Johnson’s tortured reasoning here appears to be that, well, see, Muslims made a great civilization in Europe once, and so they may do it again, instead of simply mounting jihad terror attacks and promising imminent takeover. Very well. Maybe they will, but there doesn’t seem to be much genuine intellectual ferment among Muslims in the West — just a lot of victimhood-mongering, finger-pointing, and evasiveness. Johnson also appears to be implying that the Islamization of Europe and Britain is inevitable, and so we should look on the bright side.
However, Johnson wants us to know that he is tough-minded, by golly; he isn’t falling for any romanticized ahistorical fantasy. “Both Christians and Muslims wanted to be on top; both indulged in occasional pogroms and forced conversions; and don’t forget that in 1492 it was the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, who kicked out the last Moor from the citadel of Granada and expelled every Jew from Spain.” But “what you cannot deny is the scale of the Muslim achievement.”
This is muddled in all sorts of ways. In the first place, Johnson’s moral equivalence is ridiculous in light of the fact that during the 800-year Muslim occupation of Spain, there was not some sort of mutual jockeying for power among Christians and Muslims. Both may have “wanted to be on top,” but the Christians were decidedly on the bottom. Even Maria Rosa Menocal, in her romantic and fantastic hagiography of Muslim Spain, The Ornament of the World, acknowledges the second-class status to which Jews and Christians were relegated there. “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.”
According to historian Richard Fletcher, “Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.” On December 30, 1066, about four thousand Jews in Granada were murdered by rioting Muslim mobs–more than would be killed in the Crusaders’ infamous Rhineland pogroms of the mid-twelfth century. What enraged the Granadan Muslims was the political power of the Jewish vizier Samuel ibn Naghrila and his son Joseph: the mob resented the fact that these men had authority over Muslims, which they saw as a “breach of sharia.” The mob was incited to kill the Jews by a poem composed by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq: “I myself arrived in Granada and saw that these Jews were meddling in its affairs. … So hasten to slaughter them as a good work whereby you will earn God’s favor, and offer them up in sacrifice, a well-fattened ram.”
The mob heeded his call. A Muslim chronicler (and later sultan of Granada), ‘Abd Allah, said that “both the common people and the nobles were disgusted by the cunning of the Jews, the notorious changes they had brought in the order of things, and the positions they occupied in violation of their pact [of second-class status].” He recounted that the mob “put every Jew in the city to the sword and took vast quantities of their property.”
So heed Boris Johnson’s advice. Islamic jihadists may murder some non-Muslims and enforce second-class status on Jews and Christians, but hey, they may build some fine buildings, so relax, you greasy Islamophobe.
“Amid dystopic visions of an Islamic Europe, remember the Alhambra,” by Boris Johnson, Telegraph, January 3, 2016:
Phewee. I snapped the novel shut before the easyJet plane had even landed. I read it so fast I more or less inhaled it. It’s the new bestseller – Submission – by that seedy-looking, chain-smoking French intellectual called Houellebecq (pron. Wellbeck), and it is brilliant because an outlandish scenario is made to seem so darned plausible.
The author imagines his own country in just six years’ time. The presidential elections are coming up, and Marine Le Pen’s National Front is on 34 per cent in the polls, and the Socialists are a long way behind, on 22 per cent. But only a point behind them is a new party that has emerged from the banlieues. Led by a charismatic and benevolent second-generation immigrant called Muhammed Ben Abbes, financed by the Gulf, the Muslim Brotherhood is picking up votes across urban France.
The Socialists continue to do badly, through general voter ennui and anger at the economic crisis caused by the euro; and when the real voting takes place, in the first round of the presidential election, Ben Abbes somehow manages to edge them out. He comes second. Suddenly it is between him and the fire-eating, blonde-haired leader of the National Front. What do the Socialists do? They do a deal to keep out the far Right. They throw their weight behind Ben Abbes, who sweeps to power in the run-off. The Muslim Brotherhood is effectively in charge of the republic, and the process of Islamification is so gradual that the frog (so to speak) does not realise it is being boiled.
It begins with the mandatory teaching of the Koran in schools; then French women start wearing veils and abandoning skirts; then men start having up to four wives, and as many concubines as they can afford; and then the genial Ben Abbes embarks on a great and visionary programme to change the whole contour and complexion of the EU, to admit Turkey and the Maghreb countries. Before you can say Allahu akbar the French are leading a programme to create a kind of “Eurabia”, and France’s Jewish population flees for Israel.
As for the rest of the French population, they follow the establishment in a kind of submission, as the title suggests; and “submission”, of course, is the literal meaning of Islam. The hero is a seedy-looking, chain-smoking intellectual who becomes a Muslim, and is rewarded with a luscious, Gulf-funded university post and a nubile young wife. Otherwise – and this is the really spooky bit – the country just carries on. The point of the book is to send a shiver up the spine, to play upon Islamophobia, and to make you wonder what it really would be like if Europe were under Muslim rule.
‘We will be forced constantly to insist on the distinction between Islamic extremism and a religion followed by more than a billion people who are no less peaceful than ourselves’
I was brooding on this vanishingly unlikely contingency when the plane touched down and it hit me. We were there: we had just landed in the last patch of western Europe to resemble Houellebecq’s dystopia in the sense that it was the last place to be under the control of the Muslims. We have spent a couple of nights in Granada in southern Spain, and on Saturday there was a procession through town to celebrate the expulsion of Boabdil, otherwise known as Muhammad XII, the last sultan of Granada.
You may remember this wretch. On January 2 1492 he was forced to hand over the keys to the incomparably beautiful rose-pink Alhambra palace, and as he looked back he emitted a groan of anguish known as “El suspiro del Moro” – the Moor’s last sigh. At which point his mother whipped him, saying: “You weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man!” When you look at what Boabdil had surrendered, you can see her point.
The Muslims ruled this part of Spain for 800 years, and their legacy was colossal. Now I don’t go along with this notion that it was all a kind of multi-culti sweetness and light, with Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side in perfect harmoneee, like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Both Christians and Muslims wanted to be on top; both indulged in occasional pogroms and forced conversions; and don’t forget that in 1492 it was the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, who kicked out the last Moor from the citadel of Granada and expelled every Jew from Spain.
No, there is no easy way you can retrofit medieval Spain to become some prototype of modern urban pluralism and tolerance. But what you cannot deny is the scale of the Muslim achievement. It was the intellectual flowering of the Cordoba caliphate that helped to protect and transmit ancient Greek texts and eventually to propel the European Renaissance. The Islamic architecture of Granada is simply astonishing….