Qatari security stopped two British football fans and asked them not to enter Al Bayt Stadium to watch the game between Team USA and their country’s national team because they were dressed like crusaders, telling them that such gear is offensive.
The Times of London reported the football governing body, FIFA, telling the English football fans to ditch the gear of the medieval knights, shields and swords or miss the game and lose the opportunity to support the British national team.
A FIFA official said that it was exerting much effort “to create a discrimination-free environment, to promote diversity across the organisation and in all of its activities and events.”Quoted by the Times of London, the FIFA official argued: “Crusader costumes in the Arab context can be offensive against Muslims. That is why anti-discrimination colleagues asked fans to wear things inside out or change dress.”
The British Foreign Office advised its football fans to pay attention to their actions when they travel to Qatar, telling them: “Qatari laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend.” However, the two Britons showed up in crusaders costumes.
While Qatar wanted to make the FIFA World Cup 2022 an event of co-existence and tolerance, the crusader costumes worn by the British football fans retrieved bad historic memories to Arabs and Muslims, who have been enthusiastically following up all around the world.
Arabs and Muslims do not see the Crusades, which started in 1095, as any other wars, but theologically-motivated attempts to eradicate Islam, Muslims and Islamic culture and civilisation. The Crusades, a series of European wars and campaigns, started when Pope Urban II stood up in Clermont, France, on 27 November 1095 and mobilised Christians to help the Byzantines and occupy the Muslim city of Jerusalem.
When the crusaders occupied Jerusalem in 1099, they massacred large numbers of the inhabitants –Muslims and Jews. Famous Muslim historian, Ibn Al Athir, reported eyewitnesses saying the crusaders had killed more than 70,000 people when they usurped the holy city. Other historians raised the number to 100,000.
Then, the Crusaders turned Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place for Muslims on earth, into a horse stable and a rubbish dump. This came following several massacres committed by the Crusaders during their way to Jerusalem. The Crusades continued for centuries, with ups and downs, but Muslims, by God’s Will, survived.
Arabs and Muslims have been trying to co-exist with the Europeans, who are the grandsons of crusaders, despite the massacres they committed during the Occupation of their countries during recent history. However, from time to time, Europeans insist on reminding Arabs and Muslims about their black past, related to them.
Sometimes, it is not an individual or normal person who does this, but a head of a State. Following the 9/11 attacks on the American Twin Towers, former US President, George W Bush, used the term “crusade” as he announced his alleged “war on terror”. He said: “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while, and the American people must be patient.”
The American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tens of thousands who were killed during these wars pushed many of the Arabs and Muslims to connect them to the Crusades. However, Bush had spoken about the Crusades and about the theological incentive behind the American wars against Muslim countries.
“President Bush believes God called him to the presidency,” Bruce Lincoln wrote about him. The New York Times said: “He truly believes he’s on a mission from God.” It also reported him saying: “I trust God speaks through me … I carry the word of God.” He told a friend of his that God “wanted the US to lead a liberating Crusade in the Middle East and believed this call of history had come to the right country.”
Former US President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem in 2017 as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy there, based on Biblical teachings that were incentives to many of the crusaders. Today’s evangelical Christians believe that Jerusalem has to be under Jewish control for Christ’s return.
Indian author, Sameer Arshad Khatlani, wrote to My Pluralist: “The Crusades have shaped the West’s blinkered view of Islam and adversarial policies towards the Muslim world. The Western distortions of the Prophet Muhammad, which have been a major source of friction between the two sides, date back to the Crusades.”
Khatlani said that the assault rifles and automatic shotguns Brenton Tarrant used to kill worshipers at mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch in March 2019 were painted with references to Crusaders.
He also said that Anders Behring Breivik, who claimed there was a Marxist Islamic takeover of Europe and killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, thought he was part of a Crusade, underlining a clear and present danger of harm such ideas continue to pose.
The European support for the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, including the holy Muslim city of Jerusalem and the attempts to judaise Al Aqsa Mosque has been seen by many Arabs and Muslims as an extension of the Crusades.
At such international sporting events aimed to spread tolerance and co-existence, things that stir the black past and cause controversies among the different nations should be banned at any cost. About this, Khatlani stressed: “Ignorance cannot be an excuse.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.