In the year 1059, Pope Urban II announced the war on the Saracens (the term ‘Muslims’ was rarely used at that time) in Jerusalem. These military campaigns came to be known as the Crusades. The reason for the launching of these campaigns was to liberate the Holy Land from the infidel usurpers.
Mainstream history recognizes, between 1096 and 1291, seven distinctive or major Crusades. There were also a number of minor ones in between. However, some historians consider the fifth Crusade as two separate major campaigns merged into one. The same case is with the eighth Crusade. By treating these two Crusades as two individual campaigns in one, that would add up to nine major Crusades in total.
Looking at the historical facts and keeping in mind the manner in which certain events played out in these campaigns, one cannot help but notice that there might have been an ulterior motive for these conquests. Other than religious nature, the possible motives for the Crusades could have been political. Undoubtedly, the perfect example of a politically motivated Crusade was the one declared against Markward of Anweiler by Pope Innocent III. The response to this Crusade was poor and the campaign itself became unnecessary because Markward died in 1202.
On the left-hand side is a depiction of the Pope Innocent III act of excommunication of the Albigensians, and the massacre against them led by the crusaders is shown on the right-hand side.
When stating the reasons for a campaign of such magnitude, one must point out the lucrative side of such an enterprise. The material and financial benefits of the Crusades are practically countless. Is it possible that instead of saving the Christian world from infidels, the Crusaders were robbing them?
In the fight for the glory of God, the Crusaders ravished and pillaged along the way. The nobility that participated in the Crusades broke their promises to the Byzantines and kept the conquered lands for themselves. From the structural viewpoint, the Crusaders consisted of the people who found the Crusades an ideal escape plan from poverty from which they came from.
This image of the Crusaders has found its way to certain books and popular culture as well. But from an objective point of view they are more likely to be the representatives of overzealous warriors fighting for their God rather than the greedy, opportunistic war profiteers.
The pillaging and the ravishing could be explained as the modus operandi of that time in history and the land disputes could represent the political and religious schemes rather than means of getting rich.
We have a sufficient amount of historical data to analyze the Crusades and discover the motives for each individual campaign. There is, however, a question that we must ask ourselves. Can one use religion to justify murder, pillage and oppression? The salvation lies within the tolerance and peaceful co-existence. We should all ask ourselves would it be more suitable and meaningful to honor the deity in which we believe in by advocating peace, harmony and an honest lifestyle.
Sadly, the exact opposite is happening, and we are witnesses of a number of religious related violent campaigns waged around the world today. They can be led by religious extremists, such as the attackers on the Charlie Hebdo, or an organized group, such as the parties involved in the Lebanese Civil War and the car bombing incident in Basta in 1991 that resulted in the deaths of over 30 people and more than 120 injured.
Jeremy Scahill is one of the best reporters in the United States. He is the founding editor of The Intercept, an online news publication, and author of some of the best US mi...