The Western Impact



The Crusades were the first large-scale Western intervention into the Muslim world. Their impact however on the centres of Islamic power was limited: most of the great Muslim cities remained intact and the most impressive Christian victories were in due course thrown into reverse. But the Arabs — with a ‘most lively feeling of their own history’ — have never forgotten the series of Western aggressions that came to an end more than seven hundred years ago. The leaders of the Arab world still rejoice in the successes of Saladin, still constantly refer to the recapture of Jerusalem from the Christian interlopers, with modern Israel itself depicted as a new crusader state. The Suez expedition of 1956 has been regarded as a Frankish Crusade, akin to the aggression of 1191; and an Arab writer has pointed out that the Turk, Mehmet Ali Agca, who on 13 May 1981 almost killed the Pope, declared: ‘I have decided to kill John Paul II, supreme commander of the Crusades.’1 We are reminded that the schism between the Arab East and the West dates from the Crusades; and that this schism is ‘deeply felt by the Arabs, even today, as an act of rape’.2 The Crusades were the first great Western onslaught on Muslims, but it was in the twentieth century that the most comprehensive Western interventions were to take place — with all the exploitation, miseries and humiliations that this implied.


Middle East Arabian Peninsula Arab World British Government Muslim World 
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© Geoff Simons 1994

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