Iberia is a special place of colliding myths over its Islamic past and the Christian reconquista, the Inquisition and massive expulsion of Muslims and Jews some five centuries ago. Long a land of emigrants and explorers, it has now become home to Europe's latest, rapidly growing Muslim communities. Al Andalus Rediscovered focuses on Iberia's new Muslims, including boatpeople, students, women and clerics, and how they are faring in a largely Roman Catholic region. Also featured are the Spanish and Portuguese officials, academics, NGOs and ordinary citizens who are trying to find better ways to integrate Muslims and other immigrants, despite domestic and European pressures for tougher counter-measures. Nor does Howe neglect the events of March 11, 2004, when Madrid was the site of the most devastating terrorist attack by Muslim extremists in Europe, or the stated ambition of Al Qaeda to recover Al Andalus for Islam. Her book seeks to answer the basic questions: whether an Iberian model of a humane immigration policy is possible in 'fortress' Europe and whether the partisans of the Andalusian spirit of tolerance and diversity can prevail at this time of economic hardship and heightened radicalism in both the Islamic World and the West.
Marvine Howe is a former correspondent for The New York Times in Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Her latest books are Turkey: A Nation Divided over Islam's Revival and Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges (OUP).