The Cannibals of Ma'arra

Essay by masamune_date February 2006

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Near the end of November, 1098, soon after taking the Muslim city of Antioch, thousands of Frankish Crusader barbarians surrounded the city of Ma'arra. All the city had was a small untrained urban militia but for two weeks they effectively resisted the crusaders. On December 11, the barbarians agreed with the notables of Ma'arra to spare the lives of the inhabitants if they stopped fighting. Taking the word of the crusaders, the Muslims gathered in their houses and waited the night in fear. The franks arrived at dawn and "for three days put people to the sword, killing more than a hundred thousand people and taking many prisoners". What the barbarians did then was sickening: "In Ma'arra our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots; they impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled", as recorded by the Frank, Radulph of Caen.

Indeed, "the memories of these atrocities, preserved and transmitted by local poets and oral traditon, shaped an image of the Franks that would not easily fade".

The Christians may call their crusades "holy", but they were far from it. To the Muslims, the crusaders and the western nations were nothing but lying, desperate, and cowardly barbarians who massacred thousands of innocent Muslims and Jews. The cannibals of Ma'arra are no myth, as so many Christians believe. The events were recorded by the Christians themselves, as many of other massacres. Even to this day, the Christians and the West believe that the crusaders were holy knights, who fought for pure and good. This isn't surprising, as almost every western history book and encyclpedia only glorifies the crusaders. The reputation the west gives to the Muslims is always violent, evil, and blood-thristy and they say that Islam was spread by war and violence. Indeed, much of the known world...