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This book of non-fiction written by Andrew Wheatcroft, interprets the history of conflict between Christendom and Islam. Wheatcroft demonstrates deep sense of morality from both Christian and Islamic perspective and writes about how it is created and how it is sustained. He goes further into the relationship between the two religions, in order to find the answer to the ultimate reason' of their constant misunderstandings. Religion is known as a set of beliefs, values, and practices that are lead to bring positive' attitude and understanding towards life. However, when various groups own a distinct form of belief, they tend to have strong opinions against each other that lead to corruption. In many cases, religion is among one of the principle sources of major conflict over centuries. Even today, the society is facing issues that involve religious matters, despite the fact that it has been repeated over and over again. This especially points out to the current war against Iraq, where suicidal attacks are caused under religious beliefs and organizations. In this book, the author determines the human rejection towards other religious society and argues on how the dark past repeats itself in the present and will continue to encircle the past if unless they are confronted.
The book begins with the Battle of Lepanto (a.k.a. Corinth) in 1571, which mark a defining moment of struggle between the Christian-Muslim relations. Organized by the pope, 600 of the Knights of St. John and 8000 of some men were commanded to protect the island of Malta from the Moslems. This battle was set in the Mediterranean Sea, where both Leagues owned a well-trained army with incredible tactics, carrying numerous amounts of weapons on vessels. The distinction of the two leagues was determined by the type of weapons they used, which also represented the level of secularization. The galleass, (a large, fast, heavily armed three-masted Mediterranean galley) was "remarkable not for its technology, but for the ease with which it was created, adopted, and immediately used in battle."(p.14) Such weapon like crossbow however, was unaccepted by the pope, which demonstrates a fast paced secularism, shown by ignoring the Holy rules of Christianity. In contrast, the Muslim army took innovation as a serious matter for argument that could even lead to resistance. Thus, they used traditional weapons known to the Qur'an (sacred text of Islam), which were swords, spears, lances, bows, and arrows.
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Throughout, Wheatcroft deeply' described the endless struggle between the Islam and the West in an extremely vivid manner. His effort of researching all over Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States that took more than ten years of his life is very impressive, considering the amount of expert knowledge put into this single book. The intense imagery of narration on the battle of Lepanto especially brought excitement and impact to the reader's mind. When Wheatcroft explains the situation of every battle, his detailed information absorbs the readers into the world of Christian/Islamic history. One of the weak points that were seen in this book is his use of words. Wheatcroft often used ancient languages, and terms that were particularly known to specialists, which gives disadvantage to ordinary readers. Another point is that the texts were overly detailed.' Because his details go so deep, the story becomes dragging and somewhat repetitive in certain spots. Despite these factors, Wheatcroft had clearly demonstrated the hatred and misunderstandings of both religions, and captured the difference and similarity of the two distinct religious societies. However, although he tried to portray certain ideas from both perspectives, it is overall, clear that there is a Christian/Western bias (which is not surprising). Such bias is seen in the Western documents and quotes (printed in small texts), which exceeds in the number of Islamic documents/quotes. Another is recognized in descriptions that many times, were written from the Western' perspective. Cruel words like "violent", "savage," "enemy," and "evil"(etc) were often pointed out to Muslims, and not as much to the other way around, even though the author's intention is to tell how both religions were equally cruel to each other. One of the positive approaches that Wheatcroft took was that he exposed the "buried" history of the long periods of Muslims and Christians living together side-by-side. This brings impact to since most of people in the West today, fears and alienates Moslems, from hearing news of suicidal attacks, terrorism and other horrible events that were caused by this religious group. Considering the current situation of the society, this story that unfolds the backgrounds of the historical events, gives a better understanding and a bigger perspective towards the readers. This investigation not only uncovered the veil of religion' that hid the truth of secular/ political aims and matters, but it also represented the idea of reproduction.' The story tells the audience, that a very old world order of conflict between the Christian and Muslims are being repeated again in another kind of form. Such facts are seen today on the war in Iraq, where the relationship between America and Iraq identifies similarities between the Crusaders and the Turks. Wheatcroft proves this by pointing out some of the speech said by American President, George W. Bush. In one of his lines spoken in his answer to a journalist's question five days after 9/11on the South Lawn of the White House was: " This is a knew kind of- a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."(p.334) In this line of speech, Wheatcroft particularly emphasized the word "crusade" and wrote that it "signified the struggle of Good with Evil." He believes that the curiously loaded words of evil,' crusade' and terror/ism/ist' equally acquire to the horror and fear that the Turk and Tartars experienced during the Holy war against the Crusades. Many other modern facts that attributes to the ancient world were constantly brought up in this book, which gives a thorough understanding of the relationship between ancient and modern society. Wheatcroft overall, captures the essence of human behavior and rivalry from a various point of view and believes that as long as the language of evil' and crusade' is used, and the attitude is not changed, the past sustains to repeat itself.
As many critics say, this book is phenomenal in terms of how it is related to the modern world. Wheatcroft's outstanding accomplishment on gathering incredible amount of information has changed perspective towards the aspect of religion' and its society. He open-mindedly covered the issues of the previous Islamic and Christian conflict in a new way, by tying those issues into the current society. Although the book goes in to many extra' details, the story gives a well-rounded knowledge of the historical events and their backgrounds. For those who are interested in knowing the relationships between Islam and Christendom and are concerned about how they affect our world today, are recommended to read this non-fiction.