The Cordoba House and the Myth of Andalusian “Ecumenism”
by Andrew G. Bostom

Imam Feisal Rauf, stated in his 2004 What’s Right with Islam,
“For many centuries, Islam inspired a civilization that was particularly tolerant and pluralistic. … Great philosophers such as Maimonides were free to create their historic works within the pluralistic culture of Islam. The site of an astonishing cultural synthesis, best associated with the names of Averroes ibn-Rushd and Moses Maimonides …

Imam Feisal Rauf ignores the early to mid-20th century studies of Miguel Asin Palacios, and Evariste Levi-Provencal, Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq’s 1978 study, and more recently, Jane Gerber’s focused 1994 analysis debunking the “Golden Age” as myth in Muslim Spain.

Victor Davis Hanson in a recent interview alludes to “the rather silly evocation of Cordoba; that it was not really a utopian medieval city of understanding.”

Muslim and non-Muslim apologists for the “religion of peace” would hearken back to the ostensibly genial and temperate era of Moorish Spain, a time, we were instructed, when Christians and Jews were welcomed by their Muslim overlords and peacefully integrated into the life of the realm, permitted to worship freely and even received into the learned professions, many as katibs (secretaries) to the Caliph.

For example, in order to strengthen and validate a benign conception of Islam, attention was (and still is) frequently drawn to the intellectual activity of Cordoba, in particular to the translation and transmission of the seminal texts of the classical world that would otherwise have been lost to mankind. What such advocates for the great Islamic contribution to the Western library forgot is that none of this material was original to Islam.

As David Bentley Hart writes in Atheist Delusions [6], “Islam was the beneficiary of Eastern Christendom.” It was “Syriac-speaking Christians who provided an invaluable caste of scholars and physicians, and through them the achievements of Greek and Roman antiquity passed into Islamic culture.” In fact, not Moorish Spain but medieval Italy was “perhaps a more important port of entry for Greek texts into Western Europe…in the late eleventh century,” when scholars, poets, clerics and doctors fled from the Muslim conquest of Constantinople to Pisa, Venice and Palermo.

The golden age of Moorish Spain that features in the history books and glitters in the public imagination is, to a significant degree, something of a historical fiction: the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties were by no means an unbroken halcyon interregnum in the annals of Islam but cruel and intolerant dispensations given to fervid and prolonged outbursts of savagery. Even the famed Caliphate of Cordoba, as Hanson and others indicate, was not the uniformly enlightened Castle in Spain of popular fancy.

That almost three centuries of Islamic history — three centuries of a supposedly Golden Age of opulence and prosperity — can produce virtually nothing from the Atlantic coasts of Morocco to the borders of India is an utterly astonishing fact; a fact which leads inexorably to a single conclusion: namely that the Islamic Golden Age of the eighth, ninth and early tenth centuries is a myth. Dr. Adamson

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