The German public broadcaster ZDF, more precisely the ZDFinfo section, commemorated Muslim Spain on Facebook on April 27: “1,310 years ago today, the Moors landed in Gibraltar and established a caliphate on the Iberian peninsula. The battle for Spain between Christians and Muslims lasted over 700 years.” The first thing that stands out is the verb “to land” – superficially a neutral word, but one that raises questions: did the Moors land like Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969 in a deserted land that they could simply claim for themselves? Or did they land like the Western Allies in Normandy in June 1944 to liberate Europe from an inhuman dictatorship? Neither the one nor the other is true. Rather, in 711, the bloody conquest of the Visigothic Empire began.
Under the heading “Spain was Muslim” (Portugal is simply omitted), the crescent moon with star – the symbol of Islam par excellence – is adorned on a red and yellow Iberian Peninsula. Apart from the fact that the colours red and yellow were not chosen for the Spanish flag until 1785, the colour of choice for a “Muslim Spain” would rather be green – so today the official flag of the country of Andalusia is green and white.
But these are trifles compared to the text under the map: “For over 780 years, cities like Cordoba and Granada were centres of art, science and often religious tolerance. After the completion of the Christian reconquest in 1492, Muslims and Jews had to convert or leave the country.”
There we have it again, the cliché that in Muslim “Spain” the three religions lived together wonderfully. It is true that art and science flourished especially during the time of the Caliphate of Córdoba (929-1031). It is true that we only know works of Greek philosophy through translations from Arabic into Latin. But what such a text conceals: The decline of the Muslim heyday on the Iberian Peninsula in the Caliphate of Córdoba was sealed by internal struggles between Arabs and Berbers and by the “landing” of the Almoravids and Almohads from North Africa, who established so-called Taifa empires.
The “often religious tolerance” that is opposed here to the expulsion of Muslims and Jews after 1492 turns out to be another cliché. For the first pogrom on European soil took place in 1066 in Muslim Granada, in which the Jewish population was largely murdered. Muslims were tolerant towards people of other faiths, only as long as they converted to Islam or paid the poll tax (jizya).
Christians were not the first to invent the banishment of people of other faiths: the Almohads were particularly intolerant. Their first caliph ordered the expulsion of those who did not convert to Islam. Even Andalusian Jews who accepted the Islamic faith had to wear a distinctive sign. That such facts are ignored in order to play off “intolerant” Christianity against “tolerant” Islam that is a bit much.