SPEAKER1: We are very pleased to have Tariq Ali with us today, as I mentioned before. He's a writer and a filmmaker, for some of you who don't know him, who has written for both the stage and screen. Tariq is the author of more than two dozen books on world history and politics and seven novels that have been translated into a dozen languages, born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1943, and is still looking good to relatively privileged--
--privileged, [INAUDIBLE] parents. He was, from an early age, drawn, towards questions of social justice and led his first street protests at age 12 and his first strike at age 15. After the military coup in Pakistan, his parents were advised to send him out of the country for his own safety. And he went to study at Oxford where he became involved in student politics.
On graduating, he led the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and became the spokesperson for the anti-war movement in Britain in the subsequent period and throughout the Cold War, fighting remain a fierce critic of both Moscow and Washington and the various dictatorship, both secular and theological, that were aligned with the rival groups. During the 1980s, as director of Bandung, an independent television production company, Tariq produced a series of critical programs on politics and culture for Channel 4 in the UK.
And I must mention that, for some of us who know one of his works, it's called Black Athena. It's around the controversies surrounding our colleague, Martin Bernal, a book, Black Athena. Tariq is also a contributor to The Guardian and the London Review Books and for the BBC broadcasting service.
Tariq is currently based in London, where he is an editor of the New Left Review and served as director of Verso Books. His works of fiction include a quintet, historical novels about Islam, the last of which, Knight of the Golden Butterfly was released earlier this year. His non-fiction work includes a social history of the 1960s, entitled 1968: Marching in the Streets.
And also he has a book called The Clash of Fundamentalism. It's really a good text for those who want to understand what we face today with Islamic revival and the backlash from the West. He also has a book called Conversations with Edward Said and a film, The Nehurus and Gandhis-- The Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not the film, it's a book.
His latest book just released is, The Obama Syndrome, which is also available in the back there. So those are available actually in the back for those of you who are interested. And please buy them, purchase them. Support our local, independent bookstore, the Buffalo Bookstore.
So anyway, before going on and creating my own lecture on Tariq Ali, please join me in welcoming Tariq Ali.
TARIQ ALI: Thank you very much. It's enough of those kind words. And I'm really good that I'm looking good.
Let me start this talk with a quotation from the 9th century, Islamic-Spanish philosopher, al-Razi, who wrote, "no authority is beyond criticism," and who went on to say, "reason is always superior to revelation. And only true philosophy offers salvation." And this tradition of philosophy, which was extremely strong in the Iberian Peninsula, which was Spain and Portugal, then spread all over Europe and was translated and discussed.
So in discussing the origins of modern Europe, one has to go back and look at what pre-modern Europe was, historically, and what happened to it. For 700 years almost, there was a civilization in the Iberian Peninsula, in parts of southern Italy, and in Sicily. Not all of it lasted for several years. But it ended in Europe after that period where essentially three cultures coexisted.
The dominant culture was Arab Islamic culture. There was Jewish culture. And there was third, Christian culture. And these three cultures and their coexistence created a synthesis which was unique in the history of Europe and its civilizations.
And I think it's important to recall this history today when certain writers speak of a Judeo-Christian civilization. I'm always puzzled by this reference, unless it refers to the situation that existed after the Second World War. Because prior to that, to speak of a Judeo-Christian civilization is simply inaccurate. I'll avoid other adjectives. It's just simply inaccurate.
Because for most of the period, as Raul Hilberg, one of the great historians of Judaism and the Holocaust has written, that for an overwhelming period during its existence, the Jews of Europe had been hounded, mistreated, denounced, killed by dominant Christian civilizations. The only period in their history when they had relatively-- I don't want to say it was a golden age. It's exaggerated to say that. But the only period in their history where they were not systematically persecuted, prosecuted, killed was in lands which were run by Muslims, either in Sicily or in the Iberian Peninsula.
So it would actually be much more accurate, if we are talking about a lengthy period in European history, to speak often Islam or Judaic civilization, in some cases, together with Christianity and others, against it, which existed for a long time. And it's important to try and understand the importance of this civilization. The great Spanish historian, Américo Castro, in his book, which, on the structure of Spanish history published in 1954 by Princeton, made a very important point.
He wrote, talking about Spanish history, "it is not possible to break up this history into stagnant pools or to divide it off into parallel synchronous currents because each one of the three groups was a part of the circumstances projected by the other two. Nor could we capture this reality merely by gathering together data and events or by objectifying it as a cultural phenomenon. We must try to field a projection of the lives of the ones with the lives of the others. For this, and nothing else, is what their history was-- facts, ideas. And all the rest are inseparable from the lives with which they are integrated."
At the end of the 15th century, Spain was ruled by a single belief-- it is thus, that I conceived the creation and ruination of Hispanic tolerance entirely outside the framework of the European Middle Ages between the savage Visigothic laws of the feudal huscal against the Jews in the 7th century and Alphonse, the learned, mild laws relating to them. There are 500 years of Islam.
And I think, especially at this point in our history in which we live today, it's important not to forget the fact, though there are those who wish to forget it because it does not accord with the present-day needs and interests of those who speak in the name of various faiths and religions, and, in fact, distort the history of the past. Now, the importance of that period, it's essentially a period where the collapse of kingdoms and empires facilitated the rise of a new political movement which had a new religion, which was known as Islam.
And the interesting thing about the early phase and period and period in which this movement existed was that the coincidences for it were fortunate. All the big empires around it were collapsing-- the Persians, the Byzantine Empire, and the Visigoths in Spain. So they took this part of the world very rapidly. And interestingly enough, they did not do what had been traditional till then, which is forcibly convert the populations for which the fundamentalists and extremists within the faith, even at the time, especially in the 9th and 10th centuries, criticized them-- criticized the tolerance.
Because fundamentalism is common to all faiths and has been since the beginning and makes its appearance at very, very early stages of all the three great monotheistic religions. And this was true, but they were ignored. They were not listened to at the time. And instead, what happened is that Arab civilization, Islamic Arab civilization in the Iberian Peninsula produced a synthesis that made that part of the world the most advanced part in the Mediterranean civilization.
The rivalry between the caliphate and Baghdad because Islamic civilization extended and grew very fast between the caliphate in Baghdad and the caliphate in Cordoba, it was a friendly competition. But Cordoba was way ahead in intellectual debates, intellectual discussions, philosophy, astronomy. Because what they were closer to was the ancient civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans, which were in ruins and had been in ruins.
And a lot of the documents from ancient Greek and its civilization were fragments in many cases, were translated into Arabic in Toledo where there was the largest translation school of the early Middle Ages. And everything they could lay their hands on was translated and discussed and developed. And this enabled that region to become the most advanced region in the Mediterranean world and certainly in Europe.
And then, they used this knowledge to develop it further. And the development led to a new synthesis. And that new synthesis included the study of medicine, the study of astronomy, and the study of music. It's not all that well-known, but it deserves to be stressed that this study of music produced three classic works on music by Arab theorists of music-- Spanish-Arab, I should say, theorists of music.
The first in the 9th century, the Risalafi Khubrta'lif al-alhan by al-Kindi, which was the treaties concerning the inner knowledge of melodies. Then there was the Kitab al-Musiqa al-Kabir by al-Farabi, which was The Book of Great or Grand Music, which musical historians say was the greatest book on music that had ever been written till that time. And in the 13th century, this was developed still further, theorized further, by Safi al-Din, who wrote the, [ARABIC TITLE], which is a book of musical method and was a very deep study of the intonation and timing in playing the lute, a study of scale of register and compass, which created essentially the foundations of Arab music.
And not just Arab music, but the stringed instruments from that period went down to the European Renaissance and created Western music, classical Western music as we know it. And it's not totally coincidental that the first study of music in a Western University was in the University of Salamanca in Spain in the 13th century.
So I say this to explain the legacies and the interrelationships which led to Islamic Spain being a bridge from antiquity to the European great Renaissance, which is acknowledged now by most historians of the period, but is not really recognized by popular culture. Or it isn't part of the everyday commonsense of citizens in the West. It's well known in the Arab world, of course, but not particularly understood.
So what would have happened to this civilization had the Catholic Church and the popes decided to leave it be or to participate with it, share its gains, and not wage war in it? But essentially a decision was made, which was known as the Reconquest, that this is alien. This is the other.
And that the only genuine descendants of pagans in Europe are Christians. They are not Jews. And they are not Muslims. And a decision was taken to expel them, to fight.
The tradition of holy war is not a legacy of Islam. The tradition of holy war is a legacy of Catholicism and Christianity. And you can just study it that the creation, for instance, by the year 1,200, the network of bishoprics that extended all over Europe, 15 to 2,000, which seems small, but included large areas. And many of these areas then produced armed people, military, militaries attached to religious orders to wage the holy war, to take back the holy place from pagans, infidels, as they called the Muslims, in particular.
And they had even worse names for the Jews. Hence, the first Crusade. Hence, the destruction of large numbers of synagogues and mosques in Jerusalem. Hence, the burning alive of human beings in Jerusalem by the first Crusade.
And this, if you like, Catholic universalism, because that's what it was, in the name of Christianity, then fought and fought in Spain. And the weakness of Islam historically, from its beginnings, the great historian of the antique world, Moses Findlay, who's written some of the greatest books of the antique world says that had Islam managed to remain united and transcend tribalism, it would have taken the West as just as it took the East, because it was there for the taking.
And he argues, I think, accurately, that it was clashes within Islam and its armies and its political structures that made it easy for them to be defeated. And certainly, the history of the Iberian Peninsula bears this out. They were singled out systematically and defeated.
But now something is interesting, that in the city of Toledo, where there was this great school of translation, for 150 years after the city fell to the Catholic Church, the main language in Toledo was Arabic. It remained the language, even under the new Christian rulers of the city. The same thing in Sicily, that the Normans, who took Sicily in the 12th century for 150 years, retained Arabic as the language of learning, the language in which their children were educated, the language which they themselves spoke.
And it was only after the expulsion of all the Muslims from Sicily to mainland Italy, from where they were soon-- most of them were killed or forcibly converted, that other languages, Latin principally, but then vernaculars replaced this. And the same is true of Spain. And this, in Spain, of course, it was more tragic because this was a people who had lived there for 700 years. They were not outsiders.
The actual armies which came were tiny. The bulk of people were voluntary converts. They were Spanish, Iberians who had decided to become Muslims because, at that point in time, which faith you belonged to in Europe, there were choices.
You could be a Christian, Catholic. You could be a Muslim. And the Jews did not encourage conversion, but or you could be a Jew. In the Iberian Peninsula, this was normal, absolutely normal. And it was this tradition that the Catholic Church decided had to be eliminated.
1492, when Columbus supposedly discovered this continent, was a time when the last remaining Islamic Arab kingdom in Granada fell. And in order not to encourage killings and mass slaughters, the rulers of Granada surrendered in return for agreements which promised freedom of religion, freedom of language, freedom of customs. The Jews were expelled immediately by a decree of the new Christian rulers-- either convert or leave. Many converted because they didn't want to leave their homes. Others fled as refugees.
And it's interesting where they fled to. They fled to the Maghreb, to Muslim lands, now Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria. Or in the case of many of the intellectuals, the doctors, the lawyers, the scholars, the men of learning, they were given refuge by the Ottoman sultans and landed up in Istanbul. Some who couldn't-- or whose ships bypassed all that, landed up in India.
There was a shipload of refugees from the expulsions in Spain, which landed up at Cochin on the southern coast of India where the Mahajan of Cochin tribe and core welcomed them and gave them land to build a synagogue and said, this is yours for eternity. And it's a beautiful old synagogue. So even in refuge, by and large, the refuge they were give given was in the lands essentially of Islam.
And then, almost a century later, they couldn't expel the Muslims at the same time because the Muslim population in Spain numbered millions. And they were fearful of armed struggle and armed resistance, which did begin in Granada and lasted for about 90 years. As they broke the agreements, armed resistance sprang up.
And then finally, at the time when Cervantes was beginning to write his famous novel Don Quixote, Philip II abolished all the agreements that had been reached by his forebears with Spanish Muslims, imposed a humiliating code of conduct. It was a crime to write or speak Arabic, to visit the public baths. Cleanliness for the first time in European history was considered a crime, because bath bathing was associated with Muslims. What the implications of that were, for Christians, I leave to you to imagine.
Muslim surnames and clothes were banned. And interestingly enough, given the current debates going on in the world, Muslim women in Spain or Muslim women who had converted were forbidden to cover their heads, forbidden. Whereas Catholic-Spanish upper class and upper middle class ladies covered their heads to show we are the rulers now-- the mantilla, as it was known.
