Francisco Garcia Fitz responds

This morning the email inbox had a message from Francisco Garcia Fitz, responding to my June 5 post concerning an article he published in the German paper Die Welt. My worry was that the article could be read as revisionist history and play into the hands of neo-conservative cultural critics by providing fuel for their paranoid visions of all things Arabic and/or Islamic. Here is Fitz’s email (excuse my all-too hasty translations of the parts in Spanish ):

Dear Pierre:

My name is Francisco García Fitz and I´m the author of an article about tolerance in Islamic Spain, published in German in Die Welt. I have read the comments about it that you have written in the blog “Nomadics”, and I like doing some remarks. Sorry, my english is not very good, so I´m going to write in spanish. I hope you can understand me.

1.- En primer lugar, al escribir mi artículo no he pretendido hacer una revisión histórica de la cultura árabe. Soy medievalista y conozco el alto grado de desarrollo que alcanzó la cultura árabe durante la Edad Media. Cada año le explico detalladamente a mis alumnos la emorme deuda que la toda cultura occidental, y la española en particular, tiene con la cultura islámica medieval.

(1.- First, in writing my article I did not pretend to make a historical revision of Arab culture. I am a medievalist and know the high level of development that Arab culture attained during the Middle Ages. Every year I explain in great detail the enormous debt that the whole of Western culture, and the Spanish one more particularly, owes to medieval islamic culture.)

2.- En segundo lugar, tengo que reconocer que tiene usted razón en su comentario sobre el título. Lamentablemente el artículo fue titulado así por el editor del periódico por su propia cuenta y sin conslutar en ningún momento conmigo. Lamento mucho que se haya publicado con ese título porque confunde al lector: como Usted mismo ha podido comprobar, a lo largo del artículo no se habla de jihad, sino del mito de la tolerancia.

(2.- Secondly, I have to agree that your are right in your comment on the title. Regrettably the article was given that title by the sole decision of the editor of the newspaper who never consulted with me. I very much regret that it was published with that title, because it confuses the reader: as you ycan see for yourself, the article talks nowhere about jihad, only about the myth of tolerance.)

3.- En tercer lugar, también estoy de acuerdo con usted en que no es posible juzgar el mundo medieval en relación con los valores del multiculturalismo del siglo XX. De hecho, mi intención al escribir este artículo ha sido precisamente contestar a quienes proponen a la sociedad musulmana de la España medieval como modelo válido para las sociedades del siglo XX. Como Usted sabe, en España y en otros países occidentales al-Andalus se presenta como un ejemplo que podría imitarse para conseguir la convivencia entre culturas y religiones distintas. Quienes así piensan no saben, u olvidan, que las sociedades medievales, incluyendo las islámicas, nunca llegaron a aceptar en pie de igualdad a los diferentes, y que por tanto no puede servir como modelo de referencia para las sociedades libres.

(3.- Thirdly, I also agree with you that one cannot judge the medieval world in relation to the multiculturism of the 20th century. In fact, my intention in writing this article was exactly to respond to those who propose medieval Islamic society of Spain as a valid model for the societies of the 20th century. As you know, in Spain and in other Western countries, Al-Andalus is presented as an example that can be imitated to achieve the coexistence between different cultures and religions. Those who think thus do not know, or forget, that medieval societies, including the Islamic societies, never managed to accept as equal those who were different from them, and that therefore they cannot serve as reference models for free societies.)

If you like, you may incorporate these remarks in your Blog

Thanks for you attention

Con un cordial saludo, Francisco García Fitz.


I tend to agree with most of what Francisco Garcia Fits says, though I don’t really think that anybody is proposing medieval Al Andalus as a model to be directly imitated at this point. That would indeed be absurd, given historical events and revolutions since that time. But I do think that the achievement of Al Andalus to have been a haven of (relative) tolerance in its (extremely intolerant days) must not be overlooked and is essential as an indication that Islamic culture is not necessarily jihadist, as a range of neo-conservatist apologists would have us belief.

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1 Response

  1. Edmund Hardy says:

    On the subject of ‘jihad’ I’m looking forward to “Jihad in Islamic history: Doctrines and practice” by Michael Bonner, to be published by Princeton in October.

    From what I’ve heard of the original French publication (Le Jihad: origines, interpretations, combats), which I wanted to get but now I’ll get this one, the book promises to carefully track the multiple traditions of jihad with an emphasis on the early histories – a period in jihad traditions I have not read any close study of before.

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