The events happening in Europe for the last few years involving terrorism and the fears that are flourishing in some European countries as a consequence of this, I believe are bringing us back to periods such as the purging of the moors occurred in the Hispanic Peninsula between 1609 and 1614. The seventeenth century was a period when muslims were treated unfairly, just as it seems to be happening nowadays with some ethnic minorities inhabiting the old continent. As a result of this persecution against the moors, in 1614 the muslim community ended up being expelled from Spain. The expulsion of the moors was part of a crusade against the Arab world suffered not just in Europe but also in Asia and Africa. But let’s look at the events closely to show why the current situation in Europe seems to be a mirror of the events that happened in Spain.
Unlike the image that nowadays is sold to us by the main stream media of a medieval and barbarian muslim mentality that threatens the “idyllic” western society, muslim presence in Europe on the times of the Spanish Caliphate brought prosperity, culture, hygiene and many other positive advances to the area. On what we know now as Spain, during muslim ruling it was inhabited by an organised and precise society. Evidence of this is that as a result of their settlement in Iberia the area experienced successes that the medieval Europe of the time had never seen before.
The moors arrived to Iberia at the beginning of the eight century, in a time when the peninsula was immersed in a period of great instability and internal conflicts. In this context, the new comers were welcomed by the locals, the muslims and their ideas were seeing as a positive change from a period of decadence. During the 1000 years of moor ruling, it was a period of prosperity for the area. During the Caliphate of Cordoba, the town had lights on the streets, something never seen in any European town of the time. The moors brought oranges, lemons, irrigation systems, architecture, vocabulary… There were hospitals, beautiful palaces, baths and libraries. At a time when the biggest European library did not have more than 600 books, in Cordoba there was a library with more than 60,000 books. The Renaissance, which was the beginning of the transition to the modern era, was mainly based on arabic written literature, giving us a scale of the importance of Muslim Spain on the shaping of a cultural Europe.
All of this was sadly forgotten with the years. The Christian “Reconquista” (Reconquest) that ended up with the taken of Granada by the Catholic kings in 1492 was just the beginning of a sheer period of injustice that resulted not just in the expulsion of the moors inhabiting Iberia, but the repudiation of a fantastic culture and the murdering of thousands of people inhabiting Spain.
These sad events did happen slowly and as the result of a social, religious, economic and cultural context involving not just Spain but the whole Europe. Under Charles I, muslims were first invited to convert to Catholicism. The Spanish king cared about the finances and the local muslims were seen as a source of economical profit for many local landowners, not just in Granada, but also in Aragon and Valencia. There were more than 350,000 moors inhabiting Spain at the time. They were farmers, shoe-makers, they worked furs and did many other valuable jobs for the economy.
However, it is important to mention that Spain was the flag of Catholicism in Europe. The Pope was very much connected to the Kings of Spain. During the fifteen and sixteen century Catholicism was concerned about the muslim world. The muslim world coming from the East threatened Europe. Corsairs were a matter of concern for european coast inhabitants, as they plunder and threatened the European coast. The Vatican was also very much concerned about Protestantism, a new religious movement led by Luther, which challenged the Catholic church hegemonic position in Europe. This was a period in which Rome wanted to establish itself as the ruling faith in Europe. Under these circumstances, having muslims living in Spain wasn’t seen favourably by the Vatican, neither by some Spanish religious and political elites.
As I just said though, the expulsion of the moors was a slow process. A process in which the image of the moors became more and more negative until a point when the Arab world was seen as a threat to the “Christian” world and muslim presence in Europe as a threat to civilisation.
The pressures suffered by the Spanish monarchs during the years of Charles I and Philip II were considerable. Monarchs were constantly questioned by powerful lobbies, which had interests on land, on moors’ conversion to Catholicism or on their expulsion from the country. Charles I had started implementing policies to convert the moors into Catholicism. It was though during Philip II ruling that policies became more aggressive and moors felt more intense antipathies supported by the Spanish government. An example of this was the Pragmatic Law, which basically forced the moors to convert to Catholicism or to face expulsion from Spain. In fact, the Pragmatic law evoked into a revolt and a tragic conflict between the Catholics and the Muslims in Granada with terrible consequences. Lots of people were slaughtered during that revolt, Christians and Muslims. These unfortunate events were the catapult for a much more radical approach by the Spanish Government, which still under Philip II, ended up expelling the moors from Spain in 1614.
This is obviously reminding me of current events and propaganda that we can read and watch nowadays in newspapers and in television programs. Some of the bigotry statements that can be read in newspapers and the fears inflicted by the media into European citizens with fabricated apocalyptic views such as the Euriabic transformation or the return to the arabic conquest of Spain are shocking and completely non sense. I believe that this information is predicated by some reporters who are supported by the Arms trade and by politico-economical elites. This propaganda is supported by the same people who has interests in petrodollars coming from countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Estates and who have economical interests in the Middle east. Wars bring business but finance comes from taxation, so citizenship needs to be guided into believing that there is a need to have military presence in muslim countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Perhaps we need to remember that at a time when Europe was immersed on the dark ages, the muslim world brought light and helped Europe to come up from times of darkness into a cultural explosion and towards the transition to the modern world. Diversity should be seen as a cultural enrichment and as an opportunity to learn from each other, so events such as the purging of the moors in Spain are not repeated again.
Based on the book “Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain” by Matthew Carr.
Image taken from: http://www.inkbeforeyouspeak.wordpress.com