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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes [Hardcover]

Amin Maalouf
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1984
European and Arab versions of the Crusades have little in common. For the Arabs, the 12th and 13th centuries were not a time for glorious conquest, rather they were years of sacrifice and privation spent in repelling a brutal and destructive invasion by hordes of Western barbarians.

When, under Saladin, a powerful Muslim army -- inspired by prophets and poets -- succeeded in destroying Crusader kingdoms, it was the greatest victory ever won by a non-European society against the West. The memory of it still lives in the minds of Arabs today.

"Maalouf's story of the Crusades vividly portrays a society rent by internal conflict and devasted by alien warriors. Those two traumatic centuries of Middle Eastern history shaped Arab and Islamic attitudes toward the West, and in many ways still do." (B-O-T Editorial Review Board)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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'Well-researched and highly readable.' Guardian 'A useful and important analysis adding much to existing western histories - worth recommending to George Bush.' London Review of Books 'Maalouf tells an inspiring story ... very readable ... warmly recommended.' Times Literary Supplement 'A wide readership should enjoy this vivid narrative of stirring events.' The Bookseller 'Very well done indeed ... Should be put in the hands of anyone who asks what lies behind the Middle East's present conflicts.' Middle East International

About the Author

Amin Maalouf was formerly director of the leading Beirut daily an-Nahar, and the editor of Jeune Afrique. His published works in English translation include Leo the African, Samarkand and Balthasar's Odyssey. He lives in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In response to attacks on 'objectivity'... June 15 2004
By A Customer
The arguments against this book are surprisingly vehement, but they seem to ignore one very large and glaring detail about it: the title. This book is not meant to paint an objective, all-encompassing view of the struggle between Islam and Christianity from the eighth-century onward. It is merely painting a picture of contemporary responses to the Crusades in the Muslim world of the time. Does it endorse them? No. Does it use them on some kind of attack of Christianity? No. As was stated before, the author is a Christian. So that little attack collapses rather easily, doesn't it?
We have a wealth of information the Christian response to Islam's rise. Look at the thousands upon thousands of volumes on Byzantium, the Papacy, and the Frankish Empire. In fact, we're so used to having the picture painted as 'evil Islam attacks defenseless Europe' that the Crusades almost axiomatically become 'justice' rather than what they were, which was an exercise in barbarity. And that isn't just barbarity against Muslims. It was barbarity against EVERYONE different. Crusaders murdered countless numbers of Jewish people on their march to the east, and even eventually ended up sacking and destroying the Orthodox Byzantine Empire in 1204 (Fourth Crusade). At the behest of the scheming Venetians, no less, who wanted a Latin Emperor. Muslim civilization counted among its strong points an extremely refined and advanced culture that was shocked by the unbelievable animal cruelty of the Crusaders. I am not attacking Christianity nor defending the invasions of Islam into Europe. But it is hardly fair to compare the Muslim rule in Spain, which was one of the most advanced and tolerant nations on the face of the planet, with the butchery of the Crusades.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Crusades Through Arab Eyes May 10 2004
This book is well described by its title. Amin Maalouf provides the historical perspective of the Crusades from the point of view of Arabs. Maalouf begins with the arrival of the Franj ("a word which is used in colloquial Arabic even today to designate Westerners, and the French in particular") and chronicles the conflict, ending with the conflict with the Mongols.
Maalouf utilizes the perspective of Arab historians of the day in order to give the book a high degree of legitimacy. This analysis based of primary sources is the reason that I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, and of course anyone who wishes to fully understand the Crusades.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To understand the crusades - know both sides Feb. 12 2004
After reading four books on the crusades, and feeling exhausted on the subject, I read this book and not only was it good in its own right, but it pieced together many of the other books I read. I wouldsuggest reading this after you have read at least one book on the crusades.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORIANS LOVE THIS BOOK ! March 26 2003
By A Customer
This book is a great guide to understanding of the current conflicts in Middle East.It is a meticulously prepared documentary.You will read in the book how barbaric the crusaders were when they were massacring the muslims,the jews on their way.The even performed a canniballistic party when they roasted and ate their foes in Ma-ara,Syria!Their aim was to retake the Holy Land.But they brought terror with no peers in stead.And you'll also read how the Arabs betrayed each other and made alliances with the enemy.By the way, you'll be astonished how deep rooted the terrorism was in MidEast as the elusive terrorist leader Hassan Sabbah(he was the head of Hashhasiuns-Assasins-) was organizing his men in the hideouts of northern Iranian mountains.It looks as if that little had changed to this day.
