“The history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition”

In his Cairo speech, Obama made the following statement:

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition

Can anybody explain precisely what Obama was referring to?

On first glance, it looks like a reference to the so-called ‘Golden Age’ in Al Andalus. During the Golden Age, Jews – and Christians – were subject to a certain degree of formal discrimination, but largely prospered. Life was certainly better than in places like England, where Jews were repeatedly massacred and ultimately expelled.

That “golden” period definitively came to an end by the close of the 11th Century, and the invasion of the less tolerant Almoravids from North Africa.

But why Cordoba? What happened there?

In 1011, there was a massacre of Jews in Cordoba: which was followed by other slaughters in other parts of Al Andalus, notably in Granada in 1066. The famous Jewish scholar, Maimonides originally lived in Cordoba in the early 12th century, until the Almohades dynasty took the city, and threatened to kill any Jews who did not leave or convert to Islam. Maimonides’ family relocated to the more tolerant university city of Fes, in Morocco.

But, in any case, this was long before the Spanish Inquisition, which started in 1478. Cordoba had been reconquered by Spain in 1236. The city was not under Muslim rule during the Inquisition.

Some of my friends have suggested that Obama was referring to “Muslims who protected and sheltered Jews from the Spanish Inquisition”. Certainly, many Jews who fled or were expelled from Spain went to Muslim ruled lands: but not to Cordoba, as far as I know.

In Spain, Muslims might conceivably have tried to protect Jews between the beginning of the Inquisition in 1478, when  Muslim power in Spain came to an end. Muslims continued to be tolerated for seven years after the edict expelling the Jews in 1492 and so there might have bene some ‘sheltering’ going on then. However, I’m not aware of any specific examples of such protection taking place during those 21 years.

So, what happened in Cordoba during the Inquisition? What are the acts of tolerance to which Obama was referring?

Or was this a boo-boo by Obama’s speech writer?