After a tumultuous publishing history in Great Britain, where Little Brown (UK) accepted Jihad in the West, announced it in its spring 1997 catalogue, and copy-edited the work, only to turn it down under fear of fundamentalist Muslim pressure,1 the book has now appeared in the land where speech truly is free. Fregosi, an Anglo-French journalist with a historical bent (a previous book is on the Napoleonic period), writes engagingly and does not shy away from large statements or controversy. His is, as he rightly claims, "the first history of the Muslim wars in Europe ever published," or at least the first to cover the whole of this topic from its origins until today. Fregosi starts with early Arabian assaults on Byzantium and its Mediterranean islands, covers the Iberian and Sicilian episodes, and gives extended treatment to the Ottoman Empire. He notes the waning of jihad against Europe for a hundred-plus years from the mid-nineteenth century, and then its resurgence starting in 1979 with the Islamic Republic of Iran (this time in the form of terrorism).
In addition to spinning a good yarn, Fregosi has a political point to make, though one he mars through overstatement: he argues that the Muslim war effort against Europe has been sustained almost without cease through the centuries and that it deeply and adversely influenced the course of European history. He concludes that Europeans are more sinned against than sinners, for their own aggressive wars vis-à-vis the Muslims lasted less than two centuries (1096-1270). But the author here adopts an overly narrow view of European aggression, ignoring (because it was not religiously inspired) the vast and enormously important phenomenon of modern European imperialism.
1 On March 10, 1997, Fregosi was warned in writing by Little Brown's editorial director, Richard Beswick, that "If Little Brown received threats from Islamic fundamentalists and had to arrange for security, we could look to you for the cost of provision of such security. Equally, if Little Brown's list (not just your book, but our full range of titles) were boycotted, we could look to you for our losses." After a letter bomb went off at the London office of the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat, Beswick told the author that Little Brown has "to play the game according to Muslim rules," then took steps to cancel the book's publication. For further information, see The Independent on Sunday, April 13, 1997.