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Found 2 results

  1. Spain's modern welcome for Sephardic Jews raises Islamic questions After banishing Spain's Jewish population in 1492 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand turned their attention to its Muslims. But how many left and how many stayed? The Alhambra in Grenada, Andalusia, was built by Moors beginning around AD889, who officially stayed in Spain for several centuries. Photograph: Shaun Egan/Getty Images Perched dramatically on a rocky mountain, the small city of Toledo overlooks a bend in the Tagus river. Within its maze of cobblestone streets are buildings that once housed Masjids, churches and synagogues, hinting at the varied cultures that once called this medieval city home. Earlier this month, about 50 miles away from Toledo, the Spanish government sought to strengthen its ties with one of these cultures, announcing plans to fast-track the naturalisation of Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors were expelled five centuries ago from Spain. The bill, said the Spanish government, would "correct a historical wrong". The legislation has yet to be approved by parliament, but already consulates in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem said they have been flooded with requests for information. Up to 3.5 million people around the world are thought to have Sephardic – Hebrew for "Spanish" – Jewish ancestry. Now the descendants of another group who figured prominently in Spain's colourful past – before also being expelled – say it's only fair that the same right of return be extended to them. Shortly after banishing the country's Jewish population, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand turned their attention to Spain's Muslims, forcing them to covert to Christianity or face expulsion. The Muslims who converted, known as Moriscos, often did so in name only, holding on tightly to their customs and traditions. In the early 1600s – nearly 120 years after Jews in Spain were told to leave – the Moriscos were also expelled. An estimated 275,000 people were forcibly resettled, the majority of them heading to Morocco, some to Algeria and Tunisia. A group representing Moriscos in Morocco recently sent a letter to Spain's King Juan Carlos asking the country to make the same conciliatory gesture to the descendants of Muslims. Speaking from Rabat, the president of L'Association pour la Mémoire des Andalous strongly criticised Spain's double standard in offering to naturalise the descendants of Jews ousted from Spain but not Muslims. The Spanish government "should grant the same rights to all those who were expelled", Najib Loubaris told news agency EFE. "Otherwise the decision is selective, not to mention racist." The Spanish government's offer to Sephardic Jews was "very positive", said Loubaris, in that it showed an acknowledgment of "guilt for the expulsion that the Spanish state committed against its own citizens". Loubaris estimated that 600 families in Morocco can trace their origins to Spain. Most no longer speak Castilian Spanish, he said, but their connection to Spain is evident in their music, architectural styles and gastronomy. In Spain, the Junta Islámica reinforced the vivid links between the expelled Muslims and Spain. To this day, across the country there are families "who can demonstrate their lineages, who can show that their relatives were expelled hundreds of years ago," said Muhammad Escudero Uribe. Whether it is citizenship for Muslims or Jewish descendants, he said, "the cause and historical background is the same. And for this we want this same right to be extended. From a legal standpoint, it's only just." His organisation has spent years lobbying the Spanish government to naturalise the descendants of Muslims. In 2006, a left-wing party in the autonomous region of Andalusia proposed a bill that would recognise the rights of Muslims who were expelled. The bill never made it to a vote. "It doesn't seem that the government shares our position," lamented Escudero Uribe. The push for citizenship rights is just one part of a larger campaign being waged to raise awareness of Islamic influence in Spain, said Antonio Manuel Rodríguez Ramos, a law professor at the University of Córdoba. "We're the only place in Europe that has estranged itself from its past," he said. The right of return for those with Spanish Muslim ancestry would be "symbolic rather than practical," he said. While Sephardic Jews may be able to provide proof of their lineage through their surnames, their language or through certification from the federation of Jewish communities in Spain, setting similar criteria for the descendants of Spanish Muslims would be nearly impossible. "But the gesture would go a long way in repairing centuries of forgetting." Since the Spanish government's announcement, columnists around the world have mused on what prompted Spain to reach out to Sephardic Jews. Michael Freund, writing in The Jerusalem Post, called the decision "decidedly ironic". He explained, "the expulsion happened in part because Spain wanted Jews' assets, and now they are welcoming Jews back for the same reason". Others, such as the Portuguese lawmaker who drafted a law similar to Spain's that will eventually allow Jews expelled from Portugal five centuries ago to return, insisted that the