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Sunday, January 3. 2016
In 1829 the great American author Washington Irving took a trip through Spain. It's a travelogue. He is, of course, a vivid and detailed writer: The Alhambra : a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards.
He was fortunate to be a guest at the Alhambra (when it was not in very good shape) for a month or so, exploring Grenada. Lots of treacherous travel, and many historical reminders - especially the remarkable contributions of the Moslems to Western civilization via Spain. As in Sicily, the Moslems had been good, intellectual rulers who were interested in justice, careful governance, science, architecture, music, and technology.
Entirely tolerant of their Christian and Jewish citizens, but not too much vice versa, a little later.
There was no sharia law or any of that barbarian nonsense. I suppose the Spanish natives were dhimmis, in a sense.
The Christian armies which chased them out were barbarians by comparison, but that was long ago. A quote from the book:
Most of the short book consists of tales and legends from the time of Moslem rule: genies and sorcerers and talking owls, hidden treasures, princes and princesses - even a Moslem prince who marries a Christian princess.
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All was not always harmonious between the Muslim rulers and their dhimmi subjects--the good people of Granada attacked the Jews on December 30, 1066. They crucified the vizier (a Jew) and slaughtered thousands of his co-religionists.
Bird Dog's assessment gets better with the telling. Wahhabis have spent right at $87 billion since 1973 to build Islamic Centers, mosques, colleges, and schools in the West. University chairs in Middle Eastern Studies have been bought and paid for-including their faculties. Therefore, there is little objectivity and tolerance of other religions is unheard of at most of these institutions. The Berber Almohqads forced Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and Moses Maimonides to leave Andalusia because of their writings. Peder Jensen's article in Brussels Journal suggests that, "Islam's much-vaunted "golden age" was in reality the twilight of the conquered pre-Islamic cultures, an echo of times passed."
The 1066 Granada massacre killed an estimated 4,000 Jews in a short period of time- a day or two? The Wiki article Bird Dog links to has a bunch of numbers regarding how many deaths were caused during what period of time for the Spanish Inquisition, but it is fair to conclude that what Muslims did in a short period of time in Granada, took the Spanish Inquisition 150-200 years to accomplish.
Bird Dog needs to learn himself some history. Part of the problem is that when you are discussing a period of nearly 800 years, "entirely" is a word that usually doesn't apply. Yes, there was some degree of tolerance for some period of time for Muslim ruled Spain. But you can say the same about Christian ruled Spain. Ditto massacres.
The non-believers were valuable only as non-benefit eligible tax payers. It is said that much of the Arab armies were "converted" Christians who could no longer afford the tax burden. The relative tolerance of the Andalusian Moors was perhaps part of being far away from the centers of Islamic thinking. The brief golden age was already collapsing in the center and the weakness spread outward. I'm a big fan of timelines and if you start putting these events up along with others you can clearly see the cultural differences. The Islamic rule of spain ended in 1492. The date does have some significance. By that time, advanced thinking of the early Reneissance was well underway.
Entirely tolerant of their Christian and Jewish citizens, but not too much vice versa, a little later.- With link to the Spanish Inquisition.
The Muslim polymath Averroes was exiled from Spain. That doesn't sound to me to be an example of toleration of different ways of thinking. Consider the Jewish Torah scholar and philosopher Maimonides, who was born in Spain but died elsewhere.
A Berber dynasty, the Almohads, conquered Córdoba in 1148, and abolished the dhimma status (i.e., state protection of life and wealth) in some of their territories. The loss of this protected status threatened the Jewish and Christian communities with conversion to Islam, death, or exile. The historical records of abuses against Jews in the immediate post-1148 period are subject to different interpretations. Many Jews were forced to convert, but due to suspicion by the authorities of fake conversions, the new converts had to wear identifying clothing that set them apart and made them subject to public scrutiny.Entirely tolerant? As they say in Venezuela, Decime otro de vaqueros. [Tell me another cowboy story=tell me another fish tale.]
Maimonides's family, along with most other Jews, chose exile. Some say, though, that it is likely that Maimonides feigned a conversion to Islam before escaping. This forced conversion was ruled legally invalid under Islamic law when brought up by a rival in Egypt. For the next ten years, Maimonides moved about in southern Spain, eventually settling in Fes in Morocco. During this time, he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.
Following this sojourn in Morocco, together with two sons, he sojourned in the Holy Land, before settling in Fustat, Egypt around 1168. While in Cairo, he studied in a yeshiva attached to a small synagogue (which now bears his name). In the Holy Land, he prayed at the Temple Mount. He wrote that this day of visiting the Temple Mount was a day of holiness for him and his descendants.
Maggie's Farm covered Muslim Spain not that long ago. Learn some history, please. Maggie's Farm 2010:Newt on the Cordoba House. That MF link has some quotes from Pajamas Media: The Cordoba House and the Myth of Cordoban 'Ecumenism'.
Here is Dozy’s historical account of the mid-8th century “conversion” of a Cordoban cathedral to a mosque....Sounds like a big complaint about the Spanish Inquisition was that it copied the practices of the Muslims. Entirely, tolerant, right, Bird Dog?
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 PJM article quotes from Richard Fletcher's Moorish Spain.
