Mind your language

Can politicians say ‘crusade’ again? David Cameron thinks so

The English-speaking warriors who set off to free the Holy Places did not call themselves crusaders

17 October 2015

8:00 AM

17 October 2015

8:00 AM

One thing grabbed my attention from David Cameron’s speech, long ago in the middle of last week. ‘We need a national crusade to get homes built.’ I’m as interested in housing as the next mother with a practically homeless grown-up daughter, but it was the word crusade that astonished me. I did not think a politician could use it now.

Just after the atrocities of 11 September 2001, George Bush said: ‘This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.’ Some listeners feared this was confirmation of a ‘clash of civilisations’. But, from the Muslim side, some objections were ill-founded historically.


English-speaking warriors who set off in the 11th and 12th centuries to free the Holy Places did not call themselves crusaders. The word is surprisingly recent. When Samuel Johnson published his dictionary (1755) he listed the word as croisade. That might have been because he disliked crusade having a bastard form, with a Spanish stem and a French suffix. Gibbon did use crusade, but it had come into English only in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The concept of a crusade did not seem shameful, but possessed positive connotations. In 1859, the Crusade of Rescue was started, to help destitute Catholic children; its name changed in 1985 to the Catholic Children’s Society. A Church of England clergyman, Albert Kestin, founded the Crusaders youth organisation in 1900; its name changed to Urban Saints in 2007.

Politicians wanted to profit from the associations of crusade. Lord Beaverbrook launched his Empire Crusade in 1929 to champion imperial free trade (and tariffs on goods from outside). That is why he put a little crusader on the masthead of the Daily Express, who remains there forlornly today. Beaverbrook’s initiative of fielding Empire Free Trade candidates against Tories provoked Baldwin’s jibe about ‘power without responsibility’.

On 5 October 1936, the Jarrow Crusade set off, with the blessing of the bishop (who then wrote to the Times declaring he wanted such marches discouraged in general). The men carried a big banner saying ‘Jarrow Crusade’, but I can’t see Mr Cameron unfurling a ‘Housing Crusade’ banner over newly dug foundations.

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  • Thanks for the quick gallop through history but it doesn’t seem very relevant to the topic which is the taboo against the word because of its historical associations.

    • Philsopinion

      A ‘taboo’ created by controlling ‘liberals’. It’s like wanting to ban the word ‘jihad’ because its meaning has come to be associated with terrorism. Many muslims will tell you that the actual meaning is contested. Would liberals ban it still? Of course not, Their strictures only apply to their own cowed culture.

  • Abie Vee

    Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with Jihad?

    • Gilbert White

      Perfect synonym Abie?

      • Richard

        Is it? If I own something, somebody takes it, and then I try to get it back, is that the same as the actions of the person who took it from me by force? I think the law would see things differently.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    I didn’t know there was a taboo against the word, though I was aware of
    the towelheads’ wild rantings about “crusaders”. Word taboos are
    illiberal and contemptible. “Swarm” anyone? Dr Bowdler seems so
    innocuous these days.

    • Morseman

      Campaign is a perfectly good English word and should offend no one.

      • Todd Unctious

        Campaign is a French term derived from Latin.

        • Morseman

          So?

    • Todd Unctious

      You are not supposed to say towel head, you toff fox slaughterer.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Concentrate on your homework before Mummy smacks your bottom.

  • Richard

    Something I’ve never understood, is why the European view of history in that region only seems to start with the Crusades. What happened before then is ignored. The destruction of the Christian Byzantine empire in that part of the world is never spoken of, the deaths and misery inflicted by Islam is never discussed. Only the attempted retaking of it by Christianity is wrong, never the initial invasion and slaughter by Muslims. This is similar to Spain: Islam is only interested in how it was usurped by the indigenous people from Andalusia, not in how it slaughtered its way there in the first place.

    I think it shows quite clearly which civilisation has less doubt, and is in the ascendant. The Left will do all of this to win votes from Muslim immigrants. Quite remarkable.

    • Morseman

      Oh come on, it is not the Left that ignores the Islamic conquests but Westerners in general.

      • Richard

        It forms part of the Leftist discourse, which has been absorbed by mindless Westerners.

    • Abie Vee

      I’m not sure if you’ve got things the right way around, or if your syntax is poor. Either way, to be clear: Pope Urban ordered the 1st Crusade in 1095. This was followed by eight others;1147, 1189, 1202, 1217, 1228, 1248, 1270, and 1271. The fall of Constantinople and the end of Byzantium did not happen until 1453… that is to say, 358 years after The Crusades began. I’d say they Muslims had been rather patient, wouldn’t you?

