Who the Crusaders Are in 2016

The Muslim world jumped on President George W. Bush's use of the word "crusade" as proof that America wants to wage war against Islam, not merely apprehend international terrorists.  While indeed the word does refer to unsuccessful Christian attempts to recapture the Holy Land centuries ago, the word also means “a remedial enterprise undertaken with zeal and enthusiasm.”  As an example, Dwight Eisenhower called the war against Nazi Germany the "Crusade in Europe."  It is interesting to note that while Nazi Germany was non-Muslim, many Muslim leaders and nations, such as the grand mufti of Jerusalem and Iraq, openly supported the Nazi regime.

Today's Islamists claim there is an age-old conspiracy against their religion and that Christianity and Judaism have always tried to stifle their faith by force of arms.

History reveals and entirely different story.

When the Prophet Mohammed died in A.D. 632, the Holy Land was Christian-controlled and had been for centuries, as were what are now modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.  The Byzantine Empire, which ruled the territory, became Christian shortly after the conversion of Emperor Constantine I in 324.

Jerusalem, sacred to Jews as the site of the Temple and to Christians as the place of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, is not even mentioned in the Quran.

From its very beginning, Islam set about spreading its faith at swordpoint.  It conquered the nearby pagan territory, including Mecca, and then turned on the Byzantines in the west and north and the Persians in the east.  The armies of Allah poured into Syria and the Holy Land, taking Jerusalem in 638, a full six years after Mohammed's death.

While maintaining a constant pressure on the Byzantines and swallowing the Persian Empire, they pushed across North Africa, subjugating all of it by the end of the seventh century.  Not content with these conquests, Islamic armies then swept north from Africa into Europe, the heart of Christianity.  They landed in southern Spain in 711 and rapidly subdued the entire Iberian peninsula under the banner of the crescent.  Still not satisfied, their armies poured across the Pyrenees into France, where a Christian army under Charles Martel finally stopped them at the Battle of Tours in 732.

It took just 21 years for Islamic armies to sweep from Africa to the heart of France.  It would be 781 years before they were finally driven out, when Granada fell in 1492 to Spanish armies.

While Christianity was fighting for its spiritual and political life in Western Europe, Islam kept up the pressure in the east.  Europe gradually realized the true scope of the Islamic threat to Europe.  Pope Urban II called for action at the Council of Clermont in late November 1095.  He called on Christians to help support the beleaguered Byzantine Empire and for a crusade to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslim invaders.

At first, the efforts succeeded.  Jerusalem came under Crusader control in 1099.  But Christian control of the Holy Land was short-lived.  The Saracen armies of Saladin recaptured the city in 1187.  Muslim rulers later ceded the city back to Christian control in 1229, and the city changed hands several times after that.  The Crusader presence in the Holy Land finally ended in 1244.

This victory was not enough for the Muslim world.  Islamic armies pressed against Europe.  A series of campaigns against the Byzantines finally succeeded when Constantinople fell to the invaders in 1453, bringing to an end a civilization that traced its roots back to the founding of Rome 2,000 years prior.  Greece, the Balkans, and parts of Central Europe soon fell.  The year 1529 saw the armies of Suleiman the Magnificent at the gates of Vienna.  The Muslims were finally defeated following a long siege of that Austrian city.  The Muslims tried again in 1683 and again were defeated.

Gradually, the tide of time turned against militant Islam.  By the end of the First World War, only European Turkey remained, and Jerusalem was under English control.

Today, Muslims live throughout the Christian world.  In most places, including Israel, they are free to worship and participate in government as they choose.

The same cannot be said of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or others in the Muslim world, to which the concept of religious freedom is anathema.

There may well be a religious crusade being waged today, but it is by Islamists against all other faiths.