Good friend and fellow writer, Charlie Carner, copied me on a letter he sent to the Hollywood Reporter in response to their rave review of the new Crusades retelling by Sir Ridley "Not Exactly the Lionhearted" Scott. I plan on seeing the film tomorrow night after at least two stiff drinks, so look for a review this weekend.
But here's Charlie's defense of the faith.
5055 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Re: “Kingdom of Heaven”
Dear Mr. Honeycutt:
From your “Kingdom of Heaven” review, published in the Hollywood Reporter Monday, May 2, 2005:
“‘Kingdom’ fulfills the requirements of grand-scale moviemaking while serving as a timely reminder that in the conflict between Christianity and Islam it was the Christians who picked the first fight.”
I beg to differ.
The First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II in 1095.
For nearly 450 years prior to that, Muslim conquerors killed tens of thousands of Christians, made slaves and eunuchs of Christians for the pleasure of the caliphs, burned down or sacked the holiest churches in Christendom, robbed and killed thousands of Christians on holy pilgrimage, brutally sacked Jerusalem, and pillaged the countryside of Israel, North Africa and Western Europe. Beginning with Mohammed himself around 630, and continuing with Abu Bakr and the caliphs who followed, Muslim armies conquered and subjugated others through armed invasion and bloody war.
Because it was the closest geographically, Palestine was the first Western non-Arab area invaded in the Muslim imperialist expansion. At the time, Palestine was under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire, ruled from Constantinople by Greek-speaking people, and was Eastern Orthodox Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox rule was despotic and the Eastern Roman Empire was in serious decline. The Muslim conquest of Palestine began in 636 with the battle of Yarmk. Muslim armies laid siege to Jerusalem in July 637. After five brutal months, the city fell in February 638. The conquered Christian and Jewish people were made to pay a tribute to the Muslim victors, who thereafter bled the city to supply Baghdad with a steady stream of plundered wealth and slaves, many of whom were made eunuchs.
The Muslim conquest of (Christian) North Africa went relatively easily until the Berbers put up stiff resistance – for more than twenty years – before the Muslims broke through in a series of bloody battles followed by massacres of their largely Christian opponents. The Muslim conquest continued through North Africa and through what is now Spain, Portugal, and southern France – until they were stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Poiters in 732.
After Jerusalem fell in 638, Muslims ruled the city in a largely peaceful manner (chiefly under the Umayyads) for about a hundred years. Then, under the Abbasids, the Muslim rulers began an aggressive program of forcible conversion to Islam among the majority Christians and Jews. Thereafter, Jerusalem and its Christian and Jewish majority suffered greatly during alternating periods of peace and war. Among the oppressive measures were repeated Muslim destruction of the countryside of Israel (970-983, and 1024-1077); the wholesale destruction by the Muslims of Christian churches – sometimes at the direct order of the Caliph, as in 1003, and sometimes by Muslim mobs; the total destruction of Jerusalem by the Caliph of Cairo in the early 1020s; building mosques on the top of Christian churches; enforcing the Muslim laws limiting the height of Christian churches; attacking and robbing Christian pilgrims from Europe; attacking Christian processions in the streets of Jerusalem; and on and on.
This was the condition in the Holy Land when Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade. The Christians did not “pick the first fight.” They responded to centuries of armed aggression, conquest and subjugation by Muslims.
Charles Robert Carner
sources: The Columbia History of the World, edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay; Arab Ethnic Cleansing Imperialism and Colonialism, by Richard C. Csaplar, Jr, Regent University Board of Trustees; The First Crusade, by Thomas Asbridge