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Hatem Bazian: Jews and Muslims In Spain, and Europe’s Problem with the “Other”
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian propagandist with American citizenship living a cosseted existence as a university lecturer in California, has outdone himself with a posting, under the somewhat messy title of “1492 Expulsion, Inquisition, Balfour Declaration and the European Question!,” of a veritable olla-podrida of stuff and nonsense, mixing incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo, half-truths, and outright fabrications, that begins in the Spain of Torquemada and Ferdinand and Isabella, and then fast-forwards to the Balfour Declaration. Mr. Bazian apparently believes that Jews and Moors suffered equally in Spain, beginning in 1492, and for the same reasons, which will come as a surprise to historians of that period. And just as surprising is his treatment of the Balfour Declaration, which he claims is antisemitic (making him quite possibly the only person in the world ever to have found it to be so), and antisemitism, of course, is something that Hatem Bazian cannot abide.
My comments are interpolated throughout. I refrained from commenting as much as I might have on Bazian’s English, which is truly remarkable. It’s painful to read, in many places sheer gobbledygook — you may be as amused as I was by his reflexive use of “epistemic” and “epistemologically,” which, by googling Bazian’s name and those two words, I discovered that he has used hundreds of times. Perhaps he should give them a rest, and instead use “postcolonial discourse” and “hegemonic” for a few months.
The combination of the 1492 Expulsion and Inquisition of Muslims and Jews may seem out of place at a first glance when the Balfour Declaration is discussed and added to the list.
In 1492, no Moors were expelled from Spain, only Jews. Nor did the Inquisition, which in the first few decades of its existence was almost entirely directed at Jews, begin in 1492, but in 1478. It was only much later that the Moriscos (Moors who had outwardly converted to Christianity) would also become victims, but they were never treated with the ferocity that the Jews endured. So in his very first sentence, Bazian has committed two major errors of fact. And it does not get better.
Here’s the next paragraph:
For sure, all these three are monumental events, but while in the case of the Expulsion and Inquisition the consequences were immediate and discernable [sic] with hundreds of thousands effected, [sic] the Balfour Declaration is only a letter that had far reaching consequences but is less understood from an epistemological
Note this word, for both it and a variant, “epistemic,” will be repeated many times by Mr. Bazian; these are two words he has used over 800 times in his writings, without their meaning ever being made clear.
and historical perspective. In my view, what brings these distinct and historically separate occurrences [sic] is Europe’s relations, past and present, with the constructed other is that Europe has had a permanent problem with the other and it has been the hallmark of the past 500 years of history in the region.
Bazian claims that “Europe has had a permanent problem with the other and it has been the hallmark of the past 500 years of history in the region.”
Has he forgotten who the ”other” was, and what that “permanent problem” was, and when that “permanent problem” began? The “other” was Islam, and the “permanent problem” was the aggressiveness of Muslim warriors, who never stopped attacking Christians. That “problem” began in 732, when Charles Martel beat back the Muslim Arab invaders just outside Poitiers. This left the Iberian peninsula and the southern littoral of the Mediterranean in Muslim hands. It was from the latter that Muslim forces attacked, over the centuries, Christian ships and seamen all over the Mediterranean. They also raided up and down the coasts of Europe, Italy, France, England, Ireland, even — in one recorded case — Iceland, They seized whatever was movable and of value, and humans too, both men and women, who were taken back to North Africa as slaves. This was always a one-way aggression, with the Christians on the coasts fighting defensively against the Muslim raiders. They did not take the battle to North Africa, did not raid Muslim villages or enslave Muslim captives. This “other” was not a European construct, but an ever-present menacing. reality. Could it be that Hatem Bazian does not know any of this?
As for the Muslim seizure of Spain, it took 780 years of the Reconquista for the Christians to finally win back all the territory the Muslims had taken. Hatem Bazian seems to have forgotten where that “permanent problem” came from — Islam on the march — and apparently believes that those Europeans — in his telling, racists and colonialists the lot of them — needed an “other” to oppose, and so they chose to turn those inoffensive Muslims into that psychically necessary “other.” The history of the sweeping Arab conquest of the Middle East, then of North Africa, and then of all of Spain, a conquest halted only at Poitiers, was not a fiction about powerful “others” created by the Europeans who needed them for their narrative; that Muslim aggression was real; the 780 years it took to completely defeat that invader became the main fact of Spanish history. The Europeans did not need to manufacture an “other”; Islam had done it for them.
