From the Sackler Museum exhibit
Is it too cruel to call this dhimmitude at the Smithsonian? As even AP notes, religious harmony was only a sometime thing. And the “once upon a time…” beginning suggests a fairy tale.
Once upon a time “” a time that lasted for centuries “” Christians and Jews worked productively under Islamic rule in a large corner of southwestern Europe. Christian kings often wore Muslim robes and Jews sometimes ran governments for Muslim monarchs.
A Smithsonian exhibit of art from that era, called “Caliphs and Kings,” opens Saturday at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. It is part of a program of the Mosaic Foundation, organized by wives of ambassadors in Washington from Muslim countries.
This year, the program celebrates the time beginning almost 1,300 years ago when Islamic forces occupied most of Spain, Portugal and a large piece of southern France. They called their territory “al-Andalus.”
Some of its rulers felt their importance was such that they assumed the title of “caliph,” meaning they were successors to Mohammed with spiritual and political authority over all the faithful. But given the difficulties of travel over the huge territory of medieval Islam, their power was mostly limited to the lands under their control. The name of that realm survives in the popular term for eight southern provinces of Spain, Andalusia.
Though much admired by other Europeans of a thousand years ago as a kind of earthly paradise, al-Andalus had its share of war and brutal expulsions. El Cid, a Spanish national hero for his battles against Islam, spent nearly a decade of his early career in the service of Muslim rulers.