Saturday, April 30, 2005

The true tale of Crusades

The last part

“The Crusaders” was derived from the Latin word crux meaning “cross,” this then in turn was a reference to the biblical ruling that good Christians always carry a cross.

Second Crusade:

After the First Crusade in 1096 AD set up Christian kingdoms all along the coast of Israel and Lebanon, of course the Fatimid caliphs who had ruled that area before were very upset. By 1144, a Mamluk general, Imad-ed-din Zangi, had managed to unite enough Turks and Arabs in his army to attack the Christian kingdoms. Zangi did not take Jerusalem, but he did take the Syrian city of Edessa nearby.

In Europe, people were very upset to learn that the Turks had taken Edessa. The Pope ordered Bernard of Clairvaux (in France) to preach a second crusade to take it back and defeat Zangi. The young king of France, Louis VII, agreed to go, along with the queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. So did Conrad III of Germany, the Holy Roman Emperor. At this time Louis was 23 years old and Eleanor was 22. Conrad was 51 years old.
From beginning to end, though, this crusade was not successful. Most of Conrad's soldiers were killed as they marched through Turkey. When Louis and Conrad reached Jerusalem, they decided to attack Damascus, which would have made up for the loss of Edessa. But their attack on Damascus failed, and the kings and queens went home in disgust.

When the Mamluk general Imad-ed-din Zangi died, he was succeeded by his son Nureddin, who added Damascus to the land his father had gathered together. And after Nureddin died in 1174 AD, a strong Kurdish general named Salah al-din (called Saladin in the West) took over. Salah al-din soon conquered Egypt from the Fatimids, and then he was strong enough to begin fighting the Christian kingdoms in Israel and Lebanon. In 1187, Salah al-din took Jerusalem.

Third Crusade:

Again the people of Europe were very upset. The pope urged the kings of Europe to unite against Salah al-din, and in the end Richard the Lionhearted, the king of England, Philip Augustus, the king of France, and Frederick Barbarossa, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, all went to Jerusalem. A special tax in both France and England raised money for the crusade.

But the Third Crusade, like the Second, ran into a lot of trouble. Frederick died on the way to Jerusalem, drowned while he was taking a bath in a creek. Most of his soldiers went home. Meanwhile Richard and Philip went by boat to Jerusalem. Richard conquered the island of Cyprus on the way to Jerusalem, but he conquered it from a relative of the Roman Emperor, who therefore became Richard's enemy. The French and English armies beseiged Acre (AH-kerr), the main seaport of the area, and managed to take it, but only after a siege lasting almost two years. Richard killed 2700 prisoners taken at Acre because their ransom was not paid by his deadline.

But after the victory at Acre, Philip had had enough of the crusade. He went home to France, where he kept busy attacking Richard's possessions in France. All alone, Richard and his English soldiers could not beat Salah al-din, and finally in 1192 he and Salah al-din made peace, on very reasonable terms. Christian pilgrims were to come and go freely from Jerusalem, and Salah al-din promised not to attack what was left of the Christian kingdom for many years. Richard left for home.

But on his way home across Germany, Richard was captured by the new German emperor, Henry VI. Henry disliked Richard because Richard had promised to support King Tancred of Sicily against Henry. Henry kept Richard in jail and sent messengers to Richard's brother John demanding a huge ransom in exchange for releasing the king. In the end John had to pay more than three times the normal amount of money England made in a year. John had to call for new taxes. Richard finally got home in 1194.

A fleeting look at Salah-din: When the First Crusade defeated the Fatimid Caliphs and captured Jerusalem in 1099 AD, people in Egypt and Syria gradually decided that the Fatimids were too weak to rule anymore. One of their generals, Saladin (Salah ad-Din ibn Ayyub in Arabic), took over control from the Fatimids and founded the Ayyubid dynasty.
Saladin was Kurdish, from Tikrit in northern Iraq. He came to Egypt in 1168 as an assistant to his uncle, who was a general and then became the vizier of the last Fatimid caliph. After Saladin’s uncle died the next year, Saladin took power for himself. In 1173 Saladin's brother Turanshah conquered Yemen, in the Arabian Peninsula, which gave Saladin control of trade from India through the Red Sea. He was a very successful general who followed the Mamluk generals Zangi and Nureddin in taking back most of the territory that had been lost to the First Crusade. He won back Jerusalem in 1187 AD.

