Earthquake Caricature: Charlie Hebdo is reminiscent of the Crusaders' acts
The French tabloid “Charlie Hebdo,” known for its offensive content, attacked our Prophet (saas) by publishing a disrespectful image in 2006, depicting him as a terrorist and murderer by replacing his turban with an aggressive symbol. Then, this act provoked a strong reaction from the Muslim government and communities around the world. In 2015, the newspaper was attacked and burnt, and there was the loss of several staff members. This incident was internationally condemned.
In the wake of a devastating earthquake, said to be equal to the force of 500 atomic bombs, that has impacted over 20 million people, causing over 46,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries, the people of Turkey and Syria are in dire need of sympathy and support. However, instead of offering compassion, the same newspaper callously published images of dilapidated buildings with the sarcastic caption, “No need to send tanks!”
This newspaper represents a dangerous and racist ideology gaining support from the growing far-right movement in the West. This ideology seeks to demonise and attack Islam and Muslims, promoting violence and bigotry as a solution to what they perceive as a threat. They want us to feel powerless and oppressed so that they can use our vulnerability to further their fanatical mission to wipe out Muslims and Islam. It is no coincidence that events like those in history and similar reactions have been gotten from the same quarters.
Earthquake and Victimisation of Muslims in History
Throughout the history of Islam, the regions of Syria and southern Turkey have experienced numerous devastating earthquakes, from the early days of Islamic conquests in the first century of the Hijra to the present day. Sadly, enemies of the Muslim community have exploited some of these natural disasters to further their own agendas, such as the notorious 460AH/1068CE earthquake. These adversaries included the emperors of the Roman-Byzantine state, who sought to victimise Muslims in the borders dividing their empires, such as the northern Syrian regions, Malatya, Gaziantep, Adana, Adyaman, and Aleppo.
Ibn al-Qalansi, in his book “History of Damascus,” explains: “On Tuesday, the tenth of the month of Jamada al-awal of the year, a major earthquake occurred in Palestine, most of the houses in Ramla and most of the citadel were destroyed, the mosque of the city was shaken, and most of the people died under rubbles. According to narrations, a teacher died in the school with 200 or so boys when the building collapsed on them. No one reportedly asked after the boys because the earthquake had utterly destroyed their families.”
The influence of this massive earthquake on the security situation in the kingdoms of Damascus, which extended from the south of modern-day Turkey (Euphrates Island) and Damascus south to the Arabian Peninsula and the Hijaz, is discussed by Ibn al-Jawzi’s grandson in Miraat al-Zaman, citing several traders. The message read: “In Rajab, a letter came from several merchants: We arrived in Damascus, there is no power there, there is no power to buy or sell, the people are devastated, and no one can leave or enter... “It was broadcast over the entire area extending to the east.
It seems that the scale of the disaster, the extent of the destruction and the preoccupation of people with themselves are great that the Byzantine emperor Romanos Digenis took advantage of this situation and decided to attack Damascus. As the Muslims marched on the Roman King Emperor, they were defeated, and some of them were murdered. The Greeks then relocated between their hometown and Manbij. The Roman King Emperor travelled with 300,000 warriors from Constantinople to Damascus and stayed there for sixteen days. They burned many villages; their men were killed, and their women were taken prisoner, leaving the people of Aleppo terrified.
The famous grandson of Ibn al-Jawzi, Yusuf bin Kazoglu, in his work titled “Mirror of Time”, tells us in detail, “the attack of Byzantium on the regions of southern Turkey and northern Syria: came with a thousand men...The Muslims were defeated. The Romans conquered the fortresses of Hisn al-Akrad and Artah (near Aleppo), which the (Turkish and Arab) conquerors had taken before”. Most people fled to Manbij (close to modern-day Southern Turkey) as the Romans advanced there... They assassinated the Muslims who refused to accept their protection, demolished the old castle wall constructed with city stones, and collected everyone inside to use it as their base of operations.
The Byzantine Emperor eventually had to return to Constantinople (Istanbul) due to the high cost and lack of supplies and food. Otherwise, he would have slaughtered and captured all the countries of Damascus, perhaps even invaded them all. In the next century, when an earthquake occurred in 552AH/ 1158CE, perhaps during the calamity period of the Muslims and while they were busy rebuilding their cities during the Crusaders conflict, on the shores of Damascus from Antakya in the north to Gaza, Asqalan and all of Palestine in the south. Fear of being exploited by the Crusaders who occupied the cities made Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd Zengī, the ruler of the famous Zengi state, be on the alert, as it was a major earthquake that destroyed many cities of Damascus.
Staying at Guard
In fact, we observe that Ibn al-Athir, referring to this incident and Nūr al-Dīn’s significant role in it, said the following in his book Al Tarikh al Bahir fi al Dawla al Atabekiya fi al Musil (The magnificent history of the Atabey state in Mosul): There was a severe earthquake with great tremors that destroyed and killed people, the most severe of which was in the fort of Hama and Shaizar, and their surroundings, such as the fort of Barin and al-Maarat. The creatures were destroyed beneath the destruction, and the walls and houses were destroyed. If God Almighty had not given the Muslims Nūr al-Dīn, who gathered troops and preserved the land, the Franks would have entered the country without a fight.”
The earthquake in 552 AH. was deadly and devastating, a major disaster among the disasters that struck Damascus and southern Anatolia. For centuries, we have seen the recurrence of such disasters because of the friction of the Arabian tectonic plate with the Anatolian plate and then the fault line extending to Damascus and the Red Sea in the south, in the Eastern Anatolian fault zone, which comes to the centre from the east of Turkey. We also see that there has not been a century that these regions were not shaken by at least 6 to 8 earthquakes, and some of them are deadly and destructive, like the earthquake that occurred in 552AH. during the reign of Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd.
When we reflect upon these events, we witness how disasters in the Muslim world draw the attention of the Western world. Following the earthquake in 460 AH/1068 CE, the Byzantine Emperor exploited the chaos to launch a ruthless attack upon the cities of southern Anatolia and Syria, resulting in the deaths of countless innocent Muslims. Meanwhile, Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd gleaned valuable lessons from this tragedy. Thus, during his reign, when a similar disaster occurred, he rallied his forces to defend the borders against the Crusaders and undertook a rapid reconstruction effort to safeguard Islamic cities from the malevolent intentions and treachery of the Crusaders.
The callous and insensitive behaviour displayed by “Charlie Hebdo” towards the suffering of Muslims in Turkey and Syria during this catastrophic event is reminiscent of the old Crusader tendencies exhibited by their Crusader and Byzantine ancestors. Today, it is disheartening that the media is more focused on covering the Ukraine war than providing adequate coverage of this tragedy. Even some Western writers have expressed their disappointment in the media’s reaction. British journalist and writer David Hearst pointed out that while his country spent $3.2 billion on weapons for the Ukraine war, it only provided a fraction to help those affected by the earthquake. He expressed shock and disapproval at the fact that 23 million people had donated only 6 million dollars.
*This article was translated by Shakeeb Hasan
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