I just began reading The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad, and so far I’m finding it amazing! Muhammad Asad was born in 1900 in Austria to a Jewish family, and after visiting Arabia he converted to Islam. His translation of the Qur’an (The Message of the Qur’an) is widely-acclaimed.
Asad begins this book by discussing how influenced Europeans still are by the Crusades, and how until today it affects the way they see Islam and Muslims. He writes,
The Crusades were the strongest collective impression on a civilization that had just begun to be conscious of itself. Historically speaking, they represented Europe’s earliest – and entirely successful – attempt to view itself under the aspect of cultural unity.
The traumatic experience of the Crusades gave Europe its cultural awareness and unity; but this same experience was destined henceforth also to provide the false colour in which Islam was to appear to Western eyes. The damage caused by the Crusedes was first and foremost intellectual damage: the positoning of the Western mind against the Muslim world through a direct misrepresentation of the teachings and ideals of Islam.
It was at the time of the Crusades that the ludicrous notion that Islam was a religion of crude sensualism and brutal violence, of an observance of ritual instead of a purification of the heart, entered the Western mind and remained there.
What do you guys think of this? To me it makes absolute sense. Asad is not the first to suggest that the West is still influenced by the Crusades. It was this decade that Bush called the War against Terror a “crusade”. It is also interesting that ideas of Muslims from the Crusades still exist until today, even amongst the most educated Westerners. These same people then approach the Qur’an, hadith, etc with these preconceived ideas of Islamic backwardness, violence, inferiority etc and claim to objectively interpret and understand Islam, and then, miraculously, come to conclusions that match their preconceived notions (this doesn’t apply to all Westerners who research or look into Islam, but certainly to many I’ve seen).
I’m getting really tired of hearing self-proclaimed “rational”, “scientific” Westerners degrade Islam. If they based it on actual research and honest work, then fine – everyone has their own opinion. But when they refer to “the news”, “the media”, “that movie”, or “that one Muslim I met one time”, then it starts to get annoying. And then when you answer, it’s always “oh well you’re Muslim so you’re obviously biased”. They somehow never stop to wonder if they’re biased as well.
I also feel like this Islamophobia from the West is one of the main reasons many Muslims are becoming increasingly conservative, hostile, or extremist. Here in Holland I’ve spoken to many Dutch Muslims who say that they emphasize their Muslim identity simply because they feel rejected by Dutch society. While that in itself might not be a problem, these people often turn to Salafi or Wahhabi sheikhs or websites, since they provide easy solutions to everyday problems.
What do you guys think of Asad’s crusades argument?