The current encounter of Muslims with the West is tapping into a long and rich history of conquest, cooperation, fears, and misconceptions. From the earliest days of Islam as a religious and cultural force, Muslims have knocked at the gates of Europe, and some scholars claim that Muslims were among the earliest explorers of the Americas. During the first Islamic century, inhabitants of what is now western Europe watched with mounting alarm as Muslim forces swept across North Africa, into Spain, and briefly to central France. The mobilization of forces by Pope Urban II in the crusading effort to regain “Christian” Jerusalem laid the foundation for the kind of “Crusader- and anti-Crusader” mentality that has influenced attitudes of the Christian West and the Islamic East toward each other for centuries.
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