“Averroes (or Ibn Rochd of Cordoba) Andalusian Muslim philosopher, rationalist theologian, jurist, mathematician and physician (c. 1126-1198) making amends at the gate of the mosque in Fez, c.1195” (Ibn Rushd (Averroes) Andalusian Muslim polymath, a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics and Andalusian classical music theory begs pardon at the door of mosque of fez, Morocco, ca 1195) Engraving from “La -life-of-the-illustrious-savants” by Louis Figuier, 1866 Private collection ©Isadora/Leemage

Professor of Arabic literature and historian, Serafin Fanjul has just published a masterful sum, Al-Andalus. The invention of a myth (L'Artilleur, 2017). By developing an in-depth reflection on Spanish national identity, he demolishes the myth of a multicultural paradise established by eight centuries of Muslim domination. Far from a symbiosis between Christians, Jews and Muslims, Al-Andalus formed a fundamentally unequal society, waging war against the Christian kingdoms of the North, subjugating the minorities within it. Interview (2/2)

Find here the first part of this interview

Conversationalist. In your test Al-Andalus. The invention of a myth (The Artilleryman, 2017), you deconstruct the idyllic image of Muslim Spain that certain Spanish intellectuals have constructed a posteriori. By comparing certain periods of Al-Andalus to South Africa under Apartheid, aren't you committing an anachronism?

Serafin Fanjul. I am not drawing a parallel between al-Andalus and South African apartheid, I am only saying that there is a certain similarity between the two. And in truth, this similarity exists because of the separation of religious and racial communities, the very superior rights granted to Muslims and, on the contrary, the inferior statuses that the members of the other two communities had. There were also differences between Muslims in degree of nobility and pre-eminence depending on whether they belonged to the group of Berbers, muladis (Christians of Hispanic origin who converted to Islam), Arab "baladis" (the first to have penetrated the peninsula in 711) and Arabs commanded by Baldj, who arrived in 740.

In al-Andalus, people only had value and were subjects of law as members of a community and not as individuals. The touchstone was obviously intermarriages. It was impossible for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian or a Jew, and it was even difficult for an "Arabic" woman to marry a muladi (a Christian convert to Islam) under the concept of Kafa'a (proportionality), and to the extent that this was considered to have higher level blood. When the political and military domination was reversed and the Muslims became a minority, the situation was maintained, but this time to the detriment of the latter.

The texts written in al-Andalus abound in discriminatory and insulting allusions against Christians and Jews. The latter materialized, to cite only a few examples, by the anti-Christian persecution of the 1066th century in Cordoba, by the pogrom of XNUMX in Granada, by the deportations of Jews to Morocco in the XNUMXth century, or by the massive flight of Christians and of Jews to Christian Spain from the ninth century.

You describe a clash of civilizations and an almost permanent state of war between Christians, Jews and Muslims...

The first time I read the expression "clash of civilizations" was not in the pen of Huntington, but in the major work of Fernand Braudel La Mediterranean sea and the Mediterranean world at the time of Philip II, whose publication dates back to 1949. I think I correctly interpret Braudel by affirming for my part, in agreement with him, that the language misleads us by suggesting behind the syntagm “clash of civilizations” the idea of ​​great warlike confrontations. It is not about that at all, but rather about daily confrontations on a small scale, reiterative, in everyday life, between different cosmogonies, basic notions, dissimilar conceptions of the world, civic or sexual moralities, elementary political concepts, but which are decisive in the relationship of human beings with power: total submission or the exercise of rights and the consciousness of possessing rights. And this without going into more concrete questions such as the position of women or that of religious minorities, which fortunately have long since been overcome in Europe, whereas in Muslim countries they remain intact or cause serious convulsions when they are debated. .

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I never wrote that there was a permanent state of war in the medieval Iberian Peninsula between two antagonistic and irreducible blocks. And this because I know perfectly well that this was not the case until the Reconquest was consolidated as a great national project in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. I also know, of course, that there were again later cross-alliances with Muslim taifa kingdoms, interventions by Christian (even Frankish) or Muslim troops against Christian princes, as had been the case since the XNUMXth century.

Was the world of Averroes and Maimonides so apocalyptic?

I don't think he is very happy to cite Averroes and Maimonides as two examples of freedom of thought and brotherhood of communities in al-Andalus. Averroes was a Neoplatonist who was persecuted as a free thinker by the Almohads. As for the Jew Maimonides, he was forced to become Islamized. Exiled to Morocco with his family, he then went to Egypt where he returned to Judaism. Discovered and denounced by a resident of al-Andalus, he was accused of apostasy and was only able to save his life thanks to the intervention of cadi Ayyad. Maimonides explains well his position and his state of mind with regard to Christians and Muslims in his  Epistle to Yemen.

How do you manage to politically justify the expulsion of Jews and Moriscos (Moors converted to Christianity) from Christian Spain?

I am only trying to explain these events. We cannot limit ourselves to seeing past events as good or bad, when they are simply irreversible. The only thing we can do is to approach them as honestly as possible to try to understand them. And in the case where our good faith and our regenerative will are sincere, we must try not to repeat them.