Saladin was a Sunni Muslim, so he brought back Sunni worship to Egypt and Syria, even though the Fatimids had been Shiites. He opened a series of madrasas, or schools, which helped to bring Sunni faith to the people, and also spread other learning from Iran to Egypt and Syria. This also brought the Ayyubids closer to the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. When Saladin died in 1193 AD, he was buried in Damascus, next to the great Umayyad Mosque there.

After his death, Saladin’s sons and relatives broke up his empire so they could each have their own small kingdom to rule. There were small kingdoms at Damascus, Aleppo, Hims, Hamat, and Diyar Bakr. But the Ayyubid sultans of Egypt were the richest and so they mostly controlled all the smaller kingdoms.
The later Ayyubids bought Turkish and Mongol slaves to be their army rather than fighting themselves. These slaves were called the Mamluks. But little by little the Ayyubid sultans had less and less power and the Mamluks got more and more power. Finally in 1250 AD the Mamluks took over Egypt entirely. By 1260 most of the other Ayyubid kingdoms were also taken over by the Mamluks.

Fourth Crusade:

In 1200 AD, Pope Innocent began to ask the leaders of Europe to participate in a fourth crusade, again attempting to take Jerusalem away from the Ayyubids who ruled there. Saladin had died in 1193 AD, and the Crusaders thought his successors were weaker and would be easier to beat. This time they would try something different. Instead of coming down from the north, the European armies would sail south to Egypt, and then come up from there to Jerusalem.

In order to get enough ships to take everyone to Egypt, the armies needed help from the great sea power, Venice. In 1202, the Crusaders came to Venice to get their ships, but they didn't have enough money to pay for them. So the Venetians said, "Okay, you can pay us later, but in exchange you have to fight for us to get back the city of Zara (in modern Hungary) that went over to the Hungarians a few years ago." The Crusaders agreed to do this, even though Zara was a Christian city. The Pope didn't like this and excommunicated all the Crusaders.

The Crusaders succeeded in taking Zara, and were about to go on to Egypt with their ships when Alexius Comnenus, who had recently been thrown out of Constantinople, asked the Crusaders to help him get into power again. He would pay for the rest of the Crusade, once he was back on his throne. Instead of going to Egypt, the Crusaders agreed to this plan, and in 1203 (with the help of the Venetians) they took Constantinople and put Alexius IV on the throne. But Alexius IV could not raise the money he had promised, and when he tried to raise the money through taxes he became so unpopular that he and his father were killed and a new emperor, Alexius V, got on the throne.

In 1204 the Crusaders and Venetians attacked Constantinople and sacked the city. A lot of the islands which had belonged to the Empire were taken over by the Venetians too. The Crusaders never did go on to Jerusalem, and never fought the Ayyubids at all. They took the piles of money and jewels and gold that they had captured in the sack of Constantinople and they went home. The Pope agreed to let them back into the Church.

Fifth Crusade:

The Fifth Crusade In 1216 AD, Pope Honorius III succeeded in getting some more Europeans to agree to try again to conquer Jerusalem from the Ayyubids. This time, the Pope would be in charge instead of European kings. Friedrich II of the Holy Roman Empire wanted to come along, but the Pope said no, this crusade was for the Pope, not for kings. The Crusade went south to Egypt, following the original plan of the Fourth Crusade. In 1218, the Crusaders made an alliance with the Seljuk sultan Kay Kaus I, and attacked the port of Damietta in Egypt. There was a long siege, in which many people on both sides died of disease. In 1219, the Crusaders did finally manage to capture Damietta, but then they immediately began to fight among themselves over who would be in charge there.

In 1221, the Crusaders marched towards Cairo, to try to take over more of Egypt, but the Ayyubids just used the Nile River to flood all the roads, trapping the Crusaders. The Crusaders had to make peace in order to get out. They gave Damietta back to the Ayyubids and went home.