And it was in this period that Cervantes started writing his famous novel. Now, I don't know how many of you have read it. But the Edith Grossman translation of this novel, the latest translation, is in fact very brilliant. And it's beautifully-written, very readable. And I would recommend that you read it. But in order to read it, you have to do what the guy, who introduced it didn't do, Harold Bloom.
Which is to understand the context in which that book was written and to understand the history that, in fact, produced the book. Harold Bloom's introduction, if you read it, it's actually utterly and completely pathetic for a scholar like him. It's a discussion on the literary merits-- who likes it, who doesn't like it. If Nabokov didn't like it, someone else liked it. Who the hell cares?
I mean, what you need to do when you introduce a great work like that is actually say, contextualize it. What made him write this book? What is he actually talking about? Is it a novel just about jokes and punishments? Or does it have something deeper?
And because Bloom, himself, obviously, not being an interdisciplinarian, doesn't understand the history of that period. He can't really understand that novel, which is a real tragedy. And if you look at the novel, it's filled, but absolutely filled with hidden and sometimes not-so-hidden allusions, because Bloom doesn't even refer to the fact that Cervantes came from a Jewish background. His grandparents and their parents were physicians in Cordoba at a time when virtually all the doctors in Cordoba were the Jewish faith. And they converted.
They were amongst those who converted. And because everyone who had converted was trying to get a clean bill of health from the officials to say, we were always Christians, in order to get work because there was a lot of discrimination against the newly-converted Muslims and Jews. A lot of money was spent.
And Cervantes got that certificate. And the Spanish Academy sometimes uses that fact to say, but, he was a pure Christian. But if he had been, he wouldn't have really tried that hard and worked so hard to get the certificate.
And Lope da Vega, one of his rivals and competitors and also a great dramatist, often in his polemics, with Cervantes, used to play the anti-Semitic god. Who the hell do you think you are? You're a Jew.
So if you look at the work of that period, it was very clear where he was coming from. And if you look at the book, it is suffused with both a vicious, satirical humor and descriptions which leave very little doubt. I just wanted to read a few of them out. This is just one sentence from the book here. He's having a conversation with Sancho Panza.
"I believe that, too," responded Sancho. "And I'd like your grace to tell me why is it that Spaniards, when they're about to go into battle, invoke that Saint James, the Moor-slayer?" i.e, the killer of Muslims "And say, for Saint James and closed Spain. By some chance, is Spain open so that it's necessary to close her?"
Well, what ceremony is that? Now, to Spanish reader at the time, it was very clear, the references that were being made. And to underscore the fact of what I pointed out earlier, the abolition and the banning and forbidding of Arabic, he starts-- Cervantes, early on in the book, says-- this is not a book I've written. This is actually the manuscript of a book I found in the Alcalá Bazaar in Toledo.
Let me read it to you. "One day," writes Cervantes, in Don Quixote, "when I was in the Alcalá market in Toledo, a boy came by to sell some notebooks and old papers to a silk merchant. As I am very fond of reading, even torn papers in the streets, I was moved by my natural inclination to pick up one of the volumes the boy was selling. And I saw that it was written in characters I knew to be Arabic. And since I recognized, but could not read them, I looked around to see if some Morisco, who knew Castilian and could read them for me, was in the vicinity," Morisco is a name for Muslims-- "was in the vicinity. And it was not very difficult to define this kind of interpreter. For even if I had sought a speaker or for better an older language, I would found him."
So here, you have two hints-- Arabic, Arab culture, people speaking Arabic are to be found still, though they are banned. And then a better in older language is Cervantes' hint, as far as he could go, he's talking about Hebrew, and making it clear, here and in other sections, where he comes from.
And in the middle of nowhere, they come across a village. And Cervantes is right. It was a village. There was no one. No one was living in that village. It was empty, and it was an eerie feeling.
Now, Spaniards of that time wouldn't need to be told why that village was empty. It was either a Jewish or a Muslim village and had been ethnically cleansed, as we would say today. So Spaniards of that time didn't need to be told, but someone should tell Harold Bloom.
And then, an old Muslim comes back to dig out some money he's left in a village and encourages and encounters Sancho Panza. One of the more quoted sections from the book, "Ricote," that's the name of the old Moor, "without slipping at all into his Moorish language, said these words to me in pure Castilian, you know very well, lo Sancho Panza, my neighbor and friend, how the proclamation and edict that his majesty issued against those of my race brought terror and fear on all of us. At least, I was so affected I think that, even before the time granted to us for leaving Spain had expired, I was already imagining that the harsh penalty had been inflicted on me and my children.
And so I arranged as a prudent man, I think, and as one who knows that by a certain date the house where he lives will be taken away, I left. No matter where we are, we weep for Spain. For after all, we were born here, and it is our native country. Nowhere do we find the haven our misfortune longs for. And in Barbary and all the places in Africa where we hoped to be received, welcomed, and taken in, that is where they most offend and mistreat us. The greatest desire in almost all of us is to return to Spain. Most of those, and there are many of them who know the language as well as I do, abandon their wives and children and return. So great is the love they have for Spain. And now I know and feel the truth of the saying, that it is sweet to love one's country."
I mean, there's no doubt as to what the writer is trying to say. And I think that-- I mean, this is my view. It's sort of attacked by some. I think, essentially, that all the critiques of chivalrous stacks and documents, if you read them carefully, what he is attacking are stupid words of religion, not chivalry. And that the target of that novel is essentially the Catholic Church.
That is the way I read it. And I read it a number of times. And every time I read it, the feeling is stronger. But is that the way in which it is read by the Spanish Academy, who don't even want to admit Cervantes' own heritage? The answer is, no.
And the reason for that is that that struggle in Spain, which ended in an ethnic cleansing, which was completed, but left behind many traces. Certainly, in the Spanish language you have tens of thousands of Arab words, tens of thousands. When you are greeted in Spain by someone saying, hola. It's, what is it? It's an abbreviation of wallah, praise be to God and numerous other praises.
So the traces are there, but few people, including few Spaniards, it has to be said, know about it, because for most of their history, they were not taught what happened in those 700 years. And later during the Reformation in Europe, when the fight against Catholicism was at its height in Germany, partially France, England, then these things began to be discussed. And Schiller, the great German poet, in his famous play, Don Carlos, showed how religion, when instrumentalized, becomes the handmaiden of political tyranny.