Unfortunately, all of medieval Europe set out to marginalize and persecute the Jews, with frequent massacres and the sacking of Jewish quarters. In Christian Spain, this movement occurred later. If in 1212 the Castilian troops of Alfonso VIII protected the Jews of Toledo against the Franks who came on this occasion, on the other hand, in 1348 and 1391, the situation was radically different. There was then a large number of deaths, exactions and forced conversions. Jews who converted to Christianity and those who had maintained their faith, after the mass conversion attempts of the years 1408-1415, however coexisted throughout the 1390th century. At first, the Catholic Monarchs tried to ensure that Jews and Mudéjares (Muslims) remained in the places where they lived and retained their functions. They depended directly on the king, paid a special poll tax and in exchange received protection from society, but always with the idea that in the long term they would be converted. In the 1477th and XNUMXth centuries the Jewish communities of Christian Spain had increased considerably while those of al-Andalus had come to disappear due to the action of the Almohades. At the same time, the persecution of the Jews redoubled in Europe. This general attitude eventually reached Spain, stimulated by the fact that some Jews engaged in usury and participated in the collection of taxes, motives which irritated the poorest exploited populations and incited them to reactions as brutal as totally unjust. John I, in XNUMX, and Isabella I, in XNUMX, had had to curb the belligerent ardor of the most exalted members of the clergy.

What was the situation of the Jewish subjects of the Catholic kingdom of Castile?

On the eve of the expulsion of 1492, there were about one hundred thousand Jews in the crown of Castile and about twenty thousand in Aragon. A minority was wealthy, but the majority was not (these were farmers, herders, horticulturists, textile, leather and metal craftsmen). Protection in the lands of the lords of the nobility was more direct and effective than that of the royal domain. The Jews practiced liberal professions there, such as medicine, despite the prohibitions. Among the Jews close to the Catholic Monarchs there were notably Abraham Seneor, Chief Rabbi of Castile, Mayr Melamed, Isaac Abravanel, Abraham and Vidal Bienveniste. The attitude of the Catholic Monarchs was not anti-Jewish, but neither did it help to eliminate popular hostility or contradict doctrinal arguments against the Jews. The greatest current connoisseur of Spain of the Catholic Monarchs, Miguel Ángel Ladero Quesada, dismisses economic motives to explain the expulsion (which was in fact rather detrimental to the revenues of the Crown). Rather, he attributes it to the desire to solve the problem of Judaizing converts, a problem which had already justified the establishment of the new inquisition in 1478. It was then believed that the Jews, by their mere presence and because of the family ties which united with many converts, helped prevent assimilation or absorption. On the other hand, since the Jews were not Christians, they could not be investigated by the Inquisition. The climate of euphoria of triumphant Christianity after the capture of Granada in 1492, helped the inquisitors to convince the Catholic Monarchs of the necessity of the expulsion. Especially since at this time of full consolidation of royal power, an idea was spreading more and more: that according to which only the homogeneity of faith could guarantee the cohesion of the social body, essential to the proper functioning of the monarchy. We know today that these ideas were unjust and wrong, but they were current throughout Europe then. To be convinced of this, it suffices to recall the ferocious anti-Semitism of Luther, the persecution of the Huguenots, of Protestants in Spain, Italy and France, or of Catholics in the various countries of Northern Europe during the following centuries. .

As for the Muslims, I understand that they were not spared by Catholic Spain…

Crown policy towards Muslims was erratic and often contradictory. The Mudejars (Muslims under Christian rule) had survived since the 1264th century although in dwindling numbers. Expulsion as a punishment for rebellion (1498) in Niebla and Murcia, voluntary exile so as not to be subject to Christian power and the attraction exercised by the kingdom of Granada, had finally emptied Western Andalusia of its Muslims. After the capture of Granada, the Mudéjares were allowed to emigrate or stay retaining their religion, but in 1499 the pressure for them to convert was so great that it provoked the rebellion of the Alpujarras (1502-1526) resulting in the decree of forced baptism or expulsion. The voluntary and clandestine flight of Moriscos then increased because of the fatwas and the exhortations of Muslim jurists (al-Wansharisi, ibn Yuma'a) who condemned the permanence in Christian territory so as not to expose themselves to the danger of losing the faith and to end up Christianized. In 1568 a new rebellion of Moriscos (officially Christian crypto-Muslims) broke out in the Sierra d'Espadan and the final explosion, the great uprising of Granada, Almeria and Malaga, occurred in XNUMX. From the start of the XNUMXth century, Moriscos were forbidden to leave Spain due to the negative effects this could have on the coffers of the Crown. They were also forbidden to approach the coast within ten kilometers to avoid their escape or prevent them from actively collaborating with the Barbary and Turkish pirates who were devastating the Spanish coast.

And was the Catholic population as hostile as the Crown to ex-Muslims who had become Moriscos?

The hostility of the Christian population towards the Moriscos only increased during the events. It culminated in the realization of their refusal to integrate into mainstream society. Again, the people and the lower clergy exacerbated their antipathy for the Moriscos, which in turn reinforced their hatred and rejection by the latter of the dominant majority, a vicious circle which could only be broken by the strongest link. weak, despite the contrary opinions of the highest political authorities, of the nobility of certain regions (which had Morisco workers as in Aragon and Valencia), even of the king himself. Between 1609 and 1614, about three hundred thousand Moriscos who left Spain, especially in the direction of northern Africa.