This 2nd January marked the 530th anniversary of the fall of Granada, the loss of the Emirate in 1492 effectively ending some seven centuries of Islamic authority in modern-day Spain and Portugal and pushing Muslims (or “Moors”) to live as some sort of internal refugees till their final expulsion in the 17th century.
Christians, obviously, are celebrating it.
But should a European celebrate the downfall of the continent’s most brilliant period?
Should he celebrate an event that anticipated later European acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide?
Western Writers on Al-Andalus
Western authors, often Orientalists, agree that Islamic Spain was the pinnacle of human civilization at the time, more so when compared to Christian Europe.
Thus Américo Castro, a Spanish academic who’s whole work in life was precisely to demonstrate how Islam shaped Spain, writes:
Those victorious armies [Spanish-Christians] could not repress their astonishment upon beholding the grandeur of Seville; the Christians had never possessed anything similar in art, economic splendour, civil organisation, technology, and scientific and literary productivity.
Likewise, Nietzsche, the famed German philosopher, writes in paragraph 60 of his Antichrist:
Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down (—I do not say by what sort of feet—) Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin—because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life!… The crusaders later made war on something before which it would have been more fitting for them to have grovelled in the dust—a civilization beside which even that of our nineteenth century seems very poor and very “senile.”
There are literally dozens of such quotes from influential Westerners, and we obviously can’t put them all here.
But the point is they all recognized the civilizational superiority of Al-Andalus on Christian Europe.
To have a slight idea of the civilizational gap, in the 10th century the city of Cordoba alone produced around 70,000-80,000 manuscripts every year, while Konrad Hirschler, a contemporary Orientalist from Germany, studied a medieval Syrian library (of course the analysis also applies to Al-Andalus) and contrasted it with the manuscript collections in the best English monasteries centuries later. The overall picture is quite grim for European supremacists:
To put this number into perspective, on the British Isles the number of books in medieval monastic libraries typically did not exceed the low to mid-hundreds. In the late fourteenth century the largest Friars’ library, the Austin library of York, held 646 volumes; the catalogue of the Cistercian library of Meaux listed 363 volumes; the Benedictine Dover Priory’s library stocked 450 volumes; and the Augustinian library of Lanthony had 508 volumes. In this period, more than a century after the Ashrafīya was founded, only the most remarkable libraries had a collection that came close to 2,000 volumes (…) although we do not have numbers for other Arabic libraries, the fact that the library of this rather unremarkable institution in Damascus was of a magnitude only matched a century later by the most prestigious institutions in medieval Britain gives a taste of how bookish life in Syria was.
Other major Western intellectuals, such as Gustave Le Bon in France, Sigrid Hunke in Germany, etc., also looked at the book-productions difference as evidence of the civilizational supremacy of Al-Andalus. Certainly, modern Western liberal secularists, who fetishize bookish knowledge and rationalism, will have to admit that Islam had civilized Europe for many centuries.
After all, the modern Western liberal is certainly no hypocrite!
The loss of such a cultured and industrious population had its effects on Spanish society, some of which T.B. Irving (Al-Hajj Ta’lim Ali Abu Nasr), who also happens to be the first American translator of the Qur’an in the 80s, details in his book The End of Islamic Spain:
The wholesale expulsion of Muslims inflicted havoc and misery everywhere; it cost the Spanish people one of the most productive sectors in their society, and the best agricultural workers (…) the economy suffered penury when the country lost its productive workmen in this wanton fashion, Muslim artisans who had laboured diligently in the crafts and agriculture (…) the arts and crafts of Spain truly suffered (…) the manufacture of textiles lagged as well, especially cotton and silk weaving in Granada, Seville and Pastrana (…) irrigation engineering, especially in and around Valencia’s Huerta, suffered from the expulsion of its best workmen. Farms and fields lay abandoned in the Alpujarras mountains southeast of Granada. Generally trade was stifled in those parts of Spain where Muslim or “Morisco” workmen, the busy and talented Mudejars, had plied their trade.
The Model of Genocide
While the modern European, or the Westerner in general, can’t celebrate the loss of Al-Andalus from his own purely materialistic perspective (as Islamic Spain was the “civilization” in Europe for many centuries), he also can’t celebrate it for another, perhaps more “legal” reason, as it was the forerunner of modern-day ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Indeed, this is what Kwame Anthony Appiah, one of the world’s leading Black intellectuals, wrote in his review of British journalist Matthew Carr’s Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain, 1492-1614:
A fascinating account of perhaps the first major episode of European ethnic cleansing and, just as importantly, the story of the beginning of the conviction that “blood” matters more than belief; a conviction that led, in the end, to modern racism.
So, those who celebrate the expulsion of the Moors, do they also approve of ethnic cleansing and racism?
Well, in the epilogue of his book, Carr compares the plight of the Moors with the situation of the modern Muslim population in liberal Europe. Perhaps those celebrating are just wishing for an encore on the old continent.
 W. Montgomery Watt, A History of Islamic Spain, Edinburgh University Press, 1977, p. 173.
 Konrad Hirschler, Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, p. 3.