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New translation, the Magna Carta

The myth of Islamic tolerance in al-Andalus

Spain under Islamic conquest

a briefing document

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some context
the 'myth' of islamic tolerance in spain
freedom of religion, 1220
1068 - the arab master race
why aren't we in charge? the problem with islam
modern catholic spain
the reconquista
map: the stages of the reconquest of Spain from Islam

related briefings documents

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some context

The word ‘tolerance’, when used by Muslim apologists, tends to mean “allowed to live by the Muslim masters”.

Islam is one of many warrior kingdoms, who descended on the settled civilisations of Europe. They expanded their occupation at a prodigious rate for about a hundred years. In common with such expansions, anyone found in its path was killed or enslaved. As is the way of such expansions, it ran out of puff and was absorbed, then was pushed back, in particular in Spain, for the next seven hundred years.

The Muslim invaders came to Spain in a similar manner to the Normans coming into Britain. They came as ruler, displacing the previous rulers. Killing off the peasantry that worked the land was not the objective, nor was removing useful administrators. Such people were reduced to a servile class. Little attempt was made to convert them to Islam, but merely to control or use them. Tolerance or intolerance was irrelevant. As Christian Spain pushed back, similar attitudes prevailed. In both cases, a great church may become a mosque, and later revert back to being a church.

But then there was a fundamental difference. Christianity was essentially a religion of peace, whereas Islam was, and remains, a religion of conquest. The crusades in Spain and Jerusalem were conceived of as righting a wrong (just war), as recovering what had been stolen.

As the Reconquista progressed, petty rulers on both sides of the divide might enter into alliances with petty rulers on the other side. Sometimes, Islamic rulers might be paying tribute to a Christian ruler, and visa versa.

As the Islamics spread, various civilisations lost lands and with them, palaces, churches, libraries and wise men. Thus Islam built up treasure and knowledge from several places and cultures - from India, from Greece and so on. In Spain, the Great Library of Toledo in 1085 fell into Christian hands and, at this point, Arabic, Jewish and Christian translators started to open the riches from the library to the growing renaissance in northern Europe. The intelligentsia are always useful to the rulers, or as Tom Lehrer put it, “'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department', says Wernher von Braun.”.

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Muslims are persecuting Christians and Jews in the modern world. Most of the places in the modern world where there is serious communal strife, Moslems are involved, not Christians.

Most of the mass murders in the modern world have been driven by the socialist cults. Christian movements long ago gave up medieval ‘enthusiasms’. Medieval Europe was a very different world from the 21st century.

I’m researching the historic realities as compared with the present apologetics for Islam. For instance:

1086 Alfonso VI, King of Castile, took Toledo. He allowed the Muslims of Toledo to remain, retaining their property, worshipping freely, and living in accord with Islamic law; those who wished to depart with their movable good could do so, but they could return later if they wished.

Alfonso I, King of Aragon, gave similar guarantees to the Muslims of Zaragosa
[Derived from p.139-140, Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain by Joseph F O'Callaghan].

It was not until 1492 that the Moorish Kingdom of Granada surrendered to Ferdinand V and Isabella, and the final Muslim expulsion did not take place until over a century later, between 1609 and 1614....

At the end of the Reconquista, there were around a million Islamics in Spain. There are now once more about a million Muslims in Spain!

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the 'myth' of islamic tolerance in spain

“The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths. University professors teach it. Journalists repeat it. Tourists visiting the Alhambra accept it.

“It has reached the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, which sings the virtues of the “pan-confessional humanism” of Andalusian Spain (July 18, 2003).

“The Economist echoes the belief: “Muslim rulers of the past were far more tolerant of people of other faiths than were Catholic ones. For example, al-Andalus’s multi-cultural, multi-religious states ruled by Muslims gave way to a Christian regime that was grossly intolerant even of dissident Christians, and that offered Jews and Muslims a choice only between being forcibly converted and being expelled (or worse).”

“The problem with this belief is that it is historically unfounded, a myth. The fascinating cultural achievements of Islamic Spain cannot obscure the fact that it was never an example of peaceful convivencia.

“The history of Islamic Spain begins, of course, with violent conquest. Helped by internal dissension among the Visigoths, in 711 A.D. Islamic warriors entered Christian Spain and defeated the Visigothic king Rodrigo. These Muslims were a mixture of North African Berbers, or “Moors,” who made up the majority, and Syrians, all led by a small number of Arabs proper (from the Arabian peninsula).

“The Crónica Bizantina of 741 A.D., the Crónica mozárabe of 754 A.D. and the illustrations to the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa María chronicle the brutality with which the Muslims subjugated the Catholic population. From then on, the best rulers of al- Andalus were autocrats who through brute force kept the peace in the face of religious, dynastic, racial, and other divisions.”
[Quoted from firstprinciplesjournal.com]


"Within al-Andalus the conflicts and feuds of the 8th century persisted. There were tensions between Arabs and Muwallads (i.e. Christians who had converted to Islam), and between both of these groups and the Berbers throughout the 9th century.

“As early as 806 al-Hakam I (r.796-822) is documented to have ordered the beheading of 5.000 of Toledo's leaders in reprisal for a rebellion. Later he put down a revolt in Córdoba itself, crucifying some 300 of the instigators upside down, and demolishing their quarter across the river. The remaining families, some 8.000 individuals, were packed off to Fez (in Morocco), where they settled in an area still known as Fes el Andalous. Not for nothing did al-Hakam earn the title of "Butcher of al-Andalus."

“Obsessed with passing on his emirate intact to his descendants, al-Hakam justified his brutal measures to his son, claiming that "Like the tailor who uses his needle to sew together pieces of cloth, so I used my sword to unite my divided provinces... I leave you, my son, a pacified domain; it is a bed on which you can sleep untroubled, for I have taken care that no rebel will disturb your slumber.”
[Quoted from spainthenandnow.com]

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freedom of religion, 1220

Francis of Assisi [1182-1226] called on Christians to preach the gospel to Muslims. He sent friars to Morocco where they were promptly killed, as proselytising was contrary to Islamic law.

[Derived from p.118, Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain by Joseph F O'Callaghan]

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1068 - the arab master race

Sa’id Ibn Ahmadi
“In 1068, before the arrival of the almoravids, the cadi of Muslim Toledo, the Arab Sa’id Ibn Ahmadi, wrote a book classifying the nations of the world. In it he accounted the inhabitants of the extreme North and South as barbarians, describing Europeans as white and mentally deficient because of undercooking by the sun, and Africans as black, stupid, and violent because of overcooking. In contrast, Arabs were done just right.”
[Quoted from firstprinciplesjournal.com]

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why aren't we in charge? the problem with islam

“Ultimately, the struggle of the fundamentalists is against two enemies, secularism and modernism. The war against secularism is conscious and explicit, and there is by now a whole literature denouncing secularism as an evil neo-pagan force in the modern world and attributing it variously to the Jews, the West, and the United States. The war against modernity is for the most part neither conscious nor explicit, and is directed against the whole process of change that has taken place in the Islamic world in the past century or more and has transformed the political, economic, social, and even cultural structures of Muslim countries.

“Islamic fundamentalism has given an aim and a form to the otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing extent even their livelihood.”
Quoted from theatlantic.com]

This comes from a longish article by Bernard Lewis, born 31 May, 1916 (now aged 96). He is a copious writer on the Middle East [link to amazon.com].

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“The majority of Andalusian Muslims belonged to this malikite way. A sample of its teachings can be found in the dhimma writings of jurist Ibn Abdun (Seville, c. 1100):

  • A Muslim must not act as a masseur to a Jew or Christian; he must not clear their rubbish nor clean their latrines. In fact, the Jew and the Christian are more suited for such work...
  • A Muslim must not act as a guide or stableman for an animal owned by a [non-Muslim]....
  • It is forbidden to sell a coat that once belonged to a leper, a Jew, or a Christian, unless the buyer is informed of its origin; likewise if this garment once belonged to a debauched person....
  • No...Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual.... In effect, “Satan has gained the mastery over them, and caused them to forget God’s Remembrance. Those are Satan’s party” (Quran S. lviii. 19).
    A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them so they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace;
  • the sound of bells must be prohibited in Muslim territories and reserved only for the lands of the infidels;
  • it is forbidden to sell to Jews and Christians scientific books unless they treat of their particular law. They have translated scientific books and attributed them to their coreligionists and their bishops, whereas they are really the work of Muslims!
  • It would be preferable not to let Jewish or Christian physicians heal Muslims. Since they are incapable of noble sentiments toward Muslims, let them treat their fellow infidels; knowing their feelings, how is it possible to entrust the lives of Muslims to them?
    [Quoted from firstprinciplesjournal.com]

And from Did Hitler know about the holocaust? A psychological assessment,
the section on the Lateran Council 4 (ecumenical council 12) 1215

“68.Jews appearing in public
“A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with Christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress.”

This was eventually to reappear as yellow stars under Hitler’s National Socialism.

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modern catholic spain

Franco and the Jews

“Because fifty years of Comintern propaganda has taught us to think of Franco as anti-Semite, a friend of Hitler and an anti-American, the authors offer the following documentation in order that one can read this story with an open mind.”

“In The Congressional Record of January 24, 1950, Representative Abraham Multer quotes a spokesman for the Joint Distribution Committee:
"During the height of Hitler’s blood baths upwards of 60,000 Jews had been saved by the generosity of the Spanish authorities." ” [Hitler stopped by Franco, p.312]

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the reconquista

The onrush of the Islamic invasion was finally halted north of Poitiers (about 200 miles short of Paris) by Charles Martel. This is regarded as one of the critical battles in history. From thence forward, Martel organised to consolidate his empire and to drive the Muslims out of France. This process was continued as his son, Pippin the Short, finally took Narbonne in 759.

Charles Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne, pushed into Catalonia, taking Barcelona in 801. This formed another base to continue the pressure and push against the invaders.

By fits and starts, this process then continued until 1492 when Islamic rule was finally terminated after over 750 years of occupation. You can see the stages in the map below.

The stages of the reconquest of Spain from Islam
The stages of the reconquest of Spain from Islam
[underlined place names in orange link to other pages at abelard.org]

“In 718 Arabs had crossed the Pyrenees in large numbers and occupied Narbonne, killing all the adult male inhabitants and selling the women and children into slavery. By 720 they were freely raiding in Aquitaine. The large expedition of 732, led by Abd ar-Rahman, the governor of Moorish Spain, had already captured Poitiers and was advancing to sack Tours when it was intercepted by Charles Martel between the villages of Vieux-Poitiers and Moussais-la-Bataille on the road to Orleans.”
[Quoted from Carnage and culture, p.149]

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Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain by Joseph F O'Callaghan

Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain

Four and a half GoldenYak (tm) award

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, pbk
[First published: 2003, hbk]

ISBN-10: 0812218892
ISBN-13: 978-0812218893

$24.32 [amazon.com] {advert}
£18.53 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

A competent, well-organised history of the Reconquista.

Carnage and culture: Landmark battles in the rise of Western power by Victor Davis Hanson

five GoldenYak (tm) award
There is a full book review here.

One of the nine battles examined in this 500-page book is Martel’s Battle of Poitiers (pp. 135-169).


Anchor, 2002, pbk

ISBN-10: 0385720386
ISBN-13: 978-0385720380

$11.56 [amazon.com] {advert}
£9.43 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Kindle edition

Anchor, 2007
ASIN: B0012D1D7S

$12.26 [amazon.com] {advert}


2001, Doubleday, hbk

$20.97 [amazon.com] {advert}
£17.15 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Campaign 190: Poitiers AD 732: Charles Martel turns the Islamic tide (Campaign) by David Nicolle

Campaign 190: Poitiers AD 732

five GoldenYak (tm) award

Osprey Publishing, 2008, pbk

ISBN-10: 184603230X
ISBN-13: 978-1846032301


Stuffed with details about the Battle of Poitiers and the beginnings of the Carolingian-Frankish [proto-France] dynasty, this is one of a large series of booklets that tend to be designed for war-gamers, but it is useful orientation.

While this work tends to depict Martel’s battle as dealing with an Arab raid into France, in fact there were incursions at this time into Aquitaine [the white area in the map above] from at least five directions. To my amateur eye, it looks like a full-scale invasion that, in fact, defeated Eudes, prince of Aquitaine. He had to go running to Martel, becoming his vassal. (Martel had gained control of both Austrasia and Neustria in northern France.)

I prefer to put a single bug under the microscope, rather than try to deal with the totality in one go. This is a useful example of warfare at this time.

This 96-page booklet has lots of pretty pictures and maps, most of which seem to serve very limited purposes. While being a bit chaotic, I find this booklet very useful. Three and a half GoldenYaks for the terrifying disorganisation.

Peter the Venerable and Islam by James Kritzeck

Peter the Venerable and Islam

five GoldenYak (tm) award

Princeton University Press, hbk, 1964



Peter the Venerable [1092-1156], friend to Pierre Abelard, travelled to Spain with assistants, where he instigated a translation of the Koran and some other Islamic sources. This was the first reasonably reliable translation into Latin.

This bundle of documents is now known as the Toledan Collection. Included in the Collection is an attempted refutation of Mohammedanism by Peter the Venerable. In general, Peter wanted to encourage Christians to dispute, on an intellectual level, with Mohammedans ‘in a spirit of love’, an attempt which continues into present times.

This book is an accessible introduction to the Toledan Collection.

200 pages in English with copious notes, and 90 pages of the original Latin.

Five GoldenYaks for the highly competent job that it is.

Medieval Colonialism: Postcrusade Exploitation of Islamic Valencia by Robert Ignatius Burns

Princeton University Press, 1975, hbk

ISBN-10: 0691052271
ISBN-13: 978-0691052274


Robert Burns has done a great deal of analysis, primarily from the medieval records of Valencia, exploring the culture at about the time of the Reconquista. His work appears in several highly detailed volumes.

This is hard graft for the dedicated, not light bedtime reading.

Islam and dhimmitude: where civilizations collide
by Bat Ye’or

Bat Ye'or image credit: amazon.co.uk

Three and a half GoldenYak (tm) award

Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press

2002, pbk 0838639437
$24.95 [amazon.com] {advert} / £14.07 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

2001, hbk 0838639429
$19.60 [amazon.com] {advert} / £17.21 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

This book is recommended. It has a wealth of information on its subject, complete with oceans of references, but it is also hard graft and not recommended to readers of the Daily Slime. See also dhimmi.

Christianity, Islam, and the West
by Robert A Burns
Christianity, Islam and the West by RA Burns

University Press of America, 2011, pbk

ISBN-10: 0761855599
ISBN-13: 978-0761855590

$26.95 [amazon.com] {advert} /
£16.10 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Kindle edition

275 kb
University Press of America, 2011

price not available [amazon.com] {advert}

  A sanitised version of Islam, as promoted by good-hearted, romantic Western universities. For instance, there is only one index reference to dhimmi, and there is no reference to Bat Ye’or.

That was the year that was - Tom Lehrer That Was the Year That Was by Tom Lehrer
1966, re-issued as CD in 1990; Wea/Warner Brothers; ASIN: B000002KO7
$10.99 [amazon.com] {advert}/ £9.98 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

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