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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

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Review: Rodney Stark's 'God's Battalions – The Case for the Crusades'

Mandatory reading.

by Ferdinand III

A great book by a great historian. Stark who is a social sciences Professor at Baylor University has written over 30 books – all of them worth reading. His main theme is the rationality, ethical and moral culture, and the civilization found in, and expressed through, Christianity. He is right. Christendom created the modern world and the rational-scientific secular world was formed by Christian culture.

The Crusades as Stark so rightly points out, were not imperialist ventures to denude the Muslim East of its treasure – they were replies to Muslim jihad, warring and a mission to save Christian holy sites, and pilgrims, from Muslim desecration and murder. In fact one reason why the Crusades ceased was their massive expense and taxation, and the flow of specie from West to East. Stark's book is thus a must-read since he destroys all of the ignorant post-modern and academic myths around the Crusades, including the 'peaceful, civilized' ethos of Muslims; the 'backwardness' of Europe [the Dark Ages is a myth]; and the supposed 'illiteracy and brutality' of the Christians. Bunk of all it. Stark tells the reader why.

This history of the Crusades is probably the best one volume work one can read on the topic. Along with Julius Norwich's work, this book is required reading for anyone who wants a real-world view, full of common-sense, well sourced, and devoid of the usual academic-politically correct neo-Marxian analysis which permeates popular culture. There is little point in going through the entirety of the book since it is too full of relevant detail and interesting facts. However Stark presents many key points which are absent in mainstream academic and political discussion of the Crusades. I have listed these key aspects below, quoting directly from the book.

1. Europe was not a backward society, nor poor and illiterate.

No greater calumny exists than the 'Rationalist' claim that Europe was a neolithic social order and was poor and illiterate when compared to the Muslim states. The opposite is in fact true. Europe underwent a series of agricultural, technological, social, military and economic revolutions between 500 and 1000 AD which made it, by the 11th century, the wealthiest, most sophisticated, literate and powerful entity on the planet.

“...superior culture and technology that made it possible for European knights to march more than twenty-five hundred miles, to suffer great losses along the way, and then to rout far larger Muslim forces.” [p. 9]

“As in this example [medicine], not only did most 'Arab' science and learning originate with dhimmis; they even did most of the translating into Arabic...Arab architecture also turns out to be have been mainly a dhimmi achievement, adapted from Persian and Byzantine origins....Dome of the Rock....which became one of the great masterpieces attributed to Islamic art [was built by] Byzantine architects....many famous Muslim mosques were originally built as Christian churches and converted by merely adding external minarets.....Avicenna...'one of the most influential of all Muslim philosopher-scientists', was a Persian....Another Persian al-Khwarizmi, is credited as the father of algebra. Al Uqlidisi, who introduced fractions was a Syrian [Nestorian Christian]...Muslim or Arab medicine was in fact Nestorian Christian medicine; even the leading Muslim and Arab physicians were trained at the enormous Nestorian medical center at Nisbus in Syria.....It was primarily the Nestorian Christian Johannitius who collected, translated, revised and supervised the translation of Greek manuscripts, especially those of Hippocrates, Galen, Plato and Aristotle, into Syriac and Arabic .” [p. 57-60]

2. Islam was tolerant. Christianity was not.

Okay this calumny might be greater than the 'Dark Ages' lie. Islam produced nothing of value. It simply conquered, squatted, taxed and oppressed far wealthier and more sophisticated empires. This is a fact. All of the supposed 'inventions' during Arab rule were made by Persians, Christians, Jews and Greeks. Christianity is a doctrine which inevitably leads to peace and pacifism. Islam is a jihadic, warring intolerant theology unable and unwilling to co-exist with anything. In fact we see the opposite in the Crusades. Muslim peasants living under 'Frankish' rule in the Holy Land were tolerated, had lower taxes than in Muslim states and were not harassed.

“A great deal of nonsense has been written about Muslim tolerance – that, in contrast to Christian brutality against Jews and heretics, Islam showed remarkable tolerance for conquered people, treated them with respect, and allowed them to pursue their faiths without interference. This claim probably began with Voltaire, Gibbon, and other eighteenth-century writers who used it to cast the Catholic Church in the worst possible light. The truth about life under Muslim is quite different.”

