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Spain—an example to emulate

The world is an ongoing theater where heroes and villains are constantly grappling each other onstage. At one point, where RSS thinkers have been studying the 'miracle' of Spain that rid itself of the 'Muslim menace' so that Hindutva extremists could achieve the same feat and drive out the Muslims from the sub-continent', where Modis are experimenting with genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gujarat laboratory and where Goradias are working overtime as professional provocateurs to destabilize and destroy a democratic, secular and pluralist country like India, it is heartening to find that post-9/11, the same medieval Spain is being studied and presented in the West as 'the ornament of the world'— where Muslims, Jews, and Christians created a culture of tolerance.

‘The Ornament of the World’ is the title of a book recently published by Little Brown, that is written by Prof. Marيa Rosa Menocal R. Selden, a Rose Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. According to Press release, the book ‘reinvents our notion of the Middle Ages as a dark and unenlightened period in history and shatters the myth that Muslims, Jews, and Christians cannot live peacefully together. Marيa Rosa Menocal unravels the story of al-Andalus, the kingdom in medieval Spain where flourishing arts and sciences transcended religious differences. There Muslims, Jews, and Christians were part of a broad-reaching culture that adopted aspects of each of their rituals and traditions.

Founded by an Islamic prince who was exiled from his native Damascus, al-Andalus prospered for over 700 years as a premier cultural and economic stronghold in Europe. Initially, much of this success stemmed from the ruling Umayyads' liberal interpretation of Islamic law, granting Christians and Jews equal status under their leadership. Over time, the Andalusians' acceptance of the paradoxes between this open lifestyle and their respective religions became unconscious, allowing them to freely explore a variety of ideas and opinions. The pursuit of truth was not seen as a defiance of religious mandate for the Muslims, Jews, and Christians who inhabited al-Andalus. Tolerance was an inherent aspect of Andalusian society, and from this, incredible advances in art, architecture, and technology were achieved. It was in al-Andalus that Plato and Aristotle were first translated, a library collection of over 400,000 volumes was assembled, and troubadour love songs and poetry were widely promoted. With the evolution of the Renaissance, however, this innovative culture was shaken, and eventually torn apart, by fanatical ideas about purity of blood and religion brought in by fundamentalist Muslim and Inquisitorial Christian forces. Today, the spirit of al-Andalus resonates as we struggle to reconcile personal faith with a need for a national community of tolerance and, ultimately, peace.'

Fortunately the forces of sanity though temporarily in disarray, are never the less too powerful to let the forces of insanity and disunity take over. Each calamity brings forth from its womb, a new generation of hope and optimism. Gujarat will be a harbinger of a better future for India and the world, just as the calamity of 9/11 had opened up new prospects of peace by mobilizing the latent subterranean ground realities thirsting for peace and justice.

¯ Ghulam Muhammed

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