By Samir Bennis
By Samir Bennis
Morocco World News
New York, May 28, 2012
Since Fray Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros replaced Hernando de Talavera as confessor of the Catholic Monarchs, he began the process of conversion and acculturation of the Moors, which marked the sixteenth century. Cisneros was bent on converting them at all costs to the Christian faith.
Following his forcible method, he set a precedent when in 1499 he baptized 4,000 Grenadians by force on a trip during which he accompanied the Catholic Kings. The commitment of this clergyman to end all aspects of Islamic civilization coupled with his religious fanaticism, dictated by his missionary spirit, led him, on the same trip, to order that all libraries and archives of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada be burned, with the exception of medical treatises.
Subsequently, Spain entered a long process of forced assimilation, which lasted over a century and culminated with the expulsion of Spain’s new outcasts. Throughout this process, dialogue, respect and tolerance yielded their place to intolerance, violence, bigotry and persecution.
This situation of continued persecution and intolerance against the Moors took a dangerous turn in 1525, when Charles V, after having made an oath before Pope Leo X in 1518 to not expel and persecute this minority, asked Pope Clement VII that he be relieved of his oath. This request was favorably received by the Pope who did not hesitate to give the Spanish monarch the green light to set in motion a long process of persecution against the last Muslims in Spain.
After a special meeting that brought together the Councils of State of Castile and Aragon, the Supreme Council of the Inquisition and the military orders, King Charles V eventually abolished the status of Mudejar (Mudejar was the name given to individual Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity).
Accordingly, all Muslims of Spain were considered Christians under the law. As a result, the latter had the obligation to have their children baptized, to abandon Islam, to adopt the same lifestyle as Christians and to convert their churches into mosques.
From the moment that the idea of a final expulsion of the Moors started taking shape, the royal ordinances enjoined them to behave like good Christians, and the edicts of expulsion began to become increasingly frequent. Accordingly, any deviation and any behavior contrary to the Christian religion were heavily punished: mass deportations, executions, forfeitures or partial property, imprisonment, fines, interrogation accompanied by torture, etc.
From that moment, the situation of the Moors began to deteriorate, since the royal decision forced them to act out as “good” Christians, to show their religiosity and live their parallel spirituality in hiding and fear of being denounced by Christians. Their situation deteriorated more dramatically after the enthronement of King Philip II. The reign of the latter was marked by tighter measures of persecution and harassment against the Moors.
Indeed, ever since the enthronement of Philip II the attitude of the Spanish ecclesiastics vis-à-vis the latter became increasingly marked by intolerance and violence. The religious fervor of the church and their desire to achieve religious unity of Spain led them to put pressure on the king and to appeal to the spiritual influence of the Pope so as drastic measures be taken concerning the behavior of the new Christians. To get rid of their enemies, the Spanish ecclesiastics were bent on adopting measures to prohibit anything that could help the Moors to conceal their religious rituals.
Thus, they proceeded to prohibit the use of Arabic language, Muslim religious practices and customs, as well as places frequented by the Moors, such as public baths.
These Spanish priests sought to strictly enforce the edict of Charles V of April 4, 1525, and the royal decrees of that year and in 1526, which until then, were not applied too strictly. Accordingly, on January 2, 1567, to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Granada, they issued a decree giving the Moors three years to abandon definitively the written and spoken Arabic, forbidding the use of Henna, Moorish names and ordering them to change their dress code.
Moreover, this decree included the demolition of all public and private baths. This measure, which came into effect immediately constituted a violation of the principles and the terms of the capitulation, under which the Moors were allowed to retain their property, their customs, their religion and their religious system.
Given the severity of this approach, the religion, culture and traditions of the Moors were doomed to disappear altogether. From that point, the Moors realized that nothing could save their religion and their way of life except an armed struggle.
In this hostile environment, the Moors began to prepare their desperate response. Thus, on Christmas Eve 1568, they launched the uprising of the Alpujarras, which lasted until 1571. During this uprising, this minority attacked all symbols of the oppression of the Spanish State: priests, monks, nuns, churches and holy images. After a long struggle that lasted nearly three years, and because of the little support they received from the Turks and Morocco, they were decimated and crushed by the Old Christians, then deported en masse within Spain. Following this mass deportation, the Moors were stripped of all their lands and all their goods were sold or leased to the “old Christians.”
After the uprising of the Alpujarras, many churchmen such as Torrijos, Martín de Salavatierra, Alonso Gutierrez, etc.., following the failure of the assimilation programmed against the Moorish minority, they advocated that they be subjected to a genocide, not through physical elimination but through other, more subtle and “less violent” means. To achieve the progressive elimination of the Moors, a series of inhumane measures were considered. Among the measures aimed at curbing the reproduction the Moors, some clergymen advocated the prohibition of marriages between them, which would lead inevitably to celibacy and the decrease in their number. Others advocated going even further by thinking of inflicting the worse punishments on the Moors by simply advocating their castration.
After the deportation and dispersal of the Moors in Spain, the only large Moorish community that still worried the Spanish Crown was that of Valencia. After more than three quarters of a century during which this community had somehow survived the ferocity of the persecution and abuses of the inquisitors and old Christians, it was its turn to be killed, persecuted and compelled by force off their land.
The architect of this mass deportation was Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, Marquis of Denia. The latter, who became later the Duke of Lerma, was one of the most influential lords of the Moors of Valencia and a favorite of King Philip III.
The chief adviser and close associate of the Duke of Lerma was the Inquisitor Jaime Bleda. Known for his anti-Muslim and anti-Moors positions, he was among the first architects of the dark negative image of Moroccans in Spain. This inquisitor known for his fanaticism and determination to rid Spain of the Muslim “cancer” participated actively in the development of the strategy to deport the Moors without major incident. He was also instrumental in keeping the intentions of the Church and the Crown under utmost secrecy. His ultimate goal was to take the Moors off guard and not allow them time to organize themselves and oppose any resistance.
The proposed deportation of the last Muslim minority of Spain was made officially in 1606. As the Duke of Lerma was at the helm of the State Council, he had no difficulty in obtaining the approval of and convincing all influential people of the merits of this measure and the need to expel the Moors.
The deportation of Moors took place between 1609 and 1614. Within a 5-year span, the new Spanish State expelled between 300 and 700 thousands Moors. The majority of the latter settled in Morocco, and to a lesser extent in Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey.
To be continued…
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