Sir Walter Scott’s Crusades and Other Fantasies
Ibn Warraq makes an invaluable corrective contribution to our understanding of literature and its impact on popular conceptions of history. Warraq takes for his study the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott and makes a facinating comparison between the novels (and Scott’s sources) and what is known from the Arab sources and biographers of Saladin and the Crusades. Then he discusses the work of many other scholars of this period so the reader comes away with a well-rounded view, not only of the Crusades, but the scholarship of the period as well.
Beyond that, Warraq discusses antisemitism and the Jewish plight during the Medieval era, (as well as their oppressed status under Islamic rule) on through to the early Christian Zionist movement in literature focusing especially on the work of George Eliot and Charlotte Elizabeth.
Warraq ends by discussing the primary importance of freedom of expression and how that is threatened in the modern world. He holds up the South Park Affair as a prime example of the West’s tendency of to fold before Islam “like some third rate poker player who throws in the cards at the first aggressive bluff when he is in fact holding the winning hand.”
Ibn Warraq is the rare scholar who still believes in objective truth and that that truth may be found (or at least approximated) by a thorough and dispassionate examination of the evidence. His is the calm voice of reason in a world carried away by hyperbole.
“Ibn Warraq exemplifies the rarely combined qualities of courage, integrity, and intelligence.”
—Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, author of The Arabs in History (1950), What Went Wrong (2002) and many others.
With his usual wit, erudition and humanity, Ibn Warraq considers a literary subject and draws lessons from it of philosophical and political importance.
— Theodore Dalrymple, author of Life at the Bottom, Farewell Fear and many others.