By Samir Bennis
By Samir Bennis
Morocco World News
New York, April 16, 2012
For the past five centuries, the relations between Moroccans and Spaniards have been characterized more often than not by hostility and a lack of understanding. In this tumultuous relationship, Spaniards have always tended to reject their southern neighbors and portray them in the same dark and disparaging way in which they have been themselves portrayed by their northern Europeans neighbors.
The tendency of Spaniards to reject Moroccans and show a certain contempt for them occurs, as shown by Jose Maria Ridao in his book Contra la Historia, even in the field of education and knowledge, as Arab and Islamic studies have, for a long time, been marginalized in Spanish universities.
The Spanish diplomat criticized the attitude of Spanish Arabists, who succeeded at the rehabilitation of Arabic studies in Spain in 1770, and which had made greater inroads after the late nineteenth century. Critics of the latter, however, point out the reductive and simplistic manner in which these Arabists christianized the Arab-Islamic past of Spain and turned al-Andalus into the sole center of cultural, economic and political influence of the Muslim world, omitting the importance of the history of the Berber-Arab Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula, which runs from 1091, the date of the arrival of the Berber dynasty of the Almohades, until the fall of Granada in 1492.
If the sixteenth century saw a steadily growing feeling of hatred and rejection among Spaniards vis-à-vis the Arabs who remained in Spain until 1609, their final expulsion did not result in the disappearance of this sentiment of aversion towards them. As a matter of fact, there was a conviction among the political elite and Spanish clergy that even if the Arabs were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, they were lurking on the other side of the Mediterranean. This proximity of Arabs to the Peninsula caused Spaniards not to exclude the possibility of their potential return. Therefore, the strategies to be adopted in order to prevent them from returning to Spanish territory and keep them away, preoccupied Spaniards from generation to generation.
According to Maria Rosa de Madariaga, a Spanish scholar who specializes in relations between Morocco and Spain, the entrenchment of a disparaging image of Moroccans in Spain is due to three interrelated factors:
1 – The existence of a Moorish population in Spain until its brutal expulsion between 1609 and 1614;
2 – The Spanish occupation of some Moroccan territories beginning in 1497 when Spain seized the enclave of Melilla and;
3 – The attacks carried out by Moroccan pirates and Spanish Muslim refugees in Morocco, who caused a lot of trouble for Spain;
To these three factors must be added the religious factor, which stems from the religious rivalry that existed between Spaniards and Moroccans and the universalist and “civilizing burden” of the Christian religion, at the time represented by Spanish leaders who had the ambitions to evangelize the Muslim lands located on the other shore of the Mediterranean. The religious factor was used as a catalyst to rekindle the rivalry and hostility between the two enemies, conceal the true strategic objectives of Spain, indoctrinate and convince its people of the need to mobilize all means to prevent their country’s enemy from endangering its religious, political, economic and ethnic stability or territorial integrity.
In this regard, it should be noted that since the expulsion of the Moors, Spaniards have tended to mistake the Moors with the Moroccans. This confusion finds its rationale in the collective psychosis that reigned in Spain of the likelihood that Moroccans – as they did at the time of the Almoravids, Almohads and Merinids, who had successively rescued Islam from Spain – would once again lend a helping hand to Moorish Spain and threaten its religious political, and ethnic unity, obtained “at a price of eight centuries of struggle.”
Spain’s expansionist policy stems in part from this fear, which was fomented by the Spanish authorities at the time. The expansionist policy, which began with the occupation of Melilla in 1497, had a more preventive and defensive character. Ever since, as attacks carried out by Moroccan and Moorish pirates who took refugee in Morocco ravaged Spanish villages, causing human and material damage, the fear of Moroccans became increasingly burdensome and obsessive among Spaniards.
This fear of Moroccans led to the emergence in Spain of a terrifying image of the latter, which, ever since represented for Spaniards the embodiment of evil, terror and treachery.
This hostile attitude was entrenched even more by the already negative image of Moroccans in Spain, that fed the hatred and hostility that Spaniards had for them. This attitude of the Spaniards was nothing new in Europe, because since the advent of Islam on European soil, European anti-Islamic literature never ceased to prosper and to have considerable resonance within Christian societies obsessed by the dramatic thrust of this new religion and the political and territorial ambitions of its followers. In their aim to discredit and vilify Islam, Spanish commentators, columnists, travelers and theologians who visited Muslim countries, including Morocco, did not fail to show their dislike of Muslims and to attack their religion.
From a perspective of antagonism, Spanish authors attacked the foundations of Islam. In order to highlight the supposed inhuman and immoral nature of this religion, Spanish chroniclers and theologians began focusing on the “unbridled” and “unsatisfied” appetite of Muslims for carnal pleasures and for women’s bodies, thus, showing the non-existence in Islam of chastity or abstinence. Lasciviousness, lust, depravity and debauchery became the characteristics of a religion perceived to be as false, allegedly enshrining the cult of the body and sexual pleasures.
Having established themselves as the standard bearers of Christianity and civilization against Islam, these Spanish authors and opinion-shapers went even further by attacking the Prophet. Moreover, the ardent defenders of Christianity attributed the rapid spread of this religion to the fact that it would give its followers free rein to their “obscene” instincts, without restriction and the promise of the extension of this carnal life, bereft of spirituality in the hereafter.
To Be Continued…
Samir Bennis is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Morocco World News
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