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Iberian Minorities “Side by Side” and “Face to Face”: An Analysis of Recent Comparative Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations

Gerard Wiegers and Mònica Colominas Aparicio


This contribution analyzes comparative studies on Jews and Muslims, particularly in the Iberian Peninsula, being the relationship between these communities and their histories a topic that has aroused great interest in recent years. We focus on recent studies of their groups as minorities which take a clear comparative perspective, base their analysis on historical data and contribute to the formation of theory and methodology. The period covers approximately 1989 to 2022, with special attention to the last decade and includes publications by scholars from different disciplines and specializations, among them the academic honored here, Maria Filomena Lopes de Barros.

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  • 1 These two aspects of the relationships between groups, particularly, among religious minorities, ha (...)
  • 2 See for a more extended discussion, O. Bashkin, “The Middle Eastern Shift…”, pp. 577–580.
  • 3 See for example the recent conference “The Middle Eastern Turn in Jewish Studies” held on November  (...)

1A topic of outmost relevance in Iberian studies, yet most challenging too, is the nature of inter-community relations, particularly those between religious minorities and the majority, and between the minorities themselves. The challenge partly arises because compared to the data available on Christians and Muslims in the territories where they were dominant, the number of sources pertaining to religious minorities is smaller. To this adds that for a long time, especially during the Franco years, many archives and libraries, where traces of the Jewish and Muslim life are found, were difficult to get access to and work in. In all cases, sources from present-day Spain and Portugal, in local archives and otherwise, seem to pay uneven attention to (intra- and inter) communal experience, making it somewhat laborious to trace the exact contours of the collaborative social action crafted by the communities when working side by side, and the recognition of commonalities and differences between the groups in their face to face encounters.1 But perspective is key when approaching intercommunity relations, and in the last few decades Iberian studies have found a foothold in scholarship about the history of Jews in the Middle East. Such scholarship has challenged a number of hitherto dominant categories and assumptions in the field and have raised awareness of the amalgam of Jewish identities in the region linked, among others, to broad national and transnational networks.2 What has become known as the Middle Eastern turn in academia and the questions it raises about assumptions of essence and diversity in Jewish history continues to be the subject of considerable debate, both about what this implies and about its specific contours.3 What seems to be beyond doubt is that it has favored taking a comparative lens with which to look at Jewish and non-Jewish minorities.

  • 4 A sign of this sustained general interest in a ‘side by side’ approach to minorities in the field o (...)
  • 5 O. Freiberger, “Elements of a Comparative Methodology…”, pp. 1–14.

2This comparative element serves us as a starting point for the case of the Muslim and Jewish minorities in the Christian areas of the peninsula that we are dealing with here, in a contribution in which we want to reflect on some recent studies that place the two groups side by side. Ultimately, we intend to reflect on what could be considered a comparative turn in Iberian studies, bringing together Muslims and Jews in order to trace the historical and methodological trends in this regard, without aiming to be exhaustive. We will see that this turn places a great focus on Muslims and Jews before and after their (forced) conversions, as Moriscos and Conversos in a comparative perspective (side by side and vis-à-vis the majority) as well as with regard to the relations (face to face) between the two groups.4 The first approach often compares the groups to an external aspect to which both relate (i.e. by making use of a tertium comparationis), for example, being persecuted, exiled or disempowered, languages, institutions, or their relations to the Crown.5 The selection of the literature we will discuss below has been based on the geographical focus of publications, located in Iberia, today’s Spain and Portugal, and beyond; on the explicit comparative (thematic) design where we find various “disciplinary” origins (Jewish studies, Islamic studies, history); on the presence of an “external” as well as an “internal” focus; and on the date of publication, with priority given to the most recent publications here presented in (almost) strict chronological order.

  • 6 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities Facing…”, pp. 127–143.
  • 7 E. Gutwirth, “Hispano-Jewish Attitudes…”, pp. 237–262.

3We thought it appropriate to begin our analysis of recent comparative studies with a publication from 2000 by Claude Stuczynski that stands out for its novelty in the characterization of intergroup relations. Stuczynski’s is, to our knowledge, the first recent study to adopt such a comparative approach to minorities in Spain.6 This is not to say that it is the only one that deals with comparing Jews and Muslims and Jewish-Muslim relations. Important studies such as those of Eleazar Gutwirth and Mercedes García-Arenal precede Stuczynski, and whose ideas are partially elaborated by the latter, are not explicitly comparative in the taxonomic way defined by Oliver Freiberger, but focus on the attitudes of one group towards the other and inter-group relations. On the other hand, Stuczynski focuses on the sixteenth century, while Gutwirth focuses on the fifteenth and García-Arenal on the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Clearly Gutwirth sets out to highlight the importance of the parallels in the governance structures of the Muslim and Jewish communities and puts their relations in Christian territories under the microscope, complicating any simple reading of attitudes between the groups as either opposition or affinity.7 But his focus is on Jews and how they dealt with the question of Muslims and Islam, on their attitudes, which while echoing widespread notions among the Christian majority such as those of the “savage Moor” or the desire to defeat Islam, Gutwirth argues only partially do so. There is also what he calls cultural compatibility that derives from the long residence of Jews among Muslims in Muslim Iberia and that in the Christian territories could be perceived in an inclination towards “Arab” aesthetics, customs, and the use of the Arabic language, together with the perception of the Muslim territories as being a more sympathetic refuge than those of Christians.

