After a long and bitter struggle, the Christians managed to retake some but not all of the territories they had lost. They succeeded in Europe, and in a sense Europe was defined by the limits of their success. They failed to retake North Africa or the Middle East, which were lost to Christendom. Notably, they failed to recapture the Holy Land, in the series of campaigns known as the Crusades.
That was not the end of the matter. In the meantime the Islamic world, having failed to conquer Europe the first time, was moving towards a second attack, this time conducted not by Arabs and Moors but by Turks and Tatars. In the mid-thirteenth century the Mongol conquerors of Russia were converted to Islam. The Turks, who had already conquered hitherto Christian Asia Minor, advanced into Europe and in 1453 captured the ancient Christian city of Constantinople. They conquered the Balkans, and for a while ruled half of Hungary . Twice they reached as far as Vienna, to which they laid siege in 1529 and again in 1683. Barbary corsairs from North Africa—well-known to historians of the United States—were raiding Western Europe. They went to Iceland—the uttermost limit—in 1627 and to several places in Western Europe, including notably a raid on Baltimore (the original one, in Ireland) in 1631. In a contemporary document, we have a list of 107 captives who were taken from Baltimore to Algiers, including a man called Cheney.
Again, Europe counterattacked, this time more successfully and more rapidly. The Christians succeeded in recovering Russia and the Balkan Peninsula, and in advancing further into the Islamic lands, chasing their former rulers whence they had come. For this phase of European counterattack, a new term was invented: imperialism. When the peoples of Asia and Africa invaded Europe, this was not imperialism. When Europe attacked Asia and Africa, it was. This notion served as a double source of inspiration—of resentment for the one side, of guilt for the other. The West, no doubt because of its Judeo-Christian heritage, has a long tradition of guilt and self-flagellation. Imperialism, sexism, racism are all Western terms, not because the West invented them—they are part of our common human and perhaps also animal heritage—but because the West was the first to identify, name, and condemn them, and to wage a struggle against them, with some measure of success. This European counterattack began a new phase, which brought European rule into the very heart of the Middle East. It was completed in the aftermath of World War I; it was ended in the aftermath of World War II. In our own time, we have seen the end of European, including Russian, domination in the lands of Islam. Osama bin Laden, in some very interesting proclamations and declarations, gives his view of the 1978–1988 war in Afghanistan which, it will be recalled, led to the defeat and retreat of the Red Army and the collapse of the Soviet Union. We tend to see that as a Western victory, more specifically an American victory, in the Cold War against the Soviets. For Osama bin Laden, it was nothing of the kind. It was a Muslim victory in a jihad against the infidels. If one looks at what happened in Afghanistan and what followed, this is a not implausible interpretation.
As Osama bin Laden saw it, Islam had reached its ultimate humiliation in this long struggle in the period after World War I—when the last of the great Muslim empires, the Ottoman Empire, was broken up and most of its territories divided between the victorious allies, and when the caliphate was suppressed and abolished and the last caliph driven into exile by secular, Westernizing Turks. This seemed to be the lowest point in Muslim history.