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A Muslim Professor Rewrites History

Akbar Ahmed is 75 years old and laden with honors. An internationally respected academic, he holds the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies and is professor of international relations at the American University, and is the former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain and Ireland. He has entrée to the highest corridors of power and influence. All that makes his current campaign of revisionism, designed to whitewash the historical record of Muslim Spain, all the more dangerous.

Historical revisionism is designed to influence current policy. Akbar Ahmed’s ongoing whitewashes of Islamic al-Andalus are clearly meant to break down resistance to the mass Muslim migrant influx into Europe today. Ahmed has gone so far as to call for a “New Andalusia” in Europe. In a March article in Pakistan’s Daily Times, he scolded: “Italy must remember its pluralist past.” He assumed, as have so many others, that it is the responsibility of non-Muslims in the West, and no one else, to be “pluralist” and prove their “tolerance.”

No one ever calls upon Saudi Arabia to remember its pluralist past, when Jews, Christians, and polytheists lived in Arabia. No one ever calls upon Sharia states to be more tolerant of non-Muslims. The onus is always only on the West.

In a piece published in mid-June, Ahmed claimed that the Islamic caliphate in Spain “more than any other came to represent the idea of pluralist society in Europe.”

In reality, as I show in my new book The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, Muslim Spain was anything but pluralist -- it was miserable to live as a Christian there. Christians could never be sure that they would not be harassed. One contemporary account tells of priests being “pelted with rocks and dung” by Muslims while on the way to a cemetery. The dhimmis suffered severe economic hardship: Paul Alvarus, a ninth century Christian in Córdoba, complained about the “unbearable tax” that Muslims levied on Christians. Nor could Christians say anything about their lot, because it was proscribed by Islamic law, and criticizing Islam, Muhammad, or the Qur’an in any manner was a death-penalty offense.

In 850, Perfectus, a Christian priest, engaged a group of Muslims in conversation about Islam; his opinion of the conquerors’ religion was not positive. For this, Perfectus was arrested and put to death. Not long thereafter, Joannes, a Christian merchant, was said to have invoked Muhammad’s name in his sales pitch. He was lashed and given a lengthy prison sentence. Christian and Muslim sources contain numerous records of similar incidents in the early part of the tenth century. Around 910, in one of many such episodes, a woman was executed for proclaiming that “Jesus was God and that Muhammad had lied to his followers.”