“If Islam is terrorizing the West today, that is not because it can, but because the West allows it to. For no matter how diminished, a still swinging Scimitar will always overcome a strong but sheathed Sword.”
Those are the very last words of my 352-page book, Sword and Scimitar, which chronicles fourteen centuries of warfare between Islam and the West. They were meant to contrast how premodern Europeans—chief among them the Crusaders—took a manly stand and fought back against a then-powerful and expansionary Islam, whereas their more decadent descendants in the modern West are eager to capitulate to a now weakened but still aggressive Islam in any which way possible.
Although that last sentence about “swinging scimitars” and “sheathed swords” was clearly symbolic, even the symbolism itself was recently validated: The owners of a famous sports team have just discarded their longtime logo—a sword-wielding Crusader—to show how “woke” they are and appease Muslims. According to a recent report:
One of New Zealand’s top rugby union teams, the Crusaders, has scrapped its knight and sword logo after a brand review in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. The Christchurch-based side has opted for a Maori motif in place of the Crusades imagery following March’s attack in which a gunman opened fire at two mosques, killing 51 people. It did, however, decide to retain its name, despite criticism it was closely linked to the medieval religious wars between Muslims and Christians.
Yet, lest you think in retaining the name “Crusaders” the team is making some sort of stand, according to the New York Times, they are sticking with—or rather are stuck with—the name Crusaders “due to commercial and licensing agreements that could not be altered.” That has not prevented the team owners from spinning their connection to and use of the word “crusade” in a manner reminiscent of George W. Bush: “It was decided that no name better represented the club’s commitment to living its values—crusading for social improvement and inclusiveness, and crusading with heart for our community and for each other,” the club said in a statement.
Such appeasement is not without (shameful) precedent: In 2004, Arabian Business reported that “Spanish football giant Real Madrid has reportedly dropped the Christian cross affixed at the top of its official crest after signing a sponsorship deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.”
Meanwhile, Muslim nations, such as the home of Islam itself, Saudi Arabia (AKA “U.S. friend and ally”™) proudly depict scimitars on their national flags, with the words, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”—words that have gotten countless people, past and present, slaughtered for not reciting them. No non-Muslim seems to be offended or concerned by that, but Westerners are rushing over themselves to change the logos and flags of, not nations, but small teams of men who play with balls—lest they appear too militant, too “mean.”
That, in a nutshell, sums up how the West and Islam see themselves and respond to one another. While Islam venerates its violent, jihadi past, and, wherever possible, seeks to relive it, the West is constantly disavowing its Crusader heritage.
And what exactly were the Crusades, that the West is so keen on distancing itself from? They were a militant, no-nonsense response to more than four centuries of jihadi aggression against and conquests of Christian and European territory. The particular Muslim invasions (between 1071-1094) that occasioned the First Crusade saw hundreds of thousands of Eastern Christians (mostly Armenians and Greeks) slaughtered or enslaved by Muslim Turks acting in the name of jihad. As the Byzantine princess, Anna Komnene (d.1153), who witnessed firsthand what the Turks had wrought, wrote, “cities were obliterated, lands were plundered, and the whole of Rhomaioi [Anatolia] was stained with Christian blood.” It was her father, Alexios the emperor, who implored the West for aid. In a letter to a friend, he summarized what Muslims invaders were doing to Christians:
Noble matrons and their daughters, robbed of everything, are violated one after another, like animals. Some [of their attackers] shamelessly place virgins in front of their own mothers and force them to sing wicked and obscene songs until they have finished having their ways with them . . . [M]en of every age and description, boys, youths, old men, nobles, peasants and what is worse still and yet more distressing, clerics and monks and woe of unprecedented woes, even bishops are defiled with the sin of Sodomy [that is, they are raped]…
It was this—concern for fellow Christians—that prompted the First Crusade when it did. At Clermont in 1095, Pope Urban recited a portion of what everyone was talking about:
They [Muslim Turks] have completely destroyed some of God’s churches and they have converted others to the uses of their own cult [mosques]. They ruin the altars with filth and defilement. They circumcise Christians and smear the blood from the circumcision over the altars or throw it into the baptismal fonts. They are pleased to kill others by cutting open their bellies, extracting the end of their intestines, and tying it to a stake. Then, with flogging, they drive their victims around the stake until, when their viscera have spilled out, they fall dead on the ground. They tie others, again, to stakes and shoot arrows at them; they seize others, stretch out their necks, and try to see whether they can cut off their heads with a single blow of a naked sword. And what shall I say about the shocking rape of women? . . . Who is to revenge all this, who is to repair this damage, if you do not do it?
The Christians present, mostly Franks, cried “God wills it!” and were soon off to provide succor to their Eastern coreligionists.
This is what so many in the West are eager to disavow and distance themselves from—including symbolically, by erasing a sword-wielding Crusader from their rugby team logo; and this is why “no matter how diminished, a still swinging Scimitar will always overcome a strong but sheathed Sword.”
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute