Defending Islam from the Crusaders at Intercollegiate Review
A while back I got into a comment war on the Intercollegiate Review with a bunch of trolls bent on defaming Islam as a whole. Here are the two essays I composed in response, the first to the article itself, the second to a comment response to my first comment.
You are making conservatism look bad by writing an essay depicting the crusaders as a pack of white knights only doing justice and fighting evil. You sound a lot like liberal, progressive social justice activists, telling tall tales of poor, oppressed peoples enduring centuries of oppression and, one day, rising up and fighting the man in a true crusade for justice. Go out on the street with those Occupy Wall Street thugs- you tell the same narrative.
Alexander Hamilton delivered the most conservative one-liner ever spoken: “Tis the portion of Man assigned to him by the eternal allotment of Providence, that every good which he enjoys shall be alloyed with ills, that every source of his bliss shall be a source of his affliction- save VIRTUE alone, the only unmixed good permitted to his temporal condition.” In modern Facebook English, for those uneducated out there: Anything human is both good and evil- humans are neither demons nor angels, but a poor mix of both. The closest things to demons are men who call themselves angels.
I despise anti-Western multiculturalism as much as any of you guys do, but here’s the difference- I love and appreciate Western culture without being a jingo. There’s value in every culture’s ways, as well as folly. Our culture is no exception; neither are our brothers in Islam. And in truth, there are a good many publications Muslims have churned out over the years that pay great homage to true conservative values- humility before God, valuing of individual excellence, the tragic nature of human life wrought by geopolitics and human fallibility. It’s true- read The Hundred Names of Allah, The Thousand and One Nights, and The Muqqadimah. Multiculturalism is flawed in saying that there is no objective value and therefore all cultures are equal. The truth is, there IS objective value, and all cultures tap into it in different ways which the wise man ought to value and learn from.
It is a shame that, in defense of Christianity and in opposition to Islam, the author should feel compelled to resort to 15th Century depictions of Christians as good and Muslims as evil. Such characterizations are as invalid and immature as 20th Century depictions of Muslims as all-righteous and civilized and Christians as barbaric and dogmatic. You have sunk to the level of those you despise in publishing this. Be reasonable. Be conservative.
There is truth in both narratives, and there is falsehood in both narratives. Such is true of all narratives. Life is tragic and our vision is distorted. Read your Homer, o ye who would claim the mantle of literature as your shield and sword.
The world really is more interesting than it seems.
Thank you for joining me, my fellow pontificator.
I do not disagree with anything you say on the nature of war or indeed on the nature of Islam (so long as you soberly acknowledge that essentially everything you have said about that very human religion can be said with equal validity about its cousin Christianity.) You detail with vigor the crimes Islam committed. Did not Christianity commit its own crimes? And not even always against its neighbors, but even against its own? Do ‘The Warrior Popes’ or ‘The Sack of Constantinople’ mean anything to you? Beyond the differences of culture and religion, men are men, and they have a tendency to be vicious when not constrained by Leviathan or prudence. I don’t give Islam a pass, nor do I give Christianity one; nor do I praise Islam for attaining the greatest civilization possible, anymore than I do so for Christianity.
As for the specifics, perhaps it is true that Christianity is indeed the more loving and merciful of the two. As a Christian myself I’d like to believe that. But with the record of history spread before us, none of us should be casting immediate judgments in black and white.
It should easily have been expected that the Christians would retaliate against the siezure of their lands, as much as any other people or culture has done in our own time. Does that make the conquest just and the war proper? Does that elevate our preferred faction on a pedestal above all others? I don’t see their cause as ‘just’ any more than the Muslim conquest previous to it could be called ‘just.’ War is war.
In short, Mr. Dolphin, my problem with this article is its self-serving appeals to victimization and its equation of that victimization with our righteousness, a tool of the weak and normally the revolutionary. We proud supporters of the Western tradition need not demonize our neighbors and say that all we have been taught is a lie, just to feel secure and justified in our pride. A Stoic acceptance of the evil on our side and the good on theirs is necessary to accept the good on our side and the evil on theirs.
I think it’s important that the Christian side of the story be shared, especially in light of the visceral attacks on Christianity the last two and half centuries have been host to. But just as the necessity of a return to Founding Virtue does not at all condone or justify the contemporary Right’s humiliating bastardization of the Founders’ beautiful, sublime political philosophy into populist garbage, so a true appreciation of our Christian heritage in the Crusades cannot be based upon an assertion of our self-righteousness and innocent Christian virtue.