After the Spanish Parliament approved a draft bill that would grant citizenship to Jews whose ancestors were forced to leave during the Inquisition, 522 years ago, the country’s Muslim population is demanding the same rights, as their ancestors were also expelled.
“The Spanish state should grant the same rights to all those who were expelled,” Bayi Loubaris, president of the Association for Historical Legacy of al-Andalus, an organization that promotes the heritage of Muslims in Spain, told the Spanish news agency EFE. “Otherwise their decision is selective, if not racist.”
Loubaris was responding to a draft bill introduced Feb. 10 that would naturalize descendants of Spanish Jews, who now live all over the world. He and many other prominent Muslims see a double standard. However, Loubaris did say that Spain’s decisions were "very positive" and an acknowledgement of the "guilt of the Spanish state in expelling its own citizens."
Jews first arrived in Spain under the Roman Empire and lived under both Muslim and Catholic rule for centuries. By 1390, a series of persecutions forced Jews to convert to Catholicism or go into exile. In 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella completed the Christian reconquest, they issued a decree expelling all remaining Jews who would not convert.
The Moorish Muslims, who once ruled over the Iberian Peninsula, also were forced to convert and many were expelled.
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Last year Portugal adopted a similar law granting citizenship to Jews with Portuguese ancestry, who were also driven out. In response to displeasure by Muslim activists, Portuguese lawmakers rejected calls to naturalize their descendants, because they say Muslims were expelled as part of a war that ended their occupation.
"What happened with the Arabs was part of a conflict,” said Jose Ribeiro e Castro, a lawmaker who drafted Portugal’s law of return. “There’s no basis for comparison.”
The Spanish bill, which would give citizenship to those known as Sephardic Jews (descendants of the Jews who once lived in Spain), still awaits examination by a legal body that will look at the legality and make any necessary amendments. If it passes through the council, the parliament will most likely approve it by the end of this year, according to Gregorio Laso, press counselor at the Embassy of Spain in Washington.