The University Bookman

 
 

Summer 2016

Books in Little: The Myth of Islamic Spain

book cover imageThe Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain
by Darío Fernández-Morera.
ISI Books, 2016.
Hardcover, 358 pages, $30.

Karl C. Schaffenburg

This is a brave book, and one must assume that its author is tenured, for the book systematically deconstructs a myth cherished in the academy and political discourse alike—the myth that Islamic rule in what is now Spain was tolerant and enlightened, resulting in the rediscovery of classical knowledge, and reflecting a worldview to be emulated. The myth is cherished because it confirms underlying assumptions of cultural and religious equivalence in the postmodern academy, and it is convenient politically in an era of renewed confrontation between what used to be recognized as the West and expansionist Islam.

Fernández-Morera exposes the supposed convivencia, a multiethnic, multicultural, and thus oh-so-postmodern way of life in Spain, as a fabrication. In so doing he exposes the agenda-driven sifting of evidence and argument in much of the modern academy, and particularly in Islamic Studies departments that are often funded by Gulf State governments. What makes this exposé terribly inconvenient is that in attacking the supposed story of al-Andalus he cites primary sources, a wealth of documents in Medieval Spanish and Portuguese that likely have remained undisturbed by the many proponents of the myth the author attacks. No fewer than ninety-five pages of detailed notes (in ten-point type!) are included.

The book includes the broad outline of conquest and reconquest, of the destruction of a nascent Visigothic culture, and of the effects of jihad—effects lived out in daily realities of suppression for non-Muslims, active persecutions under the “tolerant” Umayyad rulers, the subjection of women, and the marginalization of Jews and Christians, including the progressive extinction of Christians ruled in a condition of dhimmitude (punitive taxation and political exile).

The convivencia is exposed as having been a precaria coexistencia, a reality with echoes all too familiar. The book is difficult to ignore unless one assumes the dogmatic position of finding tolerance in any rule that happens to not be “Western” or Christian. The reality, however, is that book will likely be ignored by most, for any attack on a cherished myth is bound to be unpopular, particularly when this attack is meticulously documented, insightful, and readable.  

The Rev. Dr. Karl C. Schaffenburg is an Episcopal priest serving in Wisconsin, having previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

Posted: June 26, 2016 in Books in Little.

Did you see this one? book cover

Love and Evil in Nazi Germany
Robert Huddleston
Summer 2011

The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, with the regeneration of the spirit and character—with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at the highest.

Russell Kirk

Share

Subscribe & Follow

RSS

More from the Bookman!

book cover book cover book cover


Remember the Walking Dead
Timothy D. Lusch

Untethered Revolution
Scott Beauchamp

Literature as Counterculture
Allen Mendenhall

The Enigma of the Black Republican
Kareim Oliphant

One Hundred Years of Communism
Francis P. Sempa

The Ambitious Intellectual
Ann-Michele Sproviero


book cover book cover book cover

Bookman Contributors Elsewhere

John Lukacs —the great contemporary historian has pieces in both Chronicles (on being surrounded by books) and First Things (on a displaced pianist).

Joseph Bottom on fraud, American-style.

Andrew Bacevich on the end of endism.

Helen Andrews on the moon landing and the 1970s. Helen (a 2017 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow) wrote one of our most popular pieces, a consideration of the anti-suffragettes.

News

We are pleased to announce the release of The University Bookman on Edmund Burke, now available for Kindle. Collecting 21 reviews, essays, and interviews from the Bookman on the life and thought of Edmund Burke, this book is only $2.99, and purchases support our ongoing work to provide an imaginative defense of the Permanent Things. (3 Mar 2015)

Other Sites of Interest

Publisher Sites

 

Copyright © 2007–2017 The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal