in ad-Din [the commander of the Muslim defense of Damascus] saw him marching on foot he went to meet him, greeted him and said: ‘Sir, your age gives you dispensation; I will concern myself with the defence of Islam!’ and he begged him to retire. But the old man refused, saying: ‘I have offered myself for sale, and He has bought me. By God, I neither agreed nor asked that the contract should be annulled!’ He was referring to the words of the Almighty God: ‘God has bought the faithful, both themselves and their possessions, and given them Paradise in exchange.’ He went on to fight the Franks until he was killed, near an-Nairab, half a farsakh from Damascus.
Mired by logistical failings and disunity of command and facing the arrival of Nur al-Din’s reinforcements, the Crusader attack on Damascus disintegrated. When the siege finally failed, the kings of Europe returned home with what was left of their armies, leaving the Crusader states without Damascus as a buffer and without their aura of invincibility. By 1154, through a combination of force, coercion, and political/religious leverage Nur al-Din was the ruler of Damascus and, by extension all Muslim lands immediately east of the Holy Land.

(U) Unifying Leadership: Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, and the Muslim Reconquest - 3 of 4
Jockeying for Egypt and the rise of Saladin. During the 1160s, the primary theater of operations shifted to Egypt, which was under the rule of the weak, Shi’ite Fatimid dynasty. The Egyptians, mired in their own local rivalries, had been paying tribute to Jerusalem since 1160. In 1163, the King of Jerusalem seized on an excuse to invade, but the Crusaders were turned back when the Egyptians flooded the field by breaching the Nile’s dikes.
Prompted to action by the Crusader move on Egypt, in 1164, Nur al-Din sent an expeditionary corps under a Kurdish general named Shirkuh to seize Egypt. Shirkuh’s invasion met with quick success, but this prompted a counter-invasion by Jerusalem. In order to relieve the pressure on Shirkuh, Nur al-Din invaded the Crusader territories from Syria and his victory over the forces of Antioch and Tripoli forced Jerusalem to withdraw its attack from Egypt. However, Shirkuh agreed to withdraw as well.
Jerusalem and the Egyptians entered into a formal alliance. For the next several years, the three parties jockeyed for position.
<>In 1168, fearing that the Egyptians would eventually slip back to the sides of their fellow Muslims and buoyed by a fresh contingent from Europe, the Crusaders invaded Egypt for the fourth time. They seized the city of Bilbays and proceeded to massacre the inhabitants, including the Coptic Christians. This prompted the Fatimids to finally side with their fellow Muslims. Ibn al-Athir offered this analysis:
If the Franj had acted differently in Bilbays, they could have taken Cairo with the greatest of ease, for the city’s notables were prepared to surrender it. But when they heard of the massacres perpetrated at Bilbays, people decided to resist regardless.
Nur al-Din dispatched Shirkuh immediately. The Fatimids burned the old city and consolidated their defenses in preparation for the Crusader attack. Seeing that Cairo would not be an easy prize and fearing an attack from Syria, the Crusaders withdrew to Jerusalem. Six days later, Shirkuh’s army arrived not as invaders or sectarian rivals, but as saviors and fellow Muslims.
While earlier atrocities may have actually worked for the Crusaders by having an intimidating effect, the massacre at Bilbays may have ultimately cost them Egypt, particularly since the viciousness stood in such stark contrast to the relatively cordial relations the Crusaders and Fatimids had enjoyed previously. Ultimately, Crusader brutality had driven the Egyptian populace towards “the devil they knew,” Nur al-Din’s Sunni dynasty.
Only a few months after taking control of Egypt, Shirkuh died. His lieutenant and nephew, Saladin, was named ruler of Egypt by the Fatimid caliph. Despite being the unchallenged ruler of Egypt and beyond Nur al-Din’s effective control, Saladin continued to politely defer to his master in Syria. He did not respond to alliance overtures from the Crusaders and he faithfully (though delicately) removed the Fatimid caliphate on Nur al-Din’s orders. When relations between the two still grew tense and Nur al-Din threatened to come to Egypt, Saladin, on the stern advice of his father, chose to respectfully swear allegiance and bide his time. Although the tension remained and even escalated, it never came to open conflict. Nur al-Din died in 1174 and Saladin, because of his restraint, “would come to be seen as Nur al-Din’s continuator rather than his rival.”
The perception of an unbroken succession of leaders united by Islamic principles prevails today and it is seen as a necessary component in long-term jihad. In line with this theme, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (following his death at the hands of US forces) was compared favorably to Nur al-Din in a Pakistani obituary:
He followed in the footsteps of Noorudin Zangi. He knew that like Zangi [meaning the “son of Zangi”], he would only be able to organize a movement on the land of Euphrates, but someone else would attack Jerusalem. Until Muslims get Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque back, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawis will continue to be born.
Saladin entered Damascus unopposed later that year after his new rival, Nur al-Din’s adolescent son, fled to Aleppo. Saladin did not pursue the boy further for fear of the Assassins, who were enraged with Saladin for his overthrow of Shiite Egypt and with whom the boy had struck an alliance. However, the boy died in 1181 and Saladin finally entered Aleppo in 1183 as the unopposed ruler of both Muslim Syria and Egypt.
