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A Muslim Society under Christian Rule

A Muslim Society under Christian Rule

By Charles Dalli

Melitensium amor: festschrift in honour of Dun Gwann Azzopardi, edited by Toni Cortis, Thomas Freller and Lino Bugeja (Malta, 2002)

Introduction: Unlike long-term Muslim political resistance in the Iberian peninsula, the socio-political order established by Islam in the central Mediterranean was rapidly and systematically overcome by military conquest. The military and political take-over of Sicily, the logical consequence of Norman establishment in southern Italy, was accomplished in the three decades after 1060; by early 1091, the whole of the island recognized Roger I, count of Sicily, as its overlord. Muslim subjection and submission to Christian government in Sicily was a major fact in that island’s twelfth-century history. Behind the multicultural appearance of a populo dotata trilingui, there lay the new reality of Latin Christian rule. Circumscribed, as it was, by the need to appease the substantial Muslim subject population, as well as to patronize the activities of Greek Christianity on the island, the Norman court capitalized on this ethnic and linguistic variety, but did not depend on it. Its real achievement was to have built a massive political and economic base for central government, linking a substantial number of local communities into the royal administrative network. Conquerors and conquered formed a partnership which proved vital for the new political order which had been created, the former deeply conscious of their shortcomings in human resources, the latter awakened to the advantages, if not necessity, of Latin Christian rule.

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