And Islam itself has always had its own “other’’ — that is, all non-Muslims, whom they are commanded to hate, and to wage Jihad against, and to subjugate, until the entire world is under Islamic domination. Muslims defined themselves in stark contrast to the Infidels. They curse the kuffar 17 times every day in their prayers. They read a Qur’an which contained more than 100 verses calling for fighting the Infidels, of striking terror in their hearts, of smiting at their necks, of cutting off their fingertips. They hew to the doctrine of Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’, loving and hating for the sake of Allah, which calls for loyalty to fellow Muslims, and hatred toward the Infidels. The Qur’an told the Muslims that they should not take Christians or Jews as friends. They were told that they were the “best of peoples” (3:110), while the Infidels were described as “the most vile of creatures” (98:6). Once you learn all that, you know exactly who’s been creating “the other,” and treating that “other” with permanent contempt and hatred. And it’s not the Europeans. The Muslims regarded not just the Christians, but all peoples — Jews and Hindus and Buddhists too — with contempt and hatred. Bazian may natter on about Europe’s need for a “constructed “other” but for Muslims, from the very beginning of Islam, all non-Muslims are permanently “the other.”
In 1492, Europe – and particularly starting in Spain – embarked on crafting a “pure” racial and religious identity which required the forceful expulsion and [sic — for “or”] conversion to Christianity of both Muslims and Jews.
The expulsion of the Muslims (Moors) was quite different from that of the Jews. But Bazian is intent on treating them as the same. In 1492, the Spanish expelled only the Jews, who presented no threat to the Spanish Christians. They had never ruled over any part of Spain, nor given any signs of such a desire They wanted only to practice their religion. When they were expelled, and the expulsion was thorough (unlike the later expulsion of the Moors), they were scattered to the winds, as far as Amsterdam and Salonika.
The Muslims were a very different matter. They had been masters of the Spanish land for centuries, and their last outpost, the emirate of Granada, finally was lost only in 1492. In the early 16th century, with Spanish troops increasingly engaged in the New World, and both Barbary Pirates and Muslim Turks raiding the Spanish coast, and well-armed Muslims living just across the Straits of Gibraltar, Spanish monarchs had good reason to worry about a continuing threat from the Muslims. But initially, and this is often overlooked, the Muslims in Granada were treated with great generosity. By the Treaty of Granada in 1491 the Moors were guaranteed the right to keep all their property, to be exempt from taxes for a term of years, and to practice Islam openly without any government intervention.
Hatem Bazian apparently does not know any of this.
Not only does he misdate the first expulsion of the Moors, but he does not know what prompted it. Had the Moors not risen in rebellion when they did, there would not have been an attempt to expel them. But in 1499, Muslims in Granada revolted; that rebellion was put down quickly, but then two more rebellions followed in quick succession in the mountainous region known as las Alpujarras that were not put down until 1501. That danger of a successful Muslim revolt, though averted, caused the Spanish government in 1502 to require the Muslims (Moors) to convert to Christianity or to leave the country. But this “expulsion” was not enforced with the same thoroughness with which the Jews — all of those who did not convert — had been expelled in 1492.
Many of the Moors remained following their first expulsion in 1502, and while outwardly they appeared to have converted, their behavior worried the Spanish, who sensed, correctly, that many had remained Muslims at heart. And those fears were proven well-founded, for in 1568, there was another, much larger, revolt by the Moriscos, (Moors who had outwardly converted to Christianity) that took place in the same region — the Alpujarras mountains — as the 1499-1501 uprising, and this “Alpujarras rebellion” took three years to put down. Nevertheless, the Spanish continued to allow the Moriscos to remain.
But finally, with the Christians more and more convinced that many of the Moriscos were merely hiding their Islamic beliefs, the real “expulsion of the Moors” (that is, of those Moriscos who were only pretend-Christians and inwardly remained Muslims) came in 1609, or 117 years after Hatem Bazian claims the Moors were expelled. History is not his strong suit.