The Sunni conquest of Egypt was a major turning point in the Crusades. Like the loss of Damascus, it put more resources in the hands of those most dedicated to destroying the Kingdom of Jerusalem and, in a more immediate sense, opened another front to the south of the Crusader states, effectively surrounding them.
The Fatimid willingness to partner with the Kingdom of Jerusalem is remembered by Sunni extremists even today. Zarqawi, as part of a long anti-Shia diatribe issued in June 2006 took it a step farther and directly blamed the Shiite Fatimid dynasty of Egypt for inviting and supporting the First Crusade. Zarqawi goes a step further by arguing that Saladin was only able to strike a decisive blow against the Crusaders after he had crushed the Shiite dynasty in Egypt. At once, Zarqawi is using Crusade history to incite sectarian violence by Sunnis against Shia and to justify his plan to defeat the American Crusaders by first carrying the fight to their “rejectionist” allies, the Shia in Iraq.
Saladin, Reynald, and the Battle of Hattin. If Nur al-Din’s primary trait was piety, Saladin’s was chivalry. Courteous, humble, and honorable almost to a fault, Saladin is perhaps the only major figure in all the Crusades to be equally revered by both sides. The British Army has named an armored vehicle after him and he also makes a cameo in Dante’s Inferno where he is resigned to Limbo, which Dante reserved for virtuous non-Christians (including many Jewish figures from the Old Testament) who could not ascend to Heaven.
The stories ascribed to Saladin by medieval chroniclers include him sending men to retrieve a captured Christian girl from the slave market when her mother arrived in his court begging assistance saying “our commanders told me: the king of the Muslims is merciful,” as well as him sending fresh horses to Richard the Lionheart to honor Richard’s personal bravery during the battle of Jaffa.
Saladin was, by all accounts, committed to jihad (as he defined it, meaning the destruction of the Crusader states and reconquest of the Holy Land, but not the expulsion/conversion/killing of all Christians nor the denial of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem), but he was also a pragmatist and a moralist. He fought a give-and-take campaign with the young leper-king Baldwin IV before eventually reaching a détente that left the Crusaders in control of Jerusalem. Baldwin’s death in 1184 offered Saladin an opportunity to make a decisive attack, but instead he agreed to a four-year truce knowing that eventually he would be given a more honorable proximate cause to make war.
Saladin’s sense of chivalry was broad and generous but it also had an edge to it. Insults to Islam and dishonorable behavior were dealt with severely. One Crusader more than any other drew Saladin’s ire: Reynald of Chatillon. Reynald was a zealot, sadist, and sociopath with no thoughts of coexistence. He had been in the Middle East since 1147 and early on made himself an enemy of the Byzantines by ravaging Cyprus and gruesomely torturing the Orthodox Christian clergy in 1156. In 1181, in violation of the treaty and the general sense of Crusader-Muslim détente, he attacked a Syrian caravan headed to Mecca, but his ultimate offense came two years later. Setting out from the port of Eilat he sailed down the Arabian coast and raided the cities of Yanbuh (the port servicing Medina) and Rabigh, not far from Mecca. Merchant ships were captured and one shipload of pilgrims bound for Jeddah was sunk and a land caravan was raided on Arabian soil. The Egyptian navy finally caught up with the Crusaders-turned-pirates and, although Reynald managed to escape, almost all his men were captured and some had the dubious distinction of being beheaded in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. When reports arrived that Reynald had taunted Muslim prisoners, saying “Call on your Mahomet to save you,” Saladin reportedly swore to kill him with his own hands.
The Crusader attack on the Arabian coast, though militarily inconsequential, is remembered by Muslims today as perhaps the most egregious Crusader affront ever; attacking Islamic Mediterranean was bad enough, but attacking the Hijaz, the heartland of Islam, was beyond the pale. Dr. Abd-al-Latif ‘Arabiyat, Secretary General of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front, referenced the raid in a 2000 interview (though he referred to Reynald as Arnold), connecting it to the Islamist views on the 1991 Gulf War:
Regarding the Gulf War, ‘Arabiyat says: “When the 30-state invasion began, I gathered all the Gulf states’ ambassadors and asked them this question, ‘Why did the French forces choose the Red Sea route through Medina and did not choose a less costly route?’ I did not get an answer, but I knew why. It was the same route chosen by French commander Arnold when he sent his forces to steal the bones of the prophet and his companions. But Saladin confronted him. Anyone who believes that France’s choice of this route was coincidental is naïve. The Gulf War, therefore, was a Crusade.
Reynald became and remains the ultimate “poster boy” for Crusader crimes against Islam and his role as the quintessential villain makes Saladin’s role as the hero all the more appealing to Muslims. One might say that Reynald was the Zarqawi of his time: a criminal-zealot who proved impossible for even his own side to fully control and who ultimately met a bloody end. Reynald’s attack on the Arabian peninsula -- on the Hijaz itself -- was a new low for the Crusaders and so he was the trigger for Saladin’s final assault on the Kingdom of Jerusalem.