“In 705 the Muslim conquerors of Armenia assembled all the Christian nobles in a church and burned them to the eleventh century there were many mass killings of Jews – more than six thousand in Morocco in 1032-1033, and at least that many murdered during two outbreaks in Granada. In 1570 Muslim invaders murdered tens of thousands of Christians on Cyprus.” [p. 29]

“Table 1.1 shows the number of years required to convert 50% of the population to Islam in five major areas. In Iran it took 200 years ... in the other four areas it took from 252 years in Syria to 264 years in Egypt and North Africa.” [p. 31]

“The army [Turkish] entered the city [Ani the capital of Armenia], massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it....The dead bodies were so many that they blocked all the streets. In 1067 Arslan's [the Turkish caliph], forces pushed through Byzantine defenses to Cappadocian Caesarea in the center of modern Turkey, and committed another massacre. Finally, these depredations drew a serious Byzantine response.” [p. 94]

“...most Muslims in the kingdom were peasants who reportedly were quite content under Christian rule. For one thing, there were no land-hungry Christians eager to confiscate their fields or animals. For another, taxes were lower in the kingdom than in neighbouring Muslim countries. Fully as important, the Christian rulers tolerated the Muslims' religion and made no effort to convert them.” [p. 171]

“Dozens of Muslim massacres of whole cities have been reported in previous chapters, and the crusaders knew of such occurrences. Second, the commonly applied 'rule of war' concerning siege warfare was that if a city did not surrender before forcing the attackers to take the city by storm...the inhabitants could expect to be massacred as an example to others in the future.” [p.158]

3. Muslims were superior warriors and sailors.

Another ridiculous claim. As Stark points out, the Muslims and Arabs were always inferior to the Christians in military technology and ship building expertise:

“That the Muslims lacked control of the seas also was obvious in the ability of Byznatium to transport armies by sea with impunity .... Nor could Muslim navies impede the very extensive overseas trade of the Italian city-states such as Genoa, Pisa, and Venice.” [p. 53]

"Consider that in 732, supposedly during the depths of the 'Dark Ages', Charles Martel's heavy calvary posssessed high-backed saddles equipped with stirrupss that allowed them to put the ful weight of a charging horse and heavily armored rider behind a long lance without the rider's being thrown off by the impact.  In contrast, the opposing Muslim calvary rode bareback or on thin pads, and lacked stirrups, thereby being limited to swinging swords and axes, just as had all previous calvaries including those of the Romans and Persians." [p. 71]

"Crossbow teams backing up well -armored, reliable infantry formations made a lethal combination: the enemy suffered losses inflicted by the crossbows while advancing for an attack....This was especially a problem for Muslim armies....the Arabs had always been light calvary..." [p. 74]

"The most significant fact to consider when attempting to compare Christian and Muslim fleets is that the ships of the latter were copies of those of the former and were built and crewed by Christian renegades and mercenaries." [p. 75]

4. Muslims were sophisticated intelligentsia, dedicated to the arts, truth and inquiry.

Islamic theological books militate against inquiry and rational science. The Koran demands submission to the moon deity of Mecca. Allah is the fatalist god who decides all things. Free will, natural law rights and individuality do not exist in Islam. It is impossible for such a culture to produce innovation in any sphere. The Arabs and Muslims were poor, illiterate and backwards. They did not even use the wheel.

“...[this culture led] Averroes and his followers to impose the position that Aristotle's physics was complete and infallible...” [p. 62]

“What we do know with absolute certainty is that following the Muslim conquest of Egypt, the rest of North Africa, and Spain, the wheel disappeared from this whole area ! For centuries there were no carts or wagons......By no later than the ninth century Europeans had solved these problems, and their wagons had front axels that swiveled, as well as adequate brakes. This was a significant advantage when they undertook a major military campaign...” [p.67]

“Even if we grant the claims that educated Arabs possessed superior knowledge of classical authors...the fact remains that they lagged far behind in terms of such vital technology as saddles, stirrups, horseshoes, wagons and carts, draft horses and harnesses, effective plows, crossbows, Greek fire, shipwrights, sailors, productive agriculture, effective armor, and well-trained infantry.” [p. 76]

