Sunday, December 1, 2013

Maalouf covers no one's ass-Muslim or Christian-Maalouf, A. (1984). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes




The Crusades Part 2: Occupation
Before doing anything else in preparing for a cogent answer to these questions and to inure oneself to the blather lather clouding the minds of men, net wise. Read very carefully:

 Maalouf, A. (1984). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. New York: Chicken.

Maalouf covers no one's ass, and if it sticks out, it gets a well deserved barb. This is the most objective, takes no prisoners nor spare any, account of what happened in almost any other tome on war, religion and/or politics. Who owned the Levant (Mediterranean coast from Turkey to Alexandria) changed hands between the fading Abbasid Caliphate, Fatimids (Shi'a from Egypt), Assassins (Shi'a from Iran), and the newly arrived Seljuq Turks. The sorriest tale ever told of fubar upon fubar between Antioch, Damascus, and Aleppo is in this book.

The First Crusade for all parties was one major clusterflub after another. One army after another was raised and never got far from garrison as Murphy's Law ruled the land.

Just saying "Muslim" doesn't say a lot, and in fact didn't mean as much as we tend to think today. During the Crusade Era, there were commercial, political and military arrangements between the various Muslim polities, leaders, and troops and their Christian counter part including fighting on both side of the same battle.

It took an ambitious Kurd, Saladin to gather enough united power to give the Crusaders a serious beating, but that only returned Jerusalem to Muslim control but with full access by all other faiths. It took an unusual concentration of Oral - Phallic Inversion cases in key positions at just the wrong time to lose Jerusalem. Murphy had to balance the scales.

There were a couple of points in time where fate could have taken a different line of events that would have integrated Christian, Jew, and Muslim in the Levant. The Second Crusade attacked Damascus which had a mutual non-aggression pact with Jerusalem. A number of Crusader rulers also were discussing arrangements with Saladin a few years later.

The Assassins and the Knights Templar had made a division of tolls, Chicago style. But since the Assassins came whisper close to killing Saladin, all captured Knights Templar were decapitated after the Battle of Hattin.

The decisive military factor that eventually drove the Crusaders out of the Levant was Turkish slave soldiers, the Mameluk. The Mameluk were former POW sold into slavery (everyone did this), or enslaved as a normal part of commerce anywhere from Sweden to Somalia. The were intensely trained and remained the best of the best, and were recruited by Napoleon for the messier jobs.
By Gordon Fowkes

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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (Saqi Essentials) [Paperback]

Amin Maalouf (Editor)J. Rothschild (Translator)
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Book Description

Publication Date: 15 July 1984 | Series: Saqi Essentials
European and Arab versions of the Crusades have little in common. For Arabs, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were years of strenuous efforts to repel a brutal and destructive invasion by barbarian hordes. In "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes", Amin Maalouf has sifted through the works of a score of contemporary Arab chroniclers of the Crusades, eyewitnesses and often participants in the events. He retells their stories in their own vivacious style, giving us a vivid portrait of a society rent by internal conflicts, and shaken by a traumatic encounter with an alien culture. He retraces two critical centuries of Middle Eastern history, and offers fascinating insights into some of the forces that shape Arab and Islamic consciousness today.

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More About the Author

Amin Maalouf
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'A useful and important analysis adding much to existing western histories … worth recommending to George Bush.' -- London Review of Books

'A wide readership should enjoy this vivid narrative of stirring events.' -- The Bookseller

'An inspiring story ... Very readable ... Well translated ... Warmly recommended.' -- Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese writer and journalist. He is the author of bestselling books, including Leo Africanus, Samakand, On Identity and Ports of Call. He has lived in Paris since 1976.

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 20 Oct 2008
Amin Maalouf is a good French-Lebanese writer, and this, a translation from the original French, reads very well.

The occasional reviewer who says that it is one-sided is a bit unfair. It is a history of the Crusades from one point of view, as Maalouf says, and as the title makes clear. In writing the book, he says in the introduction, he has deliberately relied almost exclusively on contemporary Arabic sources. Even so, his account is fairly even-handed in that respect. Sometimes he does write as if he is cheering and jeering at the appropriate places in the story, but all even-handed historians, such as Runciman, make it clear that the Crusaders were on the whole a pretty barbaric bunch. Also although Maalouf describes Crusader-Muslim alliances as "bizarre", he makes it clear that as the Crusader kingdoms become stable, they played a role that often cut across religious lines, and few leaders on either side were consistent allies to their co-religionists, nor consistent enemies to those of another faith.