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Last edited by YaoMatt; August 13, 2007 at 02:08 PM..
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August 13, 2007, 02:02 PM

Showing operational acumen to match his political skill, Saladin systematically planned to force a decisive battle and break the army of Jerusalem. To set the trap, he occupied Tiberias in the County of Tripoli, despite the fact that the Count was one of the most détente-oriented Crusader leaders (to the point that he was accused of treason by Crusader extremists like Reynald). The Crusader army assembled at Sephoria, on lush ground 20 miles from Tiberias. The Count of Tripoli himself argued for patience rather than marching to combat across the hot, arid land, but Saladin had correctly judged his adversary and King Guy sided with more aggressive factions in the war council. In the end, the Crusader army marched out to attack on the advice of the Templar Grandmaster and Reynald, who argued “fire is not daunted by the quantity of wood to burn.”
Had it been purely a matter of numbers as Reynald’s logic asserted, the Crusaders might have won the Battle of Hattin. Crusader quality had overwhelmed Muslim quantity in major battles before, but Saladin’s trap was about more than numbers. He positioned his forces between the Crusader army and Lake Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee or Lake Galilee), the only available source of water, and kept the pressure on the advancing Crusaders with constant harassment by mounted archers. When the Crusaders arrived many were already dehydrated and suffering from heat stroke, in some cases literally cooking in their chain mail and quilted surcoats. Most of the Crusader barons wanted to fight through to the water immediately, but King Guy ordered the army to make camp. Saladin tightened the screw by firing the dry brush surrounding the Crusader camp. This added to the already oppressive heat and the smoke served a dual purpose: harassing the lungs of the Crusaders and masking the movement of Muslim army. When dawn broke, the Crusaders were surrounded, choking on the smoke, and had been nearly 24 hours in harsh heat without water. Those who ran for water were cut down, those who stayed to fight were slowly decimated.
To this day Hattin is remembered by Muslims as a crowning moment for Islamic civilization. It is used as an honorific for Muslim military units, including one of the first three brigades of the Palestine Liberation Army, and former Syrian president Hafez Assad had a painting of the battle hanging in his office; reportedly, he would present the painting to Western visitors and tell them that one day a new Saladin would come. Hattin serves as more than a cultural victory. It played and still plays a major part in defining the jihadist style of war. Hattin was not won by a stunning cavalry charge (bold maneuver) or a massive war machine (technology), but rather by a combination of cunning and patience: entrapping and grinding down an overextended, overconfident, and overaggressive enemy. It is the same general approach that jihadist forces have favored in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Saladin’s patience and planning was rewarded not only with victory at Hattin, but also with a more personal measure of satisfaction. In what is perhaps his most famous anecdote, Saladin had King Guy and Reynald, now prisoners, brought before him. Imad al-Din al-Asfahani, one of Saladin’s advisors who was present at the time, recorded what transpired:
Salah al-Din invited the king to sit beside him and when [Reynald] entered in his turn, he seated him next to his king and reminded him of his misdeeds: ‘How many times have you sworn an oath and then violated it? How many times have you signed agreements that you have never respected?’ [Reynald] answered through an interpreter: ‘Kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more.’ During this time, Guy was gasping with thirst, his head dangling as though he were drunk, his face betraying great fright. Salah al-Din spoke reassuring words to him, had cold water brought, and offered it to him. The king drank, then handed what remained to [Reynald], who slaked his thirst in turn. The sultan then said to Guy: ‘You did not ask my permission before giving him water I am therefore not obliged to grant him mercy [according to Muslim traditions of hospitality].’
After pronouncing these words, the sultan smiled, mounted his horse, and rode off, leaving his captives in terror. He supervised the return of the troops, then came back to his tent. He ordered [Reynald] brought there, advanced towards him, sword in hand, and struck him between the neck and shoulder-blade. When [Reynald] fell, he cut off his head and dragged the body by its feet to the king, who began to tremble. See him thus upset, the sultan said to him in a reassuring tone: ‘This man was killed only because of his maleficence and his perfidy.’
What is not often added to that story is that, although Saladin ransomed King Guy and the secular knights, he also had beheaded all the members of the monastic-military orders captured at Hattin. Imad ad-Din tells the story in no uncertain terms:
Two days after the victory, the Sultan sought out the Templars and Hospitallers who had been captured and said: ‘I shall purify the land of these two impure races.’ He assigned fifty dinar to every man who had taken one of them prisoner, and immediately the army brought forward at least a hundred of them. He ordered that they should be beheaded, choosing to have them dead rather than in prison. With him was a whole band of scholars and Sufis and a certain number of devout men and ascetics; each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais; the unbelievers showed black despair, the troops were drawn up in their ranks, the amirs stood in double file. There were some who slashed and cut cleanly, and were thanked for it; some who refused and failed to act, and were excused; some who made fools of themselves, and others took their places. I saw there the man who laughed scornfully and slaughtered, who spoke and acted; how many promises he fulfilled, how much praise he won, the eternal rewards he secured with the blood he had shed, the pious works added to his account with a neck severed by him! How many blades did he stain with blood for a victory he longed for, how many ills did he cure by the ills he brought upon a Templar, how much strength did he give to the leaders whom he supported, how many banners did he unfurl against disaster that retreated! I saw how he killed unbelief to give life to Islam, and destroyed polytheism to build monotheism, and drove decisions through to their conclusion to satisfy the community of the faithful, and cut down enemies in the defence of friends!
Clearly, Saladin had no compunction about being brutal within the confines of his code of chivalry. In the same way, it should be understood that while the West may view beheadings as unjustified brutality no matter the circumstance; that is not the case in jihadist tradition. Quite the opposite, brutality in a worthy cause and directed at a foe of high villainy, such as Reynald or the Templars, is a thing to be praised in jihadist tradition. Once the “new Crusade” narrative is accepted as an overall framework, arguments about the morality or propriety of specific tactics become secondary issues. When a jihadist beheads someone he views as an infidel or apostate (or even when he just watches a video recording of a beheading), he likely feels a visceral connection to the legacy of Saladin, great defender of Islam, and the pride of associating himself with that cultural icon will trump most any other question.

(U) Unifying Leadership: Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, and the Muslim Reconquest - 4 of 4
Saladin retakes Jerusalem. With the main Crusader army destroyed, Saladin capitalized by retaking most of the Crusader cities. With the exception of Tyre, which he bypassed (a decision he would later regret), and Jaffa, where an Egyptian army under Saladin’s brother sacked the city and sold the entire population into slavery, most of the Crusader cities surrendered without a fight and Saladin gave their inhabitants safe conduct to the coast. After Ascalon capitulated, he held a summit with representatives from Jerusalem, offering them generous terms, as he always did. To his shock, the representatives of Jerusalem, motivated by religious zeal, refused. Insulted, Saladin swore to take the city by force.
At this point exists another example of Saladin’s quintessential chivalry. Balian of Ibelin, who had fought at Hattin but escaped to Tyre, had written Saladin for permission to go retrieve his wife from Jerusalem with the promise that he would not take up arms again. Saladin graciously agreed. When Balian arrived at Jerusalem the people begged him to captain the city’s defense, so Balian wrote again to Saladin, asking for release from his earlier promise so that he could do his duty to his people. Saladin agreed and even provided Balian’s wife with an escort to Tyre since Balian could no longer remove her himself.
After resisting Saladin’s siege for nine days, Balian asked for safe passage for his people, but, having sworn now to take the city by force and do as the Crusaders had done, Saladin would not agree. The story according to Ibn al-Athir:
Balian insisted on obtaining a promise from Saladin to spare his life, but Salah al-Din would promise nothing. Balian tried to soften his heart, but in vain. He then addressed him in these terms: ‘O sultan, be aware that this city holds a mass of people so great that God alone knows their number. They now hesitate to continue the fight, because they hope that you will spare their lives as you have spared so many others, because they love life and hate death. But if we see that death is inevitable, then, by God, we will kill our own women and children and burn all that we possess. We will not leave you a single dinar of booty, not a single dirham, not a single man or woman to lead into captivity. Then we shall destroy the sacred rock, al-Aqsa mosque, and many other sites; we will kill the five thousand Muslim prisoners we now hold, and will exterminate the mounts and all the beasts. In the end, we will come outside the city, and we will fight against you as one fights for one’s life. Not one of us will die without having killed several of you.
What actually went on in Saladin’s mind is unknowable: did he take the threat seriously or was he simply moved by respect for Balian’s nerve? In either case, he could be released from his pledge in order to save Islam’s holy sites from Balian’s threatened destruction. His emirs did insist on receiving economic compensation for his generosity. After haggling with Balian, it was decided that 7000 of the poor would go free for 30,000 dinars and thereafter the price would be ten dinars per man, five per woman, one per child. Saladin’s chivalrous treatment of the conquered continued. There was no slaughter or looting. He rejected calls to raze the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; instead, he returned it to control of the Orthodox clergy and doubled the guard to protect it from reprisals. Orthodox Christians were allowed to remain in the city, provided they paid a tax as proscribed in the Quran. When enough money for the poorer refugees could not be raised, Saladin released them.
Although his advisors were scandalized by aspects of his leniency, Saladin had a higher purpose, as Imad al-Din al-Asfahani chronicled:
