Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack against the World Trade Center by al-Qaeda, there has been a “War on Terrorism” going on against Islamic terror groups. American troops, as well as troops from nearly 30 other countries, have been fighting extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan. The ultimate point is that all the extremist groups have their roots in countries that are predominantly Muslim, which means the dominant religion is Islam. Islam is the world’s second largest religion. Christianity is first in number of adherents. Most of the world’s Muslim population lives in the Middle East and in North Africa.
One of the major differences between Islam and Christianity is that Moslem extremists believe they have a mission to convert the world to a radical form of Islam or kill all those who refuse. To my knowledge, there aren’t any Christian extremist groups who feel bound to convert the whole world to Christianity or kill those who decline to be converted! Of course not every person who is Moslem has taken the teachings of Allah to such an extreme level. Most, as a matter of fact, are reasonable and tolerant people. What bothers me the most is the apparent unwillingness of more moderate Moslems to speak out against the extremist groups within their faith who are causing such death and destruction in the world.
Nevertheless, the focus of this week’s column isn’t just on the problems since 2001, but to point out that there has been something very much like Islamic terrorism going on for a very long time. Christians and Moslems have been going at it since at least the time when Richard I ruled England from 1189 to 1199. Richard the First was also known as Richard the Lionheart, so we’re talking about the days of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest in England! That’s over 800 years ago. As a matter of fact, on April 17, 1194 Richard returned to England from the Third Crusade after his victory over the Muslim leader Saladin during the Battle of Arsuf not far from the city of Jerusalem. Depending on how one chooses to count them, there were at least seven Crusades beginning in 1096 and lasting until 1254. That is, at a minimum, nearly 160 years of warfare between Christians and Moslems! By comparison, that makes our War on Terrorism - which has lasted thirteen years - seem rather short as history measures conflicts.