Today in 1492, Granada, the last major enclave of Islamic rule in Spain, fell during the Reconquista led by Isabella and Ferdinand. To me, this event (and the historiography of it) is emblematic of a certain kind of xenophobia that is deeply embedded in European modernity.

That is, often times when you read about the Reconquista, or about the development of Spain as a great power, or even about the role of Spain in the Reformation, there is a strong undercurrent of the rhetoric of contagion throughout.

Map of Spain 1492

It is as though, to this day, historians want to say that the war between the Christian rulers of Castile and Aragon were Europeans, but the Muslim rulers of the Emirate of Granada were not. They were merely interlopers on Spanish (read: Christian) lands.

Obviously, that’s just straight up ridiculous. The builders of the Alhambra Palace were Europeans, even if the medieval Christians to their north and east really didn’t want them to be.  Given what is going on in the news right now, I think it is important to remember this basic and immutable fact: Muslims have been in Europe for almost as long as there has been Islam.


Rather than building detention camps, throwing up borders or, as Ferdinand and Isabella did, oblige all Muslims to covert to Christianity, become slaves or be exiled, why don’t we try something different this time? Why don’t we, instead of killing people, try recognizing value in difference?


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