Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors - Brian A. Catlos
This review has been submitted to The British Army Review
Author: Brian A. Catlos
Publisher: Raincoast Books
Perception is one of the key driving factors in the formation of popular opinion. It need not be based in fact because perception forms ones reality; it has been shown time and again that even when faced with facts that are contrary to ones opinion, it is very difficult to change initial perception. That does not mean however, that it is impossible to realign ones view and this is the basis of the importance of Catlos' book on the historical interactions between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The author's thesis centres upon the fact that historically the three major religions have been able to not only co-exist but have actively supported one another politically, economically as well as militarily. When there has been violence allegedly aimed at one particular group it is easily proven that while on the surface it may seem to be based in religious intolerance, there has always been a political or power motivation behind the action. Catlos' book refutes the idea that religious differences have precluded cooperation and coexistence.
Drawing upon a series of regional examples focusing upon Spain, Egypt, Sicily and the Levant, he proves conclusively that religion adapted to the political and economic realities of the time and that it was but one of a series of tools that individuals used to attain their goals. It was not however, an end in and of itself. In fact he specifically refutes the concept that the Islamic conquest was one of imposed religious expansion wherein the conquered had to accept the tenants of Islam.
He opens his book with a comprehensive overview of the relationship between the religions before drawing upon actual examples throughout the region's identified in order to prove his case. What the author provides is an in depth analysis of the complexity and the tolerance that existed between the major religions (and the sub-sects of these groups). Each was dependent upon the other and a political leaders success very much depended upon their ability to promote and facilitate this tolerance.
A well written and comprehensively researched work that sheds light on the shallowness of modern perceptions regarding interfaith relationships. Catlos's work should be included as a baseline introduction into the complexity of traditional societal and religious interaction and it goes a long way in refuting the message that has been hijacked by those looking to advance their own agendas using faith as a wedge.