Noun. Also (earlier) croisade, crusado, (earliest, in sense 1 & 2) cruciat, & other variations.
Also (especially in sense 1) capitalised as Crusade. Late Middle English.
[in early use from mediveal Latin cruciata, from Latin cruc-, crux cross;
late (16) party from French croisade alteration of croisée (from crois CROSS noun)
by assimilation to Spanish, partly from Spanish cruzada (from cruz CROSS noun).]
1 A war or expedition instigated by the Church for alleged religious ends;
(Historical) specifically any of several Christian military expeditions made in the 11th, 12th,
and 13th centuries to recover Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims (frequently in plural). LME
2 obsolete. A papal bull authorising a crusade. LME-L18
3 Historical. In the Spanish kingdoms, a levy of money, originally intended to finance expeditions against the Moors,
afterwards diverted to other purposes. L16
4 obsolete. The symbol of the cross, the badge word by crusaders. E17-E18
5 A vigorous movement or enterprise against poverty or a similar social evil;
a personal campaign undertaken for a particular cause. L18
|(image from Wikipedia)|
In 2001, George W. Bush famously called the War on Terror a 'crusade', language that caused European leaders to collectively cringe considering the Muslim theatres in which this war was set to be conducted. Fair enough; perhaps nothing more than an unfortunate choice of words in an unscripted moment (though the man does have a B.A in History from Yale, so it's hard to be too forgiving on this).
The reason Bush's choice of words caused such alarm is that it recalls The Crusades, the Church-sponsored campaigns to wrest control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslims. More pragmatically, these were bloody, brutal campaigns that dragged on for hundreds of years and ultimately failed in their stated mission. Doubtless, the very notion of the Crusades is exactly the type of war that most nations prosecuting this War on Terror would want to avoid - a clash of two civilisations, with religion at its root.
Today, crusade has generally lost its Christian, religious and crucifix-centred overtones. It does, however, still carry an overzealous and fanatical tone: "Many considered the government's crusade against welfare fraud to be misplaced." Due to this shade of unreasonable fanaticism, and the word's bloody, historical associations, crusade is probably a term one should use with care. But then, if Bush really did believe he was on a mission from God, maybe his choice of words was wholly appropriate.
|Saladin accepting the surrender of Guy de Lusignan after the Battle of Hattin in 1187|
Said Tahsine (1904-1985)
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