[-empyre-] Modern Jihad: the Islamist Crusade: part 1, forward from Loretta Napoleoni

Modern Jihad: the Islamist Crusade

Loretta Napoleoni

This article compares the roots of the medieval Christian Crusades and of the modern Islamist jihad. Focusing on the economics of these two phenomena Crusades, the author argues that religion providesd a cohesive and convenient identity for a partnership motivated far more by economic factors than by religious fervor. The alliance of the papacy, the nobility, the emerging commercical classes of traders, merchants, and bankers, and the starving peasants of Europe took shape under the banner of the First Crusade as a formed in reaction to the Islamic world's economic hegemony of Islam over the Mediterranean basin. Similarly, today, religion provides the ideological ground upon which the emerging Muslim classes of traders, merchants, and bankers have built a their partnership with Muslim religious leaders and the impoverished masses of the Muslim world. This alliance targets , targeting the hegemonic domination of the West, that is strengthened and supported by corrupt Muslim oligarchic elites and governments. Islamistc armed groups, like the Franj knights of the Crusades a thousands years before, are only the vanguard of a war of economic liberation cleverly disguised as a war of religion.

In his speeches Osama bin Laden has often drawn parallels with the Christian Crusades, accusing Americans of being new crusaders engaged in a colonial war to subjugate the Muslim world. He portrays theMuslim Islamist jihad against the West as a justified response to an atavistic aggressor. Paramount to this vision of the modern Islamist jihad is the nature of the threat: an alien and ruthless enemyies, defined by religious (or lack of) creedæChristianity and Judaism for the Zionist Crusaders in the Islamistcurrent jihad, Communism for the Soviets in the anti-Soviet jihad (fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s). Against this backdrop, Islam's current enemies are modern, high-tech replicas of the medieval Franj knights, the bloodthirsty Christian savages who, at the beginning of the last millennium, brought down its splendid civilization. In the time of the Crusades, the invasion of the Christian knights triggered a defensive jihad, after centuries in which the practice had beenwas forgotten; at the same time it helped rediscover its meaning and power. Stimulated by the ferocity and bellicose ardor of the Franj, Arab warriors rallied around Saladin and eventually repelled the invaders. In the last few decades, Islamist ideologues and armed groups have recalled Saladin's jihad as a triumphant phase in Islamic history, and warned of a renewed Christian Crusade. Upon Tthis comparison, provided a basis for calls to a new jihad from radical Arab ideologues, like the Egyptian Islamist Abd al Salam Faraj, whose ideas Bin Laden and his associates have expanded to justify acts of terrorism against Westerners, including civilians have called for a new jihad; in turn, bin Laden and his associates have expanded this concept to justify acts of terrorism against Westerners, including civilians . George W. Bush's bellicose language since September 11 only reinforces Islamists' analogy with the Crusades. Since September 11, the rhetoric in Washington has been that of a holy war, a crusade fought not to free the Holy Land in the name of Christ, but waged in defense of humanity under the banner of democracy. Recurrent religious imagery in Bush's speeches, coupled with his doctrine of preemptive strike, have boosted the belief, among many Muslims, that the war against Iraq is yet another manifestation of American imperialism in the Middle East, another chapter in the new Christian Crusades.

On the contrary, the motivations, objectives and organization of the
Islamist jihad are very similar to those of the First Crusade
(1096). For several centuries, Islam had the Islamic
Byzantine Empire  [It seems vague and inaccurate to say "Islam
dominated," given that Islamic influence was extended through the
power of a specific political entityæthe Byzantine Empire, and later
the Persian Empire, though I admit that my history here is fuzzy]
dominated the Mediterranean basin, a hegemony that had blocked
European economic development and growth. The First Crusade was
therefore a powerful challenge to the sole superpower of the time, and
its success marked the beginning of Europe's climb back to
power.  As Byzantine Empire Islam progressively
lost its economic grip over the Mediterranean, the Crusades emerged as
a critical chapter in the eastward expansion of Europe,  a form of
medieval imperialism.  Christianity provided an ideological umbrella
under which a unique coalition of forces gathered to set a war of
economic liberation crusade in motion. In a similar fashion, the
modern jihad is a vehicle for the expansion of Islamist Muslim
political and economic power. Once again, a single superpower, the
United States, stands in the way of change and growth. For the
Islamists, the modernIslam  jihad represents a revolutionary force,
the ideological drive that will reshape and free society from Western
economic and political domination.

Economic forces, therefore, drove the First Crusade, though the
rhetoric was religious; economic forces, cloaked in the language of
jihad, have inspired, today, an Islamist crusade against the American
Empire, an empire embodied in the economic hegemony that the West and
its allies exercise over the Muslim world. This article will explore
the parallels between the First Crusade and the current Islamist
jihad, focusing on the economics  forces beneath the religious
rhetoric in each instance.

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