So they scavenged in their own churches, stripped them of their ornaments and carried off candelabra and vases of gold and silver, gold and silken curtains and draperies. They broke open and emptied boxes in the churches and took from the storage chests the treasures they contained. The Grand Patriarch gathered up all that stood above the Sepulchre, the gold plating and gold and silver artifacts, and collected together the contents of the Church of the Resurrection, precious things of both metals and of the two sorts of fabrics. Then I said to the Sultan: ‘These are great riches, their value is quite clearly 200,000 dinar; free exit is permitted to personal property but not to that of churches and convents; do not allow these rascals to keep this in their grasp.’ But he replied: ‘If we interpret the treaty to their disadvantage they will accuse us of breaking faith and of being ignorant of the true essence of the thing. I prefer to make them obey the letter of the treaty, so that they are then unable to accuse the Believers of breaking their word, but will tell others of the benefits we have bestowed upon them.’
The contrast between Saladin’s benevolence and the Crusader’s brutality retains potency today, probably as Saladin intended. In fact it is referenced in numerous Islamic discussions of the subject by moderate and extremist commentators alike and is even emphasized in history textbooks in the Arab world.
In a less well-known episode from the reconquest of Jerusalem, Imad al-Din, in a rather poetic ode to rape and sex slavery, also happily recorded the fate of those women who could not pay for their freedom and were not covered by Saladin’s generosity:
Women and children came together to 8000 and were quickly divided up among us, bringing a smile to Muslim faces at their lamentations. How many well-guarded women were profaned, how many queens were ruled, and nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden stripped of their modesty, and serious women made ridiculous, and women kept in private now set in public, and free women occupied, and precious ones used for hard work, and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonoured and proud women deflowered, and lovely women’s red lips kissed, and dark women prostrated, and untamed ones tames, and happy ones made to weep! How many noblemen took them as concubines, how many ardent men blazed for one of them, and celibates were satisfied by them, and thirsty men sated by them, and turbulent men able to give vent to their passion. How many lovely women were the exclusive property of one man, how many great ladies were sold at low prices, and close ones set at a distance, and lofty ones abased, and savage ones captured, and those accustomed to thrones dragged down!
It is worth noting that while Amin Malouf’s book, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, contains a great deal on Saladin, it makes no mention of the above passage from Imad al-Din. Indeed, Saladin’s reputation is virtually spotless in the Muslim world.
The Lasting Image of Saladin. Perhaps the best way for Americans to understand the way the Muslim world perceives Saladin is to make the analogy that he is to the Muslim world as Robert E. Lee is to the American South. He is revered not only as a great military leader, but as a living example of the culture’s values as well: learned, polite, generous, hospitable, but, at the same time, cunning and brutal in jihad. Nearly every Arab leader aspiring to greatness (Nasser, Hussein, Bin Laden, etc) has sought to associate himself with Saladin. He is praised in the HAMAS Covenant (also referred to as the HAMAS charter). A cartoon about his life is in joint production by the Al Jazeera Children’s Channel and the Malaysian Multimedia Development Corporation to begin airing in 2008. A conference held in Cairo to study examples of “resistance” in Islamic history cited Saladin as its first example. Dr Abd-al-Halim Uways, Professor of History and Culture, presented a paper on Saladin, reviewing his tactics and calling on Arabs to unite behind his example.
There can be little doubt that Usama Bin Laden takes Saladin as a chief example of Islamic leadership, especially in military matters. According to a BBC article, Bin Laden was introduced to Saladin as a role model by professor and Jordanian radical Abdullah Azzam while studying at university in Jeddah. According to former Bin Laden associates cited in an extensive biographical article published in The Observer of London, during the Afghan-Soviet war, Bin Laden would sit up late into the night discussing Islam and Middle Eastern history. Says one associate: “he used to talk a lot about the warriors of Islamic history such as Saladin. It was as if he was preparing himself.”