And in this imagined conversation between the king, Phillip II and the Grand Inquisitor, who by the way, the first big Inquisitor, Torquemada, was a Jewish convert. And there were Muslim equivalents, too, who worked for the Inquisition, just to show their loyalty to the new order-- always happens, whether it is Spain, in whether it is in Spain, a country which is being transformed, whether it is the Middle East, today, you have people like that who, in order to show their loyalty, go beyond even what their superiors are demanding and try and help them out.
And this passage from Shiller's play, Don Carlos, is very revealing like that. The king wants to get rid of his son in the play because the son is negotiating with Dutch revolutionaries and helping them to break from Spain, or so he thinks. "The King: My son, is meditating treason. Grand Inquisitor: Well, and what do you resolve? King: On all or nothing. Inquisitor: What mean you by this all? King: He must escape or die. Grand Inquisitor: Well, sire, decide. King: And can you not establish some new creed to justify the bloody murder of one's only son? Grand Inquisitor: To appease eternal justice, God's own son expired upon the cross."
So an understanding of what took place in Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, it's important to understand the birth of modern Europe. This was a Europe, which was to be a Christian Europe. I mean, during the Crusades, little talked about. Now, during the Crusades Richard the Lionheart, so-called, on his way to the Crusades, slaughtered most of the Jews in Britain and expelled the others and carried on doing it on his way down to the Holy Land.
They were not allowed back until the days of Oliver Cromwell, many years later after the monarchy had been abolished. The Jews of York were just wiped out. So Judeo-Christian civilization clearly did not exist at that time. And so it has been.
Islam, of course, had places elsewhere. And it became ghettoized outside Europe, expelled from Europe. And this tradition carried on till the 20th century. People talk about anti-Semitism today at the drop of a hat, while underplaying the deep-- which Raul Hilberg, the great historian of this period, doesn't do-- the deep, deep anti-Semitism which existed in Western culture throughout.
I mean, you only have to study some of the remarks of four American generals fighting against Germany in the Second World War. Baton, for instance, to learn what he thought about the Jews, which they were supposedly-- that's what we were told second World War was about-- big joke-- and the destruction of 6 million Jews during the Second World War by the Nazis.
When they first started locking them, up before they decided on the final solution, you look at the response from the rest of Europe-- France and Britain, very, very limited. That was not a central issue at all. The central issue was Germany is threatening the French and British imperial hegemony-- nothing to do with anything else.
So all the new material that is now coming out is related to something else. Europe became a monocultural Europe, essentially, in which one faith and the culture and politics and militarism related to it, dominated. And when this Europe took off and became the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and the birthplace of the European empires, which conquered the other part of the world, it then gave added justification to what had happened before. And that is the world in which we still live, essentially, with one difference.
And the difference is, that for the first time now since the 15th and 16th centuries, we are seeing a return of Muslims to Europe as migrants. So there are now the figures of sort of vary from between 24 to 34 million Muslims who live in Europe from different parts of the Islamic world, this new diaspora who speak different languages and millions in North America, too, which is something new. It's something that has happened over the last three, four decades, really.
And we now have a wave of Islamophobia in Europe, which is similar in some ways to the anti-Semitism that existed for the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, certainly. If you look at what is said and written about Muslims in the European press, in particular, by serious people, by the way, not just nutters like Terry Jones with his 30-man church. But this is by columnists writing in the Financial Times and papers like that, essentially saying that this is "the other," that this is something alien to Europe, that this is something which has to be watched.
And opinion polls taken even in Britain, which is less infected than, for instance, France or Germany or Spain-- yes, Spain. Even in Britain, a recent opinion poll said that 49% of the people, when questioned and asked, what is your first thought when you hear the word Islam? Replied, terrorist. Now, it is similar.
And of course, other arguments-- they are not like us. They wear funny things on their heads. They have food taboos. They pray on a different day. They live in their own circles. They don't integrate.
All these remarks can be found and have been found by researchers in the newspapers, in press, in Europe of the '20s, '30s, '40s and sometimes even '50s after the war, can be found. In those days, the Jews were regarded as Bolsheviks because the number of Jews involved in the Russian Revolution was disproportionate to their place in the population. But what wasn't disproportionate was the oppression they had suffered in Russia under successive regimes, and the pogroms, and the killings. So it was hardly surprised that they became radicalized and turned to groups which said, you will be liberated.
And there's a very interesting book by a Russian Jewish historian, who I think-- it's one of the Ivy League Universities in the United States. His name escapes me for a minute-- who says that essentially the history of Jews in the 20th century-- that's what the book is about-- that there were two ways in which they broke loose.
One was through the Russian Revolution, where they achieved high positions, despite Stalin's paranoid anti-Semitism, which he says didn't affect the place of Jews in Russian society, Soviet society. And he said the other place that they did well financially was in the United States when they came, despite anti-Semitism on the top layers of society. Nonetheless, there were no pogroms, et cetera, et cetera. Europe was the hell for them, he says, was the Jewish hell till 1945. And I think that's accurate.
But you know what worries me is that despite all the education that is now taking place about what happened to European Jewry, non-stop education, there's something wrong with it if it makes that particular crime exceptional, because there have been other crimes in history, including in the 20th century. So it was a huge crime. But so was the wiping out, as Adam Hochschild relates in his book, of between 10 and 15 million Congolese by the Belgians in the last years of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century.
And sometimes, Mobutu, the crazed dictator of the Congo, used to use this fact to denounce those who challenged his dictatorship. No one who lives in Europe has the right to say it, even though he was essentially an agent of the Belgians and worked for the CIA as well. But they used to use it to, demagogically, against that.
So I'm saying that an education about that particular crime, which educates you in a very narrow way so that you can't see that some of the arguments that were being used against the Jewish people are now being deployed by the far right and extreme right groups in Europe against Muslims, then there's something lacking in that education. It hasn't really got home that you don't treat people, whoever they are, from whichever faith they are, whatever minorities they represent, in that particular way.
And we've seen recently-- I mean, the most recent example is the election results in Sweden, considered the most liberal social democratic state in Europe, where a group, which used to be openly fascist and now describe themselves as the fashion is post-fascists, have got more than 4% of the vote. And they've got members in Parliament and hold the balance of power in who forms the government. And their campaign, in the Swedish election, what was it?