5. The Crusaders were irrational Christian fanatics who killed Muslims in the name of Jesus.

Holy War is first of all, a Muslim not a Christian invention. The Crusades were a family oriented enterprise of rich nobles and their relations. It was expensive. God played a role but so did many other factors, not the least of which would include the 400 year Muslim jihad against Europe; the massacring by the Turks of Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and the need to open up the Mediterranean sea to trade and commerce. Many Crusaders were pious Christians and idealistic but the hard realities of Muslim predations and jihad, made an attack on Islam mandatory, notwithstanding Christ or his church.

“Local parish priests did very little preaching. It was not required that they do so during Mass, and in any event, Mass attendance was extremely low. What effective preaching took place was done by monks and wandering friars, usually in the marketplace rather than in a church...” [p. 104]

“...85 to 90 percent of the Frankish knights did not respond to the pope's call to the Crusade. This gives further support to the claim that those who went were motivated primarily by pious idealism.” [p. 114]

“Riley-Smith's most important insight was thrust upon him by the data: crusading was dominated by a few closely related families!....Crusading was a very expensive undertaking. A knight needed armor, arms, at least one warhorse (preferably two or three), a palfrey (a riding horse), and packhorses or mules, all of them being very costly items....the best estimate is that a typical crusader needed to raise at least four or five times his annual income before he could set forth.” [p. 111-12]

6. It was a European imperialist venture to steal resources.

As for the usual neo-Marxian interpretation of history – that the Crusaders were imperialists out to steal peaceful Muslim riches – this is absurd. The reason the Crusades ended was that high taxes in Europe over 200 years to fund the retaking of the Holy Land, drained enthusiasm and support from the general population. The flow of money was decidedly one way – from Europe to the East. The Arab-Turkish Levant was not a rich area. Through the Crusaders were there some 200 years, the local trade, and economy could not even support more than a few thousand fighters, and 80 fortifications. All of this military expenditure was massively underwritten by rich European nobles who often times had to sell or mortgage their estates to pay for it. The Crusades were an economic loser for Europe – on a massive scale costing in today's money literally trillions of dollars.

“In terms of economic exploitation, it would be more apt to identify Europe as a colony of the Holy Land, since the very substantial flow of wealth and resources was from West to East !” [p. 173]

7. The First Crusade was only successful because the Crusaders had sheer numbers on their side.

The Crusades never possessed enough men to make the re-conquering of the Holy Land a permanent fact. They were always outnumbered by the Turks and Arabs, usually by factors of 2 or 3 times. Yet they kept winning impressive victories, thanks to technology, skill and courage.

“..I estimate that of the perhaps 130,000 who set out on the First Crusade in 1096, 90,000 did not take part in the siege of Nicaea [held by the Turks 25 miles from Constantinople], in June 1097. That is a loss rate of roughly 35 per mile.....And by the time Jerusalem was taken, perhaps as many as 115,000 (or 88 percent) of the original crusaders had been lost.” [p. 138]

“It was not until the upper-class sons of Europe were slaughtered in the trenches during World War I that Europe suffered the loss of a generation of leaders equal to that which took place during the First Crusade.” [p. 139]

As Stark relates the Crusades were a success. They nullified the Muslim jihad against Europe. They proved the superiority of European culture. They ensured European salvation and progress by opening up trade, the flow of ideas from East to West and by exposing the various weaknesses of Islam and Muslim states. They were not permanent for two simple reasons. First, there never was enough of the Crusaders to resettle and exhaustively protect their Levantine holdings. Second, the European population tired of the enterprise, unable and unwilling to sustain the high taxes and the loss of young leaders that the Crusades demanded. They became war-weary.

The value of this book is that it destroys the lies, the myths, and the Marxist inspired innuendo so prevalent in the current culture about one of Europe's most vital responses to Muslim jihad. The 'medieval' European was advanced, superior and more certain of himself, than anything that Europe can produce today. That is also an important lesson from Stark's research and from the profound cultural efflorescence which can send men 2500 miles away to fight in impossible conditions to defend right, morality and civilization.


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