April - June 2005, Islam

Andalusian Muslims Recall Painful Mass Exodus

By Al-Amin Andalusi
IslamOnline Correspondent


RABAT, February 27, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) — After more than five centuries, Muslims of Al-Andalus (now Spain) still mark every year in anguish the mass exodus of their ancestors by Spanish authorities to North Africa.

The Moriscos, the name given to Muslims who were living in Spain after the fall of the last Muslim stronghold of Granada in 1492, were subjected to an array of persecution, torture, mass killings, forced conversions to Christianity, the notorious Spanish Inquisition and mass exodus that started in February 1502.

Today, up to four million grandsons of the Moriscos are living in North African countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

“They used to commemorate every year these painful memories to keep the agonies of their forebears vivid,” Moroccan historian Bin Azouz Hakim, a specialist in the history of the Moriscos, told IslamOnline.net Sunday, February 27.

Morsicos’s descendants in Morocco, who are concentrated in cities like Tangier, Fes, Marrakesh and Rabat, mark every year the fall of Granada and Al-Andalus, which was regained in 1492 by Spanish troops in the long process known as the Reconquista under the Catholic monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

The descendants, many of whom still have Spanish surnames, mark the anniversary with symposiums, Andalusian music and shows portraying the sufferings of their ancestors.

The northern city of Shafshoun, which was built by the Moriscos when they were forced to Morocco, still have the Moriscan aura with its Andalusian architecture and traditional Moriscan costumes.


In 2002, Hakim sent a message, inked by an elite of Moriscos, to Spanish King Juan Carlos asking for a public apology to the descendants.

The message, however, fell on deaf ears.

Hakim; nevertheless, sent another message to the king, asking him to explain why he rejected his call while he apologized to the Jews in a visit to Israel in 1992 for the mass exodus from Al-Andalus.

“I think because we don’t have a powerful lobby like the Jews, who make the best use of the past to get financial gains,” Hakim said.

“But the Muslims only want a moral compensation and that’s why, ironically, Spain is adamant,” he added.

The expert also opposed a Moroccan mediation effort to get the much-hoped apology.

“It is an inalienable right to the Moriscos. It makes no sense that the Spanish king had apologized to the Jews of what is now Israel, who have nothing to do with the Sephardim (the Jews of Al-Andalus), while is reluctant to say sorry to the Moriscos’s descendants.”

After an absence of almost 500 years, the Adhan (call to prayer) and the muezzin’s cry of ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is greatest) rang on July 10, 2003, from the minaret of the Great Mosque of Granada.

The site of the mosque was bought 22 years ago, when it was still a small plot of farmland squeezed between a convent and a church on the crest of the Albaicin, the last Muslim quarter of Granada.