Sixth Crusade:

The Sixth Crusade Soon after the failure of the Fifth Crusade, Friedrich II, the Holy Roman Emperor, decided he would try his luck on Crusade, since he hadn't been allowed to go on the last one.
Friedrich marched on Acre, in Syria. But not everyone supported him. The political problems between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines that had troubled Friedrich at home continued to be a problem in Syria.

Then Friedrich got an offer from al-Kamil, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt. Al-Kamil wanted to put his brother in power in Syria. He would hand over Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem to Friedrich in exchange for help from Friedrich's army. Friedrich agreed, and crowned himself King of Jerusalem in 1229 AD.
But only a few months later Friedrich had to go home to Germany because of problems there. He left Jerusalem without an army to protect it. The truce held for a while, as the Ayyubids got weaker and weaker. But in 1244, the Mamluks, who were rising into power in West Asia, took Jerusalem.

Seventh Crusade:

The Seventh Crusade The Seventh Crusade was not started by any Pope, but by King Louis IX of France, who became known later as Saint Louis because of his great devotion to God. After the Mamluks took Jerusalem in 1244 AD, Louis announced his Crusade (in 1245). Louis raised money from church tithes and then sailed to Cyprus in 1248 (when he was 34 years old).

From Cyprus, Louis attacked and took the port of Damietta in Egypt, which had caused so much trouble in the Fifth Crusade. The Ayyubids were very weak now and could not stop him. Using Damietta as a base, Louis then attacked Cairo, but the Mamluks arrived and defeated him. Louis was taken prisoner, and to get him back the French had to pay a lot of gold and give Damietta back.

Louis and his army left for Acre (AH-ker) in Syria. In Acre, he tried to negotiate with the Mongols to get their help against the Mamluks, but the Mongols weren't interested. By 1254, Louis (now forty years old) had run out of money. Also, his mother, Blanche of Castile, died. She had been ruling France while Louis was away, and with her dead Louis had to go home and take charge.

Eighth Crusade:

The Eighth Crusade After Louis IX of France had gotten France organized, following the death of his mother, Blanche, he wanted to try another Crusade. The Seventh Crusade, which Louis led, had ended in failure in 1254 AD, so in 1270, when he was 56 years old, Louis tried again. But he started by going to Tunis, to get a base in North Africa. At Tunis plague struck his camp, and Louis himself died of it. That was the end of the eighth and last Crusade.

And the 'Kingdom of heaven' continued to be ruled by Musilms till 1917. In 1917, during World War I, Jerusalem was captured by British forces under Gen. Edmund Allenby.

The rest as they say is History!

The Crusade Cuffer ..... Truly told

Part-I ( In a three part series)

Sir Ridley Scott's dazzling epic of the Crusades has attracted flak from Cristian and Islamic scholars, but will its combination of spiritual devotion and gore draw audiences into the fold?

Set in 1185, it follows Balian (Orlando Bloom looking at his most Christ-like), a blacksmith in rural France, who is claimed as his illegitimate son by a Crusader knight, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) and taken to Jerusalem. Balian has lost his faith after the suicide of his wife, but slowly regains it at the court of saintly Baldwin IV (Edward Norton), the King of Jerusalem, who practices and preaches tolerance between Christians and Muslims. However, zealots on both sides destroy Baldwin's 'kingdom of heaven' and when his power-hungry son-in-law Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) succeeds him, the scene is set for a confrontation with the Saracen General Saladin (Ghassan Massound) which leads to Balian's heroic leadership of the siege of Jerusalem.

The film chooses unambiguously to place the blame for the Crusader-Saracen conflict, which causes the eventual downfall of Baldwin's kingdom, squarely at the door of fundamentalists in both camps, but overall it is the Christian fundamentalists who come off worst of all. At a time when the Catholic church has just elected as its leader a cardinal who has previously described other faiths as 'gravely deficient', Kingdom of Heaven presents a deeply unappealing picture of all those who feel their religious belief is superior to any other. Lusignan, the new king of Jerusalem, is egged on to battle by the Knights Templar, brandishing their crosses and talking of 'killing a Muslim to get to heaven'.

Chronology: Nine crusades - wars over the Holy Land sanctioned by the Pope - took place from the 11th to the 13th century.