      As for the Moorish slaughter in Spain, your imagination runs riot. The Moors ruled southern Spain for 800 years. Scientific progress in astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography and philosophy flourished.

      Contemporary opinion held that there was no place more admired by it’s neighbours, or more comfortable to live in, than the rich civilisation which took place in al-Andalus. During Moorish rule, the Sephardi Jews became a large and prosperous community… a happy state of affairs which could not withstand the Catholic Crusaders re-conquest. In 1492 when the Moors were finally driven from Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella immediately expelled all the Jews from their domains, putting an instant end to the largest and most prosperous Jewish community in the world!

      And, er, the Moors were not “usurped by the indigenous people from Andalusia. Far from it.

      • Lagos1

        Actually, you are just confirming what Richard is saying – i.e. ignoring what had happened before the Crusades. You neglect to mention that the Turks were within striking distance of Constantinople in 1095 after one Christian city after another in the Middle East had fallen to Muslim armies. The fact that the end did not come until 1453 says very little about Muslim “patience”.

        • Abie Vee

          Really?

          In the wake of the Ridda wars, and of the Arabs’ sudden conquest of most of the Near East, the new religion became identified more sharply as a monotheism for the Arab people.

          As is well known, the Arabs made no attempt to impose their faith on their new subjects, and at first in fact discouraged conversions on the part of non-Arabs.

          Jonathan P. Berkey, The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800, 2003

          “Turks”?

          • Lagos1

            yes really, any basic historical knowledge of Byzantium or Armenian history etc shows that your presentation of things is severely distorted.

            As is well known, the Arabs made no attempt to impose their faith on
            their new subjects, and at first in fact discouraged conversions on the
            part of non-Arabs.

            Not so well known actually, probably because it is not actually correct. In fact, it is at odds with Muslim accounts themselves.

            And today, we can see very well with the rise of ISIS an example of how Christianity declines under Islamic rule and why the crusades were justified. Very little good can be said about ISIS, but at least it better helps us understand this era of medieval history and the context of the crusades.

            “Turks”?

            Yes. You do know that most of the Anatolian peninsula had fallen under the control of the Seljuqs (who were Turks) before 1095? It is this expansion and military conquest of Byzantine territory that precipitated the 1st Crusade. This is part of what Richard was referring to when he mentioned that the destruction of the Christian Byzantine empire in that part of the world is never spoken of and which you took issue with.

          • Abie Vee

            Not well known, because people are ignorant. They they to believe whatever the vested interests tell them. You should look behind the common narrative. Even most Muslims are in ignorance of the early founding years of Islam.

            The Byzantine Empire fell prey to Imperial overreach, as do all Empires. All. Ironically, it was helped on its path to destruction by the piratical nature of the Crusaders themselves, especially and ultimately terminally, by those of the Fourth Crusade.

            The state religion of Byzantium was Christian. It’s a simple deductive error to assume from that, that all its subjects were Christians. It would be more correct to regard Byzantium as an occupying power in Arab lands, in the manner of the Roman Empire. Thus it’s destruction can be seen driven by the tide of early Arab nationalism rather than jihad. The situation is far more complex and nuanced than the parroting of simple sound-bites allow (though, as we see today, people find it far easier, and in effect comforting, to think in simple Manichean concepts… them and us, good and bad, hot and cold, up and down, ourselves alone).

            I do know that at least a dozen different tribes of people were casually called Turks of Turcic or many variations of the name throughout China, Central Asia, and the Middle East down the ages. However, the English name, Turkey, did not even appear until c.1380 and Turkey itself did not come into being until 1923 as far as I know.

          • Todd Unctious

            By 1025 Byzantium consisted of the Balkans and Greece, south Italy and Sicily ,Cyprus, the Crimea and modern day Turkey. The latter divided twixt Nicaea( Christian) and Rum (Islamist). Barely 10% of Constantinople’s subjects prayed to Mecca. On a par with modern day France.

          • Abie Vee

            Indeed.. as an occupying power. I didn’t say that the majority Byzantium’s subjects prayed to Mecca. I said they were not Christians. Spot the difference.

          • Lagos1

            Even most Muslims are in ignorance of the early founding years of Islam.

            Indeed. And ISIS is less ignorant than most on that subject. That is why they behave as they do.

            The state religion of Byzantium was Christian. It’s a simple deductive
            error to assume from that, that all its subjects were Christians.

            Perhaps, but the vast majority of them undoubtedly were.

