Prof. George A. Abdelnour on “400 Years Later: the Muslim Expulsion from Spain (1609-1610)”
Beirut, February 3, 2010- On January 28, 2010, Prof. George Abdelnour, visiting Fulbright scholar from the USA, delivered a lecture entitled “400 Years Later: the Muslim Expulsion from Spain (1609-1610)” at the Cultural Hour in the Haigazian University Auditorium.
Prof. Abdelnour is currently teaching English at Haigazian University, and was introduced to the audience by Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Prof. Abdelnour began his lecture by giving a brief background on Spain, and the city of Toledo in particular, as being “en emblem of religious coexistence, since for centuries it has been the home of Christians, Muslims, and Jews”. Abdelnour continued by providing historical evidence on the fall of the last autonomous Muslim Kingdom; the year 1491 marks the end of such a kingdom by the surrender of its king to the Catholic forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. A century later, the Muslim descendants of Spain, known as the Moriscos were forced to exile in Morocco and the rest of the North African cities, such as Algiers, Oran, and Tunis. “This act of expulsion was the culmination of a century-long Spanish campaign to convert the Moriscos to Christainity, a policy which eventually deemed to be a failure”, said Abdelnour.
Abdelnour continued by introducing the methods of imposing the religious and cultural conversion of the Moriscos. This included baptism and church attendance, in addition to prohibition of Arabic, and the adoption of Spanish as the sole official language. “Early modern political strategists understood the importance of language in determining cultural identity, that’s how the proscription of Arabic was the quickest route to the elimination of the Muslim practices from the Peninsula”, noted Abdelnour.
Abdelnour also tackled the issue of how the Moriscos tried to preserve their cultural identity. They developed a unique form of writing known as aljamiad, a Spanish word whose Arabic root (al’ajami) refers to the novel practice of writing Spanish, oddly, but using the Arabic script, Abdelnour explained.
Abdelnour concluded his lecture by evoking some conceptions on expulsion, ethnic cleansing, and diasporas. “If the expulsion of the Moriscos represents one of the first instances of ethnic cleansing in the modern West, their dispersal throughout the Mediterranean is one of the earliest diasporas of the modern period”, Abdelnour said.
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