Critical Review of Crusades by Karen Armstrong

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About Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong was born on 14 November 1944, at Wild moor. She is a British writer and critic of Iris Catholic succession. She is known for her books on comparative religions.

Armstrong has been called 'a noticeable and creative religious historian' by The Washington Post and called as an 'arguably the most well-spoken, extensive and interesting religion writer today'. [1]

Important Books of Karen Armstrong

She wrote many books. Some of her famous her books are,

  • Though the narrow gate. (1982)
  • The first Christian. (1983)
  • Tongues of fire. (1985)
  • Holy war. (1988)
  • Muhammad. (1991)
  • A history of God. (1995)
  • The holy war, crusades and its impact on Today’s world
  • Historical definition of “Crusade”:

Before discussing about Karen’s book the Holy war, we must know something about Crusades. The crusades were a chains of holy wars called by popes with the potential of understandings for those who battled in them and focused against external and internal enemies of Christendom for the rescue of Christian property, the holy land.[2] The Crusades (1095-1212) was an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to recover the Holy Lands from the Muslims.

The Crusades were a chains of religious wars allowed by the Latin Church. The most commonly known Crusades are the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at getting back the Holy Land from Muslim rule, but the word 'Crusades' is also useful to other church-sanctioned movements. These were fought for many reasons. It was a conflict between rival Roman Catholic groups, or for political and property benefit.

Critical review of her book, “Holy war, The crusades and their impact on todays world”

Armstrong writes from three viewpoints when going over each and every historical part of the battle: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Karen Armstrong, popular author of “A History of God”, expertly tells this history of the Crusades with a view toward their deep and continuing impact.

In 1095 Pope Urban II called Christian fighters to retake the Holy Land. In reality the Crusades were a chain of conflicts in the name of religiousness. And, as Armstrong reveals in this book, their legacy of religious fierceness continues today in the Middle East, where the age-old fight of Christians, Jews, and Muslims persists. [3]
Armstrong classifies with the Palestinian basis, but it’s tough to tell from this book. Armstrong also goes over a lot of common false impression held in the Western world about Islam without making justifications for its mistakes.

Zionist will tell you that this conflict started in 1967 and if they are deep-seated enough, will totally markdown the serious events of 1948. Pro-Palestinians will tell you this war started in the late 19th century, with the beginning of Zionism. Armstrong says that events as early as 900 AD have a solid impact on jihadist and crusader approaches and clarifies their accurate nature.

One of Armstrong’s strong points is also one of her weaker points. By spending time talking about the Crusades, she begins to research into individual conflicts and other historical details that are not essential when seeing the current conflict. This makes for a good read for those concerned in Crusades history, but can drag the reader down if they just want to get some framework for current happenings. This may come from the point that Armstrong’s book doesn’t have a crystal clear goal. The book’s specified area is to look at “the Crusades and their impact on today’s world”, but in practice, this means almost totally the Israel/Palestine war.

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In start, There Was the Holy War. Why? On November 25, 1095 Pope Urban II called the 1st Crusade. For Western Europe it was a critical event and it is having consequences today in the Middle East. Addressing a huge gathering of priests and poor people, Urban summoned for a holy war against Islam. The Seljuk Turks, he described, a brute race from Central Asia who had recently become Muslims, had cleaned into Anatolia in Asia Minor (Turkey) and had snatched these lands from the Christian territory of Byzantium. The Pope insisted the knights of Europe to end fighting each other and to make collective source against these enemies of God. he said, ' Killing these godless monsters was a holy action. it was a Christian obligation to 'kill this hateful race from our lands. ' Once they had removed Asia Minor of this Muslim dirt, the knights would participate in a still more holy job. They would walk to the holy city of Jerusalem and free it from the infidel. It was disgraceful that the tomb of Christ should be in the hands of Muslims. There was an surprising response to Urban's call. Common preachers like spread the news of the Crusade and in the spring of 1096 five armies of about 60, 000 warriors go together with a crowd of civilians pilgrims with their wives and families set off to the East. They were monitored by five more armies of about 100, 000 men and a horde of priests and pilgrims. To the cultured Byzantines it observed like a great savage attack, similar to those which had demolished the Roman Empire in Europe[4].

The West was attacking the East for the first time in the modern period, filled with the violent feature of a holy war, a morality that would describe its future dealings with the Orient. It appealed to all classes of people, to popes, kings, peers, priests, militaries and labourers. People sold everything they had to arm themselves for this lengthy and risky mission, and for the most part they were not motivated by the greed for material advantage. Their hearts was filled with a religious urge. They stitched crosses on their clothes and walked to the land where Jesus had died to protect the world. It was a religious pilgrimage at the same time as it was a battle for holy land.