experiences of Muslims and Jews on the peninsula couldn't be compared. "Persecution of Jews was just that, while what happened with the Arabs was part of a conflict," José Ribeiro e Castro told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Antonio Manuel Rodríguez Ramos suggested another reason. The hundreds of thousands of Muslims who left in the early 1600s couldn't possibly have been the only Muslim descendants in the country, he insisted. "The majority of these people didn't leave when they were expelled," he argued. "They stayed and they created a culture that can be described as most authentic and most Hispanic." Extending the right of return to the descendants of Spanish Muslims would shine a spotlight on a truth that most in Spain would like to ignore, he argued. "The danger is that we will have to recognise that the majority of the Spanish population is of Muslim descent," said Rodríguez Ramos. "It's an effort to hide our history, to hide our memory." Muslim Influence in modern-day Spain: - The Moors introduced a variety of new crops to the Iberian peninsula including oranges, lemons, cotton and sugarcane. They also introduced rice, a key ingredient in paella, one of Spain's most well-known dishes. - Arabic had a profound influence on Spanish, with linguists arguing that thousands of words of Arabic origin are used today in Spain. Examples include alcalde (mayor) and alfombra (carpet). - The architectural influence of the Moors remains the most recognisable legacies in modern-day Spain, from the Mezquita de Córdoba to the Alhambra palace in Granada. Moorish architecture is defined by slender columns, horseshoe arches, serene courtyards and geometric patterns. - The tangled, narrow street plans seen in many southern Spanish towns date back to Moorish times. - The guitar, along with flamenco's signature cry of olé, are believed to be derived from early versions of the instruments brought by the Muslims to Spain. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/24/spain-sephardic-jews-Islam-muslim?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
  2. Barcelona's Islamic Heritage in a Church By Farrukh I. Younus Sant Paul del Camp church. 'Over the past few years I have regularly attended the city of Barcelona for a number of conferences, this year was no different except that I took to exploring signs of an Islamic influence to the city. Finding Muslims in this city is not a troubled search; more than 300,000 live there, mostly from North Africa. And with 250,000 from Morocco, is it any wonder that the first Muslim member of the Catalan Parliament, Mohammed Chaib, is of Moroccan descent! But no, this wasn’t what I was looking for, rather, something historic. If Muslims came to Spain in the 8th century, and were expelled, at least from this region of Spain, Catalonia, in the 15th century, surely there must be some evidence or presence of Islam in Barcelona. Muslims first step foot in Barcelona in the 8th century when 'the Moors' conquered the city but their presence lasted less than a hundred years as 'the Franks' occupied the city turning it into a military strong post. Still, the Muslim presence in the Catalan region surrounding Barcelona remained for quite some centuries. As I discovered, Catalonia, the most north eastern province of Spain, bordering France, did indeed have an Islamic influence. Barcelona on the other hand, did not. At least, that is what I was able to determine having searched the internet and contacted a number of Spanish publishers who specialized in the history of the region. The cloisters. Old Church With Islamic Architecture! My search found one publication which mentioned traces of the Islamic architecture in what is Barcelona’s oldest church, Sant Paul del Camp. Built outside the city walls surrounded by green fields as its name suggests (Camp = Countryside), today it is just a short walk from Las Ramblas the main tourist street of the city. Arriving late Sunday morning at the church I noticed a small crowd gathering within the church. Outside stood a sign reading ‘Entry to cloisters 3 Euros', I thought, what luck! Inside I asked a lady where I might find the cloisters only to discover that they would be open briefly after Sunday Mass, for which she invited me to stay. Now it has been years since I have attended any form of Sunday service. It may have been a regular feature when I was a young boy at boarding school, but since then, like many of my Christian friends, I had not attended one. I thought to myself, why not, I will stand at one of the pews towards the back. As the service began my first thought was that this is no different than going to a Masjid where the sermon is conducted in Arabic – I understand one, just as much as I understand the other. Looking around, aside from a couple of Polish girls who like me, were waiting to visit the cloisters, the vast majority of individuals were elderly couples. In a strange way, while the church was subtly high tech with an integrated speaker system and good lighting, the balance of old church with old churchgoers seemed to synchronize a certain harmony. This simple fact is proof to me that not only must there have been dialogue between Muslims and Christians during this period, but that dialogue was so good that a church building included strong Islamic design themes. Every now and then a word I would recognize would be spoken, the most common being the reference to Prophet Jesus where in addition to saying "Peace be upon him" I would add, 'There is no god but Allah'. While I know and believe this to be true, that sitting in a church where today Prophet Jesus is referred to as the 'son of God' (Exalted be God above the false things ascribed to Him), I simply would not have felt complete without professing these statements to myself. As I pondered the history of the building while visiting the 'Islamic' cloisters, an elderly Catalan gentlemen was telling the two Polish girls that this church was built on land that used to be a Masjid. Of course the official version found almost everywhere reads that the Benedictines built this church after a Muslim raid destroyed the previous church in 985 AD. Whether there was a church first or a Masjid first, I do not know, in fact, to me as a non-historian, it does not really matter - I will let the historians have that discussion. What mattered to me was the fact that this small cloister built in the 12th century featured Islamic Moorish architecture. This simple fact is proof to me that not only must there have been dialogue between Muslims and Christians during this period, but that dialogue was so good that a church building included strong Islamic design themes. Yet today, despite such a large Muslim community in Barcelona, the city does not have a single Masjid: lots of converted shops and garages, but no Masjid. Much of this, as often in the world today, is down to misunderstandings of the Muslim belief, as well as generic fear. Lessons to Remember Of course I wonder then how Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, made space for the 60 visiting Christians to pray in his Masjid in Medina. Knowing full well that their faith entailed a degree of shirk (associating partners to God, the highest 'crime' in Islam), still, when they came from Najran, he gave them space in his Masjid to conduct their prayers. [Reference: Ibn Ishaque, The Life of Muhammad, pp 270-77, English translation, Guillaume] And despite these fundamental disagreements with regards to faith, a treaty was set up between the Muslims and the Christians of Najran. [Reference: AI‑Baladhuri, Ahmad ibn Yahyi ibn Jibir, Futuh al‑buldan, p. 76; Kitab al­amwal, p. 272] This example of Muslim engagement with non-Muslims, through agreement and mutual respect seems to have caught on with the Muslim presence in Spain where it has been observed that "In the earliest period of Muslim domination of Iberia there is evidence of extensive interaction, attested to by shared cemeteries and churches, bilingual coinage, an the continuity of Roman pottery types". [Reference: Brian A Catlos, Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon 1050-1300, p 33] In early Islam this tradition of mutual respect was continued when Caliph Umar, on his way to Syria stopped by a Christian town to meet the Bishop of Ayla spending a significant part of his day with him. And more locally, one of Prophet Muhammad’s neighbors in Medina with whom he retained good relations, a Jewish man, when the Prophet died, Caliph Umar provided him with a stipend, a pension, from the public treasury. That is right, Muslim taxes were paying for the pension of a Jewish man living in Medina. [ Reference: Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-kharaj, Cairo, 1382 H., p.122] In the example of Prophet Muhammad, and one of the first Muslim rulers, Caliph Umar, we witness the most perfect engagement model with non-Muslim, where while there were disagreements with regards to aspects of faith, people came together on common terms. In recent years, the opinions of the minority hard-line Muslims seem clearly to be at odds with these inclusive examples of early Islam. There is so much anger and hatred for non-Muslims by a minority of vocal Muslims it is shameful. Does not Allah say in the Qur'an, (Do not let hatred for a people incite you into being unjust. Justice is closer to piety. Have fear of God. God is aware of what you do.) [The Qur'an- 5:8]? The perception of Muslims in the past as well as Muslim today has been tainted first by misrepresentation and second by fear mongering. The task of men such as Mohammed Chaib, Catalan Parliament's Muslim member, is to break down some of these barriers, show the everyday and beautiful Islam practiced by the vast majority of Muslims and encourage the local government to allow a Masjid to be built. After all, how better to address misrepresentations of Islam than by supporting a Masjid that promotes the better interpretations of Islam? The Muslim contribution to Barcelona is brief, not to mention sketchy, despite the much stronger, positive influence of Islam in Spain. Perhaps with time, barriers such as fear and misunderstanding will be broken down, and Muslims can find a more inclusive way to contribute to Catalan society. That the architecture of the oldest Church of Barcelona includes strong signs of Islamic design, appreciated for hundreds of years, should be a proof that the Christian-Muslim dynamics of Barcelona today and into the future can also benefit from the positive influences that Islam can bring. Source: http://www.onislam.net/english/culture-and-entertainment/iblog/414052-barcelonas-islamic-heritage-in-a-church.html
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