To Mecca thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that burn…

(Flecker, 1947:98)


Since the revelation to the Prophet Muhammed on the mountain near Mecca in 610 AD, there has been struggle between the Christian cross and the Islamic crescent for mastery over Europe. If the Islamic armies had taken Vienna in 1683, Europe might all be Muslim today. If the Crusades had held the Holy Land Islam might be confined to Saudi Arabia. The legacies of the Crusades, including the attacks by Catholics on Orthodox believers (the Catholic crusaders sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Greek Orthodox empire in 1204 and started a 900-year feud between Catholic and Orthodox Churches) are still influencing life in Europe. The conflicts of Islam and Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic, and the persecution of Jews by Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are all longstanding ‘religious’ troubles which still shape European life. Anyone who doubts the force of religious issues needs only to think of Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia.