The Catholic News Agency reports that José María Aznar, the former president of Spain, is tired of the "double standard in relations between Islam and the West":
Speaking at a Washington think tank, Aznar asked why no Muslims have apologized for the 800 year Moorish invasion of his country.
Speaking at a weekend conference at the Hudson Institute, Aznar asked, “What is the reason ... we, the West, always should be apologiz(ing) and they never should ... apologize? It's absurd! They occupied Spain for eight centuries!”
Aznar also said that the Western world is in serious trouble when it comes to relations with the Islamic world, and not just because of radical Islamic terrorists. The former president said that poor leadership in the West has led to a sense that Western values are indefensible. “I can put on the table the names of various Western leaders who don’t believe in the West,” he said.
Unfortunately, no table big enough could be found, so the names have not yet been revealed. But what of Aznar's complaint that Muslims have never apologized for invading and conquering Spain? A recent statement by the Muslim American Society, given in response to Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture, "explains" why such apologies will probably never be made:
Islam does not, and never did, sanction spreading the faith by the sword. More than half of the Muslims today live in countries that were never militarily conquered by Muslims, such as Southeast Asia, sub-saharan Africa, Europe and the Americas. In lands that were conquered by early Muslim armies, no forced conversion ever occurred and there is no historical evidence indicating such. The perception of “spreading faith by the sword” was circulated by eighteenth and nineteenth century Eurocentric scholars, who in their analysis of the Muslim world relied on dogma more than objective observation and research. The Quran which is the first source of legislation in Islam states unequivocally: “…There is no compulsion in religion.” (Surah 2, verse 256)
But, in addition to being confused (if Islam was never spread by the sword, why were Muslims continually invading and conquering countries for so many centuries? For the fun of it?), this is false. An exhaustive resource (nearly 600 pages long) demonstrating otherwise is The Myth of Islamic Tolerance (Prometheus Books, 2005), edited by Robert Spencer. In the foreword, "The Genesis of a Myth," former Muslim Ibn Warraq writes:
Those [Muslim] apologists who continue to perpetuate the myth of Islamic tolerance should contemplate the massacre and extermination of the Zoroastrians in Iran; the million Armenians in Turkey; the Buddhists and Hindus in India; the more than six thousand Jews in Fez, Morocco, in 1033; hundreds of Jews killed in Cordoba between 1010 and 1013; the entire Jewish community of four thousand in Granada in 1066; the Jews in Marrakesh in 1232; the Jews in Tetuan, Morocco in 1790; the Jews of Baghdad in 1828; and so on ad nauseam.
Warraq outlines the intriguing theory that the myth of Islamic tolerance came about, in large part, because of mythology of the "noble savage," which was developed by thinkers such as Montaigne, Pierre Jurieu, and Pierre Bayle. "Thus," he writes, " by the eighteenth century, the noble savage was simply a device to criticize and comment on the follies of one's own civilization. The noble savage is no longer the simpleton from the jungle but a sophisticated and superior observor of the contemporary scene in Europe. By emphasizing the corruption, vice, and degradation of the Europeans, eighteenth-century writers exaggerated the putative superiority of the alien culture, the wisdom of the Chinese or Persian or Peruvian moralist and commentator." Within this setting, many intellectuals were ready to "adopt the myth of Muhammad as a wise and tolerant ruler and lawgiver..."
One retort to this would be, "But what about the Crusades?" It is widely accepted that, at best, the Crusades were perhaps equal in moral weight to acts of Muslim aggression but, more likely, were the cause of any military action by adherents of Muslim. Not so, writes Bernard Lewis, considered by many to the West's leading expert on Islam. In The Crisis of Islam (Random House, 2003), Lewis takes pains to distinguish between the purposes behind jihad and the Crusades:
Jihad is sometimes presented as the Muslim equivalent of the Crusade, and the two are seen as more or less equivalent. In a sense this is true — both were proclaimed and waged as holy wars for the true faith against an infidel enemy. But there is a difference. The Crusade is a late development in Christian history and, in a sense, marks a radical departure from basic Christian values as expressed in the Gospels. Christendom had been under attaack since the seventh century, and had lost vast territories to Muslim rule; the concept of a holy war, more commonly, a just war, was familiar since antiquity. Yet in the long struggle between Islam and Christendom, the Crusade was late, limited, and of relatively brief duration. Jihad is present from the beginning of Islamic history — in scripture, in the life of the Prophet, and in the actions of his companians and immediate successors. It has continued throughout Islamic history and retains its appeal to the present day. The word crusade derives of course from the cross and originally denoted a holy war for Christianity. But in the Christian world it has long since lost that meaning and is used in the general sense of a morally driven campaign for a good cause. ... The one context in which the word crusade is not used nowadays is precisely the original religious one. Jihad too is used in a variety of senses, but unlike crusade it has retained its original, primary meaning. (pp 37-8).
And yet the mythology of nasty, brutish crusading Christians attacking peace-loving, tranquil Muslims continues, often promoted and continually allowed to pass for truth by many in the West who either should know better or who do not believe in the West. Perhaps it's time to get Mr. Aznar that table.