Understanding complex ties between Muslim states, Europe

Updated 17 July 2013
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Understanding complex ties between Muslim states, Europe

This detailed history of Europe and the Islamic world is the latest of a series of attempts to understand the complex relations between Muslim countries and Europe. Co-authored by a trio of French historians, this book not only highlights the common roots between Islamic and Western cultures but it also maintains an impartial profile until the very end.
This history of Europe and the Islamic world is divided in three distinct parts. In the first five chapters, John Tolan tackles, “Saracens and Ifranj: Rivalries, Emulation, and Convergences.” In the second part, Gilles Veinstein introduces us to “The Great Turk and Europe” and Henry Laurens in the last part focuses on “Europe and the Muslim World in the Contemporary Period.”
John Esposito sets the tone of this scholarly work in his excellent foreword. Known for his objective and unbiased thinking, the American scholar presents a remarkable and clear summary of the book’s main points.
He is quick to underline the common political and religious struggle for power, waged by both, the West and Islam. The Muslims claim to have the final revelation threatened directly the role of Christianity to be: the only means to salvation. Moreover, Christendom also saw the rapid expansion of Islam as a “political and civilizational challenge to its religious and political hegemony.”
From the ninth to the 12th centuries, Islam propagated a rich, multi-faceted civilization from Cordova in Spain right up to India. In this respect, John Esposito highlights a fact largely ignored in the West, namely that Islam was more tolerant than imperial Christianity, providing greater religious freedom for Jews and indigenous Christians.
This truth was often occulted in Europe for obvious reasons. However, Muslims in their majority still regard these religious wars as a symbol of militant Christianity and a premonition of Western imperialism and colonialism. By the 19th century, the French occupied North, West, and Equatorial Africa, Lebanon and Syria; The British established colonies in Palestine, Transjordan, Iraq, the Arabian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia while the Dutch were in Indonesia.
John Tolan reminds us that religious coexistence has been implemented in Europe since the Middle Ages and it is not the result of t20th-century immigration as many are inclined to believe. During the Middle Ages, the model for a Muslim city also took shape.
“At a time when Europe was composed primarily of rural societies, Islam became the urban civilization par excellence. The sites of power in Latin Europe were usually castles; in Islam, they were cities.” And the famous French Arabist, Andre Miquel, also wrote: “The most beautiful jewels of the Muslim Middle Ages were its cities”.
As a result of demographic growth and trade, cities in Europe developed first in Italy during the eleventh century, then in the rest of Europe.
Trade, indeed, has always been a positive driving force in the relations between the Arab world and Europe. The Arab world benefits from a key geo-strategic position because it is connected to the Sub continent, China, Byzantium, Africa, and Europe. These commercial exchanges transformed the lifestyle of the inhabitants of Europe and the Arab world. Europeans discovered oranges, bananas, rice, sugar, spices and silk, to name but a few. On the other hand, Muslim traders brought back, iron, wood and woolen clothes. The flourishing trade spearheaded changes affecting the social fabric, such as the creation of urban classes of artisans and merchants.
However, there were not only people and goods traveling back and forth across the Mediterranean but also a fruitful exchange of ideas and technologies in the fields of agriculture, architecture, medicine, pharmacology, arts, music, literature, philosophy and science.
In the second part of the book, “Continuity and Change in Geopolitics,” Gilles Veinstein reminds us that during the 16th century, three empires were created: The Moghul Empire in the Sub continent, the Saffavid Empire in Iran and the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. The latter not only lasted the longest, until 1923, but it remained the closest to Europe since it was in Europe itself. As long as these mighty empires remained strong and united remarks, Veinstein, they “were a rampart against any potential European penetration.”
The great division happened during the second half of the eighteenth century. The European nations’ military and naval forces outshone the armed forces in other Muslim nations. This especially concerned the Ottoman Empire. It waged a losing battle against Russia to stop the division of Poland, which ended with the annexation of Crimea by Russian in 1784.
The fate of the Ottoman Empire became the greatest geopolitical preoccupation of the late eighteenth century. Similarly, the growing presence of a unified Arab nationalism led eventually to a policy of decolonization, which “restored the collective dignity of the dominated peoples,” writes Henry Laurens in the book’s third and final section, “Europe and the Muslim World in the Contemporary Period.”
John Esposito warns us against the adoption of “a reductionist approach that sees the religion of Islam as the primary driver in Muslim-West relations and as a necessary source of conflict and a clash of civilizations is a dead end and dangerous.
“Europe and the Islamic World: A History” is a major antidote of this dangerous myopic worldview, offering a critical and balanced assessment of a historic encounter marked not only by religious competition and conflict but also by coexistence and cooperation in domestic politics and foreign relations, trade and commerce, science and culture. In today’s world as well, we face a world in which religion remains strong globally and as in the past a source of guidance and morality, a source of conflict and violence but also of peace and conflict resolution and interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue.”

