Spanish press raps Obama for historical error

8th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Contrary to US President Barack Obama's speech, the Catholic Inquisition in Spain had its origins late in the late 15th century whereas the Moors occupied the Iberian peninsula from 711 to 1492.

Madrid – US President Barack Obama made an error on Spanish history in a part of his speech in Cairo that referred to the Iberian peninsula's occupation by the Moors, Spanish newspapers said Friday.

"Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition," Obama said in the keynote speech on Thursday, which called for a new beginning with the Muslim world.

He was referring to the Moorish, or Muslim, occupation of a large part of the Iberian peninsula, known then as Al Andalus, from 711 to 1492, in particular the Caliphate of Cordoba, which ruled in the 10th and 11th centuries and when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together relatively peacefully.

But, according to historians, the Catholic Inquisition in Spain had its origins much later, and the ecclesiastical tribunals that sought out heretics only began in the late 15th century.

The phrase "shows a total lack of knowledge of the history of the Iberian peninsula," the conservative newspaper ABC said Friday.

The centre-right daily El Mundo noted the "anachronism of Cordoba and the Inquisition," but also said Obama's reference to "tolerance in Al Andalus is fully justified".

"In the caliphate period there existed great religious and political tolerance. Scientists from different races and religions collaborated closely," said historian Juan Vernet in his book "What Europe owes to the Islam of Spain."

Spanish newspaper commentators also reproached Obama over what they said was his failure to mention Spain when he referred to "Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations".

The Alliance of Civilizations was the brainchild of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who proposed months after the deadly Madrid train bombings of March 2004 as a way to combat intolerance between people of different cultures.

AFP / Expatica

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