400 years after King Philip III signed an order to expel 300,000 Moriscos – or part-Muslims who had converted from Islam to Christianity, some Muslim writers, Spanish and Moroccan campaigners are asking Madrid to apologize for the wrongs committed during the 17th century.
The anniversary highlights the uneasy relationship that still exists between modern-day Spanish and its Moorish, or Muslim past. Historians record the brutal conditions in which many were killed during forced resettlement in North Africa, and have urged the Spanish government to use the anniversary of the event to make overtures to the Islamic world. José Manuel Fajardo, a Spanish writer, said: “Mr. Zapatero has an opportunity to transform one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Spain into an opportunity for a re-encounter between the West and Islam.”
A spokesperson for the government said that there are no plans to mark the anniversary. The defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the expulsion of Moriscos from 17th century Spain is still a politically sensitive subject, with Osama bin Laden referring it in repeated calls for the restoration of al-Andalus – the former Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.