Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld


Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Unusual "What if?" About the Battle of Tours from 1939

While reading Ephraim Karsh's recent book, Palestine Betrayed (Yale, 2010), I came across a surprising counterfactual observation that Khalid Hud, personal envoy to Saudi King Ibn Saud, made to Adolf Hitler in Berlin in June of 1939.


Trying to find common cause with Hitler in their mutual hatred of the Jews, Hud speculated to the Nazi dictator, "[Imagine] what would have become of Europe if Charles Martel had not beaten back the Saracens  [in 732], but if the latter, imbued with the Germanic spirit and borne along by German dynamism, had transformed Islam in their own fashion?"

What is interesting about this "what if?" scenario is how it completely reverses the significance of the traditional counterfactual interpretation of the event embraced by western scholars since Gibbon and Ranke.  While they perceived a defeat as a nightmare (one that would have extinguished Christianity from Europe) Hud framed it as a fantasy -- one that, at least from the Muslim perspective, would have created a common religious heritage for Arabs and Europeans and obviated the need for the house of Saud to be pleading for an alliance with the Nazis to promote their interests in the Middle East during World War II.

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