Here is Bazian again, where I found myself struggling to try to figure out what he meant:
Achieving this “pure” or, if I may, the “pure” European to the “source” meant the Expulsion for those who challenged the newly self-crafted cantors of identity, White and Christian.
I admit: I do not know what that sentence means, assuming that it has a meaning.
Understanding and accepting that race is a socially constructed category does not mean it was not vested with meaning and mobilized by power to effect [sic!] those ascribed [sic] with inferior racial characteristics. Setting aside the actual invention of Whiteness
So “Whiteness” does not exist, but is merely an “invention,” a “socially constructed category”?
and Europe as distinct categories, the “purity” of European blood and race was constructed on externalizing and otherizing Muslims and Jews. Consequently, the constructed European identity meant the negation of Muslims and Jews being part of the “us”, forever to be the despised and otherized as “them”, which meant an epistemic
A favorite word of Hatem, as noted earlier, though what he thinks it means is entirely unclear.
and structural exclusion from 1492 onward (some theorize an earlier demarcation). If to be a European meant to be White and Christian then the Muslim and Jewish subjects couldn’t be true Europeans to [sic] the “source”, since they failed on both counts. This raises even more complicated questions concerning the Inquisition itself. Could a Muslim or Jewish person become European by means of a conversion since the identity has two elements that are infused epistemologically?
Another appearance, this time in adverbial garb, of Hatem’s favorite word, and as always, misused.
The European White Christian identity is constructed with theological line [sic] of argumentation, which means that “purity” of blood i.e. the foundation of modern racism is theologically constructed that precludes the inclusion of the Muslim and Jew even after conversion.
Go ahead, try to make sense of that — I dare you.
Modern racism, that of whites in regard to blacks, has nothing to do with theological differences. Hatem Bazian is not only confused himself, but the cause of confusion in other men. Your Honor, I rest my case.
The Inquisition becomes not only a means of ascertaining common conversion, but also a system of violence intended to control and marginalize if not to totally eliminate the theologically constructed inferiors. “God” himself demands purification of space, time and bodies from the defilement of [sic] the inferior being in proximity to the divinely ascribed [sic] superior race, the European White Christian person to the exclusion of all other. [sic] This brings us to the European Question – Europe’s inability on an ontological and epistemological
That word again.
basis to accept inclusivity and equality of all members of the human family. The inherent superiority or, if you may, the European White Supremacy is incapable of emerging out of its paradigmatic [?] box [?] of racial purity despite claims to the contrary that were articulated in the enlightenment and modern period
“Ever since the Enlightenment”?
The foundational basis of European identity has not shifted much and racial superiority has been codified into domestic and international legal structures that obfuscate the reality deeply embedded into the racial system.
Now about that paragraph — did it mean anything?
If I were Hatem Bazian, I’d watch out about accusing Europe of an inability “to accept inclusivity and equality of all members of the human family.” It was Europe, not the Muslims, that ended the slave trade and slavery. It is European countries — not the Muslim lands — that today have laws guaranteeing equal rights to all its citizens, whatever their race or faith. It is Europe that has welcomed migrants from everywhere, including the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is Europe that now has 44 million Muslims (including those in European Russia) living in its midst. Hatem Bazian might ask himself how Hindus have fared in Pakistan, how Hindus and Buddhists have fared in Bangladesh, how Christians have fared in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Indonesia, “Palestine,” and two dozen other Muslim countries. It’s in the Muslim lands that the greatest inability “to accept inclusivity and equality of all members of the human family” are to be found.
It would be helpful if Hatem Bazian could provide even one example, aside from the now-ended apartheid in South Africa, of how nowadays “racial superiority has been codified into domestic and international legal structures.” What in heaven’s name can he be talking about? Which countries? What “international legal structures”? Perhaps, while we are on the subject of racism and “the other,” Mr. Bazian could tell us what Muslims are taught about the superiority of Muslims to Kuffars, for Muslims “are the best community ever brought forth for (the good of) humankind, enjoining and promoting what is right and forbidding what is wrong” (Qur’an 3:110), while Kuffars, Infidels, non-Muslims, are “the most vile of creatures” (Qur’an 98.6). Who’s practicing “inclusivity and equality”? Is it Muslims, who are taught that all non-Muslims are “vile” and that they should not take them as friends but, rather, be loyal only to fellow Muslims and hate non-Muslims, “for the sake of Allah”? Or is it, rather, the Europeans, who have flung open wide their doors to tens of millions of Muslim and other migrants, from outside Europe, and have spent and continue to spend colossal sums on the well-being of those migrants, and done everything humanly possible to integrate them into their societies?
