Leo Africanus serves as a breath of fresh air in this class as well as my entire curriculum from dry textbooks to a more interesting literature portraying a culture in a more sympathetic, relatable way. I’m really excited about this narrative approach and the way that Maalouf sets his story to the background of historical events. It is a much more entertaining way to learn the history and culture.
Leo Africanus begins in the 15th century with Muslim Spain, a place I don’t know much about. The first story tells of a man, Hasan, living in Granada. His story gives us great insight into the society. His father had multiple wives, his mother and father were cousins, marriages were arranged at very early ages, there was great military power, the leaders (sultans) were uncaring and selfish, Granada was a trade center, and my favorite subject thus far, the Spanish Inquisition.
The Inquisition was led by Ferdinand and Isabella who were Christian Spaniards who demanded the ‘reconquest’ of Spain from the Muslim and Jewish hold that had occurred in their recent history. The Spanish Inquisition is notorious for its brutality. There were no limits to extermination, it was basically convert to Christianity or be expelled. It was amazing to have a firsthand account of these events which brought it to life as opposed to being a topic of interest in a history textbook. Hasan had to flee Granada and due to these traumatic events, he really wasn’t able to stay in one place for the rest of his life.
In regards to the Inquisition, I drew a lot of parallels from it to modern Europe. Today, there are many similar events and wannabe revolutions similar to the Inquisition in order to expel Muslims mostly from the fairly homogeneous Christian nations of Western Europe. Examples are the skinheads in England, Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. But none of these figures have been able to start a major revolution or expulsion of these other races/religions. Do you think it’s possible for something similar to the Inquisition to happen today in one of these nations?