            It would be more correct to regard Byzantium as an occupying power in Arab lands, in the manner of the Roman Empire.

            No it wouldn`t. It would be ridiculous to think that. Why would we regard the largely Hellenic or Armenian Anatolian peninsula to be Arab? Even Syria and Egypt wouldn`t have been considered to consist of an Arab population at the time they were ruled by the Byzantines. I`m not sure that you are particularly familiar with this period of history.

            Thus it’s destruction can be seen driven by the tide of early Arab nationalism rather than jihad.

            No, you are importing relatively contemporary concepts such as nationalism in an anachronistic fashion. Furthermore, as I mentioned, the populations of the empire were largely not Arab and much of the Byzantine destruction was wrought by Turks. Therefore we certainly can`t talk of “Arab nationalism”.

            I do know that at least a dozen different tribes of people were
            casually called Turks of Turcic or many variations of the name
            throughout China, Central Asia, and the Middle East down the ages.

            And the 1st crusade was called primarily in response to the Seljuq Turks as I mentioned. The Arabs were not the primary concern of the Byzantine emperor at the time.

          • Abie Vee

            I have no information on who or what ISIS is, and what it’s core beliefs are (if any). Perhaps you’d enlighten me? I have them down as a rag-bag of motley discontents and gangsters conveniently hiding behind , and exploiting, Sunni/Wahhabi fundamentalism for their own purposes.

            “Perhaps”? No… there’s no perhaps about it.

            What “largely” would that be?

            Angels dancing on a pinhead.

          • Lagos1

            I have no information on who or what ISIS is, and what it’s core beliefs are (if any)

            They certainly claim to follow the example of their prophet. And he made clear the acceptability of taking female sex slaves and the beheading of enemies among other things. One of the interesting things about ISIS is just how much they do conform to early Islamic behaviour. We have simply got used to the the fact that Islam had to calm down to produce a sustainably prosperous society and has also been influenced by Christianity itself over the years.

            I have them down as a rag-bag of motley discontents and gangsters

            You might describe them as gangsters but then, apart from highly charismatic leadership and other advantages of organisation, this could well describe the early days of islamic expansion – .e.g the attacking and looting of caravans, the massacre of isolated communities etc.

            “Perhaps”? No… there’s no perhaps about it.

            True there were certainly Jews. No doubt some residual pagans. Of course some Muslims would also be included as a natural consequence of repeated Islamic attempts to seize territory. However, to describe the Byzantine empire as anything but Christian would be utterly bizarre. What religious divisions there were, were essentially Christian.

            What “largely” would that be?

            I already mentioned the largely Hellenic or Armenian Anatolian peninsula. Then you had Syriac and Coptic communities among others. And of course there were some Jews. You are making the mistake in thinking that just because the area is now populated by people who call themselves “Arab” then this means that it was like this when ruled by the Byzantines.

            Angels dancing on a pinhead.

            No, hand waving doesn’t make the facts go away.

          • Abie Vee

            I don’t make any mistake at all. I do not say that the state religion was not Christian. Some Jews? What does that actually mean? Some pagans, again, what do you mean? I’m perfectly content in my assertion that the Byzantine Empire was one of occupation of indigenous peoples. And like all empires, it fell through decline and Imperial overreach… spread too thinly, too far. As we are now beginning to see with the USA. Thank the Lord.

          • Lagos1

            I do not say that the state religion was not Christian.

            And no one is saying that you are. What I am saying is that not only was it the state religion of Byzantium, but that it was also the very much dominant one of the people of the empire as well.

            Some Jews? What does that actually mean? Some pagans, again, what do you mean?

            Exactly what I said – i.e. that there were some Jews and that they were a minority. Do you doubt this? As for pagans, some pockets of Paganism survived or existed at the fringes. But it small numbers. The main religious differences within Byzantium were inter- Christian differences.

            I’m perfectly content in my assertion that the Byzantine Empire was one of occupation of indigenous peoples.

            Except that this is not what is disputed. For sure, the Byzantium was predominantly Greek and ruled over other peoples such as Copts and Syriac peoples. But you are talking about it ruling over Arab lands and being destroyed by an Arab nationalism. But this idea fails because until Arab invasions, there were few Arabs even living within its borders. And its principal adversary at the time of the 1st crusade, and indeed ultimate conquerors were not Arabs but Turks who were themselves at war with Arabs. You seem to want to copy and paste the history of 19-20th century colonialism over the decline of Byzantium. But this would be a total fabrication of the reality. The reality is that it was destroyed by external aggression from other powers and primarily Islamic aggression at that.