Hatem Bazian of course does not want to discuss how the texts and teachings of Islam, and the practice of Islam, promote the idea of the superiority of the Arabs, and of Islam as “the Arab national religion,” as Anwar Shaikh famously described it. The fact that the message of Islam was given to an Arab, and in his language, that the Qur’an must ideally be read and recited in Arabic, that Muslims must face toward Mecca in Arabia five times a day, and must make a pilgrimage to that same Mecca once in a lifetime — all this promotes Arab supremacism. And indeed, many non-Arab Muslims take Arabic names and assume Arab identities or even, as “Sayyids,” claim to be descendants of the Prophet, because Arabs are the best of Muslims, and therefore, the best of all peoples. No wonder that the Arab historian Al-Tabari wrote that “Arabs are the most noble people in lineage, the most prominent, and the best in deeds” and that so many other Arab writers — easily googled up by Hatem Bazian, if he were so inclined — have agreed with him.
As for Arab racism, Bazian could start with some of the most famous figures in Muslim Arab history. There was the celebrated Ibn Khaldun, whose disparagement of blacks shocks a modern: “the Negro nation are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because [Negroes] have little [that is essentially] human and have attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals.” There was Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, who wrote that “many have seen that the ape is more capable of being trained than the Negro, and more intelligent.” If you google “Islamic scholars and writers on black people,” you will find many similar statements from Ali Sina (Avicenna), Al-Muqadassi, Al-Masudi, Ibn al-Faqih, and others. If Hatem Bazian wants examples of real racism, a racism that continues until today, he need only look at Arab Muslim writers such as these, who express an anti-black prejudice that is hair-raising.
Back to Bazian:
At this point you may ask what is the connection that is implied in the title of the essay
These resentful and meretricious vaporings hardly constitute an “essay.”
and if we can put these three items together. In 1492, Queen Isabella I of Castilla [sic] and Ferdinand II of Aragon decreed the Expulsion of Jews first and then Muslims from Andalusia
Again: the effective, that is thorough, expulsion of the Moors — equivalent to that of the Jews in 1492 — did not take place until 1609.
as well as setting in motion the Inquisition
No, the Inquisition was not “set in motion” in 1492; it began in 1478.
to guarantee the authenticity of conversion by both communities. For all intended purposes, the Inquisition managed to economically, politically and socially dispossess Muslims and Jews while structurally constituting them as the impure other, so that an orthodoxy of race and blood could be constituted. The consolidation of European White and Christian identity occurred by means of the Inquisition tormenting those who were deemed to be insufficiently Christian and for sure [sic] non-White. What began with the Expulsion in 1492
He implies here the expulsion of both Jews and Muslims in that year, but no Moors were expelled until 1502, after their first large-scale uprising, and there would have been no expulsions of the Moriscos had they not revolted again in 1568.
followed by forced conversion and the Inquisition,
Again he seems to think the Inquisition started after 1492.
was concluded with a second round of massive expulsion and removal of Moriscos in 1609 and afterward.
Bazian fails to mention the reason for that “massive expulsion,” which was the Alpujarras revolt (1568-71) by the Muslims.
Thus, Europe’s achievement of purity of “race” and “religion” was achieved by means of genocide, torture and transfer of Muslims and Jews to the outside.
The careless and inaccurate use of the word “genocide” is deplorable; there was no mass-murder of Jews or Muslims in Spain. And how can one straightfacedly maintain that Muslims constitute a “race,” when Muslims themselves claim that Islam is universal in its appeal and are proud to proclaim that Muslims come from every race? If you are Hatem Bazian, you can do this and many other amazing feats of fatuity. But the rest of us are limited — for we have standards.
First published in Jihad Watch.