It is not a leap to suggest that Bin Laden has probably had dreams of rebuking a bitter enemy (perhaps Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal or President George Bush) before personally executing him, as Saladin did to Reynald, or of presiding over the mass execution of an elite enemy unit (such as a captured US Ranger company or SAS squadron), as Saladin did with the Templars and Hospitallers.
When al-Qaeda, through any of its media methods, generously offers a truce or suggests the West convert to Islam, or when it delivers a clear and well-phrased rebuke to “apostate” regimes, it does not do so because it expects a positive response. It does so in an attempt to tie itself to the traditions of Muslim chivalry exemplified by Saladin. The extension of this is that the jihadists consider themselves and hope to be considered by the rest of the Islamic world as honorable warriors according to their own historical examples. When they succeed in making this linkage, it becomes much harder to discredit them by drawing attention to their brutalities because those brutalities are now protected by the context of an honorable jihad against the Crusaders. Saladin beheaded the Templars who were enemies of Islam, why is it wrong for jihadis in Iraq to do likewise to the captured American soldiers in Iraq?
Saladin’s example, combining worldly success with honor, remains a key part of the Muslim concept of leadership that extremists attempt to leverage. It is beyond the scope of this paper to judge how well Bin Laden has succeeded in creating the perception that he can be/will be/is a modern day Nur al-Din or Saladin, but there is evidence that the idea at least has traction. In a pre-9/11 article entitled "From Noor ud Din Zangi to Usama Bin Laden," the author praised Bin Laden for his poetry, his humility, his piety, and his commitment to jihad.
Had Caliph Umar been alive today, he would have wept over the moving poems of Usama Bin Laden.
Usama Bin Laden's poetry is full of emotions and passionate appeals. It is hard to imagine Bin Laden's feelings. He spurned a life of luxury and took up the life of a recluse. His children also face hardship living in exile. But he is steadfast in his commitment. He is unwavering amid a hostile environment. What is Bin Laden's sin? He seeks to evict US troops from the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia and wants to see unity among the Muslims.
Usama Bin Laden is not only a great freedom fighter, he is also a poet of high caliber. How can he be a terrorist? He is the one who focuses on peace, love, fraternity, and humanity in his poetry. Terrorists are inhuman and fight against humanity. Usama Bin Laden loves his home and recalls Khartoum with an air of nostalgia. He seeks peace and wants to safeguard the Holy Land of Mecca and Medina. He despises the materialistic approach of the Muslim world. Is he alone responsible for the safety of Mecca and Madina, where Muslims' holiest shrines are located? Do we have nothing to do with the security of our holy places of worship?*
Or this excerpt from a post-9/11 sermon in Lahore more carefully insinuates that Bin Laden is a leader who can rise to the level of Nur al-Din, if only he would be allowed to speak:
We will have a voice when at least one country implements Allah’s Islam where there is a [Nur al-Din] who can take revenge. … Today in the name of freedom, they say that Usama Bin Ladin’s speech will not be aired on Al-Jazeera TV. Is this freedom? If there is freedom, you should give him the opportunity to speak.
The connection between the two is somewhat implicit in that the writer does not directly compare the two (the writer may have feared censorship), but the association of the names in the context of a discussion on leadership is telling. Comparisons to the great heroes of medieval Islam can cut both ways though. As another example, during recent fighting with Israel, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was compared to Saladin both favorably, as a defender of Islam, and unfavorably, as a megalomaniacal pretender to Saladin’s legacy of Arab leadership.