Unemployment is rising-- true. And we have too many migrants, and too many of them are Muslims. This is the argument. This is the argument being used by the extreme right in Italy. And if Berlusconi goes under or goes for a face lift, which goes wrong--
--he will be succeeded by Fini, who is politically, a lineal descendant of Mussolini. There's no doubt about it. He, too, is a post-fascist. And you have similar currents in Holland, in France, in Germany.
So the conditions that produced the rise of extremist ideologies which targeted particular people. The conditions are there in embryonic form. I'm not saying anything like that will happen again. So I shouldn't be misinterpreted. But it's getting more and more unpleasant.
And the big change, of course, that has taken place, which makes the situation more complicated is that many supporters of Israel in the West, who in normal circumstances, would participate in campaigns of solidarity with people who are being victimized and targeted because of their uncritical loyalty to the state of Israel, don't do it. There's been a big, big shift in the Jewish intelligentsia, certainly in this country, compared to the '20s, '30s, '40s, and even '50s.
There's been a big shift to the right. There's been a big shift in France, very, very similar to the right. So that the only question now, which comes up, is Israel right or wrong? We have to support it. And anyone who is critical of the Israelis, including large numbers of people and intellectuals of Jewish origin, are denounced.
And this, I think, to put it mildly, is unfortunate because it doesn't move anyone forward. And the solution within the Middle East to the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians has to be resolved. And then perhaps, we can build, once again, a solidarity which used to exist against the extremes.
Now, that's a whole new subject, which I'm not going to intern now. But just to give you my views on it, in my opinion, a two-state solution is now excluded. It might be imposed on the Palestinians. And some of the Palestinian leaders, who have been totally corrupted and are loathed as collaborationist, might accept it. But it will not be accepted by the Palestinians as a whole.
I think that time for that has gone there will not be any credible Palestinian state. All that would be will have, if it happens, is two disjointed, little protectorates kept going by the European Union, the United States, and Israel. And it will never be a satisfactory solution.
I think, ultimately-- and I know it sounds utopian today-- ultimately, the solution for that region will be, or should be and has to be, a single state for Jews, Muslims, Christians, called Palestine Israel, whatever. I don't even care what the name is-- doesn't bother me, in which you have same equal rights for all the citizens of that state, no preference according to ethnicity.
And that is actually in the best interests of the Jewish people who live there themselves, as of Christians and Muslims who live inside or on its fringes. It will be a larger state. But in order to survive and exist, it has to be a democratic state. And if that were to happen-- and what I'm saying this-- it's not a-- it's a solution certainly not acceptable to Zionism or to the Palestinians and Hamas today. Both don't like it.
But just think, this is the last remaining sore from the 20th century-- the creation of Israel in Arab lands, the expulsion of the Palestinians. It's not a problem that is going to go away. It will carry on. They might be crushed for a time. It'll start again. So it has to be solved.
And here, I come back to how I started. I was asked once, in Spain, it so happens, in Granada, earlier this year where I was giving a talk-- someone asked a question which was, could we recreate al-Andalus? And I said, we can't, in Europe, because history has moved on. And it's a nice thought, but it's foolish. I mean, all we can hope is for minorities to be respected.
But the one part of the world where al-Andalus, in some ways, could be recreated is in Israel, Palestine, because all the conditions are right for it. The politicians are not right, but the conditions are certainly right to create a single state in which all the communities live with each other and forget militarism for a while. And that change, were it to come about, would transform the Middle East.
Of course, it wouldn't be particularly appreciated by the military industrial complex in this country, who are just selling billions of dollars of weaponry to the Saudi's who hardly have an army or an Air Force, but feel they have to buy these billions of dollars of weapons from the United States because it's a protection racket. They're buying protection. The royal family, the monarchy is buying protection. It's protection money.
Most of these planes line warehouses in the desert where they rust and then are replaced five years later by new planes. And they rust, too. And the Saudis have never permitted an army to be created because they are nervous that if they create an army, which they can't control, they might be toppled, which is very likely to happen had this monarchy not being protected first by the British and subsequently by the American empire.
So we live in a strange world. And it's not easy to find glimpses of something good at the moment, in my opinion, in either the Middle East or Europe. We have two wars waging. We have Iraq still occupied. And we have a situation where over a million Iraqis have died, 3 million refugees, 5 million orphans, the entire social infrastructure of that country destroyed, its education system dismantled, confessional groups encouraged. And that is Iraq today.
Had any other power but the United States done that, I think we know what the media would have been writing and what campaigns would have been waged. And now we have, on a lesser scale, a similar disaster taking place in Afghanistan, which affects Pakistan, which is getting destabilized with each passing day. And now, we know there are differences within the military, which we've known for some time.
But these two wars are another reason why Islamophobia is not stamped out from above, because you have presided over an occupation which has led to a million deaths. But they are Muslims after all, so does it really matter? And therefore, what we need more at this time, more than ever before, more than in the '60s, is an active citizenry in this country, because Europe, the European elite essentially follows the United States, by and large.
They didn't do it all together on the Iraq war. But by and large, once the occupation happened, they supported the occupation and went to get their share of Iraqi oil. But it's in this country that an active citizenry matters. And when the far right and the extremist right and these nutty Tea Party people are active, and I admit that they get enormous publicity from Fox and some other networks.
I mean, what has happened to the other side? What has happened to MoveOn.org, which put Obama in power? What has happened to all the American citizens who came out and marched on their streets against the Iraq war, the high point, actually of recent politics in this country and of European politics?
And that is the sort of we do need groups of citizens who are alert and who learn where the world is before their country invades that part of the world. Better to know before what's going on there, and not wait for the country to be invaded. That's how you learn.
And so I hope that some of you, present here at least, will realize that it's your responsibility, especially, young people who are growing up in this world in the 21st century, that you have other responsibilities apart from your responsibilities to yourself or your parents or your friends or your lovers. And that is a broader responsibility. And that is a responsibility to the world. And it is especially your responsibility because you live in the world's most powerful country and the world's only empire. Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Now it's your turn for questions, comments, criticism. So the platform is yours. And we do have a mic, actually. Any questions or volunteers? Yes.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for your talk. It was a nice way to frame what the subject's at hand. Just about your last point, I'm wondering what you would have to say to the reality that the culture of fear that's been instilled in the American citizenry that we all want so much to be active?
In the last 10 years under the Bush administration, and even currently now, this culture of fear is what is disabling us from being willing to act to some extent. I call it fear not only of the other, but also of our own government. So I'm wondering if you could speak to that.
