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The Islamic Invasion
A departure and a return:
In the legend of Moorish Spain, Boabdil, the last Muslim ruler of Granada, is said to have paused on a ridge for a final glimpse of the realm he had just surrendered to the Castilians. Henceforth, the occasion, and the place, would be known as El Ãšltimo Suspiro del Moro, The Moor’s Last Sigh. The date was Jan. 2, 1492.
More than five centuries later, on March 11, 2004, there would be a “Moorish” return. In the morning rush hour, 10 bombs tore through four commuter trains in Madrid, killing more than 200 people and wounding some 1,500, in the deadliest terror attack in Europe since World War II. This was not quite a MuslimÂ reconquista of the Iberian peninsula, but a circle was closed, and Islam was, once again, a matter of Western Europe.
In his “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe,” Christopher Caldwell, a meticulous journalist who writes for The New York Times Magazine and other publications, gives this subject its most sustained and thoughtful treatment to date. The question of Islam in Europe has occasioned calls of alarm about “Eurabia,” as well as works of evasion and apology by those who insist Islam is making its peace with European norms. Caldwell’s account is subtle, but quite honest and forthright in its reading of this history. “Islam is a magnificent religion that has also been, at times over the centuries, a glorious and generous culture. But, all cant to the contrary, it is in no sense Europe’s religion and it is in no sense Europe’s culture,” he writes.
It hadn’t taken long for Islam to make its new claim on Europe. Caldwell’s numbers give away the problem: “In the middle of the 20th century,” he tells us, “there were virtually no Muslims in Western Europe.” Now there are more than 15 million, including 5 million in France, 4 million in Germany and 2 million in Britain.
Continue reading Strangers in the Land by Fuad Ajami