Professor of Arabic literature and historian, Serafin Fanjul has just published a sum of money, Al-Andalus. The invention of a myth (L'Artilleur, 2017). By developing a deep reflection on the Spanish national identity, it breaks the myth of a multicultural paradise set up by the eight centuries of Muslim domination. Far from a symbiosis between Christians, Jews and Muslims, Al-Andalus formed a fundamentally inegalitarian society, fighting against the Christian kingdoms of the North, subjugating minorities within it. Interview (2/2)
conversationalist. In your essay Al-Andalus. The invention of a myth (The Gunner, 2017), you deconstruct the idyllic image of Muslim Spain that some Spanish intellectuals have built a posteriori. Comparing some periods of Al-Andalus to South Africa under apartheid, do not you commit an anachronism?
Serafin Fanjul. I do not draw a parallel between al-Andalus and apartheid South Africa, I only say that there is some similarity between the two. And indeed, this similarity exists because of the separation of religious and racial communities, of the very superior rights granted to Muslims and, on the contrary, of the inferior status of members of the other two communities. There were also differences between the Muslims in the degree of nobility and prominence according to their membership in the group of Berbers, muladis (Christians of Hispanic origin converted to Islam), Arabs "baladis" (the first to have penetrated the peninsula in 711) and Arabs commanded by Baldj, arrived in 740.
In al-Andalus, people had value and were subjects of rights only as members of a community and not as individuals. The touchstone was obviously mixed marriages. It was impossible for a Muslim to marry a Christian or a Jew, and it was difficult even for an "Arab-born" woman to marry a muladi (a Christian convert to Islam) under the concept of Kafa'a (proportionality), and to the extent that it was considered to have higher blood level. When political and military dominance was reversed and Muslims became a minority, the situation was maintained, but this time to the detriment of the latter.
The texts written in al-Andalus abound in discriminatory and insulting allusions against Christians and Jews. The latter materialized, to cite only a few examples, by the 9th century anti-Christian persecution in Cordoba, the pogrom of 1066 in Granada, the deportations of Jews to Morocco in the 12th century, or the mass flight of Christians and from Jews to Christian Spain as early as the 9th century.
You describe a clash of civilizations and a state of war almost permanent between Christians, Jews and Muslims ...
The first time I read the expression "clash of civilizations" it is not under the pen of Huntington, but in the major work of Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world at the time of Philip II, whose publication goes back to 1949. I think I correctly interpret Braudel by asserting for my part, in agreement with him, that the language misleads us by suggesting behind the phrase "clash of civilizations" the idea of great warlike confrontations. It is not at all about this, but rather of small-scale daily, reiterative confrontations in everyday life, between different cosmogonies, basic notions, dissimilar worldviews, civic or sexual morals, basic political concepts, but which are decisive in the relationship of human beings with power: the total submission or exercise of rights and the consciousness of having rights. And this without going into more concrete questions such as the position of women or religious minorities, which fortunately have long been outmoded in Europe, while in Muslim countries they remain intact or cause serious convulsions when they are debated .
I never wrote that there was a permanent state of war in the medieval Iberian peninsula between two antagonistic and irreducible blocs. And that's because I know perfectly well that this was not the case until the Reconquest became consolidated as a major national project in the 12th and 13th centuries. I also know, of course, that there have also been cross alliances with the kingdoms of Taifas Muslims, the intervention of Christian (even Frankish) or Muslim troops against Christian princes as had been the case since 9th century.
Was the world of Averroes and Maimonides so apocalyptic?
I do not think he is very happy to cite Averroes and Maimonides as two examples of freedom of thought and community confraternity in al-Andalus. Averroes was a Neo-Platonist who was persecuted as a free thinker by the Almohads. As for the Jew Maimonides, he was forced to Islamize. Exiled to Morocco with his family, he then went to Egypt where he returned to Judaism. Discovered and denounced by an inhabitant of al-Andalus, he was accused of apostasy and was only able to save his life thanks to the intervention of Cadi Ayyad. Maimonides clearly states his position and his state of mind towards Christians and Muslims in his Epistle in Yemen.
How do you come to justify politically the expulsion of Jews and Moriscos (Moor converted to Christianity) from Christian Spain?
I'm just trying to explain these events. We can not limit ourselves to seeing the events of the past as good or bad, when they are simply irreversible. The only thing we can do is get as close as possible to try to understand them. And in the case where our good faith and our regenerative will are sincere, we must try not to repeat them.
