Historian: Obama doesn't know much about the Crusades

Few historians would grant President Obama a valid point when he tries to compare Christian excesses during the Crusades with today's actions by the Islamic State.  ABC News asked a couple of noted historians of the Medieval period what they thought of the president's analogy.

“I don’t think the president knows very much about the crusades,” Thomas Madden, a historian at the University of St. Louis, told ABC News.

“He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS,” Madden said. “The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that been conquered, due to Muslim conquests.”

The Crusades, which began in 1095 with the call of Pope Urban II to recover Jerusalem from Muslim rule, were a series of wars that lasted nearly two centuries. Although no reliable estimate of casualties caused by Crusaders exists, the massacre of over 2,700 Muslim prisoners by Richard the Lionheart outside Acre during the Third Crusade has been well documented and is remembered in the Middle East to this day.

Thomas Asbridge, a historian at the University of London, said in a statement to ABC News, “It is true to say, that by modern standards, atrocities were committed by crusaders, as they were by their Muslim opponents, it is however, far less certain that, by medieval standards, crusading violence could be categorized as distinctly extreme in all instances.”

Asbridge said he doesn’t have a problem with the president reminding the world that the Christian Church “advocated violence, and at times even encouraged its adherents to engage in warfare” but to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the distant medieval phenomenon of the Crusades is “grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence.”

The Crusades were almost as deadly for Jews as they were for Muslims, with Christian knights carrying out horrific pogroms in Europe before they even landed in the Holy Land.  As for Muslim "massacres," for the time, those kinds of atrocities were routine, as Professor Asbridge points out.  The massive difference today is that no one – not Christians, Jews, Hindus, or any other religion – is burning hostages or burying children alive.

In that context, President Obama looks like a fool.

Few historians would grant President Obama a valid point when he tries to compare Christian excesses during the Crusades with today's actions by the Islamic State.  ABC News asked a couple of noted historians of the Medieval period what they thought of the president's analogy.

“I don’t think the president knows very much about the crusades,” Thomas Madden, a historian at the University of St. Louis, told ABC News.

“He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS,” Madden said. “The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that been conquered, due to Muslim conquests.”

The Crusades, which began in 1095 with the call of Pope Urban II to recover Jerusalem from Muslim rule, were a series of wars that lasted nearly two centuries. Although no reliable estimate of casualties caused by Crusaders exists, the massacre of over 2,700 Muslim prisoners by Richard the Lionheart outside Acre during the Third Crusade has been well documented and is remembered in the Middle East to this day.

Thomas Asbridge, a historian at the University of London, said in a statement to ABC News, “It is true to say, that by modern standards, atrocities were committed by crusaders, as they were by their Muslim opponents, it is however, far less certain that, by medieval standards, crusading violence could be categorized as distinctly extreme in all instances.”

Asbridge said he doesn’t have a problem with the president reminding the world that the Christian Church “advocated violence, and at times even encouraged its adherents to engage in warfare” but to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the distant medieval phenomenon of the Crusades is “grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence.”

The Crusades were almost as deadly for Jews as they were for Muslims, with Christian knights carrying out horrific pogroms in Europe before they even landed in the Holy Land.  As for Muslim "massacres," for the time, those kinds of atrocities were routine, as Professor Asbridge points out.  The massive difference today is that no one – not Christians, Jews, Hindus, or any other religion – is burning hostages or burying children alive.

In that context, President Obama looks like a fool.