          • Todd Unctious

            Abie. You need to read Judith Herrin’s very good history of Byzantium.

          • Abie Vee

            Thank you. I shall seek it out.

      • Richard

        They were dhimmis, and subject to various waves of persecution. Some Jews (forced to take Arabic names) did do well financially, but they were always second class citizens. There are many chronicles from the time that give very different views to what you describe. Look at the illustrations that accompany the Cantigas de Santa Maria, for instance, or read the works of Bernard Lewis. We know that there were times when it was better than others, and we know the fate of Jews after the reconquest. Here again, it is as if the Muslims were always there. They weren’t, they were invaders from Africa and Arabia.

        Why were Muslims “patient”? They themselves were interlopers, as I have pointed out, which you have chosen to ignore. There is nothing inevitable or “correct” about Islamic occupation of the area occupied by the present state of Israel, it occurred by supplanting the rulers and inhabitants of the time, as the Muslim Turks did in Anatolia. It is the religious zeal of Muslims – accepted by many in Europe – that the area of the Levant is “naturally” and “always” theirs, and that all others are foreign and second-class, presumably even those who preceded them, since many Muslims believe that Adam and Eve built a mosque there.

        If you really think that Islam spread by the giving of sherbet and marshmallows, you don’t have much understanding of the way they operated. From Andalusia they launched an invasion of Gaul, as you probably know, which was not done by dispensing gifts of love and affection. They reached the gates of Vienna. These were all violent actions.

        Ferdinand and Isabella didn’t trust the Jews, whom they saw as working hand-in-glove with the Muslims, rather like England’s view of Ireland for working with Spain to plan an invasion of this country.

        In any event, you have simply proven my point, which is that the Left takes Muslim occupation as the point of departure, and that all that preceded it is irrelevant and meaningless.

        • Abie Vee

          All Jews under Ferdinand and Isabella (the largest and most prosperous Jewish community in the world at the time) were forced to convert to Catholicism, take Catholic names, or be exiled, or killed.

          The non Roman citizens of the Empire were second-class citizens as you well know, as were the teeming millions of the Semitic non-Christian groups in Byzantium. That’s the way it worked. You’ll find that the Anglo-Saxons became second class citizens under the Norman yoke.

          No one says (at, least not me) that the Moors were “always there”. I specifically said, for 800 years (or, in context, about as long as the English were in Ireland).

          You descend into a thinly disguised and pathetic Zionist fantasy-land of diatribe and polemic after that point. All religions have their folk-myths fairy tales. The archaeological record shows otherwise.

          • Richard

            There is no polemic, merely an observation from sources other than the ones you cite. “… pathetic Zionist fantasy-land”? No point in debating further. You have shown your colours.

      • Todd Unctious

        Abie. By 1300 Byzantium was a city state in hock to Genoa and Venice. Their lands in Anatolia, Syria and so on (even Sicily) were long gone. It was an Orthodox Empire and only the Moorea and Rhodes remained by 1450.

  • Gilbert White

    Well we do not need another 13th? Crusade with Israel firmly in charge of the Celestial City. The problem is with our religious imports in England they have a huge red crusader’s cross, this is their flag. We do not teach them this at school?

  • Bonkim

    A Crusade against ISIS would help.

  • trace9

    Gin is a teally good crew’s-aid especially after long, cold, wet watches – also it tends to keep Muslims off boats, rather like garlic for another, not quite so bad problem. If only we could spray ’em with it on the Med..

    • Todd Unctious

      Rum is the main aid to crew. Along with limes.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        “Rum, sodomy and the lash”
        Roll on the weekend, right Todd?

  • Philsopinion

    I find this habit for banning words to be totally self defeating. The word is merely the signifier, banning it won’t stop the process or activity which it describes continuing. Another word – a weasel word probably – will be found.

  • rbw152

    The crusades were a defensive measure. Muslims had invaded all of North Africa and Spain by the 8th century. It’s little wonder Christians at the time though ‘sod this, we’ve got to do something about it’. In the context of medieval Europe it was a sensible course of action.

    Funny how history gets distorted.

    • Richard

      It is all part of revisionist, Leftist discourse, that seeks to portray the West as in all ways evil and acquisitive. The West is a multiplicity, open to interpretation and correction, and is self-destructive, Islam is basically monolithic not open to interpretation or correction, and extremely self-assured.

    • Todd Unctious

      No. Only the south of Spain.

    • John Nikolewski

      We need another Crusade to eradicate these scum!

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