Archive for June 16th, 2005

Hala Cesar.

The book title would translate into English as ‘Spain versus Islam. From Mohammed to Bin Laden’. I tried to think of an analogous title for a book written in English. The best I could come up with was ‘Ireland versus Britain. From St Patrick to Billy Wright.’ The blurb on the back talked about how the book would reveal the ‘essence’ of Islam, without any ‘corsets’ of political correctness.

It was on prominent display, in the El Corte Ingles book section, alongside another one titled 11-M: How Jihad brought Spain to its knees. The first book, Spain versus Islam (good review in Spanish here), was written by man called Cesar Vidal, who according to the bookjacket, had written a prodigious 128 books, (I checked his date of birth: he is still in his mid forties.) I picked up another of his books, this one an essay on the Paracuellos massacre, Katyn and what he calls the Genocide Of The Left, which he had, in what seemed to me a rather grand gesture, dedicated to the 120 million people who died under ‘really existing socialism’.

He is a prominent media figure in Spain: a historian, prize-winning novelist, journalist, broadcaster and regular contributor to the very popular right-wing journal Libertad Digital. On the TV news that night he was participating in the massive Partido Popular-backed demonstration by the Association of the Victims of Terrorism, which had been staged in opposition to the governing Socialist Party’s stance towards ETA.

In proximity in the demonstration, just as on the book display in the Corte Ingles, was former armed communist revolutionary Pio Moa, also a historian (more on his work here and here) and Vidal’s fellow contributor to Libertad Digital. Here is Moa’s own review heartily endorsing Vidal’s opus (from, strangely enough, Libertad Digital)

Talking about Muslims, in Spain just as in Britain and Ireland, quite a few people decry the constraints they see imposed by a corset, or culture, of political correctness. This is not limited to discussions dealing with grand themes of clashes of civilisation. I heard a person complain that apparently they were no longer allowed to call North Africans ‘moros’ (On saints and moors; relevant and irreverent Arturo Perez Reverte article in Spanish here), but that they now had to be called ‘árabes’. Another spoke about how the Islamic ‘mentality’ was different.

In a conversation about outsourcing of Spanish jobs to Morocco and Tunisia, one person remarked to me that he had no problem with Spanish jobs going overseas, as long as the thieving moors went back with them. It is hard to imagine that such opinions are not influenced by media commentary and discussion of news items such as this, of which there have been many since 11-M, from people like Vidal, and other more prominent figures:

You must go back no less than 1,300 years, to the early 8th century, when a
Spain recently invaded by the Moors refused to become just another piece in the
Islamic world and began a long battle to recover its identity. This Reconquista
process was very long, lasting some 800 years. However, it ended successfully.
There are many radical Muslims who continue to recall that defeat, many more
than any rational Western mind
[are we to suppose that Western minds more rational than Eastern ones?] might suspect. Osama Bin Laden is one of them.
His first statement after 11th September – I repeat, the 11th September – did
not begin by referring to New York or Iraq. His first words were to lament the
loss of Al Andalus – Moorish Medieval Spain – and compare it to the occupation
of Jerusalem by the Israelis.

Jose Maria Aznar, Georgetown University, September 2004

Still, it would be wrong to say that public opinion is dominated by such views. The Arab-founded city of Murcia recently held a very successful Tres Culturas (three cultures) festival, celebrating music rooted in Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures. The last night of the festival, Cairo-based singer Natacha Atlas, perfoming in front of the spectactular Cathedral (built on the site of a mosque), captivated an audience of all ages. A free concert, the best seats had been occupied by some of Murcia’s senior citizens for hours before the show.

As Cesar Vidal maintains that the idea of ‘three cultures’ is a myth (link in Spanish), he was probably knocking out another book that night.

Insert smartarsed ‘stately, plump’ quote here

It’s Bloomsday. Today is important because it marks the fifth anniversary of my first abortive attempt at reading Ulysses. Yes, I know it is high up in the Best Books In The World….EVER category, but I kept finding it dull and contrived. Following the advice of some sage, I kept it in the bog for a while. I got rid of it as I soon realised that rather than boring the shit out of me as it did elsewhere, within the confines of the water closet it caused reader’s block.

This person has kindly assisted by making a film of the book.

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June 2005
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