Skip navigation


In some areas, little has changed except for the convolution and conflation of history.MA
By Erin Blakemore. National Geographic, History Examiner

In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.
Over time, the strength of the Muslim state diminished, creating inroads for Christians who resented Moorish rule. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. This culminated in 1492, when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I won the Granada War and completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the Moors were expelled from Spain.

By then, the idea of Moors had spread across Western Europe. “Moor” came to mean anyone who was Muslim or had dark skin; occasionally, Europeans would distinguish between “blackamoors” and “white Moors.”
One of the most famous mentions of Moors is in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Its titular character is a Moor who serves as a general in the Venetian army. (In Shakespeare’s time, the port city of Venice was ethnically diverse, and the Moors represented a growing interchange between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.) Despite his military prowess, Othello is also portrayed as exotic, hypersexual, and untrustworthy—“a lascivious Moor” who secretly marries a white woman—reflecting historic stereotypes of black people.
More recently, the term has been coopted by the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Members of Moorish sovereign citizen groups claim they are descended from Moors who predated white settlers in North America, and that they are part of a sovereign nation and not subject to U.S. laws. It’s proof of the ongoing allure of “Moor” as a seemingly legitimate ethnic designation—even though its meaning has never been clear.

In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.
Over time, the strength of the Muslim state diminished, creating inroads for Christians who resented Moorish rule. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. This culminated in 1492, when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I won the Granada War and completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the Moors were expelled from Spain.

By then, the idea of Moors had spread across Western Europe. “Moor” came to mean anyone who was Muslim or had dark skin; occasionally, Europeans would distinguish between “blackamoors” and “white Moors.”
One of the most famous mentions of Moors is in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Its titular character is a Moor who serves as a general in the Venetian army. (In Shakespeare’s time, the port city of Venice was ethnically diverse, and the Moors represented a growing interchange between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.) Despite his military prowess, Othello is also portrayed as exotic, hypersexual, and untrustworthy—“a lascivious Moor” who secretly marries a white woman—reflecting historic stereotypes of black people.
More recently, the term has been coopted by the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Members of Moorish sovereign citizen groups claim they are descended from Moors who predated white settlers in North America, and that they are part of a sovereign nation and not subject to U.S. laws. It’s proof of the ongoing allure of “Moor” as a seemingly legitimate ethnic designation—even though its meaning has never been clear.

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate

%d bloggers like this: