December 22, 2006
The Last Umayyad
On December 24th 1568, Don Fernando de Válor was crowned King of Cordoba and Granada. A little-known event in the history of European Islam, the revolt of the Moriscos - or the Alpujarra War - was one of the darkest episodes in a series of events leading to the destruction and disappearance of native Muslims from Western Europe up to the 20th century.
The revolt was set amongst a rare confluence of motives and interests: those of the Inquisition and part of the Castilian nobility eager to take over the Moriscos' lands, and those of a Spanish crown fearing the presence of a potential fifth column while fighting the Ottoman Empire for dominance in the Mediterranean.
The Moriscos, despite having been officially converted to Catholicism for three generations, continued speaking Arabic and practicing Islamic faith and traditions. King Felipe II, determined to end this state of affairs, decided to enforce the implementation of a 1526 edict forbidding them to speak their language or to practice anything related to Islam, knowing full well that this would lead to open revolt. However, the scale of the uprising surprised him. Even though a significant number of Moriscos refused to join the rebellion due to fear of retaliation, 200 towns and villages in Andalusia rejected the edict and rallied around a few Arab nobles, creating the actual last Muslim kingdom in Spain, 76 years after the fall of Granada. Initially led by Don Fernando de Válor (or Mulay Mohammed Ben Umayya as he was called in reference to his Ummayad ancestry when he openly reverted to Islam) the short-lived kingdom was bigger than any other Moorish kingdom in centuries. It kept a powerful Castilian army in check for more than 2 years, until divisions within the Moorish ranks resulted in their defeat.
In response to this uprising, Felipe II ordered the displacement of the entire Morisco population within the Iberian peninsula. This was implemented under terrible conditions, resulting in the death of 20% of Moriscos and the utter poverty and near enslavement of others. A few decades later, a final decision to eliminate this community was carried out and the remaining Moriscos were expelled to the Maghreb and other parts of the Ottoman Empire.
Don Fernando de Válor was murdered by his own long before the end of the revolt. There are many versions explaining how and why he was killed, a few of them involving Moorish double agents working for the Castilians. One particularly romantic version claims he said the following while dying: "You can kill us, but you will never be the true children of this land, we are". This statement referred to the fact that Moors largely considered themselves to be descendants of Islamicized Iberians (as opposed to the Austrian lineage of the ruling Castilian dynasty and the Austrian or Frank origin of the peasantry imported to repopulate Spain after Muslim rule ended).
A couple of months ago, a group in the Andalucian parliament passed a law designed to pressure the central Spanish government to amend the nationality law. Should this unlikely amendment come to pass, Spanish citizenship law would then give preferential treatment to the descendants of this community by reducing the residency requirement to two years instead of ten. This preferential treatment is already granted to citizens of several Latin American countries, and was extended a few years ago to include the Sephardi, descendants of Spanish Jews who suffered a similar fate.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Please post links if you find them - this is fascinating! (Spanish-language ones are fine.)
Eva Luna, former Spanish major and current geek of all matters elating to immigration and nationallity law
Posted by: Eva Luna at December 22, 2006 03:18 PM
Does this mean the Bretons can get Lancashire?
Posted by: matthew hogan at December 22, 2006 08:01 PM
or Mulay Mohammed Ben Umayya as he was called in reference to his Ummayad ancestry when he openly reverted to Islam.
I'll just note in passing that this is in doubt ( but unproveable either way ). The Nasrids themselves made no such claim.
An excellent source of details on both the first ( 1500 ) and second revolt in the Alpujarras is L.P. Harvey's Muslims in Spain, 1500-1614 ( 2005, University of Chicago ). His earlier volume tackled the period of 1250-1500.
Posted by: Tamerlane at December 23, 2006 11:54 AM
Does this mean the Bretons can get Lancashire?
See if you can get a declaration from this guy for that...
Eva, a great web resource is the Bibliteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish language).
Tamerlane, if memory serves, it's the family link with the Nasrids that allowed Don Fernando to make that Umeyyad claim (which is ironic for the reason you mention).