Tag Archives: obama

The Spanish Inquisition, Drones, and the Obama Administration

I do not feel too comfortable discussing the Spanish Inquisition. It’s not my area of research and the crusades give me enough trouble as it is. I hate it even more when such historical discussions are politicized.

Nevertheless…

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President Obama, ISIS, and the Crusades

Since President Obama’s controversial speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb 5th, during which he compared the medieval crusades (as a form of religious extremism) with the religious extremism of modern terrorist groups like the ISIS, crusades historians have been busy writing a number of pieces that address the issue. Medieval historian Dan Franke has given a comprehensive overview (with links) of the various debates that have taken place. I’d suggest that those unfamiliar with these arguments and discussions start by reading his overview provided here.

Although a bit late to the party, I have also offered my two-cents on the issue in an guest column published by the Florida Times-Union. See Guest Column: Crusades were a Reaction to Islamic Militarism– Florida Times-Union.

A selection from that column is provided below.

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“Significantly, it was in large part because of a period of heightened threat to Christians in the East during the late 11th Century that the First Crusade was called, as Muslim armies had recently conquered much of once Christian Anatolia.

For more than 20 years, Byzantine emperors had been requesting (and sometimes pleading for) military aid from Western Christians until they finally received it in the form of the First Crusade as called by Pope Urban II in 1095.

As retired Cambridge University historian Jonathan Riley-Smith once noted, “The denigrators of the crusades stress their brutality and savagery, which cannot be denied; but they offer no explanation other than the stupidity, barbarism and intolerance of the crusaders, on whom it has become conventional to lay most blame. Yet the original justification for crusading was Muslim aggression…”

This brings us back to Obama’s comments. I found them problematic for reasons cited by Riley-Smith.

The president told critics of modern Islamic violence to get off their “high horse” by citing the crusades as an example of similar Christian violence. Paradoxically the crusades were largely the product of medieval Islamic violence.”

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Edit: Dan Franke continues to keep us updated on the current debate taking place online and in print. Here he links to the most recent articles, including my own, and even an online discussion I had the other night with two medieval historians, David Perry and Paul Halsall, about some of these issues. See Dan’s addendum here and my exchange (on David Perry’s website) with David and Paul here.

Obama as the “Dog of Rome”- ISIS and Crusading Rhetoric

Obama as the “Dog of Rome”- ISIS and Crusading Rhetoric

“To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we are slaughtering your soldiers. And with god’s permission we will break this final and last crusade,” a masked man said before he was shown beheading one of the men.

See ISIL beheads Syrians and U.S. Aid Worker

President Obama as the “dog of Rome”?

The “final and last crusade”?

I was taking an undergraduate course on the Crusades at the University of North Florida in 2001 when the events of 9/11 took place. Since then, having become a historian of the crusading era, I have become almost numb to the constant rhetoric borrowed from the medieval crusades when describing modern conflicts between the West and various Islamic states or organizations. While I was pursuing my education, it was initially interesting to see such references from Al Qaeda, George Bush, or many others. But after 13 years of such rhetoric I hardly notice it anymore. Indeed, I almost skipped over the above references provided in the Al-Jazeera article when I initially read them. Continue reading