Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam
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Here is the first panoptic history of the long struggle between the Christian West and Islam.
In this dazzlingly written, acutely nuanced account, Andrew Wheatcroft tracks a deep fault line of animosity between civilizations. He begins with a stunning account of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, then turns to the main zones of conflict: Spain, from which the descendants of the Moors were eventually expelled; the Middle East, where Crusaders and Muslims clashed for years; and the Balkans, where distant memories spurred atrocities even into the twentieth century. Throughout, Wheatcroft delves beneath stereotypes, looking incisively at how images, ideas, language, and technology (from the printing press to the Internet), as well as politics, religion, and conquest, have allowed each side to demonize the other, revive old grievances, and fuel across centuries a seemingly unquenchable enmity. Finally, Wheatcroft tells how this fraught history led to our present maelstrom. We cannot, he argues, come to terms with today’s perplexing animosities without confronting this dark past.
to fill the rowing benches. Yet others freely chose the life of the oarsman. The corsairs of the Barbary Coast were, in effect, the shareholders of a business enterprise, where they supplied their muscle power and risked their lives for part of the profits of their raids. The Slav Uskoks of Dalmatia were freemen under the protection of the Holy Roman Empire. They followed an old profession: banditry by sea had been a part of Mediterranean life for millennia.23 Thus, on the same rowing bench there
puppets. Justifying both the eighteenth-century dismemberment of Poland and nineteenth-century approaches to reshaping the Balkans was the belief that their barbaric peoples would benefit from “Enlightenment.”41 These perceptions had deep roots. In 1572 a French prince, Henry de Valois, had ruled briefly in Warsaw. His court poet could see nothing good about the Poles and their land: Farewell Poland Farewell deserted plains Eternally covered with snow and ice Oh savage people, arrogant and
evil view by the great peaks. Spain possessed four borders: the land frontier with Europe, a coastline on the Atlantic, a long Mediterranean shoreline, and, across a narrow strip of water, Africa. The Muslim conquest of Spain was perhaps inevitable from the day in 681 that an Arab general, Uqba bin Nafi, stood on the shores of the Atlantic, close to the modern town of Agadir. The traditional account of this expedition had the Muslim commander riding into the water up to his horse’s withers,
out or taken when the defenses had been breached by artillery. Centuries later, the American writer Washington Irving described the land as he first saw it: The ancient kingdom of Granada, into which we were about to penetrate, is one of the most mountainous regions of Spain. Vast sierras or chains of mountains, destitute of shrub or tree and mottled with variegated marbles and granites, elevate their sunburnt summits against a deep blue sky … In traversing these lofty sierras the traveller is
included any property document or contract. All Arabic books were to be submitted for inspection, and those deemed harmless could be retained, but not for more than three years. Moorish dress was to be permitted only for a maximum of two years, after which Moriscos would have to dress like Castilians. All Islamic personal and family names and all records of lineage were forbidden, as were all forms of traditional dancing and singing, called zambras and leilas. The most threatening provisions were