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think that the culture of fear and a fear of dissent and of sort of putting fear in people to stop them dissenting has been here in this country for some time. It's nothing new. But despite 9/11, look at it this way, despite 9/11 and the effect that had on this country, a few years after that, a quarter of a million people in New York marched against the Iraq war. They weren't scared.
And 3/4 of a million marched in the Bay Area. 70,000 marched in Minneapolis, the largest demonstration ever they said in our history, over 100,000 in Chicago. Now of course, compared to the population, the figures are small. But it means that there is an active minority, and that minority is not fearful.
I think a lot of hope, as I argue in my book, The Obama Syndrome, a lot of hope went in to the Obama presidency and large numbers of people, especially young people. I was here during that campaign. And I was quite excited myself seeing the young people so excited, that I didn't have the heart to say to them that, actually apart--
--quite a lot of what Obama is saying is vacuous. I mean, "yes we can" is an advertising slogan. "Change we can believe in," but what does that mean? The campaigning was short. It was very short on actual concrete policies.
It took advantage of a real anger against Bush and Cheney for dragging the country into a war. He defeated Hillary Clinton because he had voted against the war on one occasion. So he used that. And I think people are still dazed by the fact that all these things are carrying on.
And that essentially the continuity between Bush and Obama and foreign policy is still there. The mood music has changed, but nothing else. And domestically, we were promised Guantanamo would be disbanded. We were promised that torture and rendition would cease.
Only the other day's stories came out of, which took you back to the Vietnam era of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Some of them have been arrested because they were caught with trophies, war trophies which were fingers or other parts of the body of Afghans they had killed. So and Obama's one of the State Department's top lawyers, now, formerly head of the Yale Law School, very decent liberal or used to be, now justifying drone attacks in Pakistan where lots of innocent people are dying and saying that there's nothing illegal about them.
Obama's appointee to the Supreme Court actually defended the necessity to torture him and stuff like that. So it's a very depressing situation. And I think that the honeymoon is certainly worn off. And the trauma is still there. And it will end soon.
And it's no good saying, but look at the people who were attacking him. But there have always been nutty people attacking any democratic president. From the time of Roosevelt, it was the Daughters or Sons of Liberty, or whatever they were called. During Kennedy, it was a John Birch Society. And now it's the Tea Party.
They are more powerful than the Republicans, but that's because the whole atmosphere and the political terrain has shifted to the right. So there is fear, but I think this fear can be overcome if people begin to organize. I mean, organizing and coming out onto the streets and having rallies shouldn't be a preserve of the right in this country.
AUDIENCE: Just for everybody's information, there's actually someone speaking at the Unitarian Church at 7 o'clock, which is on the bottom of Buffalo Hill. And it's a woman named Ann Wright. I actually don't know much about her.
She worked in the military. I think she defected or left the military in protest to what's happening in Iraq. And she's going to speak on that. So that's tonight at 7:00. So there are things happening, very much alive in this community at least.
I wanted to say two things-- one, is I'm very passionate about-- I, along, with many other Ithacans protested the previous administration and in fact wanted impeachment, although, impeachment was something that was a little bit, a small voice in this country, unfortunately.
TARIQ ALI: Impeachment for both.
AUDIENCE: Of Bush and Cheney, yes. I believe both elections were stolen. But the thing is with Obama, though, once Obama became president, he did not wish to have an inquiry, as did Britain. And when you talked about when the British-- when Europe looks at us and then follows, I mean, in Britain at least they had an inquiry, right?
They questioned Tony Blair and others. They might not have been great, but we did not have an inquiry in this country, which is very, very significant that nothing was questioned. And then we had the BP spill. And everything that's been happening has been in the works and still is in the works, despite who's in power right now.
The other question that I have, a real quick one-- on 60 Minutes, I happen to be a Greek American. My parents are from Greece. And as the Greeks feel, they have suffered greatly under the Turkish empire.
But what stunned me was the 60 Minutes program showing the patriarch. And I had no idea, being Greek, that the base of the church was in Constantinople. And I was wondering if you could speak on that because in the 60 Minutes program, it showed the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church being oppressed by the Turkish authority. And I was shocked to see that there was no even succession of a patriarch in my church because of that, and also St Sofia, which was a Greek Orthodox Church, becoming a museum now.
So I was wondering if you could speak to that because this oppression-- it seems to reoccur constantly. And I appreciate your talk. I think it's wonderful because we need to remember that the oppression's everywhere and at different points in history, unfortunately. Thank you.
TARIQ ALI: On impeachment, I mean, I think the only serious attempt to impeach a president in recent years was not for political, but for sexual reasons.
After the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Republicans tried to get Clinton for lying and adultery and all that sort of stuff, till some of the people who were actually leading the campaign, especially some of the born-again Christian preachers on television were themselves exposed for having done much worse. And the campaign then began to peter out.
For political reasons, I mean, Nixon was threatened with impeachment and preferred to resign, rather than be impeached. I think that's what they told him, that unless he went, he would be impeached for Watergate. [INAUDIBLE] They should of course all be tried according to international law for war crimes. But the United States is not a signatory to that.
You can try Saddam Hussein, or mind you, his trial was a lynch mob. But you can try Milosevic. You can try some of the Yugoslavs, whose crimes were very tiny compared to what we've seen in Iraq. But technically, there is no way you can try any American for war crimes in a European court or an international court of law. They've not signed on to that.
Now, could Bush be impeached in this country for the Iraq war? He could be, but it's a bit difficult when the overwhelming majority of Democrats supported him. So who is going to impeach him? There's not going to be a majority in the Senate or the House or any of that because they are all involved and implicated.
So I'm afraid that's the reason why this business hasn't taken off. As for Britain having an inquiry in the United States, not. I live in London. And let me tell you, that sometimes one feels it's better not to have the pretense of a show of something, because the people who would put on their tribunal were included two people who wrote Blair's war speeches, for God's sake.
And it was a total farce. It was a very soft inquiry. And it was not given the right to make declarations or to refer the case if they found Blair guilty to a legal authority. So it was the thing which the British are very good at doing. And basically, heading off public opinion by saying we've had an inquiry.