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.Henry Charles Lea wrote a multi-volume history of the Inquisition. One interesting point he made is that during the 1300s, when Jews had been expelled from France and England, Jews were living in relative harmony in the Christian kingdoms of Spain, a description which would also apply to Muslims living in the Christian kingdoms. The Papal authority in Rome made clear the Church's displeasure at such religious tolerance on the part of the Christian kingdoms in Spain. The conclusion is that the decisions to force Jews and later Muslims to either convert or leave was made in part to get Spain more aligned with what Rome wanted. More Catholic than the Pope? [And filling the royal coffers with wealth confiscated from those who were exiled also figured into the "convert or leave" edict.Doing well- getting lucre- by doing good- "purifying" the kingdom.]
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.
A lot of the Marranos- Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity - emigrated to the outer reaches of the Spanish Empire, where they could maintain their language and be as far as possible from the reach of the Crown and Church. A Tejano neighbor of mine researched his family, and discovered he had Jewish roots. That is not uncommon among those who can trace their ancestry to northern Mexico and New Mexico.
I met at a company school in Houston a Spaniard whose family had secretly practiced Judaism for the 400+ years that it was illegal in Spain. That is tenacity.
When discussing the tolerance or barbarism, the good or evil, of an historical society, I always ask "compared to what?" All societies practiced a level of violence and oppression that seems extreme to us in softer times. In general, Muslim societies were tolerant of others who were not perceived as a threat. Groups on their borders, groups that grew too large or powerful, groups which interfered with Islamic practice (whether by heresy or by enticement) - these were all dealt with cruelly. Others, once subdued, not so much.
I wonder if we are seeing this now in a convoluted form. With few exceptions, the power of the Middle East is founded on petroleum. That is going away, and there is a scramble for who will rule the billion people with declining fortunes.
For those seeking a rigorously scholarly, yet impassioned and brilliantly written account of the rise of the Inquisition in mediaeval Spain, and its antipathy to Spanish Jews, I strongly recommend Benzion Netanyahu's 1995 book, The origins of the inquisition in fifteenth-century Spain. And yes, he was the father of Benjamin Netanyahu; he died in 2012 at the age of 102.
Washington Irving was a great fiction storyteller of the Hudson River valley, but not to be taken as a qualified historian of Spain.
Foe a balanced account, parts of which were touched upon by others above, see: http://research-islam.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-treatment-of-jews-and-christians-in.html
It would seem Americans need to look no farther than their own shores to see similar sorts of barbaric acts in their own country. There are plenty of records of violent acts against indigenous peoples, slaves, any many ethnic minorities who immigrated into the US. Even up to the KKK slayings of blacks in the 1950's and 1960's. Acts committed not by Muslims, but by self proclaimed church going Christians.
Let's not forget that President Lincoln authorized the largest mass execution in US history when he warranted the hanging of 38 Sioux Indians in Minnesota December 26, 1862. This was because the Sioux tried to fight back for being forced off their land and starved to death by the US government.
The Spanish did some pretty barbaric" things to the natives in South America when they arrived; cutting off ears, noses and limbs. We all know the horror stories of the Japanese in China, and the German concentration camps.
American, Japanese, Spanish, English, Russian, German...we've all worn the "barbaric" label at one time or another even under the guise of "Christian charity and brotherly love".
History is just repeating itself. In another 50-years, someone else will be wearing that moniker.
I think I alread wrote "compared to what?" once on this thread, didn't I? We can pretty vicious and frighteningly effective at violence at times, and not to our credit, but...
Islamic expansion has been a constant goal for 1400 years. And America has generally been unable to compete in terms of duration and quantity in general of oppression. For example, 90-95% of premature death of Native Americans was from our diseases, much as Europeans die of malaria and strange fevers in other parts of the world. Seven of the ten wars of greatest # deaths have been in Asia; and we'd have to be awfully violent to our own people for a long time to catch up with world communism.
Other than that, yeah, just exactly the same.
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The Alhambra was one of the most beautiful and interesting places I ever visited. I stayed next to it at the Alhambra Palace, which has amazing views of both the mountains and plains from its terrace bar/restaurant. Wine and olives at 5pm for 3 days. What fun.
The tour was wonderful, though getting up at 5am to get in line was a little less so. Granada, in general, was one of my favorite cities visited. I definitely would return there anytime.
As for the Islamic era (Al-Andalus, as they call it now), it's often misrepresented by both sides. The Catholic rulers of Spain were hardly as beneficent as the Islamic rulers, but they Islamic rulers weren't exactly clean, either. Their ultimate demise was the result of constant internal family battles and the desire for power at any cost. Bilbao was an unfortunate loser in a family which had no loyalty or care.
Both sides committed atrocities, depending on who or what was needed at the time. I'm unlikely to judge either side for a variety of reasons:
1. I wasn't there
2. Our moral code today has advanced and improved and I can't use what I know today to judge those yesterday
3. I may have had a very different viewpoint depending on which of the sides I was born into.
None of this is moral relativism, just a fact. It doesn't mean I don't have a particular outlook or opinion. However, it's often hard to look through the lens of history and apply modern moral code to the behaviors of our predecessors. Often, they were only doing what they felt they needed to do to survive and/or thrive (same as we do today - but perhaps less viciously).