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Last edited by YaoMatt; August 13, 2007 at 02:09 PM..
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singin sweet home alabama
 
DvlsAdvc8's Avatar
 
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August 13, 2007, 02:08 PM

... and people give me sh*t about my long posts.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."
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  (#5)
Ling Long
 
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August 13, 2007, 02:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DvlsAdvc8
... and people give me sh*t about my long posts.
Mine have rhyme, reason, point and give fair warning to their length. Now, if you don't have anything to contribute :gtfo:


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  (#6)
singin sweet home alabama
 
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August 13, 2007, 02:14 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by YaoMatt
Mine have rhyme, reason, point and give fair warning to their length. Now, if you don't have anything to contribute :gtfo:
Uhm... you just cut a pasted something - so its not your rhyme, reason or point. At least mine are original.

I have nothing to contribute, just giving you a hard time.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."
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  (#7)
Ling Long
 
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August 13, 2007, 02:19 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DvlsAdvc8
Uhm... you just cut a pasted something - so its not your rhyme, reason or point. At least mine are original.

I have nothing to contribute, just giving you a hard time.
Out of the MSWord document on my desktop?


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  (#8)
Nothing here
 
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August 13, 2007, 03:02 PM

I have not read this yet, but I am going to when I get home. The opening is quite intruiging. I will get back to you with my thoughts.
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  (#9)
singin sweet home alabama
 
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August 13, 2007, 03:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by YaoMatt
Out of the MSWord document on my desktop?
So you wrote all that? If so, I stand corrected. I'm used to you posting up stories and what not from elsewhere.

Pray tell why? Some sort of research bit? There isn't anything particularly controversial - did you expect a debate?

Alas, I'll still give you for posting your homework assignment. j/k


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