More than any other period in Islamic history, the Moorish kingdom of al-Andalus has always shown a remarkable capacity to insinuate itself into the present. The early twenty-first century is no exception. Osama bin Laden frequently referred to the ‘tragedy’ or ‘loss’ of al-Andalus as a template for contemporary ‘Zionist-Crusader’ occupations of Muslim lands. In 2006, the former Spanish president José Maria Aznar attempted to establish an equally tenuous historical connection between al-Qaeda itself and the eighth century Muslim ‘occupation’ of Spain.
Both bin Laden and Aznar were attempting to use very specific and selective interpretations of al-Andalus to mobilise their respective constituencies, and both of them shared a common belief that Moorish Spain ‘ended’ in 1492, the year in which Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the last Muslim kingdom of Granada. It is doubtful whether either of them was aware of the existence of a sixteenth-century Spanish Muslim named Fernando Nuñez Muley, or whether they would have found much use for him if they had been. For Nuñez Muley belongs to a chapter in the history of al-Andalus that is often overlooked or ignored in the shifting debates on the legacies of Moorish Spain; the fate of the tens of thousands of Muslims who remained in Spain after 1492, trapped in a tragic religious and cultural struggle that was to culminate in their expulsion