1095 First Crusade begins after Pope Urban II urges Christian Europe to reclaim Jerusalem. They succeed in doing so.
1137 Revered Muslim leader Saladin is born in Tikrit.{ Modern day Iraq } By 1169 he is Sultan of Egypt.
1147 Second Crusade begins.
1174 Baldwin, 13, takes throne of Jerusalem. He wants to create a place where all faiths can coexist.
1180 Saladin and King Baldwin sign a truce, but it is broken within a year.
1185-86 Kingdom of Heaven begins in fragile peace. Baldwin dies 1185. Guy de Lusignan succeeds him.
1187 Battle of Hattin. Saladin conquers the Christian army and recaptures Jerusalem.
1189-92 Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart attempts to retake the city but is forced to abandon plan. Saladin agrees a treaty giving Christian pilgrims special rights.
1193 Saladin dies.

(With thanks The Guardain)

Empror Salah-u-din's grave ( Damascus Syria )
Pic Sam

The symbol of Crusaders {Crusades: The most important battle in history}
Pic Sam

Friday, April 29, 2005

Cat -- 18th Avenue -- Stevens { Yousef Islam.... Watch out for my post on his 'wonderful life'}
Pic Sam

Thursday, April 28, 2005


You were my mother and my friend,
Which was unusual,
Somehow our characters still blend:
Your wisdom and my will.
I Turned, and you were there for me;
I spoke you understood.
I felt cared for, but also free;
You loved, and I was good.
I' m fortunate that I was born
To someone just like you;
I love you still.

Though you are gone,
You live in what I do.

A loving composition I couldn't help adapt!

Nothing to see

Nessa's lovely rendition

I had forgotten the color of your eyes
How bright they are, on nights like this
Don't know how I could've, though
That intensity isn't a normal trait
Or, at least it isn't one I commonly see
They always caught me off guard
Especially in the morning,
when I found them staring at me as I woke up
They say you can read a persons soul through their eyes, did you know?
Maybe it's true, but I hope not.
Why, you ask?
Because, there was nothing to see beyond those bright, bright orbs of yours

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Let the world be suffused over with Love and Peace!
Pic Sam

My idea of a weekend
Pic Sam

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Atention folks
Pic Sam

Friday, April 22, 2005

God's Rottweiler is Benedict XVI

Conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the new Pope

I am a liberal guy. I hate rigid posturing. Extremism always reeks. It also encourages a myopic world order. Hot heads and ultraists often have a propensity to think narrow because they are unable to accomodate conflicting views. There is no room for any debate or a different point of view. Only fake positioning. And, I found them the same everwhere. Across the major faiths -- The Jewish Ultra-orthodox, Hindu fanatics, Muslim hard-nosed clerics and Christian conservatives. All dogmatists of the world squarely fall in this bracket. No dissent please, only sermons!

However I have a word to say for Ratzinger. Infact for all of his ilk. The perception is that Ratzinger is not so interested in diversity, he wants a return to the fundamentals, to what he perceives as the essentials of Catholic teaching. Dubbed 'God's rottweiler' and 'the enforcer', Ratzinger, who turned 78 on April 17, 2005 served more than 20 years under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office once known as the Holy Inquisition. His hardliner approach to dissidents earned him the tough reputation when it came to enforcing the doctrine of the church. The new Pope is against-- hold your breath -- Abortion, Contaception, Condoms, cloning, homosexuality, euthanasia, masturbation , artificial insemination, music, premarital intercourse. Everything that he thinks is ethically covoluted and morally wrong. Doesn't he sound like any Muslim cleric or any Jewish rabbi?

We have examples of many religious leaders who tend to be flexible. Personally, I think only hardliners and those who toe a consistent line end up being more reverned. 'Radicalsim' excites and here in lies the rub. These chaps -- Ratzy and co -- refuse to bulge and that is exactly what makes them all the more controversial, all the more provocative. And all the more loved. Ratzinger, now Benedict the 16th, happens to be just one of these ardent, hard-nosed fellas. As head of the catholic church he automatically gets catapulted to the supreme position of the most widely followed faith in the world.

