Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad

Written by Brian A. Catlos
Review by Ann Chamberlin

If you’re looking for a source to simplify your cast of characters or timeline for a black-and-white novel of the Crusades or the Reconquista, this is not your book. It is, however, brilliant at elucidating just how un-black-and-white, East vs. West Mediterranean was during this period – and has profound implications for our modern interfaith relationships as well.

Most vibrantly stated is Catlos’ thesis that pits modern states’ treatment of minorities against the multicultural states we encounter as he swings around the Middle Sea from Taifa Spain, Norman Sicily, Fatimid Egypt and Crusader Kingdoms. The most successful rulers of this realm actually supported religious minorities against restive members of their own faith rather than using a majority to crush opposition. Syria’s Assad in our own time, member of a minority himself, did the same, and is reprimanded for doing so against the majority – and we see what ensues.

Rome fell, he says in an epilogue, not with the Vandals nor with Saladin nor with the rise of the Ottomans, but with Christian on Christian cannibalism in the form of Latin Christians.