Hani Nakshabandi: Islamophobe?
The writer Hani Nakshabandi expresses Islamophobic doubts that Muslim Spain was a cultural light unto Europe:
I believe that we, who oppose occupation, practiced the same kind of occupation ourselves. We fought against the French occupation of North Africa, and against the French and British occupation of the Levant, but we practiced the same type of occupation in Spain . . . . Everything that is written in our history books should be reexamined. We present Europe as if it had been immersed in darkness and ignorance, until we came along and ushered in an era of light . . . . [I]n Saudi Arabia, we still have villages with no electricity. Wherever you go in the Arab world . . . you see villages where people still live like cavemen, yet you say that we ushered civilization into Europe?! . . . I lived in Spain . . . Well, I didn't really live there, but I visited there a lot, and I went to the museums and libraries. What kind of civilization did the Arabs leave behind in Andalusia? Cordoba . . . . is a Spanish city. What new things did [the Arabs] leave there? Even the Umayyad Mosque was a church they turned into a mosque, just like the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, which still bears the hallmarks of a church to this day . . . . Who created the image of Andalusia that we have in our minds? People attack me because their image of Andalusia is the Andalusia of songs and of dancing women or the Andalusia that they see on TV soap operas -- with water fountains, trees, and beautiful women . . . . This is not Andalusia. Andalusia was a real political tragedy [for the Spanish]. It is not true that the Arabs spread Islam there. Is Spain a Muslim country? It is the pinnacle of Catholicism in the world. ("Saudi Author Hani Nakshabandi: We Should Reexamine Our History Books, The Arabs Were Occupiers In Spain," Memri, Special Dispatch No. 5431, September 2, 2013)How Islamophobic of Mr. Nakshabandi! Everyone knows that Andalusia was Europe's intellectual center, that the Muslims brought enlightenment to a continent groping in the darkness of ignorance (jahiliyya). The poor, deluded man must be suffering from Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam. Except that he's a Saudi Muslim:
Hani Nakshabandi was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He edited Sadiyah, a London-based Arab women's magazine, then moved to live and work in Dubai, editing Al-Majallah magazine and presenting a television news show. He has two novels, Ikhtiras [The Interloper] and Sallam, excerpted here, both with Dar al Saqi. (Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, Banipal 34, "The World of Arab Fiction," 2013)As a Muslim, albeit a liberal one, Nakshabandi can't be an Islamophobe. But I do wonder if he's entirely right about Muslim Spain. While the Muslim presence was an occupation and suppressed Christians and Jews as dhimmis, Islamic Spain was at times a center of learning and intellectual exchange, as often happens within empires . . . or so I read in my history-of-science days. Perhaps there's been some historical revisionism since my student years, but that sort of revising goes back and forth, and there's usually a bone of contention with a bit of meat on it, else there'd be nothing to argue about.
Whatever one might think about Andalusia -- or any other Muslim issue -- both Muslims and non-Muslims should be free to express their opinions openly without charges of 'Islamophobia' or, far worse, being charged with 'hate speech' for criticizing Islam.