The book Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors (2014) authored by Brian Catlos takes us back to the 10th century and narrates the history of Mediterranean area. This essay seeks to elaborate the religious, military and cultural integration of that time society. Catlos (2014) depicts a picture of tranquility even though he acknowledges that individuals always lived in fear of outbreak of war. He observes that those in power always contemplated the possibility of keeping their regimes safe from external inversion and at the same time ensured that different factions with his quarters remain peaceful. Catlos (2014) adds that those in power increased their risk factor of being assassinated as a way of destabilizing the region ruled by the individual in question for the enemies’ political gains.
The Turks stood out as the prime movers and conquerors in that they first moved to the Muslim strongholds and later on conquered the Byzantines in 1071 at Manzikert. They finished their conquest by defeating the Palestine and Anatolia. These conquests led to the influx of Western Europeans into the Mediterranean region that came under a series of crusades and helped the defeated Byzantines in the recovery of some parts of Anatolia (Catlos, 2010). The book further delves into the return of the Byzantines to power under the leadership of the Comneni emperors. Catlos (2014) narrates the account of the Norman and threats to the Byzantines and their strong opposition to the papacy. The book takes an interesting perspective of the Byzantine that stood as a very powerful empire in 1025 AD. However, the empire later came trembling to its knees in 1071 due to their neglect of defense and political turmoil under Constantinople (Echevarria, 2008).
Despite the power struggles and religious conflicts that existed at the time, Catlos manages to convince his audience of how individuals coexisted peacefully despite practising the different religions. He mentions several key figures of the time such as Samuel Naghrilla, who had proclaimed himself the Messiah of the Jews and turned to be a very powerful force of Muslim Granada. Catlos also points out Bahram Pahlavuni, initially an Armenian Christian, who grasped power in an Islamic caliphate. It demonstrates that individuals of that time had learned how to separate religious differences from matters of politics and that is why a Christian could rule over Muslims, as it is the case with Pahlavuni (Hashmi, 2012).
Catlos (2014) also points out Philip of Mahdia who served as a Muslim eunuch and rose to the rank of an admiral under the defense of the Christian King of Africa called Roger II. Catlos (2014) asserts that politics of the time was not only driven by religious affiliations but also self-interests, ideologies, and personalities. The author dismantles the argument that wars broke out because of religious intolerance and added that crusades and jihads were not the actual causes of wars but rather the justification of the same wars.
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The leaders of the time knew that for his soldiers and the citizens to fight a common enemy as a team they needed something more to act as a motivation. They employed religious matters to justify the wars and this explains why the wars were skewed to a religious angle (Echevarria, 2008). Loyalty to one’s faith outweighs one's loyalty to the leaders or the country since religious matters are more personal. Soldiers fought more fiercely when the war had religious inclination than when they fought just in defense of a given regime.
Jihads brainwashed the Muslim soldiers convincing them that they were waging a war to protect their faith as demanded by their religious literature. They fought with vigorously in compliance with their religious provision without knowing that all the leaders wanted was political victory and dominion over their enemies. The Christian soldiers, on the other hand, were brainwashed to believe that they were fighting in defense of their faith and also because they had Biblical responsibility to ensure that the Gospel reached every corner of the world as demanded by their religious teachings (Catlos, 2010).
The wars that the leaders fought in the past aimed at pursuing diverse interests but the most outstanding one was the acquisition of wealth and territories. The emperors wanted to expand their territories and it was only possible through conquests. The desire to increase trading contacts and control of trade in general also acted as a catalyst to the Mediterranean wars (Echevarria, 2008). Trade was a crucial factor in wealth acquisition at that time. The emperors felt that participating in trade was not enough to gather sufficient capital and thus tried everything in their power to ensure that they controlled the trade. Controlling trade means setting terms of the trade and also regulating the flow of goods and collecting revenue.
Controlling trade was more profitable than just participating in it. The desire to control trade, as well as trade routes, caused many wars at the time, more than the religious conflicts did. Catlos (2014) dismisses the assumptions that crusades and jihads were the primary causes of wars at the time. Even though Protestantism was putting down roots in Europe and the papacy was under threat, this did not spur individuals on wars (Hashmi, 2012). Power struggles behind mighty emperors was the major cause of wars and religion was only used to reinforce the loyalty of the soldiers and the citizens of the kingdom that was going to war.
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Religion was used to give confidence to the warriors since the war was a matter of life and death (Gregg, 2014). Many soldiers would die in any given combat and thus to motivate them to face their death with confidence, come religious indoctrination was necessary. Self-interests of the leaders were also a critical factor in the wars. Some leaders were led by greed and wanted to acquire wealth to soothe their personal interests. Some emperors wanted to stay in power for as long as they could and the only way to achieve this was through the unification of all citizens. For instance, the king of Africa Roger II employed the service of Philip Mahdia to ensure that the Muslim under his leadership remained loyal to his authority. Mahdia was to act as a symbol of integration. Some leaders also wanted to reward loyal individuals and thus paid them positions to secure their continued loyalty (Echevarria, 2008).
Catlos (2014) delves deeper into the matter of interfaith feuds to prove his point that the jihads and crusades had nothing to do with the wars that erupted. He notes that tensions and violence were more predominant among members of the same faith than it was against those of the opposing faith. Catlos justifies his claims by pointing out the religious animosity that pitted the Latin Christians against the Greek Orthodox. He also gives the case study of the Sunni Muslim, who waged a war against the Shi.
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The Sunni Muslim committed atrocities against their fellow Shi Muslim that included beheadings, torture, and even persecution. The same Muslims had never extended the same animosity to their Christian counterparts who were prophesying the contradicting faith. The infighting amongst the Christians also did not extend to the Muslims, in fact it led to the unification of some Muslims and Christians who were opposed to the papacy system (Echevarria, 2008). Protestants found some significant similarities between their faith and Islam, for instance both their faiths disallowed the use of idols that was common in the papal community. It is the reason why the interfaith relations emerged strongly in some regions of the Mediterranean (Hashmi, 2012).
Catlos (2014) also notes that technological advancements in the current world and the increasing literacy levels have not contributed much to world peace. The establishment of diplomatic relationships between countries has not done much to avert wars between neighboring states. He further condemns modernity and blames it for the rise of religious extremism especially from the Islamic faith. Catlos (2014) also points out that the collaboration and integration amongst the Jewish, Christians and Muslims of the Mediterranean regions established the foundations for the globalization we are experiencing today.
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This statement is true to some extent as one would quickly notice that the leaders of the 10th to the 12th century laid the foundation and ground for the current interfaith tolerance. Even though interfaith collaborations were done in pursuit of selfish interests at first, it provided an excellent pathway that has been followed to date (Catlos, 2010). The leaders of the time discovered that they stood to gain more when they united individuals of different faiths than when they divided them. A good example is Sicily where the natives belonged to different religious affiliations but the leaders who reigned over the region allowed the residents to practice their religious beliefs as long as they remained loyal to their regime (Gregg, 2014).
This worked out successfully, and Sicily was one of the most prosperous regions in the world despite having individuals of different faiths. Sicily grew as an active trading hub that attracted traders from across the globe. For the interests of power and wealth, the leaders of Sicily promoted interfaith toleration and averted any religious conflicts that would have arisen had they forced the natives into a given faith (Echevarria, 2008).
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However, Catlos fails to justify some arguments that he raised in the book such as the cause of some religious conflicts that arose when individuals attempted to contradict the religion of the kingdoms they had conquered (Lohlker, 2011). For instance, the Turks faced a very rough time in some parts of the Mediterranean even after they had conquered the region. The Byzantine emperor rebelled against the Turks even after their conquests, which led to unending wars, and this was majorly fueled by religious conflicts. However, Catlos offers convincing facts that leave no doubts in the reader's mind about the causes of wars in the 10th and 12th century (Catlos, 2010). Self-interest and ideological differences stood out as the major causes of wars at the time.
Ideological differences arose in the systems of leadership that differed from one region to another. The leaders found themselves at crossroads as they attempted to prove to each other which system of administration was superior. Ideological differences also arose from territorial expansion issues. Some emperors of the time felt that to be strong they had to acquire as many territories as possible and that could only be achieved through conquest since no one could give out his territory willingly (Hashmi, 2012).
Conquest was also a manifestation of power and dominion that was something that every leader of the time craved for to remain relevant. Catlos (2014) dismantles the argument that jihads and crusades caused the outbreaks of wars and his explanations and proof exonerates the two ideologies from the wars entirely. He proved that interfaith relations were stronger at that time than they are today. Muslims and Christians related more closely than they do today even if they had internal feuds to fight with which was better than the extremism the current world is witnessing.
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