Friday, 2 September 2011


"Crusading" has its origin in the Christian crusades that opened the Orient to Europe for long-distance trade, followed by Iberian colonial adventures, followed by northwest European colonialism. In short, the crusades in the Holy Land were the start of Western expansionism and in many respects, as some in Fernand Braudel's Annales School have argued, account for nascent capitalism.

In short, the crusades were catalytic to long-distance trade that created the need for surplus production (transitioning from subsistence agriculture and local trade, to international trade) thereby giving an impetus to the market economy, on the one hand, and at the same time linking long distance trade to colonialism (always in the name of Jesus), on the other. Capitalism and colonialism have a symbiosis, although surplus trade was also symptomatic of rising population that accounted for urbanization that gave birth the urban-based economy in the long 16th century (1450-1650), as Immanuel Wallerstein calls it, when Europe experienced social discontinuity - transition from the feudal manorial societal structure that the land-based nobility dominated to the modern capitalist one that merchants began to control as the hegemonic class.

The 'crusading' mentality never abandoned the Europeans, especially the rising merchant class, largely because it contributed to Europe's ascendancy not only in economic terms but also cultural diffusion - one could refer to all that the Europeans learned from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment by coming into contact with Arabs, Byzantines, Asians, Africans, and indigenous north and South Americans. As much as the white population grew to distinguish itself as superior from those that it colonized, and as much as it tried to devise absurd theories of racial superiority, the reality is that in the absence of cultural diffusion the white Western world would have been back in 'Barbarian' era isolation thus backwardness in every respect.

The modern meaning of 'crusading' was shaped by individuals from Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden" to Woodrow Wilson's "Missionary Imperialism". Behind this Western mindset rested a 'crusading' attitude that whites carried as part of their long heritage and the belief that they are superior because they have a mandate from Divine Providence. Therefore, the non-Western, non-white races must accommodate at the very least, the superior white race. Because it is no longer acceptable by society to use 19th century language to justify 'crusading', contemporary terminology is used; but as Noam Chomsky has pointed out imperialism is imperialism whether in ancient Rome or contemporary America and the process as well as results are similar.

Using terms like "freedom and democracy" to justify the campaign in Libya to remove Muamar Gaddhafi, and then discovering that France had signed a secret deal with the rebels to have 35% of Libyan oil sold to France exposes the nature of 'crusading' mindset. Other than the 'crusaders' parading as promoters of 'freedom  and democracy', and those who are uniformed and yield to mainstream Western media interpretations of NATO policy, who on this planet is convinced that the West is on a campaign to democratize Islamic countries, most recently through wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Who on this planet believes that the foreign policy of the West is driven by 'democratic idealism' and altruism, instead of greed and need for hegemony? The West remains committed to the 'crusading' mentality because for centuries it has benefited it and it will remain committed to it as long as its military strength permits it.

At the sociopolitical level, the 'crusading' mentality has had broader consequences in the West. For example, the rise of Islamophobia as I have pointed out in a previous article, as well as the rise of hate crimes against Muslims directly or indirectly, is symptomatic of the same crusading mindset. The crusading spirit is very much alive and well, and justified in the name of 'fighting against Islamic extremism and terrorism'. In some cases, this is another form of subtle and politically-correct racism as it applies indiscriminately to Muslims who must prove that they are above suspicion and judged by a different set of criteria than whites.

We see the crusading mentality in everything from popular Hollywood motion pictures that consistently depict Muslims and Muslim themes in stereotypical and pre-packaged roles to reinforce the idea that Muslims are never above suspicion until they prove otherwise; we see it in writings, we see it in the political arena where extreme right wing politicians use populist language to incite their followers.

After 9/11, the Muslims I knew were extremely cautious about freely expressing their views, they feared about their jobs, they felt that they were the new target of a white-dominated society that had relegated them to second-class citizens. In short, they felt that the crusading mentality affected their daily lives, and no matter how conformist to the institutional mainstream, at the end of the day they were part of a community against which the West was perpetually at war. Could the 'crusading' mindset be any more real today than it was during the crusades, even more so owing to the multi-ethnic make up of Western societies?

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