In the novel Leo Africanus, Amin Maalouf creates the false impression of the function of religion played throughout the novel. During Hasan’s time and continuing to the present, religion is often used as an excuse for war and the atrocities that accompany it, but it is power not religion that draws these wars. In the novel Leo Africanus, all people have committed horrific crimes in the name of religion but its desire for power not religion that causes war- it creates conflict. This can be shown through the Castilians of Spain, the Ottoman Turks, and the German Lansquenets.
These armies represented a different religion and used it as an excuse to gain more power against each other. The first set of incidents in Leo Africanus is in the Book of Granada. The Moorish Kingdom of Granada was in decline. Its leader, Sultan Boabdil, a corrupt Muslim leader began to surrender his land and soldiers to the invading Castilians to spare his life. After the Castilians ransacked Granada, I believe the Castilians began to gain their power by eliminating other religious groups they may harm the Castilians rise in power in Moorish Spain.
Amin Maalouf shows this with the attack on the Jewish Community in Granada. At this time, Hasan overhears the discussion between Gaudy Sarah and his mother. Gaudy Sarah explains how one of her “nephews was burnt alive at the stake… ” In this scene, the Catholic Castilians began their inquisitions on the other religions in Granada. In this case, the Jews of Granada were shown as an example of those who are not Catholic. “… when this city is taken, do you think that your lands, your houses and gold will be less coveted than ours?
” In this quote, Gaudy Sarah describes how is Hasan’s family life is no different than that of the Jews in Granada. No matter the social status, wealth income or profession you are, if you are Muslim or Jewish, it is most likely that person will lose it to the Castilian state. “… do you believe that your Faith will be more tolerated than ours? ” In Castile, or Spain, all of its citizens must be Catholic. All Muslims and Jews who wish to keep their culture, religion and social status are allowed to leave Spain without the threat of death.
What Amin Maalouf is portraying the idea of the Castilians of using religion to unite all of Spain to increase their power, but with no real intentions of using it to unite the people with peace. After the surrender of the tower Comares by Boabdil, “a bishop hoisted up a cross on the watch tower, and the soldiers cheered him, crying ‘Castile’, ‘Castile’, ‘Castile’, three times, which was their custom when they occupied a place.
” This quote, Amin Maalouf is trying to show the reader that after the bishop hoisted up a cross on the watch tower, the Castilian soldiers cried their state of Castile rather than to give thanks to God himself for the victory. Although the Castilians gain a united Spain with the victory over Granada, it shows how the actions committed by the Castilian soldiers were unchristian and were used to gain power through religion. The next set of incidents in Leo Africanus is in the Book of Cairo. The Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Salim the Grim, invaded Cairo with its armies to expand its power to Egypt.
Led by Tumanbay, the Royal Advisor of the Sultan of Cairo, the Cairenes, people of Cairo, had a strong defense against the Ottoman soldiers until the death of Tumanbay after a betrayal from an ally. However, different from the Castilian conquest of Spain, the Ottoman Turks and the inhabitants of Egypt were the same religion, but different ethnic groups in both armies. Seeing the inhabitants of Cairo threatening the rule of the Ottoman Turks, “the Circassians were the first victims. Mamelukes or descendants of the Mamelukes, they were hunted down relentlessly…
” From this excerpt proves Maalouf’s idea of using religion as an excuse the actions and genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks. The Circassians are a different ethnic group with its own histories, people, and culture and the Ottoman Turks saw that as a threat to their rule. The Ottoman “soldiers forced open the doors of houses, and under the pretext of flushing at escaping Mamelukes, gave themselves over to pillage and rape… ” Believing themselves to chase out Mamelukes out of the houses in Cairo, the soldiers committed rape and murder over the citizens of Cairo.
Believing their religion justifies their actions, the Ottoman Turks are able to kill and rape the citizens of Cairo. Although the Ottoman Turks and the citizens of Cairo share a common religion, in this case, Islam, the differences of culture and ethnicity is what triggered the fire of the conflict. “… they now had to punish the entire population of Cairo. The soldiers of the Grand Turk poured into the streets with orders to kill anything that breathed… ” The Ottoman Turks establish their powers by eliminating the other ethnic groups that threaten their rule in Egypt.