Ian Almond


On his book Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians across Europe’s Battlegrounds

Cover Interview of April 28, 2009


The book has a couple of aims.  The first is to re-think the idea of “Europe” as a place not of one religion but three, to try to re-connect our European history with a much older context.  A whole variety of scholars are already doing this on a number of different levels: by showing how Arab literature produced narratives such as The Canterbury Tales and the Decameron, how Arab scribes were responsible for preserving much of Europe’s classical philosophical tradition.  Even on a much more anecdotal level – Da Vinci’s recently discovered Turkish/Arab mother, for example – we are becoming more and more aware of the interrelationship between Europe and the Middle East.

A second aim is to show how the idea of a “clash of civilizations” is the kind of nonsense that historical ignorance breeds.  Most of the problems this cliché is meant to “explain” – Afghanistan, Israeli-Palestine, Iraq, the attacks in Mumbai, the rise of fundamentalism in Egypt or Pakistan – actually have a whole set of much more concrete explanations.  The real explanations for these conflicts are often uncomfortable for the West – they involve US support of Israeli brutality, gas pipelines in Afghanistan run by Californian pipeline companies, oil lobbies, frustration with Western-friendly corrupt regimes, Western approval of Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir.  So it is easier to push the “Islam” button every time a conflict takes place.

© 2009 Ian Almond