Friday, August 19, 2011

Eric Walberg:Islam and Europe

"Of course, this social order is the ideal. The history of Islam witnessed periods of benign and far-from-benign rule. It began with military victories and the spreading of the Caliphate from Atlantic to Pacific. The majority of conquered peoples decided to adopt this powerful religion, converting from polytheism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, though, contrary to Western prejudice, not “by the sword”. Throughout the various Islamic political orders, Christians, Jews and others continued to profess their faiths, enjoying a peaceful coexistence with Muslims. There was no period of imperial conquest and genocide equivalent to the Western imperial order from the fifteenth century to today.

The westward march of Islam was stopped in Spain and on the fringes of Byzantium by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century. The Iberian peninsula — Al-Andalus — was the pearl of Islamic civilisation from 711 to 1492, as a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, and later the Caliphate of Cordoba and the Emirate of Granada.

Islamophobes portray Europe today as in danger of a new Muslim conquest, politicians and mass media egging on the likes of Norway’s Anders Breivik, who calls for the ethnic cleansing of all Muslims from Europe, much like Christian conquerors expelled Muslims and Jews following the reconquest of Spain in the fifteenth century. But consider for a moment the legacy of Moorish Spain.

 This period saw Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in harmony, creating a prosperous, peaceful society, a highpoint in Spain’s history. Under the Caliphate of Cordoba, Al-Andalus became a beacon of learning, and the city of Cordoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in both the Mediterranean basin and the Islamic world.
As part of the Alliance of Civilisations, Spain is now rediscovering this Golden Age before the Christian re-conquest of Spain, which saw the torture, murder, forced conversion and expulsion of Muslims and Jews, and the genocide of New World Indigenous peoples following the “discovery” of the continent by Christopher Columbus.
While Al-Andalus lasted eight centuries, the post-Islamic period of Spain has lasted only six centuries, and suffers poorly in comparison to the Islamic Golden Age that preceded it."
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