Right now I am reading Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, and although I thought it would be more entertaining, it is slower moving and denser than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, it is still rather fascinating, especially when viewed in a contemporary context.
For example, there is an Arabic saying that goes something like, “Arabs only agree with other Arabs to disagree with each other”. From Maalouf’s accounts, you can see how much of the Crusaders’ success — given their numerical inferiority — had to do with the total lack of unity amongst the Arab rulers and peoples in the region. The Europeans further benefitted from the local rivalries by forming alliances, increasing the distrust between Arab rulers, and dividing and conquering. Does it sound familiar?
It is also interesting to read about the Crusaders’ brutality and how an early notion of jihad was born more from a political struggle of a people against ruthless (even at time cannibalistic) foreign invaders. In a similar vain, there is an op-ed in today’s New York Times precisely about the term jihad and its misuse by Western politicians and the media. Check it out: Continue reading