Are the assassins in Assassin's Creed terrorists

On April 28, 1192, Konrad von Montferrat, Christian King of Jerusalem, accompanied only by two knights, walked through the alleys of the fortress city of Tire. He had gone to dinner with the Bishop of Beauvais because the royal kitchen was deplorably emptied. In the alleys Konrad met, as it is said, two monks who seemed to be waiting for him. The Arab chronicler El Imad reports: "After he had eaten and drunk plentifully, he said goodbye to his host in a good mood and was about to get on his horse when two men attacked him with knife wounds." Konrad soon died; According to one report, the assassins were overwhelmed and questioned under torture: "They both boasted that they had served God as a weapon and that they belonged to the sect of the assassins."

Murder as God's weapon, Islamic perpetrators, not afraid of their own death, disguised as monks - the news sent a new shiver through the Christian world of the Middle East. If even the King of Jerusalem was not safe from the long arm of the Assassins, how great must their power be?

Your name haunts the centuries like an evil spook, symbolizing terror and horror. In 1332 a cleric warned "against the assassins, who are cursed and shunned. They thirst for human blood, like the devil they turn into angels of light by adopting the gestures, clothing, language and customs of many peoples. As wolves in sheep's clothing they take death upon them as soon as they are recognized. " In 1818 the orientalist Joseph von Hammer described them as "an order of assassins". Today's gamers spend nights in front of the computer game "Assassin's Creed", whose hero fights his way through various ages and was trained by the assassins.

The terror of Paris, Beirut and Tunis certainly evokes completely different memories of that strange Islamic sect whose name stands for "murderer" in many languages. assassin in English and French. Indeed, there are astonishing parallels, even though the "Islamic State" (IS) that contemporary terrorists refer to is Sunni and the assassins were a sect of Shiite origin. Their killers accepted their own death as well as the murderers of Paris. Protection from such assassins is as difficult as in Konrad's time. And then, as now, the perpetrators were young men, fanatical and manipulated by a sect who promised them eternal fame and all the joys of paradise. The assassins strove for a god state and an end to the existing order. They were, wrote Bernhard Lewis in 1967 in his standard work "Die Assassinen" (from which some source citations are taken), "in a relationship without a historical example: in the planned, systematic and long-term use of terror as a political weapon". And here, too, like IS, they challenged powers that were militarily much stronger.

In a poem they boasted of their superiority: "Brothers, when the hour of triumph comes and the happiness of this and the next world accompanies us, a single warrior on foot can terrify a king, even if he is over 100,000 mounted feature."

The Venetian world traveler Marco Polo reported in 1299, albeit by hearsay: "When the old man wanted to send men out to kill someone, he gave them the order to give them a certain drink. And if they slept, he had them brought to his castle. There they awoke in his palace. " The death row inmates were then taken to beautiful gardens where milk and wine flowed. “And there were women and mistresses there,” says Marco Polo, “the most beautiful in the world, they played instruments, sang and danced more wonderfully than other women, and the young men enjoyed them. They thought they were already in paradise to be."

But there was an unhappy awakening on hard bunks in the castle. But the old man promised: If they killed who he named and died in the process, they would return straight to those gardens of enjoyment: "Nobody escaped his death if the old man had intended this for him."

The castle, the gardens, the ancients: they really existed, as embellished as such reports were. The ruins of the Alamut fortress rise steeply on a rock in the wild mountains of western Iran, a huge, eerie castle. It was the center of power for the assassins, the center of their power. But they were more than a secret sect. Emerging from the Ishmaelites in the 11th century, a split from the Shiites, they might spiritually live in a delusional world, but their power was very real and extended over a considerable area that included parts of Iran and Syria. And their interests were more complex and worldly than their appalled victims suspected.

Despite all the differences, the rise of the murder sect also has similarities with the IS caliphate state. Both came about when an old order broke up. In a world that is out of joint, fundamentalist salvation teachings have it easy. In Iraq, the unfortunate US invasion of 2003 overthrew a brutal regime, but aroused even worse spirits until the country sank into chaos and violence. IS is also a product of this war. A millennium earlier, a world had also fallen apart. By the middle of the eleventh century, roughly along today's border between Turkey and Syria, two great empires had faced each other. They waged countless wars and yet viewed each other not without respect: the Greco-Christian Byzantium and the Arab empires around the legendary Caliphate of Baghdad. "Two stars in the night" are the two high cultures, wrote an Islamic scholar.

But these stars faded. Turkish horsemen, especially the Seljuks, conquered Asia Minor, the heartland of Byzantium, Baghdad and large stretches of the Middle East. Then the crusaders from the west invaded the Holy Land, spreading murder and terror and took Jerusalem in 1099. The world burned, the fire fed the hatred. From this hatred grew the assassins.

First they appeared in the Iranian mountains of Quhistan as liberators from the Seljuks. They sent their feared horsemen to quench the uprising. But the first great leader of the assassins, Hasan-i-Sabah, lured the crowd into an ambush in the ravines near Alamut in 1092. Militarily, however, he was not up to the Turks in the long run; and so he devised another method, in the name of pure doctrine: the suicide bombing.

The first victim was Seljuq vizier Nizam al-Mulk. Hassan told the murderers: "The killing of this devil is the beginning of bliss." What happened next, reports an Ismaili source: "A man named Bu Tahir Arrani, disguised as a Sufi, approached the sedan chair Nizam al Mulks, which was carried from the audience hall to his wives' tent, and stabbed him with a knife. While he was stabbing, he suffered he martyrdom. "

Most of the victims were Muslims, as is the case with IS today. Organized as a secret society, the assassins first sent their murderers against Sunni enemies such as the Seljuks; and it is a nasty irony of history that Sunni IS today only offers Shiites death or conversion.

A kadi in Isfahan, known as a bitter enemy of the assassins, always wore armor out of caution and was escorted by guards. In vain: he died during Friday prayers in the mosque; the one praying next to him was an assassin in disguise. Wherever the assassins occupied larger areas, they soon established a religious terror regime, even in the city of Isfahan. A popular uprising swept them out.

Often the fear was even more effective than the terror itself. The Koran scholar Fachr al-Din was attacked by an assassin who, like the assassins in Paris, shouted religious slogans: "I want to slit your stomach because you mocked us from the desk ! " The scholar, it is said, bought himself free, but from then on never said a bad word about the sect. And many rulers paid high protection money to Alamut to keep the stabbers away.

Threat of the assassins to Sultan Saladin, 1177

"Others before you said similar things and we destroyed them. Nobody could help them."

Their crimes aroused helpless hatred. Islamic theologians preached: "It is the duty of sultans and kings to seize and kill them in order to cleanse the surface of this dirt." It is more meritorious to kill an assassin "than 70 unbelievers".

In the 12th century, Egypt was the strongest Arab-Muslim power. Despite being harassed by the crusaders, the rulers in Cairo feared the assassins so much that they set up a draconian regiment of internal security: "Al-Mamun ordered all unknowns to the local population to be removed. Anyone who was noticed as unusual should be arrested at the city limits and to interrogate. The same is to be done with the camel drivers. " Al-Mamum registered all of Cairo's residents and even used female spies "to make inquiries in every house".

Islamic societies, generally tolerant, hardened under the threat not unlike the democracies of the West today. Declared arch enemies of Islam, they became a bit more like the enemy in the fight against terrorism. The Seljuq leader Abbas had a horrific massacre carried out among Ismailis and pyramids built from the skulls of the slain. But he did not break the power of Alamut.

It went so far that its new head, Hassan II, described himself as a descendant of the Prophet and announced the coming of the last day. And it reached into Syria, which was plagued by wars and crusaders. Promises of salvation met with open ears here. Following the example of Alamut, the assassins built a huge castle, Masyaf, which still exists. Their charismatic leader Raschid al-Din, called "The Old Man of the Mountains", ruled here - a title shrouded in fear, which posterity transferred to all assassin rulers. Rashid al-Din also combined messianic fanaticism with cold power politics. For the Christians he was a bogeyman, but they were seldom a target, mostly only in the case of concrete conflicts of interest. Raschid's activities primarily affected the Crusaders' Muslim enemies. And the most important of these enemies was Sultan Saladin, ruler of Egypt.

Of all people, Saladin, the greatest military leader in Islam, who united so many Muslims under his banner to drive out the crusaders, who was later immortalized in "Nathan the Wise" as the epitome of wisdom and tolerance. The assassins of Masyaf envied his power and nimbus, in 1175 the murderers sneaked into his camp. They killed an emir who discovered them, but were then hacked to pieces by the guards' sabers.

Rashid al-Din, master of terror, had enough disciples ready to die. They wrapped themselves in the rift of Saladin's army in 1176 and attacked him while he led his soldiers against a fortress. The armor, which he wore under his robes as a precaution, saved him. From then on, he is said to have not let anyone near him whom he did not know.

The sultan was not the kind of man who accepted this. He besieged Masyaf, admittedly in vain, because the Crusaders stabbed him in the back. Saladin threatened that he would come back and wipe out the sect. The "old man from the mountains" is said to have written to him: "By God, it's amazing to see a fly buzzing in the elephant's ear. Others before you said similar things, and we destroyed them. Nobody could help them. " It was not until 1270 that one of Saladin's successors, the warlord Baibars, destroyed the rule of Masyaf.

Why the assassins stabbed King Conrad in Tire in 1192 is unclear. The murder happened during the Third Crusade, Saladin had taken Jerusalem and pushed the Christians back to the coast. That is why Konrad stayed there in the fortress of Tire. But he was enemies with the most famous leader of the Crusaders, the Englishman Richard the Lionheart. Lewis thinks it is the most likely theory that the Assassins were in league with Lionheart. Though he had massacred thousands of Muslims, he was Saladin's and Konrad's enemy.

Christians also had plenty of fanatics. The dreaded Knightly Order of the Templars even forced the Assassins to pay protection money at times. The Templars were no less intoxicated with holy war than the radical Ismailis. The death of a king caused catastrophe and dynastic succession battles in the feudal world. But if the childless grand master of a knightly monk order was murdered, according to a chronicle, "an equally qualified person will immediately take his place".

The "last day" that Hassan II had conjured up was already near, also for the assassins. In the middle of the 13th century, the Mongol storm from Inner Asia destroyed empires and cities from Russia to Baghdad like a black cloud. In 1256 the huge Mongolian army reached Alamut, which their Khan did not want to have behind them. He ordered: "Don't spare anyone who lives there, not even the children in the crib." The warriors of God held out for three years, reports Marco Polo, "and the besiegers could not take Alamut. They would never have been able to do so if the besieged had had enough food. Only when this was over did the Mongols take the castle and they did." killed everyone. Since then there has never been an old man on the mountain, nor has there been an assassin. "