April 1609, King Philip III of Spain decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos, Muslims who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism for several generations. The Iberian doxa has rendered its sentence: they cannot be assimilated to the nation. Torn from their land, these Christians, despite themselves, will long remain nostalgic for their lost paradise.
From great history to small history, the story of one of these exiles has come down to us, in the form of snippets taken up freely and romanticized by Hassan Aourid*.
It is said that the State is the owner of legitimate violence. Ahmed Chihab Eddine alias Afouqay, baptized Pedro, had the bitter experience of this in an Andalusia embraced by the Inquisition; substrate of a power and a clergy that have made oppression and popular vindictiveness a mode of governance. He fled in 1598 to the Saadian Empire, without too many illusions except the hope of giving meaning to his life. From the mouth of the Oum Rabie river, the mother of spring, passing through the Marrakchi court of Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour Dahbi, to the Kasbah of the Oudayas (fortress facing the Saletine city of the corsairs on the one hand, and Ribat-El-Fath on the other hand); the anti-hero walks, internally. His quest will also take him to Amsterdam, Paris, Orléans, Cairo, Mecca, Medina, and finally Tozeur after a tumultuous journey that ends in 1642. At each stage, a question. To each of these questions, a dialogue as an answer. The otherness is sublimated by the prolific imagination of the author who knew how to give a soul to a story inspired by real events.
From small history to great history, Spain has emptied itself of part of its substance, North Africa has been enriched by it. History has had time to judge. Four centuries later, the heritage lives on: an art of living has been transferred and perpetuated from one shore of the Mediterranean to the other. Let’s be factual: The Molina-Mouline, Vargas-Bargach, Olivares-Loubaris and other Carrascos-Karrakchou are today most naturally Moroccans in the world, and their names have been Arabized by usage and not by decree.
October 2021, the fear of the other is back, diversity is hated, selfishness has become a virtue again. Europe seems once again in the grip of these old demons. Some make a thunderous entry into the public arena crying wolf at all costs. Simplification, generalization, suspicion, discrimination, confrontation, expulsion… the venom of rejection has an implacable logic. It follows a channel without a lock to flow into an ocean of mutual incomprehension.
In these circumstances, one can only pay homage to all Moriscos, at all times and in all places, who are asked to choose between their home and their faith, their nation and their traditions. Receptacle of the anathema, designated scapegoats, they carry within them their priesthood contributing, reluctantly, to give birth in pain, cement that unites us all to a common destiny.
*The Morisco – Hassan Aourid – Bouregreg Editions