Republican Spain’s Bullfight in Honor of Maimonides

In 1935, the city of Cordoba held a bullfight “in commemoration of the eighth centenary of the great Cordoban philosopher Maimonides.” The towering talmudist, philosopher, and theologian was born in that city in 1135, although thirteen years later his family fled to Morocco and from there relocated to Egypt, where he lived for the rest of his life. Janine Stein writes:

The bullfight itself was part of a five-day state festival in celebration of his life. It included receptions, cultural events, garden parties, society balls, the opening of a Maimonides museum at Madrid University, and the renaming of a square in Cordoba in his honor. Jewish representatives from around Europe were invited to attend the lavish affairs as honored guests. As part of the festivities, the centuries-old expulsion of the Jews was reversed—the Jews could now come back to Spain, and some did choose to return.

One of the Jewish visitors to the festival was a young man from northern England named Chaim Raphael. He reported that there were Jewish men from Lithuania, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, and even Palestine, in attendance. He noted how, despite their national differences, there was a palpable kinship among them.

Citing the reports of Raphael (later to become a prolific essayist and author of books on Jewish subjects), Stein suggests that the celebration, and the readmission of the Jews, were an attempt by the Spanish Republic, founded in 1931, to set itself apart from the old days of the monarchy. A year later, the civil war began that eventually brought about the republic’s fall.

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Read more at The Librarians

More about: Andalusia, History & Ideas, Moses Maimonides, Spain

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter