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One is reminded, in reading this comprehensive demolition of the myth that Islam provided a peaceful setting for co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain, of the books Not Out of Africa by Mary Lefkowitz and Did Mohammed Exist by Robert Spencer (not coincidentally published by ISI as well). At some point in the text you feel like you're watching Sugar Ray Leonard take apart Roberto Duran and you're just waiting for the, "No mas" to stop the "fight."

While the origins of the myth here predate the age of Islamic terror, the resurgence of the myth is entirely understandable. After all, if Islam and its fellow Abrahamic faiths can not co-exist amicably then the end of the War on Terror must be exterminationist. Few this side of Pamela Geller, Donald Trump and the most unbalanced neocons want that. And while the reality is that most Muslims in the world today do live in pluralistic democratic societies, the fact that these are pretty uniformly Western or Westernized nations must smack of paternalism to the Left. Thus the effort to discern a similarly liberal and tolerant Islamic state in the past. Unfortunately, the absence of any such has led many modern commentators--quoted hilariously in the headings of each chapter here--to embellish or just cling to the myth of a Convivencia or "co-existence" in Moorish Spain.

The basic outline of the Andelusion goes something like this : the culturally advanced Moors emigrated to backwards Spain in sufficient numbers to almost accidentally take it over; there they shared their advanced culture and improved the day to day lives of the natives; they extended religious freedoms to Jew and Christian alike; they provided stable and beneficent government; they were particularly solicitous of women and their rights; but then the rabid Christians drove them from this paradise. One of the problems with this utopian vision has always been the paucity of evidence for it in the historical record. Indeed, Mr. Fernandez-Morera does a terrible wonderful thing here : he uses primary sources to make mincemeat of every facet of the myth.

Any reader of the historian Rodney Stark will be unsurprised to read the author's account of how advanced the existing Hispano-Roman-Visigothic culture was when the Islamic invaders arrived. Nor that, because those invaders were drawn mainly from Northern Africa--at the edge of even the Muslim Empire--they were stunned by the beautiful art and technological accomplishment they found in Spain. Of course, the notion that this religious jihad was instead a quirk of emigration is disposed of with embarrassing ease. And each subsequent pillar of the myth falls with just as little resistance.

Given that even American presidents have taken to referring to the paradisiacal myth, it is very useful to have this book to set the record straight. But the myth is so feeble to begin with that the average reader can probably get by with the original essay on which the book is based. Extending ot out to 240 pages does seem like piling on...


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

Dario Fernandez-Morera Links:

    -FACULTY PAGE: Darío Fernández-Morera Associate Professor (Northwestern, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Spanish & Portuguese)
    -BOOK SITE: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise : Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Darío Fernández-Morera (ISI)
    -ESSAY: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise (Dario Fernandez-Morera, Fall 2006, Intercollegiate Review)
    -PODCAST: Darío Fernández-Morera on Andalusian Spain (Research on Religion, December 13th, 2015)
    -GOOGLE BOOK : The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain
    -BOOK REVIEW: When the Spirits Collided: Islam and Christianity in the Course of Western Civilization: a review of Emmet Scott’s Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: the History of a Controversy (Dario Fernandez-Morera, Liberty & Law)
    - MOVIE REVIEW: of Una Noche : Escaping Havana : Castro, communism, Cuba, Lucy Mulloy, Social Justice, Spike Lee, The Lost City (Dario Fernandez-Morera, Libery & Law)
    -ESSAY: A Pathology of Democracy (Dario Fernandez-Morera, May 11, 2015, Nomocracy in Politics)
    -INTERVIEW: Hernando De Soto Interview (Dario Fernandez-Morera, February 22, 2006, Reason)
    -ESSAY: Revolutionary Appeals: Chiapas tells the old story of peasant Indians used by urban intellecturals (Dario Fernandez-Morera, July 1994, Reason)
    -INTERVIEW: Outlaws and Addresses : Hernando De Soto's Path to Property Rights (Dario Fernandez-Morera, February 1994, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise (Thomas F. Madden, New Criterion)
    -WIKIPEDIA: La Convivencia
    -ESSAY: Was the Islam Of Old Spain Truly Tolerant? (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, September 27, 2003, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: The persistent myth of Andalusia (Hugh Fitzgerald, 11/06/05, Jihad Watch)
    -ESSAY: The “Convivencia” of Jews and Muslims in the High Middle Ages (Marc Cohen, Princeton University)
    -ESSAY: Darkness: The practical result of our contemporary mythology (Dr. Jeff Mirus, Jan 25, 2016 , Catholic Culture)
    -ESSAY: Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain explained
    -ARCHIVES: Dario Fernandez-Morera (Unz.org)
    -ARCHIVES: Dario Fernandez-Morera (Reason)
    -ARCHIVES: Dario Fernandez-Morera (Chronicles)
    -REVIEW: of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Dario Fernandez-Morera (Norman Berdichevsky, New English Review)
    -REVIEW: of Myth of Andalusian Paradise (Roger Kimball, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of American Academia and the Survival of Marxist Ideas; Darío Fernández-Morera (Jon Sanders, John William Pope Center)

Book-related and General Links: