"Jihad," the Muslim holy war against Christians and others, has raged for 1,300 years with bloody conquests in Europe dating from campaigns to convert the infidels in the 7th century to today's random acts of terrorism in the name of Allah. Yet this huge unrecorded "hole" in European history has been censored and stifled by political and literary authorities who have feared reprisals from angry Muslims trying to hide a legacy of brutality vastly more bloody and six times longer in duration than the atrocities of the crusades.
This is the engrossing factual account of the immense and little-known Islamic military invasions of Europe, and the major players who led them, beginning around 650 CE. The Islamic Arabs (and later the Moors) occupied a number of the Mediterranean Islands, and invaded Spain and Portugal in 711 CE, and ruled over much of the Iberian peninsula for the next 800 years. France was attacked and invaded, as was Italy, and the European coasts all the way to Ireland and Iceland. The Muslims swept over the Balkans, besieged Vienna, and were intermittent masters of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary into the 19th century, destroying the Byzantines and conquering Constantinople (turning it into Istanbul). Ambitious and unrelenting, the Muslims also sought to conquer Austria and Russia.
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Jihad is back, says Paul Fregosi, but this current incarnation has a long history behind it. From the start, Islamic fundamentalism has intended to expand the Muslim religion to encompass the entire world through conversion, or, in many instances, violence. Yet until now it has lacked a general historical narrative: "The jihad has been the most unrecorded and disregarded major event of history," writes Fregosi. Jihad in the West attempts to describe the history of Islamic and European conflict over 1,500 years, including moments such as the climactic battle at Tours (if the Moors had won it in 732, much of Europe might be Muslim today), the sieges of Vienna, and the Barbary Corsairs (the battle U.S. Marines refer to when they sing about "the shores of Tripoli"). Such a sweep necessarily sacrifices detail for breadth, yet it still provides a helpful backdrop to understanding a religious movement that has played a prominent role in late-20th-century terrorism. Many Muslims will quarrel with Fregosi when he compares jihad to a Christian sacrament, and the book would benefit from footnotes. Jihad in the West nevertheless is a good introduction to an often-ignored topic. --John J. MillerAbout the Author:
Paul Fregosi (Sydney, Australia), born in Marseilles and educated in Britain, is the author of the widely praised Dreams of Empire: Napoleon and the First World War 1792-1815.
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