The world reacted in horror at the despicable and evil Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. It is natural, in the face of such evil, to ask why. Why did these attacks occur? Why are some Muslims drawn to groups like ISIS, and why are they willing to kill innocent people in the name of religion? Many believe economics, Western foreign policy, or religion is to blame. Some believe that history—or, more specifically, certain historical actions—provide the answer.
ISIS, in a statement issued after the attacks, claimed responsibility for the massacre, indicating that “soldiers of the Caliphate” had targeted the “lead carrier of the cross in Europe” and “cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.” The statement also referred to the victims as “pagans” and “crusaders.” Reading the statement at face value might lead one to believe that the Islamic state (and other like-minded Islamic groups) commit terrorism the avenge the wrongs committed by Christian knights during the medieval Crusades.
Indeed, ISIS is not the first Islamic group to make reference to the Crusades after acts of violence. Osama bin Laden stated, shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, “This is a battle of Muslims against the global Crusaders. . . . Our goal is for the nation to unite in the face of the Christian Crusade.”Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to assassinate St. John Paul II, indicated that he wanted to “kill Pope John Paul II, [the] supreme commander of the Crusades.”
This Islamic propaganda can lead one to believe the historical events of the Crusades are the primary reason for modern-day terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, many Westerners believe and parrot this propaganda. Former President Bill Clinton, in a speech at Georgetown University in October 2001, opined that the September 11 attacks were the result of the Christian attack on Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade. Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and popular author, has written that the Crusades are “one of the direct causes of the conflict in the Middle East today.”
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