They did the same in Ireland after the massacres of Bloody Sunday in Derry in '72. And it took this year to admit that the whole thing had been rigged, that the inquiry had been faked for the British prime minister, the Conservative prime minister of Britain to publicly apologize to the Irish people for what had happened. So maybe, in 50 years' time, an American president will apologize to the Iraqis or a British prime minister. I don't know. I'm not a great one for having any confidence in that.
As to what you'll say about the persecution of Christians in Turkey, you're right, it's unacceptable. It's totally unacceptable. And it varies from time to time. But the current government has put the pressure on.
And what you say about buildings, that, I'm afraid, is part of the history of Europe from the 9th century onwards, that mosques made into churches, churches made into mosques, still the final crime of one side or the other. When it stopped, the only beautiful old mosque that has still been preserved in Europe, a really beautiful mosque, the old Grand Mosque in Cordoba, was only preserved because they built a church in the heart of it. And the Spanish King who arrived to see that mosque said, you have destroyed something that was beautiful and replaced it with something that was ugly, which isn't totally accurate because the mosque is still there.
It's just when you go in, you're a bit startled by the two. But then it's better to do that than to completely destroy a building, as was done. I mean, that's history. I mean, we can attack it, but this is how things happened.
AUDIENCE: Could you tell us about the history of Jews being accepted in Thessaloniki from Spain where nobody else would accept them? And then the subsequent history during the Second World War?
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think we know that. I mean, they were wiped out when the Nazis, when the Germans occupied Greece, the large community. Much of it in Thessaloniki was taken off and killed, which was a part of the tragedy of the Jewish people in the whole of Europe at that time. It's well, well documented. Many texts have been written about it. And it completely transformed the character of that city, as of many other cities in Europe, especially in what is now Eastern Europe.
And I mean, as a sort of footnote to that, an Israeli friend was telling me said-- an old friend of mine, an Israeli leftist-- and he was telling me that it's very interesting. But there's a big difference between the Russian Jews who settled. He said, some of them are very right wing. But there is a whole layer of them who don't feel the same as the ones who came from occupied Eastern Europe and Western Europe.
And he said, the reason they don't feel the same-- and when you talk to them, they say, we don't feel defeated because we fought either as partisans or in the Red Army and actually inflicted defeats on Hitler. So we feel we were part of the victory. And he said, it's very noticeable sometime in political discussions and debates which take place in that country behind the scenes, the way they talk.
AUDIENCE: I'd like to put in a word for show and pretense. As you know, I carry no brief for the British government. But hypocrisy is one way that you publicize evil, and that you create a tension between what we think we ought to do and what is convenient to do. And I think the inquiry in Britain did give the British a chance to see Blair and others squirming and questioning.
It's what would not have happened in Britain if there had been a Watergate affair. The Senate committees do the same sort of thing. And they have now been copied by the British Parliament.
Even a halfway, a half-assed inquiry is better than nothing. You, in fact, give the game away when you talk about the Cordoba mosque, because you say even there, that the pretense allows a tension between the fact that the mosque exists and the context in which it's been forced. Well, let's hear it for hypocrisy, I say.
TARIQ ALI: Well, it's a difference between architecture and politics. But there is a point to what you're saying, except living there as one does and having seen some of the people on the tribunal who were defending the Iraq war. I mean, it's true the Chilcot occasionally are some tough questions. And traditionally, it's what the British have always done after an atrocity.
And even during the days of the British empire, after the big massacres in Jallianwala Bagh in India in 1919, they did have an inquiry, which in that case, exonerated the general who'd ordered the killing of Indians in large numbers. But the fact that the inquiry was held did make some in India feel at least they're having an inquiry. So there is an argument there.
I don't particularly buy it because the effect it can sometimes have is to demobilize people. Were it a proper inquiry, with the powers actually to send Blair to prison, I would have favored it. But from the beginning, it was designed by Blair's successor partially to embarrass Blair and partially to exonerate himself. Well, OK, maybe the war was wrong. I gave you an inquiry, but we can debate it. It's not a big thing.
AUDIENCE: I actually, perhaps, understand, not completely accept your pessimistic view of the future of the world or as it is now. And it is interesting that you have your talk and beautiful projection for Israel is a kernel of the possible democracy. What role would you assign to Russia or to the remnants of the former Soviet empire, that in fact constitutes a great entity where you have a lot of Jewish population, Muslim population, slots, you name it?
And just as a footnote, how long the languages, surviving languages testify to be power of the former imperial ambition. In one of the recent, as of four months ago, BBC's footage on the events in Kyrgyzia one of the absolutely upset Kyrgyz man in his '60s, perhaps said, call Moscow! Call Moscow! Ask them to come and fly! This is [INAUDIBLE]. Of course, he said that in Russian. And I am Russian. I understood that was not translated for the rest of the world.
TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, it's a sort of long and varied subject. But the example of what is going on in the former Soviet Union. If you look at it country after country, including the heart of it, which is Russia itself, is not exactly a model. Let's take just one thing-- the total destruction of Grozny, as a city and the war on Chechnya waged by Yeltsin and Putin. Why?
Because Chechnya had oil, because it was largely Muslim. And the Chechens said, rightly, that if countries like Lithuania Estonia and Latvia can be given their independence, why not us? What have we done?
But they weren't prepared to let go. And they went and organized huge massacres, destroyed a city. And interestingly enough, backed totally by Bush and Blair, that particular destruction, which was much worse than anything, that happened in the Balkans by the way, much, much worse in terms of torture and killings. And then the brave Russian journalists who tried to report on these atrocities, targeted, singled out, in the case of three of them, just killed. And no one ever knows who killed them, though, the suspicions are of course there.
So I think it will take another 10 to 20 years to see how that world begins to pan out. But some of the ultra-nationalism that you now see in the Baltic republics, where they actually say that Hitler's occupation, the Nazi occupation of our countries, was not as bad as the Soviet occupation, which is palpably false, just falsehoods. But they say it, which is their way of developing a new identity for themselves.
And so that all that the opening up of that particular Pandora's box has created a big mess in that part of the world. And how it will be sorted out is difficult to predict. I'm not a pessimistic person by nature. I'm just quite realistic and hard headed, just pointing out the problems we have.
I mean, I think there are good things happening in South America. I mean, you've had in five different South American countries mass social movements, against privatization, against neoliberalism over the last 20 years, which have resulted in elected governments which have implemented, what we would in the old days have called, left social democratic programs, state intervention to aid health, education, create a new infrastructure.
