Spain decides to make up for its persecution of Jews, but won't do the same for Muslims

Global Post: MADRID, Spain — Half a century ago, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand presented Jews living here with a stark choice: leave, convert or face burning at the stake.

Some 50,000 Jews would eventually flee after passage of the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, giving birth to the Sephardic diaspora — “Sepharad” meaning “Spain” in Hebrew.

Today their descendants live mainly in Israel, France, the United States and Turkey.

Among those who remained, some who formally converted secretly maintained their faith under fear of constant persecution by the merciless Spanish Inquisition.

Now the Spanish authorities are finally seeking to redress the injustice. Earlier this month, the government approved a draft bill that would grant dual citizenship to those who can prove themselves to be descendants of expelled Jews — in addition to passing a Spanish culture test. Officials say they expect up to 90,000 applications in the coming years.

“Both previously persecuted groups influenced Spanish culture in ways that are still very much evident today.”

The same privilege isn’t being conferred on members of another community that was expelled because of policies aimed at maintaining “clean Christian blood.” More than a century after the Jewish expulsion, the Moriscos — Arabs previously forced to renounce Islam and become baptized — suffered the same fate.

Around 275,000 ended up in North Africa, where they left an imprint on architecture, music and cuisine.

Moroccan association representing their descendants recently sent Spain’s King Juan Carlos I — who abdicated this month in favor of his son Felipe — a letter requesting the same conciliatory measure.


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