Thursday, 3 June 2010

Spain’s garden of Islamic delights?

Guest post by Jeff Perren 

Ayaan-Hirsi-Ali Robert Andrews has a terrific smackdown of Nicholas Kristof's utterly revolting New York Times review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Nomad

Since she is one of the finest public personalities on the planet, defending the uber-heroic Ms. Ali is of course completely appropriate. Rational, factual, totally dedicated to the right and the true, and with the most horrific bona fides of any public intellectual in memory. How ironic the timing, then, that PBS should choose this week to re-broadcast a documentary called Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain (2007) I confess I haven't even seen it and I can already safely predict it's point of view. There's a big clue in the dead-giveaway title. One usually applies “Rise and Fall” to glorious civilizations (though there are exceptions, like the Nazi regime). But the "Cities of Light" moniker is the real kicker. Still, it's the program description that really cements my certainty:

_quote An examination of a time during the Middle Ages when Christians, Jews, and Muslims peacefully coexisted in southern Spain, and what led to the disintegration of the society.”

I researched Moorish Spain fairly well for a novel some time back, and I can assure you that all was not sweetness and light in early 8th to late 15th century Al-Andalus.

Set aside that nobody had any rights in Iberia during those years. That region had been, and continues to be, dominated by the Catholic Church (now overlaid with a huge dose of modern socialism). The results were not pretty even before the Islamic invasion. But forget that for now. Ask yourself instead what kind of 'peace' individuals in those groups would have enjoyed during the period.

Then, as now, any non-Muslim was a second-class citizen and, at that time and place, "second class citizen" meant something a good deal more onerous than even that of nomad-from-islam-to-america-a-personal-journey-through-the-clash-of-civilizationsa black person in Georgia circa 1960. To a Christian or Jewish male it was: just pay your Jizya and keep your mouth firmly shut or suffer the consequences.

And what were those consequences? Then as now: imprisonment, beheading, or banishment (which often meant death by starvation). Women, of course, didn't even register on the scale as fully human, a situation that persists in Islamic countries to this day. And, as a side note, Kristof's (and the filmmaker's) belief that Christians got by real well during that time is belied by the many armed revolts led by Christian kings over almost the entire period. That continued until Queen Isabella and her husband completed the final transfer that ended the Caliphate in all of that region. The fate of Jews, not only in Spain but everywhere prior to the mid-20th century, is too well known to require discussing.

How modern so-called liberals can decry Randal Paul's mild disapproval of one aspect of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and enthusiastically embrace Islamic Spain as a garden of delights and an era of religious brotherhood is almost beyond comprehension. It's as if one were to look at the Soviet Union in 1933 and declare that everything was hunky dory because there was 'peace' among Kulaks, Tartars, and Russians. Peace under rule by gangsters is not the same as peace of mind under freedom.

Truthfully, I don't think creatures like Kristof and that documentary maker lack historical knowledge nor are lying. I suspect their minds simply refuse any connection to reality when the facts are not as they wish. It's cherry picking raised to the level of a psychotic break. Fortunately for us, we have Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a counterweight, and that slender woman's weighty thoughts far outweigh any foolishness the Kristofs of the world can spew.

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