Wednesday 22 February 2017

400 years ago Spain forcibly converted Muslims to Christianity – then expelled them. Have we learned nothing?

Spanish Muslims

One episode is surprisingly absent from our era of terror wars and terrorist atrocity. Between 1609 and 1614 Spain expelled between 300,000 to 350,000 Muslim converts to Christianity known as Moriscos or "little Moors" from Spanish territory, and destroyed the last remnants of the Moorish kingdom of al-Andalus that had begun nearly eight centuries before.

The Moriscos were all nominal Catholics, descendants of Muslims who had been forcibly converted at the end of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The decision to expel them followed more than a century in which Spain's rulers had attempted to wipe out every trace of their Islamic faith, and their cultural and even culinary traditions.
The expulsion of the Moriscos followed more than a century in which Spain's rulers had attempted to eradicate every trace of Iberian Islam. Having forcibly transformed its Muslims into Christians, Spain made no serious attempt to instruct these "converts" in their new faith and never entirely believed that such a transformation was possible.
Many leading clerics and statesmen simply believed that the Moriscos were incapable of Christianity and even unworthy of it, and preferred repression and the Inquisition to gentleness and persuasion. Spain's rulers were unable to distinguish between Islamic religious belief and cultural practice, and punished the Moriscos for any outward expression of their "Moorishness", whether it was their festive dances, eating couscous or the wearing of the full-face veil.

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