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WWE’s Roman Reigns hails ‘unbelievable’ Saudi Arabia

Updated 26 April 2018
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WWE’s Roman Reigns hails ‘unbelievable’ Saudi Arabia

  • Greatest Royal Rumble event takes place in Jeddah on Friday
  • The event marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: If you believe the hype, including his own, WWE’s Roman Reigns has come to Saudi Arabia to win at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
But ask him about outside of the ring, and his visit to the Kingdom, the athlete says that everyone is winning, from WWE, to its athletes and the new fans they have met here.
“It’s the best feeling to be here in Saudi Arabia. Whenever you go to a new country for the first time and they see you for the first time, it really escalates that excitement, it makes it so special.
“It’s unbelievable coming to Saudi Arabia. We are always trying to break new ground, to move forward, break new ground, we are always trying to do better. I think this is a great example.”
The Greatest Royal Rumble marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia. Samoa Joe will compete in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match against Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor and The Miz in one of an incredible seven Championship matches at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
WWE fans will also see John Cena vs Triple H, The Undertaker take on Rusev and Brock Lesnar compete against Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Universal Championship match.
“We are trying to show Saudi Arabia to the world, that’s a big thing. We trying to be there for progress, to get better as human beings, to promote equality. Anything you can do on that level, it’s greater than you can do in the ring,” said Roman, at a press conference in Jeddah.
“It’s the best feeling to be here in Saudi Arabia. Whenever you go to a new country for the first time and they see you for the first time, it really escalates that excitement, it makes it so special.
“It’s so gratifying. There’s no real way to describe it, each time I get thrown down, any time I’m in pain, and I get that special energy and emotion back from the ground it makes it so worth it.
“I can’t wait to get to the stadium. When that curtain goes back and you see thousands of fans, when you hear that reaction, that emotion, that’s when you feel like superman.”
The event, which is now sold out, will air live in the Middle East on MBC Action, KSA Sports 1, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and Abu Dhabi Sports 6, as well as stream live on Dawri Plus.
For WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil his goal is very clear, he’s here to entertain and spread a message that no matter where you are in the world, there are common things that unite us all.
“Our job is to put smiles on people’s faces and those faces are all colors, all religions, all backgrounds. We are entertainers and I feel our company, WWE, does the best job of breaking barriers and going into different situations and making the absolute best from it.
“That absolute best is making sure that every single person that comes to one of our events has a life-changing experience in Saudi Arabia and in Jeddah. This is the first time we are here, it’s the first time a Royal Rumble has had 50 men in the ring, and the first time that every single match is a championship match.
“Where-ever we are in the world we don’t separate by color or creed, we just want to entertain the masses. At the end of the day we all rooted in love and I embrace that, regardless of who you are, what religion you are we are all the same.
“Sports definitely unifies people and WWE have been doing it for years, bringing people from all different backgrounds into arenas and in front of televisions at home.
“The fact this show sold out in a very short space of time goes to show the fanbase is as strong here as it is anywhere else in the world.”