For several centuries in the Middle Ages, Christians waged a ‘holy war’ aiming in part – ostensibly, at least – to liberate the Holy Land. Six experts discussed the question for BBC World Histories earlier this year, writing on whether those events, recreated in books, films and firebrand speeches, continue to affect lives and politics in the region and around the globe today.
Suleiman A Mourad: “We invoke the crusades because we want to believe that the past determines the present”
Do we live in the shadow of the crusades? This question suggests a passive role on our part, as if what happened back then explains what happens now. But history is often shaped by what we choose to remember, why and how. History is about the way the present writes the past.
The history of the crusades is told invariably as a savage, religiously inspired clash of civilisations between medieval European Christians and oriental Muslims. We think that this explains (at least in part) modern violence and the political tension between the west and Muslim countries, linking it to what happened centuries ago between the crusaders and the Muslims.