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The Cordoba House and the Myth of Cordoban ‘Ecumenism’

The "Golden Age" of pluralistic Muslim rule, alluded to by Rauf's proposed mosque title, has been thoroughly debunked by historians.

by
Andrew G. Bostom

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September 2, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Moreover, what Maimonides escaped in the 12th century — disguised as a Muslim — was nothing less than a full-blown Muslim Inquisition under the Muslim Almohads.

The jihad depredations of the Almohads (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations in Spain and North Africa. This devastation — massacre, captivity, and forced conversion — was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim “inquisitors” (antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators.

Ibn Aqnin (1150-1220), a renowned philosopher and commentator born in Barcelona, also fled the Almohad persecutions with his family. He escaped, like Maimonides, to Fez. Living there as a crypto-Jew, he met Maimonides, and recorded his own poignant writings about the sufferings of the Jews under Almohad rule.

Ibn Aqnin wrote during the reign of Abu Yusuf al-Mansur (r. 1184-1199), four decades after the onset of the Almohad persecutions in 1140. Thus the Jews forcibly converted to Islam were already third-generation Muslims. Despite this, al-Mansur continued to impose restrictions upon them, which Ibn Aqnin chronicles.

Expanding upon Jane Gerber’s thesis about the “garish” myth of a “Golden Age,” the late Richard Fletcher (in his Moorish Spain) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history:

The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion — to mention only a few disruptive episodes — must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie.

The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility. … Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later). … In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism — assumed rather than demonstrated — foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth … in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour … do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.

But far more alarming than the corrosive apologetics about medieval Muslim Spain are the expressed ideas and tangible behaviors of “moderate” Muslims actively promoting modern Spain’s re-Islamization.

For example, events surrounding the completion of the new Granada mosque were marked by celebratory announcements on July 10, 2003, of a “return of Islam to Spain.” At a conference entitled “Islam in Europe” that accompanied the opening of the mosque, disconcerting statements were made by European Muslim leaders. Specifically, the keynote speaker at this conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, encouraged Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by ceasing to use Western currencies and switching to gold dinars). The German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told Muslim attendees to avoid adapting their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment?) values.

Writing in the immediate aftermath of the Madrid 2004 train bombings, Islamic scholar Mordechai Nisan discussed the contention by the “moderate” founder of the Institute of Islamic Education, M. Amir Ali, that medieval Spain had actually been “liberated” by Muslim forces, who “deposed its tyrants.” Nisan extrapolated this ahistorical narrative line, and pondered:

Reflecting on March 11 [2004] as Muslim terrorism killed 200 and wounded 1,400 in Madrid, one wonders whether one day this event will also not be commemorated as a liberating moment.

We must also ponder whether Imam Feisal Rauf, whose 2004 What’s Right with Islam was published and marketed in Muslim Malaysia as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wah [Proselytization] From the Heart of America Post-9/11, considers the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism on 9/11 a similarly “liberating” occasion.

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Andrew Bostom (http://www.andrewbostom.org/blog/) is the author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005/2008) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History (2008).
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