My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book impressed me from the start. I started reading it because I found myself not being able to answer a simple quiz question: how many crusades were launched by the European West?
If I had wanted a simple numerical answer this would have been the wrong book but luckily I was looking for more!
When I decide to “learn more” about a topic I really want to explore the topic. And this book gave me that: impressive background, careful explanations of military strategy, political and religious reasoning and consequences and all this presented from both sides. What I really appreciate is the use of both western and Islamic sources.
As a Christian I was aware of the certain atrocities committed in the name of God this book gave me more information. It did not look for excuses for actions of either side, it simply presented them in the light of the current situation in that geographical area and in that time period.
The Guardian review of this book opens with a cautionary quote from Marc Bloch who says that
"once an emotional chord has been struck, the limit between past and present is no longer regulated by a mathematically measurable chronology".
What I loved about this book also is the last paragraph:
"Perhaps the crusades do have things to tell us about our world. Most, if not all, of their lessons are common to other eras of human history. These wars lay bare the power of faith and ideology to inspire fervent mass movements and to elicit violent discord; they affirm the capacity of commercial interests to transcend the barriers of conflict; and they illustrate how readily suspicion and hatred of the ‘other’ can be harnessed. But the notion that the struggle for domination of the Holy Land - waged by Latin Christians and Levantine Muslims so many centuries ago - does, or somehow should, have a direct bearing upon the modern world is misguided. The reality of these medieval wars must be explored and understood if forces of propaganda are to be assuaged, and incitements to hostility countered. But the crusades must also be placed where they belong: in the past."
We should all read this paragraph carefully (and not limit the message to the Crusades): the past is the past, it did shape us, it did scar us, we might be haunted by it, but the only way we, as a species, can move along is if we all take responsibility for OUR OWN ACTIONS TODAY and not blame others for things THEY THEMSELVES DID NOT DO!
Having in mind the current situation in the world with the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the caricatures this message becomes even more important.
RESPECT of other religions and mutual assurance of freedom: freedom to and freedom from!!!!