This week we began a new book, Leo Africanus, written by Amin Maalouf. Thus far, the book has been a rendition of Leo Africanus’ childhood. Maalouf’s style is story-like, descriptive, and significantly more enjoyable to read than the other books we have read in this class. Maalouf recounts Leo Africanus’ childhood by events broken down by chapter. Through these renditions we see how culture, tradition, family, values, and politics were different in 15th century. The major events described in Leo Africanus have been the betrothal of his parents (who were cousins), father’s mistress, significance of Leo Africanus’ birth, his circumcision, the fall of Granada, Salma’s family not accepting them in their home, and lastly Leo Africanus’ father declaring a divorce.
These major events are also particularly eye-opening to the differences between our culture and the Muslim and Spanish culture in the 15th century. What is particularly surprising to me is the treatment of women at the time. Women were discluded from many family traditions, and their only real role in life was to provide children – boys. A woman’s emotions were not taken into account, nor were her wants/ dreams. Because of the mentality/ brutal consequences, women, like Salma, could not even voice their opinions to their husbands. This treatment of women stands in stark contrast to the way cultural movements of the 20th century- what a long way we’ve come. However, I donk it’s important that we consider the way women are still treated in the Middle East and Africa. The treatment of woman seems to have remained stagnant in many Islamic countries/communities.
I was almost confused, yet pleasantly surprised at the interaction between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It seems as if these religious groups live in segregated communities and socialize mainly amongst themselves, yet I did not sense a significant amount of tension between the groups when they did socialize. Why and when did tension increase over time? Why couldn’t these three religions remain living peacefully near each other?