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A new ‘slip of the tongue’?

Feb 15,2015 - Last updated at Feb 15,2015

In 2001, after the September 11 events, then-US president George Bush said: “It is a ‘crusade’ on terrorism.”

After protests regarding the term, he said: “The word ‘crusade’ is a slip of the tongue.”

Coming to his defence, some said he used the term crusade as it no longer means a religious war, but a “campaign” carried out to the benefit of humanity.

The issue remains disputable. Yet, some websites still use the term “the 10th Crusade”, which emerged this time from Washington.

After so many years, US President Barack Obama did not find other words to depict the massacres committed by extremists, bigoted people that distort religion, but “crusades and inquisition”.

This depiction has triggered protests in the US and abroad, as well as criticism by political and religious figures.

The US president erred in making such comparison because crimes such as those committed nowadays, among which the slaying of our hero martyr Muath Kasasbeh, whose grisly details were shown through sophisticated technical and media tools, were never recorded in history.

Resorting to such comparison is certain to further increase tension, distort religion and undermine dialogue and harmony among followers of all religions.

The war Obama refers to was not such war; it was, rather, called “Wars of the Franks’’, which mainly aimed at benefiting from the imports from the East and at fulfilling the ambition of gaining maritime and commercial benefits.

They also aimed at getting rid of the control of masters, at addressing the outcome of draught and of making gains.

It can be added that the Crusaders desired to travel, attracted by the charm of the East. 

Those who waged wars at that time, despite the fact that they adorned their attire with a cross, as a distinctive mark, did not use any religious text to justify the crimes they committed.

Thus, the comparison is invalid.

As for the Inquisition, “the memory should be cleared” of this misunderstanding, since the crimes committed by civil authorities at that time were equivalent to death penalty, with the occasional knowledge and consent of the church.

They were not an application of holy texts by the church, which had the right to impose sanctions, not necessarily death penalty, on heretics.

What concerns me here is not to provide an honest historical explanation, but why the US president breathed life into the names of those wars.

Furthermore, if we want to provide explanations for those wars, let it not be through the events of the past, but rather through those present. It is a time when the church calls on its believers to forget about the past and to strive to cement understanding between Muslims and Christians, so that they can jointly promote and protect social justice, peace and freedom for all people.

This second “slip of the tongue” of a US president is unjustifiable, as there is a vast difference between present and past. 

We do not want to mention “the cross” and provoke religious sentiments.

The bells that rang, the candles that were lit and the prayers held this week throughout the world provide cogent evidence that Christians denounce all forms of terrorism.

The writer is director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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