I regularly caution students about oversimplified “lessons” to be learned from studying history – the historical record contains enough versions of the past to regularly offer conflicting interpretations. On the long list of historical events I’d caution against drawing analogies (see generally, the Holocaust), are the Crusades. Susan Jacoby, in the Sunday Review, provides important context around Obama’s recent comments about the Crusades:
[Albert of Aix’s 11th Century record of atrocities in Mainx against Jews] highlights several elements analogous to the actions of modern terrorist groups. These include attempts at forced conversion; the murders of women and children; and the imposition of financial penalties on coerced converts who try to remain in their homes. Albert’s disparaging remarks about Emico also reveal that there were Christians who felt about the crusaders exactly the way many Muslims today surely feel if they are unlucky enough to find themselves in the path of violent lunatics.
I do wonder if her conclusions about the Enlightenment, religious reformations, and the separation of church and state are a little too simplistic and self-congratulatory of the Western world. I mean what about the Mongols?