And these people have been traduced and denounced in the American media endlessly. And some idiots even say that Hugo Chavez is an anti-Semite. He may be many other things. That is one thing he certainly isn't, by the way. But so all this goes on. And that is the only continent at the moment where there is some hope where you have elected politicians who are actually trying to fulfill their promises.
And those of you who haven't seen Oliver Stone's film, South of the Border, should try and see it. And if it isn't put on the cinema in Cornell, get the videos and do watch them because it just gives a totally different feel of what is happening there, including, by the way, in Brazil, the largest country in South America, which does offer some hope. And it does offer us a different way of looking at things than the one you get in North America and Europe at the moment.
SPEAKER: Well, I think, Tariq, also didn't mention to our community is that he actually wrote the script for the South of the Border.
So questions? We'll give two chances. Yes, in the back.
TARIQ ALI: She's had a hand up for ages.
SPEAKER: OK, so why don't we give her a chance?
TARIQ ALI: Hang on, got to wait for the mic, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Towards the end, you commented and said that young people have the responsibility to the world to help make things right. And I was wondering if you can comment on some effective ways that we can go about doing this besides protesting?
TARIQ ALI: The most active ways you can do it besides protesting?
Well, now that's a difficult one you pose.
But if by protesting, you mean, going out onto the streets, well, there are many things you can do. You can set up study circles. You can talk about what needs to be done. going out on the streets first time is never easy.
But at least you have to create an atmosphere in your field of work or on the campus where serious issues are discussed. And the campaign, which young people waged for Obama on that level was very impressive, because they actually believed in him and thought he would do something. And they went, and they argued. And they argued with their parents. And they argue with people who didn't agree with them.
And they shouldn't feel totally bis that they were let down. But that model of campaigning for Obama is not a bad model for campaigning for something better. And so don't forget that. But the key thing is actually to try and break loose from-- it's not exactly provincialism.
That's the wrong word-- but from the sort of big tendency in this country, which I encounter time after time again because it's such a huge entity, geographically, of not thinking about the rest of the world, you know? I mean, I'm glad sometimes that the US press attacks Venezuela and Bolivia 'cause at least people know these countries exist.
But if you were to do a survey of how many people on this campus and going to every class and say, name six South American capitals? After all, this is your backyard. I wonder how many would get it?
And this always worries me, that the people who rule this country certainly know where the rest of the world is, but the citizens have become less knowledgeable than they were during the years of the Cold War. That is what is happening. And that is something you could certainly challenge.
SPEAKER: The last question.
AUDIENCE: Yes, I wondering if you could say a little bit more about your views on the so-called Middle East peace process. One often hears the cliche that only a right wing Israeli government would be able to make any significant concessions, probably because there is no Israeli left anymore. And maybe Gideon Levy was the person you were referring to earlier.
And certainly, if you read his editorials, it's a very pessimistic picture. Do you think there's any possibility that a right wing government, perhaps even a government led by Netanyahu would be able to make any concessions, particularly on the question of the settler movement?
TARIQ ALI: Look, I think, in terms of Israel, the differences between left and right, in terms of defending that state, have been very minimalist, always. I mean, the early leaders of Israel all claim to be on the left, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan. They're all people who claim to be from that tradition and savagely attacked Begin and these people who were the lineal descendants of Jabotinsky.
I mean, they were savage attacks. We don't regard them. We are socialists, Ben-Gurion would say. These people are people of the right. But over the years, they merged. And so the common interests, wrongheaded common interests, in my opinion, basically have obliterated the divisions between left and right or social democratic left and extreme right.
And so you have essentially governments in that country, which defend what they regard as the interests of a Zionist Israel and are not prepared to question that in any way. So the real ping is what are they offering the Palestinians? The minimum the Palestinians would, normal Palestinians, not people on the payroll of the European Union, would expect is for a total withdrawal to the 67 frontiers, which means dismantling the settlements and East Jerusalem.
That is a minimum program for the Palestinians. That is beyond the no government in Israel at the moment. I mean, it could have been accepted in the early '60s, I guess, before the war. But I don't think any Israeli government is going to accept that. That's the big problem.
And Israel is not immune to pressures which you see in other parts of the world-- the Arab world, the European world of big, big shifts to the right which have been taking place. And so I'm not optimistic about that. And if the so-called peace deal just involves a few bantustans, though Bishop Tutu and Ronnie Caserio and other South Africans say, please don't call them bantustans because bantustans were better than what the Palestinians have got at the moment and are likely to get.
So the only here, I think, we have to, which links up to the question raised from the back. That, I think, non-violent pressure on the Israeli government from all over the world is extremely important, extremely important. And it does affect them. However, they might deny it. And, I, personally am a strong supporter of the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. So I think that is the way for it.
SPEAKER1: I guess we will end here. We have a whole program tomorrow. Our guest would like to reiterate that the talk tomorrow is based on a film screening and a panel with Tariq Ali. And in the panel, is our colleague, Cynthia Robinson, who is the [INAUDIBLE] a specialist in Islam and the Iberian Peninsula.
There is Simone Pinet from Romance studies is also an historian of the [INAUDIBLE] specialist in the [INAUDIBLE] of Spain. There is also Martin Bernal, an emeritus professor here. And many of you know him for his work on Black Athena. And there's also Benedict Anderson, who's also an emeritus professor from the government. And so that would be a very exciting group of panelists after the film. So I wish [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER 2: Just one announcement.
SPEAKER1: OK, just let me--
SPEAKER 2: Yeah, somebody else.
SPEAKER1: There is a reception. And there's also the book signing here. There is a reception in the artist gallery. On my right, Lisa? Or no? Reception in the artist gallery.
SPEAKER 2: Yes.
SPEAKER1: Yes. You can actually continue with questions, [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER 2: OK, before people leave--
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The fall of the Kingdom of Granada in 1492 coincided with the expulsion of Jews from Catholic Spain, while the Muslims were expelled in 1526. With these ethnic cleansings and forced conversions in place, a single-identity Europe was created. Virtually everything witnessed in 20th century Europe: the secret police, inquisitions, burning of heretics, Jews, gypsies, had all been experienced in late medieval Spain and Portugal. How does all this refract on contemporary Europe with large Muslim minorities numbering 24 million across the continent?
Tariq Ali, one of the important critical thinkers of our time, lives in London and is an editor of New Left Review and director of its associated publishing house, Verso Books. He is also a novelist and filmmaker, and a long-time political activist.