Columbus Day And Queen Isabella
Her story is particularly instructive for our times. Europe, during the time of Isabella, had become decadent and lethargic and was riding out the waning years of the Dark Ages. Spain had become a multicultural Babel, under threat from Islam, and lacking in an understanding of its own traditions and values.
Isabella set out to change all of this during her lifetime, and she was largely successful. There is an argument to be made that Queen Isabella was as responsible for the Renaissance as any other single human being. In fact, Queen Isabella funded Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World.
Europe had long enjoyed a safe passage to China and India— sources of valued goods such as silk, spices and opiates— under the hegemony of the Mongol Empire. With the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1453, the land route to Asia became more difficult. The Ottoman conquest of Egypt similarly impeded the Red Sea route.
Portuguese sailors took to traveling south around Africa to Asia. The Columbus brothers had a different idea. By the 1480s, they had developed a plan to travel to the Indies, then construed roughly as all of south and east Asia, by sailing directly west across the "Ocean Sea,"
However, there is also a dark side to Queen Isabella. Not only did she re-establish Europe to its orthodoxy, and beat back the Muslim invaders, eventually expelling them from Spain altogether, she also instituted one of the worst anti-Semitic purges in European history.
From About.com (Women's History):
In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Inquisition in Spain, as one of many changes to the role of the church instituted by the monarchs. The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly -- known respectively as morranos and moriscos -- as well as at heretics who rejected Roman Catholic orthodoxy, including alumbras who practiced a kind of mysticism or spiritualism.
Ferdinand and Isabella were given the title "the Catholic" by the Pope, in recognition of their role in "purifying" the faith. Among her other religious interests, Isabella also took a special interest in the order of nuns, the Poor Clares.
Isabella and Ferdinand proceeded with their plans to unify all of Spain by continuing a long-standing but stalled effort to expel the Moors (Muslims) who held parts of Spain. In 1492, the Muslim Kingdom of Granada fell to Isabella and Ferdinand, thus completing the Reconquista. That same year, all Jews in Spain who refused to convert to Christianity were expelled by royal edict.
Also in 1492, Isabella was convinced by Christopher Columbus to sponsor his voyage of discovery. The lasting effects of this were many: by the traditions of the time, when Columbus discovered lands in the New World, they were given to Castile. Isabella took a special interest in the Native Americans of the new lands; when some were brought back to Spain as slaves she insisted they be returned and freed, and her will expressed her wish that the "Indians" be treated with justice and fairness.
Isabella was also a patron of scholars and artists, establishing educational institutions and building a large collection of art works. She learned Latin as an adult, was widely read, and educated not only her sons but her daughters.
So, was Queen Isabella a model of Europe at its best, or Europe at its worst? Or, is it that Queen Isabella is simply the ultimate model of Europe, in all its good and evil.
I kept the Isabella bio short for two reasons.
!) I don't trust my knowledge of her, because most of what is written seems to be extremely biased, and
2) I think it is likely that we will have to make many of the same decisions as her in the near future, and thus I'd like to hear the opinions of others, uncolored by the bias inherent in most descriptions of Isabella's life.
The Spanish Inquisition, as much as it was a Theocratic tribunal born of a Medieval mentality, was in many ways simply an attempt to battle the multiculturalism which was rotting away the foundation of Europe during the late Medieval era.
The Expulsion of the Moors was, likely, absolutely necessary, because, as we see today, while not all those who identify as Muslims are dangerous, enough of them do support the imposition of Sharia law that their population becomes a degenerative force wherever it goes.
As for Isabella's anti-Semitic purges, I think it is important to understand that Christianity's historical abuses seem to have largely come about as a reaction to pressure from Islam. Certainly, both the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were reactions to Islam. The anti-Semitic pogroms which came along with these events seem to have been an extension of the" Xenophobia" born in European Christians as a result of their quite justifiable fear of Islamic encroachment.
In fact, when viewed from this perspective, one has to wonder, were the anti-Semtiic purges of the Dark Ages the exact equivalent of the anti-Zionist phenomenon we see born modern Dhimmitude; to blame the helpless Jews rather than the malevolent Muslim population. It could be that the abuses leveled on the European Jews were born of the same psychological phenomenon we see today; that of a kind of reflexive will to moral equivalence disguised as a high-minded egalitarianism.
When viewed from this perspective, it is easy to imagine the Medieval equivalent of modern-day Leftists demonstrating in the streets with placards proclaiming, "The Jews tricked the Moors into this rebellion."
In fact, I would not be surprised if the anti-Semitic purges of Queen Isabella's time were born of such a confluence of forces.
However, while the evil Medieval Leftist precursors may have been been responsible for gathering the political will for the persecution of the Marranos (the word used at the time to connote those Jews who had converted to Christianity), the truth is it was the Medieval traditionalists who actually carried out the persecution of the Jews, or at the very least, allowed for it.
So, in my opinion, in our modern fight against the encroachment of Islam, we must be very careful to have the integrity to make the distinction that our fight is against the political will of Islam (which is manifested in the advocacy of Sharia) and not against the politics of immigration and/or integration.
Any attempt to use the the political will against Islamization as a force to settle the score with immigration in general is born of a lack of either a intellectual integrity of the inability to make distinctions.
Islam is one problem. Immigration is another problem altogether.
It is a given that this is a truth which is more easily understood in the United States where our immigration problem is with South Americans, not Muslims (as opposed to Europe, where the immigration problem is, indeed, mostly about Muslims). Most Muslims are here in the U.S. legally, while most South Americans are here illegally (or, at least, they originally entered our borders illegally). And, while the South Americans are here illegally, they do, for the most part, obey our laws, and contribute to our societies.
The Muslims of America, on the other hand, enter legally but, in many cases, immediately make themselves part of the total structure of Islamic political rebellion, by standing in silent solidarity with those who advocate Sharia law in their Mosques. Those Muslims who sit silently in Mosques which call for such rebellion are participating in a conspiracy of sedition against America. An immigrant who enters our country legally and yet turns around and immediately enters into a conspiracy of sedition against our laws ought to be thrown out of our country.
But, let us be clear, it is Muslim immigrants who are, apparently, participating in such seditious behavior. There is no ideological structure which supports a conspiracy of sedition among any other immigrant population entering the West.
If we were to make the same mistake as was made during the time of Queen Isabella, that mistake would begin with conflating the problem of immigration with the problem of Islamization.