There is a surprisingly widespread belief in the West that the Islamic world is still suffering from some kind of trauma that was caused by the Crusades of the otherwise quite forgotten medieval times. It is seemingly believed that this trauma is still causing major friction in the relationships between the West and Islamic world. This is typical modern western self-flagellation, where it always our own fault if somebody hates us.
If Crusades have caused so widespread trauma in the Islamic world, why is there not similar trauma in the western world?
A much worse trauma shoud have been produced by the bloody wars of conquests that brought the then completely Christian Egypt, Syria and Northern Africa under Islamic rule. Or the trauma could come from the much more recent Muslim onslaughts on the Balkans.
There the Romanians, Bulgarians or people of Greece were brought under the rule of Islam following bloody wars of conquest.
If the wild swordsmen from the desert would not have brought these areas under the rule of Islam, these areas would also not have suffered the economic and social consequences of rule by a stagnant, stiff and unbending religion. This religion has hindered the economic, social and cultural development of these areas during the last few centuries.
On the contrary, I believe that the hatred flowing freely in the Islamic world comes form much more recent things.
There is much hurt pride and low self-esteem that are a direct consequence of the fact that achieving freedom from the iron grip of an all-encompassing religion after the fall of the Catholic universal rule has propelled the west to a social and economic development that has seen no rivals before in the history of mankind.
In the same time, Islamic world has suffered in the grips of a rigid, dogmatic and stiff religious system that has made similar development impossible.
There is no real reason why this situation would needs to be the case. After its initial conquests, the Islamic world was for centuries far more advanced and free in cultural and economic terms than the western world. On its turn, the western Europe suffered just during that time under the iron rule of dogmatic, stiff and unbending Christianity of that era.
It comes as no big surprise that the new Islamic Arabic rulers were welcomed with open arms all over the Byzantine and the western Roman areas that they conquered. These areas were experiencing just that time a period of pogroms of Christians who were suspected of harboring heretical thoughts.
The Arabic rulers were a tiny minority in their newly acquired territories. They needed to threadextremely carefully not to incite revolt. Islamic religion was also still a very new and un-dogmatic phenomenon. All this combined created a flourish of culture and economic wealth that is now remembered fondly in the Islamic world.
The fall of Christian mental dictatorship in the West following the Renaissance, Reformation and Age of Enlightenment released immense powers of imagination and creation there. This new intellectual and mercantile freedom propelled these countries to known their path of growth and ultimate military power.
In the same time, Islamic world experienced an exactly reversed development. Islamic faith and religion froze during centuries of Middle Age to an extremely dogmatic system of thought, It did, in fact, largely prohibit any new thinking in all areas that were under its rule fo centuries on end. This loss of mental freedom also froze the economic development in the Islamic world.
Islamic world was soon left behind in all areas of development. Ultimately large areas of the Islamic world would in time be even falling under the rule of western nations.
Western rule of the large parts of the old Ottoman empire after the WWI was a final insult to the Islamic world. It did show very concretely how the balance of power had shifted. This moment should have been a moment for retrospect and analysis for reasons of the weakness of the Islamic world, but the moment was wasted.
The Islamic world has a chance of recovering to its former glory only if it does see the crucial importance of letting new ideas to mold the society around them.
Any society that is frozen to long gone social mores and passions is doomed when world around is chancing in astonishing speed. We can only hope that Islam can manage such an immense chance, but this can happen only if its adherents realize the real reasons for the current weakness of Islamic world.
Christianity did undergo just this kind of change a few hundred years ago. This progress has paid handsome dividends to societies in which this change was successful. These societies benefited immensely from the loss of position of mental dictatorship that the Christian religion had enjoyed in these societies for centuries.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 12th of February 2012)