Also, at the end, after detailing the huge amount that the Europeans learnt in science, technology, art, culture, medicine and so on from the Muslim world, he then considers a few things that the Muslim world even at the time could have learnt from the otherwise less advanced west, if they had wished to.

However, the strength of the book doesn't come from its even-handedness. A good history book can be as biased as the writer wants it to be in tone, so long as it is factually accurate. Maalouf's account substantially agrees with (for example) Runciman's history, but fills it out by explaining the debates, the conflicts and the plans that the Muslims had in response to the invasion.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Achieved its objective! 18 Nov 2008
By Valak
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
As the title clearly indicates, this book is an attempt to depict the experience of the crusades through Arab eyes; in my opinion, it succeeded.

Until I read this title, my two favourite works concerning the crusades were 'The first crusade' by Thomas Asbridge and 'The sword and the scimitar' by Ernle Bradford. This book joins that short list.

One of the many bonuses to this title was that it filled a lot of the gaps in the aftermath of July 1099, such as the attempts by the Fatimids to reconquer Jerusalem, how the crusaders conquered Tripoli, Acre, the impact of the Mongols and the Mamluks on Arab civilisation. You come across interesting characters including Saladin, Zangi, Nur-Al-Din, Baybars, Qutuz, to name a few.

If I have any criticism, it is that some bits of information should not be taken at face value. For instance, the author asserts that Richard the Lionheart had Conrad of Montferrat killed by the Assassins - this is speculation at best.

I really enjoyed reading this and have certainly developed a more informed view of the crusades.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Having read the traditional, Latin focussed, accounts of Runciman and others this book revealed a range of new aspects on the history of the crusader states. Rather than neccessarily contradicting these works it grants an extra depth of understanding, both of the Muslim forces of the period and, indeed, of their Latin opponents.

The book explains the twists and turns of politics with the Muslim states, allowing someone to who has read the Christian focussed histories to build the complete story. The work is written in an engaging and easy style, complete with juicy quotes from the Arab sources.

A selected translated collection of these sources would be a welcome companion to this book but as yet there does not seem to be one in print. Likewise this work stresses again the need for an account of the crusades from the viewpoint of Syrian Christians (Orthodox, Jacobite, Maronite etc.).

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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible! 6 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This book, apart from being incredibly entertaining, is historically very accurate. It shows the crusades inscribed in the proccess of economic and material expansion (as well as religious) that Medieval Europe was going through. Although I don't agree with what another reviewer said about the crusades being more about money than about religion. Relgion was just as important as material expansion... they went hand in hand. In the same way, the division of the oriental and occidental church in 1054 was about reaffirming Europe's spiritual independance, which, nonetheless, was a cause of the new technology and increase in population. The book also shows the division in the tukish rule of Islam which is an important factor in the medieval expansion of Europe. Not only Islam was divided (in Spain a similar situation occured), but the Byzantine Empire. The book ends dramatically by describing the invasion of Mongols.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the other side of the proverbial river... 3 May 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
...To use Blasé Pascal's phrase, a short-hand way of referring to the individuals one's leaders designate to be your enemy. In addition to the voluminous books from the American side in the Vietnam War, there are now several solid accounts from the Vietnamese side, for example: The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam and Novel Without a Name. Concerning the current so-called War on Terror, there are no real accounts from the "terrorist's side," but there are some thoughtful works that put forth a Muslim perspective, for example, Ahmed Rashid'sDescent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia Amin Maalouf's book is all the more valuable since it was written in 1984, long before 9/11, or the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric. The premise is straightforward: let's present the viewpoint of those who experienced the invasion, which is what the Crusades actually were: A Western, mainly French invasion of the Middle East. And for many Westerners, especially those of a "certain age," what we were taught in school about the Crusades might be a bit fuzzy, but the "reality check" as to their relevance is: Isn't Osama bin Laden's favorite epithet for Westerners "the Crusaders"? It may be hazy in our own memory, but such rhetoric in the Islamic world still resonates. This book explains why. Read more ›
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