Contemporary attempts at dialogue also take other forms. We have seen in our own day the extraordinary spectacle of a pope apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades. I would not wish to defend the behavior of the Crusaders, which was in many respects atrocious. But let us have a little sense of proportion. We are now expected to believe that the Crusades were an unwarranted act of aggression against a peaceful Muslim world. Hardly. The first papal call for a crusade occurred in 846 C.E., when a naval expedition from Arab-ruled Sicily, estimated by contemporaries at seventy-three ships and ten thousand men, sailed up the Tiber and attacked Rome. They briefly seized Ostia and Porto, and plundered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral on the right bank of the Tiber. In response, a synod in France issued an appeal to Christian sovereigns to rally against “the enemies of Christ,” and the Pope, Leo IV , offered a heavenly reward to those who died fighting the Muslims—less specific than the Muslim promise of which it was probably a reflection. It is common practice in war to learn from the enemy and, when feasible, to adopt his more effective devices.
Two-and-a-half centuries and many battles later, in 1096, the Crusaders actually arrived in the Middle East. The Crusades were a late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad—an attempt to recover by holy war what had been lost by holy war. It failed, and it was not followed up.
A striking example of the modern approach comes from France. On October 8, 2002, the then–prime minister, Monsieur Jean-Pierre Raffarin, made a speech in the French National Assembly discussing the situation in Iraq. Speaking of Saddam Hussein, he remarked that one of Saddam Hussein’s heroes was his compatriot Saladin, who came from the same Iraqi town of Tikrit. In case the members of the Assembly were not aware of Saladin’s identity, M. Raffarin explained to them that it was he who was able “to defeat the Crusaders and liberate Jerusalem.” When a Catholic French prime minister describes Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem from the largely French Crusaders as an act of liberation, this would seem to indicate a rather extreme case of realignment of loyalties or at least of perceptions. According to the parliamentary record, when M. Raffarin used the word “liberate,” a member called out, “Libérer?” The prime minister just went straight on. That was the only interruption, and as far as I know there was no comment afterwards.
The Islamic radicals have even been able to find some allies in Europe. In describing them I shall have to use the terms “left” and “right,” terms which are becoming increasingly misleading. The seating arrangements in the first French National Assembly after the Revolution are not the laws of nature, but we have become accustomed to using them. They are often confusing when applied to the West nowadays. They are utter nonsense when applied to different brands of radical Islam. But they are what people use, so let us put it this way.
The radical Islamists have a left-wing appeal to the anti-American elements in Europe, for whom they have replaced the Soviets. They have a right-wing appeal to the anti-Jewish elements in Europe, replacing the Nazis. They have been able to win considerable support under both headings, often from the same people. For some in Europe, hatreds apparently outweigh loyalties.
There is an interesting variation in Germany, where the Muslims are mostly Turkish. There they have often tended to equate themselves with the Jews, to see themselves as having succeeded the Jews as the victims of German racism and persecution. I remember a meeting in Berlin convened to discuss the new Muslim minorities in Europe. In the evening I was asked by a group of Turkish Muslims to join them and hear what they had to say about it, which was very interesting. The phrase which sticks most vividly in my mind from one of them was, “In a thousand years they [the Germans] were unable to accept 400,000 Jews. What hope is there that they will accept two million Turks?” They sometimes use this line, playing on German feelings of guilt, to advance their own agenda.