The Islam of “Our” Ancestors: An “Imagined” Morisco Past Evoked in Today’s Andalusian Conversion Narratives

In: Journal of Muslims in Europe
Marta Dominguez Diaz University of St Gallen

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Spain has the highest rates of conversion to Islam in the European Union. A significant proportion of converts live in Andalusia, which was once part of medieval Muslim Spain (al-Andalus). The “Muslim past” is looked to with a burgeoning sense of nostalgia, yet little is known about this romantic longing. Some converts perceive al-Andalus as a glorious epoch marked by religious co-existence (convivencia) and the flowering of Arabic culture, remembering those medieval Muslims who were exiled from Spain or who stayed and practised Islam secretly, and viewing themselves as heirs of these medieval Muslims. Conversion for them is not conversion but a rediscovery of the “truly Muslim nature” of Andalusia. Fundamental to this Andalusian convert discourse is the claim that Islam is not an “imported” religion but a local, indigenous one. An analysis of these Andalusian converts’ narratives will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the current ideological battles over national and religious identity.

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