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Sunday, March 03, 2013

On the Implied Myth of Universal Historical Muslim Tolerance

History Extra Podcast, 17th January 2013

"Even after the Arab conquest of the Middle East, pilgrimages continued, but they became increasingly dangerous... they suffered discouragement or persecution...

There were hundreds and hundreds of these Frankish villages. There was widescale settlement... they did mix in with the local population, and how the incomers, the Franks, and the local population who, by the way:

The majority of the people right up to the Crusades were still Christian. They weren't Muslim. They were still a largely Christian population and although they might have been Greek Orthodox or not Western Catholic, not Roman Catholic. Nonetheless, they shared Christian sympathy and made common cause and very often these Frankish settlers would go to the same church as their Greek Orthodox neighbors. They would share holidays, they would inter-marry, they would develop a common culture and so on...

The demise of the Knights Templar is the same as the demise of the Frankish states in the east...

Their demise meant that the Christian population, which had already been suffering before the Crusades, and had suffered discrimination and persecution and destruction of their churches and unjust taxation and so on, and third-rate citizenship, if you could count it as any kind of citizenship at all.

For a brief moment, they enjoyed full rights, they enjoyed local governments that respected their interests and so on. All that was lost after the Crusades, and they were once again persecuted and attacked.

All of this is very much documented. The Maronites, for example, the Christians of Lebanon, that's when they took to the mountains, where they still live, in North Lebanon. They took to the mountains to avoid the incoming Muslim armies and the persecution and the destruction that was wreaked upon them and there was absolutely a campaign to destroy the Maronite community in the Middle East at that time.

So in other words, Christianity did receive a severe knockback at that time and it was really then that large scale conversions to Islam began, because they had lost their support. They had lost their support from the West and they had lost their support from the Byzantine Empire, which was a Christian empire, so they were alone, they were cut off, they were oppressed and they were finished.

The other that happened was that the entire coast of the Middle East, of Syria and Palestine was destroyed. Every town, every village, every castle, everything along the coast was destroyed by the Muslims. In this case, finally, the Mameluks, these Turkish warriors who were based in Egypt and they did this to prevent a Western force ever landing in the East again, in other words it was a kind of scorched earth policy, but I don't think it was entirely that. I think they simply wanted to keep the population entirely away from the coast land and concentrate its attention on this new avenue of power and commerce which ran inland between Cairo and Damascus and on to Baghdad, rather than the Mediterranean avenues of commerce which meant exposure to Christianity, to a Classical culture, a common Medieval culture and so on.

So that entire coast was laid waste and that stayed true right up to the beginning of the 20th century, so that even the Ottomans in the late 19th century had to invite people to settle in Palestine. Either invite them or drag them in. So many Egyptians, Algerians, Chechens were brought to Palestine to settle. Because it had been so depopulated, and of course Jews also came."
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