Unfortunately, all of medieval Europe has been working to marginalize and persecute Jews, with frequent massacres and sacking of Jewish neighborhoods. In Christian Spain, this movement occurred later. If in 1212 the Castilian troops of Alfonso VIII protected the Jews of Toledo against the francs on this occasion, however, in 1348 and 1391, the situation was radically different. There was then a large amount of deaths, exactions and forced conversions. Jews converted to Christianity and those who had maintained their faith after the massive conversion attempts of the years 1408-1415, however, coexisted throughout the fifteenth century. At first, the Catholic Kings tried to make sure that Jews and Mudéjar (Muslims) remained in the places where they lived and maintained their functions. They depended directly on the king, paid a special tax of capitation, and in return received protection from society, but always with the idea that in the long run they would be converted. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Jewish communities of Christian Spain had increased considerably while those of al-Andalus had disappeared because of the action of the Almohads. At the same time, the persecution of Jews was redoubling in Europe. This general attitude finally reached Spain, stimulated by the fact that a few Jews were used to usury and participated in the collection of taxes, which irritated the poorest exploited populations and incited them to reactions that were as brutal as they were totally unfair. John I, in 1390, and Isabella I, in 1477, had had to curb the bellicose ardor of the most exalted members of the clergy.
What was the situation of Jewish subjects in the Catholic kingdom of Castile?
On the eve of the expulsion of 1492, there were about a hundred thousand Jews in the crown of Castile and about twenty thousand in Aragon. A minority was rich, but the majority were not rich (they were farmers, ranchers, horticulturists, textile artisans, leather and metals). The protection in the lands of the lords of the nobility was more direct and more effective than that of the royal domain. Jews exercised liberal professions such as medicine despite the prohibitions. Among the Jews close to the Catholic Kings were Abraham Seneor, Chief Rabbi of Castile, Mayr Melamed, Isaac Abravanel, Abraham and Vidal Bienveniste. The attitude of the Catholic Kings was not anti-Jewish, but it did not contribute to eliminating popular hostility or contradicting the doctrinal arguments against the Jews. Spain's greatest connoisseur of Catholic Kings, Miguel Ángel Ladero Quesada, dismisses the economic motives for explaining the expulsion (which was actually rather detrimental to the revenues of the Crown). He attributes it rather to the will to solve the problem of Jewish converts, a problem that had already justified the establishment of the new inquisition in 1478. It was believed that the Jews, by their very presence and because of family ties that the united with many converts, helped to prevent assimilation or absorption. On the other hand, since the Jews were not Christians, they could not be investigated by the Inquisition. The euphoric climate of triumphant Christianity after the capture of Granada in 1492, helped the inquisitors to convince the Catholic kings of the necessity of expulsion. Especially since at this time of full consolidation of royal power, an idea was spreading more and more: that which only the homogeneity of faith could guarantee the cohesion of the social body, essential to the proper functioning of the monarchy. We know today that these ideas were unfair and erroneous, but they were prevalent throughout Europe. To be convinced of this, it suffices to recall the fierce anti-Semitism of Luther, the persecution of Huguenots, Protestants in Spain, Italy, and France, or Catholics in the different countries of northern Europe during the following centuries. .
As for Muslims, I understand that they have not been spared by Catholic Spain ...
The Crown's policy towards Muslims has been erratic and often contradictory. The Mudejares (Muslims under the rule of the Christians) had survived since the 13th century although in decreasing numbers. Expulsion as punishment for rebellion (1264) in Niebla and Murcia, voluntary exile not to be subject to Christian power and the attraction exercised by the Kingdom of Granada, had finally emptied Western Andalusia of its Muslims. After the capture of Granada, the mudejares were allowed to emigrate or to remain conserving their religion, but in 1498 the pressures to be converted were so strong that they caused the rebellion of the Alpujarras (1499-1502) resulting in the decree of forced baptism or expulsion. The voluntary and clandestine escape of moriscos then increased because of the fatwas and the exhortations of the Muslim jurisconsults (al-Wansharisi, ibn Yuma'a) who condemned the permanence in Christian territory not to expose themselves to the danger of losing the faith and finish christianised. In 1526, a new rebellion of Moriscos (officially Christian crypto-Muslims) erupted in the Sierra de Espadan and the final explosion, the great uprising of Granada, Almeria and Malaga, occurred in 1568. From the beginning of In the 16th century, the Moriscos were forbidden to leave Spain because of the negative effects this could have on the Crown coffers. They were also forbidden to approach the coast less than ten kilometers to avoid their flight or to prevent them from actively collaborating with the Barbary and Turkish pirates who devastated the Spanish coast.
And was the Catholic population as hostile as the Crown to the ex-Muslims who had become Moorish?
The hostility of the Christian population towards the Moriscos has only increased during the events. It culminated with the awareness of their refusal to integrate into the majority society. Once again, the people and the lower clergy exacerbated their antipathy for the Moors, which in turn reinforced their hatred and rejection of the dominant majority, a vicious circle that could only be broken by the most weak, despite the contrary opinions of the highest political authorities, the nobility of certain regions (which had Morisco workers as in Aragon and Valencia), even the king himself. Between 1609 and 1614, about three hundred thousand Moriscos who left Spain especially towards North Africa.