Span­ish row over Is­lamic past re­marks

The Irish Times - - WORLD NEWS - GUY HEDGECOE in Madrid

A se­nior politi­cian has un­leashed a fierce de­bate about Spain’s re­la­tion­ship with its Is­lamic past and drawn accusation­s of racism af­ter cel­e­brat­ing the Chris­tian re­con­quest of the coun­try from Mus­lim rule in the Mid­dle Ages.

Jan­uary 2nd is the an­niver­sary of the 1492 Catholic vic­tory over Mus­lim forces de­fend­ing the prized south­ern city of Granada for a decade. It is con­sid­ered a turn­ing point in end­ing eight cen­turies of Mus­lim oc­cu­pa­tion of the Ibe­rian Penin­sula.

Tak­ing of Granada

Esper­anza Aguirre, leader of the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party (PP) in Madrid and a for­mer mayor of the cap­i­tal, marked the date by post­ing a com­ment on Twit­ter: “To­day marks 525 years since the tak­ing of Granada by the Catholic Monar­chs. A day of glory for Spa­niards. With Is­lam we would not be free.”

Ms Aguirre com­pleted the tweet with the im­age of a Span­ish flag. King Fer­di­nand and Queen Is­abella, to­gether known as the Catholic Monar­chs, re­main di­vi­sive fig­ures for Spa­niards. Many, like Ms Aguirre, see them as the coun­try’s saviours; oth­ers are trou­bled by their mil­i­taris­tic and of­ten op­pres­sive rule, which saw Jews and Mus­lims ex­pelled from Spain if they did not con­vert to Chris­tian­ity.

Pablo Igle­sias, leader of the left­ist Pode­mos, de­scribed Ms Aguirre’s views as a “ran­cid, un­cul­tured and re­ac­tionary” ver­sion of pa­tri­o­tism.

“I hope Esper­anza Aguirre doesn’t also ad­mire the hy­gienic habits of the Catholic Monar­chs,” he added, ap­par­ently in ref­er­ence to their pol­icy towards those of other faiths.

The tweet pro­voked a lengthy thread. While some of it con­tained sup­port­ive com­ments, most responses ex­pressed out­rage.

“Let’s study the his­tory of our coun­try a bit and put aside racism, Is­lam­o­pho­bia, ex­clu­sion,” said one user, while oth­ers pointed to the op­pres­sive poli­cies of the Catholic Monar­chs them­selves. The bru­tal­ity of their chief in­quisi­tor, Tomás de Torque­mada, and his acolytes was “fan­tas­tic for women,” noted one sar­casm-laced post. In Granada, an­nual fes­tiv­i­ties to com­mem­o­rate the fall of the city were held as lo­cals dressed up as medieval Moors and Catholics and marched through the city. In the past the event has led to clashes be­tween tra­di­tion­al­ists who de­fend it and those who crit­i­cise it for be­ing jin­go­is­tic, but this year it was rel­a­tively peace­ful with strength­ened se­cu­rity.

Pro-Franco flags

Al­though some spec­ta­tors ex­changed in­sults and pro-Franco flags from Spain’s fas­cist past were on dis­play, no ma­jor in­ci­dents were re­ported.

Spain’s un­easy re­la­tion­ship with its medieval his­tory was re­cently high­lighted in Cór­doba, Granada’s neigh­bour­ing city, when the lo­cal Catholic church was ac­cused of try­ing to ap­pro­pri­ate the Great Mosque-Cathe­dral there and white­wash its Is­lamic past.

Af­ter lo­cals mounted a cam­paign against the move, church au­thor­i­ties ap­peared to back down, restor­ing to tourist lit­er­a­ture ref­er­ences to the build­ing’s Is­lamic legacy.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GETTY IM­AGES

Esper­anza Aguirre: for­mer mayor of Madrid tweeted that “with Is­lam”, Spain “would not be free”.

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