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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 6 May 2012
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This review is from: Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727 (Hardcover)
Another excellent work by Nabil Matar

Well researched and highly commendable effort. Part I is an introduction, general description of the background, and discussion of the available records of Muslim captives and travellers in Europe. There is a fascinating account about the diplomatic missions from the Middle East and North Africa to European kingdoms.

Ahmad Ibn Qasim Al-Hajari, a Morisco refugee born in Grenada in 1570 under Spanish rule, well educated in Islamic studies and versed in the Bible and Christian theology, who was kicked out in the mass expulsion of Muslims by the Spanish inquisition under Philip III in 1609, travelled to Morocco and ended up being recruited by Moluay Ismael, the Sultan of Morocco at the time, as his Ambassador to Amsterdam due to his knowledge and linguistic skills being fluent in Spanish. He travelled to Holland to take up his post. His description of his travels and interaction with people including catholics, protestants, woman, nuns, nobles and all people of all walks of life is mesmerising and very interesting.

The escape story of Amir Fakhuldin Al-Ma'ani from Lebanon to Italy and his description of Florence is intriguing and charming.
The reports of the Moroccan Ambassador to Britain in 1681-83, Muhammed Ibn Haddo Al-Attar, is another captivating account.

Part II is the English translation of various accounts of intolerance and abuse recorded from various letters and sources. The issues of converts and ransom of abducted prisoners feature repeatedly.

At the beginning of modernity, Muslims may well have believed that some kind of modus vivendi would prevail in the Mediterranean between them and the Euro-Christians. It was not them who treated the "Other" as the unbeliever (as Bernard Lewis has maintained), it was the Euro-Christians who treated them as the other and kicked them out en masse.
Moulay Ismael, described by many Christian scholars as blood thirsty and cruel, was far more tolerant of religious dissent in his domain. He was more tolerant of Jews and Christians than any other European monarch at that time. He chose Jews, Muslims, and even Christian Armenians for Ambassadors, which was far more open-minded than his counterparts in Europe.

The expulsion of 300,000 Morisco Muslims from Spain in 1609-1614 is a sad and painful story of abuse of power and cultural intolerance.

An enjoyable, informative and well written book. Highly recommended.
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Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727
Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727 by Nabil Matar (Hardcover - 25 Nov 2008)
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