Unlike so many of my ‘people’, I am not steeped in family, culture, religion, a past. While everyone I knew growing up was wrapping themselves in what was expected of them, like naked souls dressing up against the cold, I was cutting myself free.

I am a fan of ‘Sota Terra’, a programme on TV3 in Catalonia. A few months ago, one particular show caught my attention. It was about an archaeological excavation in Balaguer, a town in the north-east of Spain. The purpose of the programme was to determine if Balaguer had been an important city of al-Andalus during Muslim rule. That struck me as a bit odd.

One balmy evening last summer, hundreds of ecstatic Muslim teenagers, many in headscarves, throbbed and swayed to the lyrics of Islamic pop singer Maher Zain at the sedate Garcia Lorca Theatre in Madrid’s working class suburb of Getafe. The Lebanese-born star sang mostly of peace and love in English and Arabic, and referred to ‘my brothers and sisters’ from Palestine, Morocco, Syria, but also Madrid and Barcelona.

Al-Andalus represents a pinnacle of Muslim social and cultural achievement commonly invoked in contrast to current Muslim predicaments. What is not acknowledged, or indeed widely known, is that the openness and tolerance of Muslim Spain applied equally to women.