CORDOBA, Spain (AP) — Governments must take concrete measures to fight anti-Semitism and other hate crimes, delegates to an international conference said Wednesday, meeting in a city where Jews, Muslims and Christians once lived in harmony.
The more often this sort of thing is repeated in this casual way, the more firmly it becomes lodged in the popular consciousness. And then the cries of “bigotry” begin against those who dare question it. Hitler found this an effective tactic in his day.
In fact, Muslim Spain was hardly a paradise for non-Muslims. Even Maria Rosa Menocal, in her extended whitewash of Muslim Spain called The Ornament of the World, admits that at the laws of dhimmitude were very much in force in the great Al-Andalus:
The dhimmi, as these covenanted peoples were called, were granted religious freedom, not forced to convert to Islam. They could continue to be Jews and Christians, and, as it turned out, they could share in much of Muslim social and economic life. In return for this freedom of religious conscience the Peoples of the Book (pagans had no such privilege) were required to pay a special tax “” no Muslims paid taxes “” and to observe a number of restrictive regulations: Christians and Jews were prohibited from attempting to proselytize Muslims, from building new places of worship, from displaying crosses or ringing bells. In sum, they were forbidden most public displays of their religious rituals.
So much for paradise. Also, historian Kenneth Baxter Wolf observes that “much of this new legislation aimed at limiting those aspects of the Christian cult which seemed to compromise the dominant position of Islam.” After enumerating a list of laws much like Menocal’s, he adds: “Aside from such cultic restrictions most of the laws were simply designed to underscore the position of the dimmÃ®s as second-class citizens.” These laws were not uniformly or strictly enforced; Christians were forbidden public funeral processions, but one contemporary account tells of priests merely “pelted with rocks and dung” rather than being arrested while on the way to a cemetery.
If Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peaceably and productively only with Christians and Jews relegated by law to second-class citizen status, then al-Andalus has absolutely no reason to be lionized in our age. The laws of dhimmitude give all of Menocal’s accounts of Jewish viziers and Christian diplomats the same hollow ring as the stories of prominent American blacks from the slavery and Jim Crow eras: yes, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were great men, but their accomplishments not only do not erase or contradict the records of the oppression of their people, but render them all the more poignant and haunting. Whatever the Christians and Jews of al-Andalus accomplished, they were still dhimmis. They enjoyed whatever rights and privileges they had not out of any sense of the dignity of all people before God, or the equality of all before the law, but at the sufferance of their Muslim overlords.
There is more on this in Onward Muslim Soldiers.