It is altogether a different matter if much of what the new Pope believes any sense or not. Science says it doesn't. How can the scrounge of AIDS can be fought in the precarious modern times without the use of preservatives, for instance. Abstinence, says the Church. But no one really abstains because not many have a super faith like Ratzinger. Again, the vision of a brave new world where wealthy elites have access to expensive genetic technologies and the poorer classes do not, has provided much moral ammunition for those who oppose human cloning. Therapeutic cloning, which is often misunderstood as reproductive cloning, is less controversial than the latter as it does not involve the creating of an individual being. Instead, vital stem cells are extracted from human embryos, in order to generate tissues and organs for transplant. The goal of this process is strictly to harvest stem cells, resulting in the creation of 'cloned organs', which can be used to treat heart disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer. And then one thinks of a small matter like Masturbation! Can you people stop fantisizing? I don't think so.

Benedict the sixteenth is not completely apolitical. Ethics and mores apart, the Pope has some strong political views as well. For instance, he opposes Turkey's inclusion into the EU because it is a Muslim country and will dilute the Christian character of an essentially Christian continent. Not bad, PaPa. Again the Pope has had some Swastika connections in the past. Anti-Semitic. Not really, says his aides-- he was in 1941 enrolled against will in Hitler Youth. In 1945 Ratzinger deserted the Nazi army and returned home. He was captured by Americans as the war ended. { God, they didn't even leave the future Pope -- Stupid, how could they know he was so pious} !!! June 19, 1945 Ratzinger was released from US POW camp and he caught the ride home on milk truck. In the winter of 1945 Ratzinger began the study for priesthood in Friesing. Sixty years later on April 19, 2005, he became Benedict XVI.

From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi, the new Pope has been called many things. Some nasty. Albeit I don't agree with much of what he believes in, I still respect the guy. I salute him for his strong beliefs and steadfast stances. I roughly have the same view about my own faith-gurus and others who stand morally correct and believe in their values. There is something about the hardliners that endears them to you. I don't understand what. Perhaps a strait-laced no-nonsense attitude. Strong men of infallible faith. And in Ratzinger's case, God's leash also.

I hope Papacy changes the Pope, as it touched his worthy predecessor.

Long Live the Holy Pope

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Your friendly next door dictator

Pakistan Prez Gen Pervez Musharraf visits India; Watches Cricket and talks peace

He has been called many things. Dictator, Chameleon, Coup-leader, Straight-forward military man, Disciplinarian. You can love this man or loathe him but you simply cannot afford to ignore General Musharraf. He is one of the few modern day Pakistani leaders I like. The man, despite all his shortcomings, sounds sincere. I have my own means of assessing people. There is a gentle ring of frankness about this commando that glosses over his many capers. Of all the Pakistani politicains and most of their Indian counterparts, he scores a distinctive edge. Or may be because he is not a dyed-in real politician. And thats works to his sole benefit.

The General, whip smart as he is, discreetly asked India to invite him. Caught on a wrong footing by the Gen's sudden and keen desire to watch an India-Pakistan Cricket match, India promptly sent an invitation. And that was the begining of it -- a media frenzy, security nightmare, logistics challenge and of course the famed sub-continental hospitality. Once dates were worked out for the Gen's visit, Delhi roads got a much needed scrubbing, the railings got fresh double coats of paint and the Kotla groud -- venue of the match -- came up in record time. Delhi never looked any better. Finally the Gen arrived, along with his charming wife, Begum Sebha and guess what, like always he wowed all!

Much has already been said and realms of newsprint spent about what the man-in-those-countless suits did in India. I don't want to tire my tips. I'll scribble what I noticed has missed many experts. The Gen changed his clothes and changed and changed. Tirelessly. I reckon he is a very fashionable man. Upscale, flashy, modern, well-cut suits for all occassions. He got into his Plane in Pakistan in one suit. Came out in Jaipur in a Pathani-dress. Later in the evening at Delhi airport, the General had a new Jacket and matching pants. Impeccable. If Mush wanted to make a fashion statement he sure did. That he dresses a lot better than a host of Indian politicos goes without saying. In India only Montek Singh Ahluwalia, PM's confidant and deputy chairman planning commission, ties his turban with more e'lan.