But those were the times when the elite of Europe were speaking Arabic-which they shun today-.And those were the glorious times when the science and medicine in Muslim world was far more superior than those of Christian west.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look at the Crusades Nov. 21 2002
For the most part, I enjoyed this look at the Crusades from the Arab perspective. It was balanced, in that while the heroes were clearly the Muslims and the "bad buys" were the European invaders, Maalouf let us see the foibles of the Muslim rulers, the power struggles and the back stabbing (sometimes literally) between the various sultans and emirs who were trying to gain their own advantages while working to expell the Frankish invaders (or sometimes working WITH the Crusaders). At the end of the book, Maalouf also gives a brief account of the advantages of the West and the failings of the Muslims, even though the Muslims did ultimately succeed in getting the Crusaders off their land. Some may argue that the book is biased against the West, but then again, who were the invaders, anyway? I think, given the fact that it's told from a Muslim perspective, it's fairly balanced. I'd like to see a fundamentalist Christian be so fair! My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen more of an explanation of why the Crusaders were there in the first place, but perhaps that is for another historian to tell. Overall, I recommend this book for any student of medieval history or religion, especially those who want more than a Eurocentric view.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Holding up a Mirror to the West Sept. 26 2002
It is sad that only a major political catastrophe has put this book on the map again. For "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes" was written more than twelve years ago. It is very unfortunate that in the preceding years the publications of award-winning author Amin Maalouf, who writes in French, have not received attention they deserve in the English-speaking world. For also in his other books he introduces the Islamic world from a very different angle than the one provided by most Western media and sensationalist writers, who have jumped on the post 9/11 bandwagon.
The Lebanese Amin Maalouf is uniquely well positioned to portray the encounter between the West and the neighboring Islamic world. His country straddles a 'vault line' between two culture zones -- to the terminology of Samual Huntington -- and the journalist Maalouf has personally experienced the tragedy of people being segregated or, worse, violently clash along such a line. No longer able to engage in his profession he has been forced to go into exile in France.
In spite of such a traumatic experience he has not given up on what seems to have become his mission as a writer: to point out that there is much more that unites us than that divides us. But then on the other hand, no dispute can turn out so vicious as a family feud.
Amin Maalouf cleverly employs the theme of the crusades to make the reader aware of how these alien invaders were regarded by the diverse population of the Near East (contrary to the generally held impression, the inhabitants of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria were and are a veritable ethnic mosaic).
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a novel
Some reviewers criticize this book as not being objective but it was never meant to be. This book is an attempt to approach the crusades from an Arab perspective by relying on Arab... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT BAD, BUT NOT OBJECTIVE
Not a bad book, that paints muslims colourfully as a poor little people constantly crushed by evil christians. It starts in 1099 with first crusade. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2003 by Vavra Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful to understand today's middle east
Having read several books about the crusades, I think this one is pretty much objective although viewed from a different viewpoint than the one westerners have been used to. Read more
Published on May 12 2003 by Bertrand Mueller
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally
Finally, someone with the courage and knowledge was brave enough to illuminate readers about a much misunderstood and little debated period. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars The crusades : Proactive self defence poorly executed
When trying to understand the crusades we must distinguish between the geopolitical situation the west was responding to and the resourses and manpower available to it. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Important, well written, but flawed
This book offers an important contrasting perspective to accounts of the Crusades from the European point of view. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Perspective, Interesting and Refreshing
So many books are written about the Crusades. So many books that are so dull. You can literally go to any public library, find the medieval history section, spin around three times... Read more
Published on May 2 2002 by Craig Clotfelter
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