[FOUNTAIN]Crusaders at the gate“What is fearsome is not the bodies scattered all around or the missing limbs. More fearsome is the madness of those who are fascinated by victory while soaked with blood from head to toe.”
The scene that occurred on the day in 1099 when the crusaders conquered Jerusalem was horrible even in the view of a Christian bishop who was on the same side. On that day, the crusaders slaughtered almost all of the Muslims and Jews left in the castle and washed out the holy city with knee-deep blood.
The cruelty of the crusaders is often contrasted with the generosity of the Muslims of the era. When the second Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem in 638, he did not harm Christians and Jews. As he was being introduced by the spiritual leader of Jerusalem, a Christian bishop, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which held the tomb of Jesus, the Muslim time for prayers approached. He hurriedly went out of the church, spread a mat on the street and bowed. It is said that he was afraid that if he prayed inside the church, Muslims might hold the spot sacred and try to remove the church.
The mercilessness of the crusaders was, in large part, caused by ignorance. Of course the direct reason for their attempts to conquer Jerusalem was the order of Pope Urban II, “Reclaim the holy place from the wicked men.” The Pope wanted to expand his influence, the noblemen aimed at war trophies and monks might have calculated the benefit from returning with relics from their pilgrimage. But the farmers who were engaged as soldiers were simple-minded and ignorant. They were convinced that the Millennium kingdom would come soon, and they sold their fortunes and acquired weapons and food, thinking that they should repent and expiate their sins before judgement day.
When the peasant soldiers arrived at Jerusalem, they held crosses and prayed while going around the castle wall. Because they were brought by “God’s will,” they had the illusion that they could break down the castle by their prayers like the record of the Old Testament in which Joshua’s army attacked Jericho.
Many Muslims sympathize with the argument of Osama bin Laden, who called the U.S. Army “the crusaders of the 21st century.” On Oct. 18, when Korea said it would send more troops to Iraq, bin Laden’s message, “Protest against the U.S. and its allies,” was made public. The Korean Army is not, nor should it be, a group of crusaders.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo