The Saladin Days 2014

Islam in Europe and the Legacy of el-Andalus

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Islam in Europe and the Legacy of el-Andalus

In the spring of 2004 Spain is hit by the worst terrorist attack the country has seen since the civil war, when a series of bombs are detonated on a commuter train in Madrid. Al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible for the attack. In November 2005 two young boys of African origin end up dead after a police chase in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, causing riots to break out all over France. In July 2011 Norway is struck by an act of right-wing extremist terrorism in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. While the ethnic and religious multiplicity of Europe is ever growing, right-wing extremist political parties are experiencing a simultaneous surge in support.

There is a common denominator that connects Madrid to Paris and Utøya: all of the incidents are allegedly linked to religion and reflect an apparently eternal struggle between Islam and Christianity, “us” and “them”, that is supposedly insurmountable. Some claim that there is no such thing as a mutual history for Christians and Muslims, only struggle and conflict. From the European point of view Europe is “ours” and the Middle East “theirs”. Yet can this be true? For almost eight hundred years, from 711 to 1492, Muslims ruled large parts of Spain and Portugal. Was this a period marked by happy coexistence, or by brutal and intolerant regimes?

The legacy of el-Andalus and the importance of Islam for European culture and history have been controversial themes for many years. We have invited authors, scholars, artists and intellectuals to an informed conversation about how we are to understand ourselves and the modern world in light of the past. We will also look closely at the work of the notable literary historian and theoretician Edward Said. Are his theories about the relationship between Europe and the Orient still valid? And is a conversation built around the opposition between “us” and “them” still relevant?

The programme has been developed with support from the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) and with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


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