Sea of Faith

Sea of Faith

Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World

Book - 2006
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The shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emerged in the seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the world of the Mediterranean? Sprung from the same Abrahamic source, the two faiths played out what historian O'Shea calls "sibling rivalry writ very large." Their clashes on the battlefield were balanced by long periods of coexistence and mutual enrichment, and by the end of the sixteenth century the religious boundaries of the modern world were drawn. O'Shea recounts seven pivotal battles between the forces of Christianity and Islam that shaped the Mediterranean world.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Walker : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2006
ISBN: 9780802714985
Branch Call Number: 909.09822 OS
Description: xii, 411 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm

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Jul 21, 2016

An unwieldy procession of details.
O'Shea's theme is engaging: the clash in war, and cooperation in trade and culture, of Christian and Muslim forces in the Medieval Mediterranean.
He suggests that religious motivation in this long interaction is exaggerated: most leaders were simply out for themselves, with many ad hoc alliances and even marriages across the religious divide. The invasions of Mongols and Tamerlane produced especially strange alignments.
But his tale ends with the famous defense of Malta by the Knights of St John against the Ottoman horde in 1565, 450 years ago, where religion was paramount on the Christian side at least. He briefly mentions the battle of Lepanto but omits the siege of Cyprus, the siege of Crete, the second siege of Vienna, the Austrian reconquest, the Russian advance, the revolt of the Balkans, the fall and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Western imperialism across North Africa and the Near East, the ravagement of Palestinians and imposition of Israel and its wars. Nor does he cover the US-led demolition of Muslim states since 9/11.
Clearly the sometime Medieval modus vivendi that O'Shea stresses did not lead to subsequent peace and stability.
In our day, Christians and Jews have shown scant respect for Muslim peoples and nations, which are fine if allied to us, but lack inherent humanity and can always be disposed of.
Muslim immigrants meanwhile reject Western mores, and a few go mad with violence against the intolerable spectacle of female freedom.
The old religious incompatibility still exists and probably did throughout.
O'Shea's copyright is 2006. Would he take the same view today? He praises the liberality of Turkey. Would he do so under the current Islamist Erdogan dictatorship, aid to Islamic State, and ongoing purge?


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