Even before the Gulf War and the Iraq War, the Middle East has seen a lot of tension and conflicts. Here are three of battles that took place there well before the start of the Middle Ages:
1. The Battle for Mecca
Unlike Jesus or the Buddha, Muhammad founded a religion and a political party. As the leader of the early Islamic community in Mecca, Muhammad found himself at odds with his clan's pagan leaders. Facing annihilation, Muhammad and his followers fled Mecca for Medina in 622 CE.
Over the next eight years, the Muslims periodically engaged in bloody battles over Mecca (in one, the Prophet's uncle was partially eaten by the wife of a Meccan tribal leader).
However grand a general he was, Muhammad was an even better negotiator: In 630, the Muslims finally overtook Mecca via a treaty with tribal leaders. After almost a decade of casualties, nary a drop of blood was shed in the final battle for Islam's holiest city.
2. The Battle of Karbala (Which Has Nothing to do with Madonna)
Although the fighting lasted only a couple hours and the result was never really in question, the Battle of Karbala has come to symbolize the divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims - and, for many Muslims, represents the last stand of Islam's golden age.
After the Prophet Muhammad's death, the Islamic community was led by a succession of four "Rightly Guided" caliphs. By 680 CE, however, a ruthless and distinctly Wrongly Guided caliph named Yazid held court, and the Prophet's grandson Husayn set out to defeat him.
Husayn and just 72 followers (many of them young boys) met Yazid's massive army at Karbala, in present-day Iraq. And though Husayn and his supporters were slaughtered, the martyrdom is still remembered by Shia Muslims today with passion plays and public mourning.
3. The Crusades
Not content to let Muslims fight among themselves, Christian Europe decided to get into the act in 1095 CE. For the following two centuries, European Christians undertook eight major expeditions hoping to conquer Jerusalem and control Christ's tomb, the Holy Sepulcher (which seems like a lot of trouble - waging eight wars over a cave where Jesus spent three measly days). Armed with plenty of manpower, the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, but Saladin then reconquered it in 1187.
Long story made short, the back-and-forth kept on until everyone got tired and decided to postpone fighting over Jerusalem until the mid-20th century. Of course, the Crusades had a lasting effect on the therefore fairly peaceful relationship between the Islamic world and the Christian one, but they also deepened the divide between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, particularly when the Catholics decided to sack Constantinople during the fourth Crusade.
From mental_floss' book Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits, published in Neatorama with permission.
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Speaking of evil... these names come up in conversation: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz... and not psycho-Palin and McLame.
by Brother Gerald del Campo
Salah ad-Din Yusuf, known as Saladin in the West, will go down in history for recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders. And yet he did so much more. He was born in Iraq and was a Kurd. He began his military profession at a very youthful age, when he fought along side of the Fatimid rulers of Egypt against the Christian Crusaders occupying Palestine The Fatimid rulers were a decadent, self-indulgent bunch, and the real warrior class were the Kurds. Not only did Saladin drive back the Crusaders, but he took the offensive against them. Saladin recognized Egypt’s strategic value, and with the help of his Kurdish countrymen, he revived Egypt's wealth and strictly controlled its land and naval forces.
CItadel of Cairo - Built by SaladinSaladin went into battle against his Muslim rivals, and unlike other warriors of his time, he did not seek revenge on his enemies, nor did he care to confiscate their wealth. In fact, he once waited for a rival Caliph to die before sending his people out into exile. He invited the Egyptian people to live within the walls of the city, in areas that were previously occupied by Fatimid royal family. He erected mosques, palaces, hospitals, and universities in Cairo, but build nothing for himself. He was considered a kind and sincere man, and was well liked by Moslems and Christians. It was said that he even had a Jewish physician. When he fought Richard the Lionheart he arranged for his soldiers to carry ice down the mountain to ease the King’s discomfort when he was sick.
Saladin's Tomb in DamascusHe had created his own brand of chivalry, and was admired by his enemies as well as his friends. He extended his authority into Syria and northern Mesopotamia. Shortly thereafter, several Muslim forces united under Saladin's authority began to move against the Crusaders in a battle that he would fight for a decade. During those years he invaded Jerusalem (where he took over the stronghold in Acre in 1191) and Galilee. In 1192, after a third Crusade was started to take Jerusalem back from the Moslems, Saladin completed a peace agreement with King Richard I of England which permitted the reconstruction of the Crusader kingdom in Palestine, but left Jerusalem in Muslim hands.
It is said that when Saladin died in Damascus in 1193, he had no personal possessions. But we believe he left us a sizable gift. A living and sincere example of courage, conviction, kindness, and princely virtue.
And, uh, who would enforce this ban on religion? God?