Monday, May 2, 2016

Barbary Pirates vs. the Crusades: Are Christians Really Historically Meaner Than Muslims?

The Crusades are routinely thrown in non-Muslims’ faces as a sign of inexcusable and unprompted Christian aggression, despite the far more complicated history behind them.

In the common telling, Muslims were living out their lives peacefully when power and land-hungry Christians ran in and tried to annihilate them for no good reason. That’s why we have so many men and women of Middle Eastern background practicing terrorism, we’re told: because they’ve been long-since disenfranchised by Christian cruelty.

In that light, it’s counterproductive to bring up the Barbary pirates, who spent centuries raiding Europe and pirating European ships. Which is probably why nobody really knows anything about them today. But since Words From the Right doesn’t pursue a Muslim agenda, here goes…

Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation says this about the marauders:

“Contemporary scholars estimate that over 1 million white Christians from France and Italy to Spain, Hol­land, Great Britain, the Americas, and even Iceland were captured between 1500 and 1800. The blood­curdling tales of brutality and horror that awaited Christians unlucky enough to fall victim to the Bar­bary Pirates were widely known, although sometimes wildly exaggerated.

“The reality was often much more prosaic, although no less cruel. After seizing the cargo and scuttling the vessel, the pirates would strip the crew of anything deemed remotely valuable. The shaken, naked, terri­fied crewmen would then be dragged back to North Africa. There, they would be imprisoned and enslaved or, if they were lucky, ransomed back to their sover­eign or their family or the company they worked for.

“Often enough, however, the victims of these mari­time hijackings would languish in fetid prisons, unsure of when, or even if, they would ever be redeemed. Many perished or simply disappeared in the White Slave trade. The only other escape was conversion. Embracing Islam-"turning Turk"-instantly changed one's status and prospects.”

Now, if you’re not the type to trust conservatives, Encyclopedia Britannica refers to the Barbary pirates as “any of the Muslim pirates operating from the coast of North Africa, at their most powerful during the 17th century but still active until the 19th century.”

And while official U.S. sites such as history.state.gov and monticello.org are too PC-pansy to call the terrorists what they were, the liberal Wikipedia admits right off the bat that “the main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Arabic market in North Africa and the Middle East” and “such raids had occurred since soon after the Muslim conquest of the region.”

The Crusades, on the other hand? The liberal Washington Post estimates “that 1.7 million people died in total,” with one in 20 Crusaders themselves never making it to the Holy Land.

The article in question goes on to write:

“And this is all at a time in which the world population was approximately 300 million — less than 5 percent its current total. Muslim extremists would have to kill 34 million people (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to equal that death toll today. As horrific as the Islamic State’s brutal reign of terror has been, its death toll is estimated at around 20,000.

But clearly it didn’t factor in the Barbary pirates in its mean, nasty Christian vs. Muslim tally. For that matter, it didn’t even factor in the hundreds of thousands of Christians who died in the Crusades.

So those arguments sympathizing with Muslim aggression? Even if they had any historic validity, it seems that tit for tat, they’re not amounting to much.

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