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Rescuers, Not Invaders

April 22, 2010

Robert Louis Wilken in WSJ Books:

The recorded past and the remembered past are seldom the same. Nowhere is this more evident than with the Crusades. The Crusades were a belated counter-offensive of Western Christians to come to the aid of Christians of the East in defending their lands against the further expansion of Islam and to free the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. In the year 600 most of the Middle East, from present-day Turkey to Iraq, including Egypt and the southern Mediterranean coast, was Christian, and its principal cities— including Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus and Jerusalem—were vibrant centers of Christian life and culture. Within a century the entire region came under Muslim rule. The Byzantine Empire, which had reached from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Persian frontier, was reduced to a Greek state in Asia Minor, Greece and the Balkans.

The first great expansion of Islam came to an end in the middle of the eighth century, but with the conversion of the Seljuk Turks from Central Asia, Islam resumed its relentless drive westward. [More]

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