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If someone else has already commented on this, forgive me–I’m hurrying to get to the mattress store (yes, that) before it closes–but “Cordoba House?” The name itself represents an act of aggression.
The history here is complicated, but in brief:
A part of the Roman empire from the second century B.C., Cordoba, like the rest of the Iberian peninsula, had converted to Christianity by the first third or so of the fifth century A.D. In the early eighth century–that is, after the city had participated in the Christian culture of the early middle ages for a full three centuries—the Muslims invaded the Iberian peninsula, making Cordoba one of their first conquests. As the Muslims continued to press north, eventually conquering much of the Iberian peninsula, Cordoba served for a time as a regional capital, subject to the caliphate of Damascus, and then for a time as a caliphate in its own right, becoming the capital for all of Muslim Iberia, or “Al-Andalus” (the name lives on in the modern term for southern Spain, Andalucia).
For the next seven-and-a-half centuries, the Christian kingdoms fought back against the Muslims, mounting a struggle that displayed long periods of desuetude, and that took place, for decades at a time, against a background of trade between the Christians and the Muslims, but that never entirely ceased. Slowly—really, it’s amazing that the struggle remained coherent across more than 700 years–the Christians regained ground. In 1236 they recaptured Cordoba. Two years later they forced the only remaining Muslim state in Iberia, the emirate of Granda, to become a vassal state of the kingdom of Castille. More than two centuries later, Ferdinand and Isabel defeated Granada itself, completing, the long struggle.
Reunited Spain fell far short of Christian ideals, needless to say—in 1492, the same year Ferdinand and Isabel defeated Granada, they expelled the Jews, and the Spanish reaction against the centuries of Muslim rule would soon produce the Inquisition. All the same, the reconquista—the reclaiming of Iberia for Christian, European culture—for the West–has always been understood as one of the signal achievements of our civilization.
In giving that name to the structure, those seeking to construct an enormous mosque near Ground Zero are engaging in a provocation. Instead of making a gesture of goodwill toward American society, they are celebrating an ancient Muslim incursion into the West, reminding us, for no reason other than that they insist on doing so, of long centuries during which Islam reduced Christianity to subjection, and a major territory of Europe was ruled from the thrones of caliphs. Islam, they wish to demonstrate–for who could conclude otherwise?–is again on the move.