Egyptian scholar sparks backlash over 'despicable' Saladin criticism

Egyptian scholar sparks backlash over 'despicable' Saladin criticism
Bestselling author Youssef Ziedan sparks anger among Egyptian scholars after describing the famed medieval Muslim leader as 'despicable'.
2 min read
15 May, 2017
Saladin is renowned for having captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187 [AFP]

Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan has stirred controversy by calling famed 12th century Muslim leader Saladin "one of the most despicable figures in human history".

The philosophy and Arabic expert made the comment on a late night talk show while discussing Egyptian cinema and Islamic history.

Zeidan said that the genre contained many "historical fallacies" and that positive depictions of Saladin were "intentionally political".

Saladin (or Salah al-Din), is renowned as one of the most famous Muslim military leaders of the Middle Ages, most notably for his capture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.

Ziedan said that one particular inerpretation of Saladin in an Egyptian film did not show his "brutality against the Fatimids", which included the burning down of "one of the most important libraries in the world back then, located in Cairo".

"Salahuddin is one of the most despicable figures in human history," Zeidan told interviewer Amr Adeeb. "He committed crimes against the Fatimids."

According to medieval records, Saladin worked under the Fatimids and was later able to climb his way up to the position of vizier and later sultan.

The circumstances under which this occurred has led some experts to speculate on how much of this was down to circumstance or Saladin's own scheming.

Ziedan's remarks sparked anger among Egyptian scholars, who questioned his motives.

"Why do we attack our symbolic figures and the values that we possess?," said Zubeida Attallah, a professor of modern history at Egypt's Ain Shams University. 

This is not the first time that Ziedan, a bestselling author, has caused controversy in Egypt with his views.

Ziedan has landed in hot water after discussing the situation between Palestine and Israel, and charged with blasphemy after the publication of Azazel.