Musharraf ran his fingers in his greying hairs a hell lot of times. Everytime he came in his hotel foyer or accompanied Dr. Manmohan singh the Gen kept pushing his silky strands abaft towards the rear of his head. This partcular fidgeting perhaps holds him in good stead and reminds him of his old hairy days. Many of his detractors admit that he has a split-hair personality. His admirers can only grin. One of the wittest things that came out the dialogue process he re-started with India was his remark, " I have come with a new heart". You should have read the next day's newspapers to believe the excitement. Heart transplant, screamed one major daily. A completely New Heart...they went on and on. TV echoed in. He is Media's darling, this man.

Out-of-box is another major expression he popularised in India. Now everyone and his mother thinks out-of-the-box. The auto-driver I bargained with in the morning said, " I won't start the meter and won't quote any fare as well, lets strike a deal; you suggest the fare but mind you, magnanimity must come from the passanger". Talk out-of-the-box, simply lifted from the Gen's assertion that the bigger party-- read India -- must condescend. Last heard the Bollywood beauty Rani Mukerji has got an open-ended invitation to visit Pakistan and shoot there from none other than the Pakistani President himself. What better ways to better ties, cultural and informal. Team-Pakistan beat India hollow at the Kotla grounds. Their Prez was scoring on a different pitch.

The India-Pakistan relations are back on track. Thanks to an impulse felt by my fav dictator!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

fake apologies

Britian says sorry to suspects for ricin blunder
April 16, 2005

I am not surprised by such abominable news items anymore. The Home Office in London has apologized to 10 men placed under controversial anti-terrorist control orders after it linked them to the ricin plot in London. To me it is a plain case of an about turn after putting ten innocent people through the toughest time in their lives for no sins of theirs. It was on the basis of the ricin scare that US secretary of state, egged on by his British cronies, scared the entire ensemble in the august precincts of the UN, one gloomy day. Iraq was soon invaded. The entire region plunged into deep chaos and a nation was caught up in a deep quag, it is still finding itself difficult to extricate from. Many US troops lost their lives and now lie in the Arlington cemetery. Their young lives cruelly cut short. The headstones call them war hero's. An important question however remains unanswered.

Who's war was this. Not America's. Not the average Iraqi's, for sure. The country is one large badland now. Hundreds of thousands have been maimed since. Many tender Iraqi lives were lost, mercilessly executed on roadsides and countryside. No Arlington's here but how can one define an Iraqi solider dead in his modest grave. Perhaps, a small unsung hero. The burden of heartaches and body bags could have been easily avoided but the neocons had already decided otherwise in Washington. London followed in the tracks. Modern historians will never miss to mention significant three developments. That the Gulf war-II was George Bush's personal agenda, that a certain black once-respectable gentleman Collin Powell, was utterly dishonest in his articulation to build the war tempo and Tony Blair, with his shoddy dossier was, well no guesses, a rank opportunist.

Now to the poison panic again. The British government, under Blair, once described as a typical salesman of a second hand car company, attempted to connect the 10 innocent men - who were detained without charge and trial for more than two years before being released under stringent conditions - to the ricin plot. Ricin can be readily precipitated from the remnants of the castor bean mash. Ricin in its toxic form consists of an "A" and "B" chain. The latter part attaches itself to the cell, and the A segment secretes itself into the ribosome, inhibiting protein synthesis. This results in the death of the cell. Victims of ricin poisoning may experience varying symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, headache, and shock that can lead to death. Ricin is 6,000 times more deadly than cyanide.

Spooky enough to make your hair stand up. So, when you have arrests. A bunch of them masterminding the poison plot, imagine the excitement. The British home department was hopping mad. After an agonizing two years the men were let off and the British government officially admitted having made a 'clerical error' when it said the grounds for the measures was that they 'belonged to and have provided support for a network of north African extremists directly involved in terrorist planning in the UK, including the use of toxic chemicals'. Kamel Bourgass, the only guilty bloke, is expected to spend at least 30 years in prison for the ricin conspiracy and the murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake. The rest shall suffer quiet indignation and Britain will add another stain to its colorful raiment.

Sameer Bhat