Obviously crusading replied a deep need in the Christians of Europe. Yet today most of us would condemn the Crusades as unchristian. After all, Jesus had told his followers to love their enemies, not to destroy them. Yet I would claim that the holy war is a deeply Christian act. Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity had an integral leaning toward fierceness, regardless of the non-violence of Jesus. All three religions are theologically linked and all respect the same god. All three civilisations are devoted in some way to love and compassion and yet all three have established a pattern of holy war and violence that is extraordinarily alike and which seems to surface from some deep urge that is essential in this custom of monotheism, the worship of only one God[5]. For over a thousand years European Christians tried to hold out against this violent trend and to keep Christianity a religion of peace and love, yet when Pope Urban summoned the Crusade they answered him for holy wars. In order to understand the Crusades, therefore, as well as the holy wars of today, we need to observe this pattern of fierceness and try to determine why each of the three religions felt that they wanted a holy war.

Further, Karen Armstrong describe the history of Abraham, Moses, Jacob and his sons and how Jews and Christians come into being. She focused on Jews and Muslims conflict whereas crusades was pure Christian act. But she dramatically protect Christians and use beautiful words and style to save them.

After telling the story of Jacob and Moses she told her readers about the next stage of all three of the monotheistic religions, when a holy journey or a migration converts a holy war[6]. The Israelites were now an self-governing people, but their salvation was not yet complete. They were still only a group of tribes who had been new to controlling their own destiny and they had to learn how they were to live as God's chosen people. They did not journey straight to the Promised Land, but for forty years they lived as travellers in the Sinai Peninsula. It was a holy journey during which, the Bible tells us, they were extremely dependent upon God, who fed them with manna and directed them step by step. She relate the history of Jews with the holy wars.

The Present Conflict Jews and Arabs Seek a New Secular Identity

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion in the Tel Aviv Museum, held the ceremony of the announcement of the state of Israel. It was the completion of a long fight by Jews to give their people a new home and a new identity. Instead of being hated creature from outer space in the movement, threatened with discrimination, they wanted the Jews to be proud and strong. They would shake off the weakness of their exile and create a new type of society in the land of their forefathers which would be an example to the rest of the world. The new Jewish state had the backing of the United Nations, and within the next few days its right to exist was acknowledged formally by the United States and the Soviet Union.

The surrounding Arab states, however, refused to grant a similar recognition. They argued that for over a thousand years Arabs had lived in Palestine and that the great powers had no right to give their land away to another people, to lessen their guilt about anti-Semitism and to plant a Western-backed state in the Middle East. They promised to conquer the new state and on May 15, when the British mandate expired, five Arab armies attacked lsrael. It looked as though the little David would be demolished by the Arab Goliath, but the Israeli army was stronger and more efficient and was able to push back the attackers. During the conflicts and the 'cleaning up' afterward some 750, 000 Palestinians left their homeland and have never been allowed to return. The Wandering Jew had been replaced by the Wandering Palestinian. The Jews who had been victimized for nearly a thousand years in the Christian West had now made new enemies in the East, and Arabs and Jews have been engaged in a deadly conflict ever since.

But this had not been the original intention of the first Zionists, who had begun to work for the return of the Jews to Israel in the late nineteenth century. The first Zionist settlers had no particular hatred of Arabs when they left their homes in the migration to settle in the land of their fathers.

The late nineteenth century was a period of intense nationalism, and Zionism could be described as Jewish nationalism. As the new nation-states were created in Europe, people sought to create a new national identity for themselves and in so doing they made 'the Jew' the enemy of this national character. People who were fired with patriotism now blamed the Jews for having no country of their own. In Germany, for example, there was a new trend of the people which linked the soul of the Germans to their land. This soul, people believed, was formed by the German landscape and this meant that the German spirit was alien to the city and to 'civilization' (the culture of the city). This led Germans to see the Jews as the essential enemy of the German soul: they had no landscape of their own and so their souls could not develop naturally and this made them deformed human beings. Further, because Jews lived and worked in the cities, they were seen as the height of 'civilization.'

In 2001 the incidence of world trade centre, called as 9, 11 took place. It was a time of Jorge W. Bush. He consider Usama bin Ladan as culprit. For this purpose he ordered American army to fight against Afghanistan. Later Bush started war in Iraq against sadam Hussain. It means these holy wars are not ended and still we are facing it. It is hard to summarize the impact of a movement that spanned centuries and continents, crossed social lines, and affected all levels of culture.


The theory of a holy war and the historical influence of the Crusades are given a timely analysis in Armstrong's study. Armstrong sees a relation between the Crusades and the current condition in the Middle East. Before the Crusades were organized in Europe, Christian, Jew, and Muslim lived together in relative peace in the region that gave birth to the three faiths; after the Crusaders released Jerusalem, a series of violent fights has distressed the area throughout history in the name of one faith or another. Armstrong proves to be stronger when revealing the details of her thesis with outstanding example after outstanding example; her rereading of history, however, sometimes suffers as she segues from the past to the present without always making clear the needed links. As she linked the story of prophets with the holy war and later Jews and Muslim’s present situation. She describes crusades as war between Jews and Muslims but it is a deep reality that crusades was a true Christian act.

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