  • 8 M. García-Arenal, “Rapports entre les groupes…”, pp. 91–101.

4For our purposes, it is to be noted the share of cultural compatibility in the cooperation between the two minorities – acting jointly before the council of the Christians, having a single procurator for both communities, or each procurator acting jointly, or writing joint petitions – and also in conversion, here, of Jews to Islam. Interestingly, Gutwirth explains this latter phenomenon in terms of sympathy for the religion of Islam, and this is precisely the aspect that García-Arenal’s publication develops in more detail, taking some perspectives of social theory as starting point.8 Thus, his contribution discusses the conversions of Jews to Islam along two main lines. One, that of these conversions as a social reality in Christian territories (i.e. as a phenomenon that would indicate a previous conversion to Islam in Muslim territories and a desire to return to Judaism once outside of them). The other, the theoretical claim that conversion does not necessarily lead to social assimilation being the converts from Judaism, the latter being viewed with suspicion in al-Andalus insofar as minorities are considered a threat within a paternalistic system that protects them and limits their access to power. For the Christian territories, one would add the perception (which qualifies Gutwirth’s claims) that the conversions of Jews to Islam would indicate that acculturation may have had more weight than religion. That is, the argument according to which, and establishing a parallel with the phenomenon of the neo-Mozarabs, or the Mudejars who felt close to the Mozarabs by cultural affinity articulated by Epalza and by Epalza & Llobregat, the Jews in the thirteenth would have sought to integrate into the Mudejar communities, due to the cultural affinity with the latter.

  • 9 A. Echevarría Arsuaga, “Better Muslim or Jew?…”, pp. 62–78.
  • 10 D. Nirenberg, “Love between Muslim and Jew…”, pp. 128–155.

5Both of these scholars stress the close contacts between the communities, the porousness of the borders between the groups and also the impact of international politics and of policies towards religious minorities in the Muslim and Christian territories. Because it seems that the conversions of minorities have not only been an internal matter, but also became a matter for Christians, both those from Judaism to Islam and vice versa, as an author such as Ana Echevarría Arsuaga points out.9 Conversions, the conversion of a young woman from Islam to Judaism to take the example by this author, raise the question of the limits of religious jurisdiction and the legal responsibility of minorities and the Christian majority. The issue revolves around the maintenance of the agreements signed with the communities and the tension between the civil jurisdiction versus the religious one. Because the protection of minorities goes hand in hand with keeping “custom”, broadly understood. And by accepting the conversion of the woman, the Jews are proselytizing and changing matrilineality in Judaism. The same point is made by David Nirenberg with regard to love between Muslims and Jews in a seminal article published in 2004.10 In addition, as the different studies argue, Jewish Muslim relations depended also on their contemporary relation to authorities outside the Iberian Peninsula, such as those between Mudejars and Moriscos and Maghribi, Egyptian and Ottoman authorities, while the lack of such authorities in the case of the Jews was a relevant fact as well. For Christian territories, the involvement of Christians in contacts between minorities and the contacts themselves in multiple forms and expressions that, as Gutwirth points out, could sometimes be contradictory, are the central idea taken up by Nirenberg and theoretically developed by Stuczynski, namely, the idea of triangularity.

  • 11 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 127.
  • 12 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 131.
  • 13 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 131.

6Triangularity, as Stuczynski understands it, serves to designate a particular flow of relations that not only went from top to bottom, that is, hierarchically from the majority to the minorities, but also horizontally, so that relations between minorities also had repercussions on the majority. Inquisitorial sources on forced converts in Christian areas take a prominent place in Stuczynski’s work to show the point of triangularity, so it is not surprising that views on minority relations are often mediated by Christians. But this does not detract from the fact that the author’s perspective and the historical examples he uses legitimize the study of minorities in their own right by shifting the spotlight.11 Stuczynski’s approach not only foregrounds minorities but also has implications for other related questions such as those of the boundaries of intellectual and religious spheres between groups and how to understand them analytically. This study is just one example to build the claim that social intimacy, and intimacy in practice and modes of thought of Muslims and Jews under Christianity are not sufficiently explained by models such as acculturation to Christian society. On the contrary, agency on the part of minorities alongside relationships that defy intercommunal boundaries is apparent in the sources, so it is easy to agree with Stuczynski that there is a “cognitive dissonance at the historiographical level.”12 In other words, there are two extremes, one of rivalry and the other of Jewish-Muslim affinity. The latter, at times, and as some Jewish cases show, crosses a supposed division between high and low cultural levels and, beyond culture, also enters into religion. More importantly, we can speak of an overlap, and this nuance by Stuczynski is fundamental, because he understands that relations between minorities are not simply diversified, but above all multidimensional.13 It thus takes the level of analysis of the intergroup approach a step beyond the factual recognition of different attitudes towards the essential task of historically contextualizing these social phenomena. We will return later to context as a key element in the study of interminority relations. For now, suffice it to note that the awareness of the plural and even overlapping dimensions of relations on the part of minorities is also noted in the Middle Eastern turn in the case of the Jews.

  • 14 J. Amelang, Historias paralelas…, 2011.

7The question of plurality naturally puts under the spotlight the internal composition of the Muslim and Jewish minority communities themselves, highlighting heterogeneity, as a next study, that by historian James Amelang insightfully shows.14 Here, too, the Inquisition serves as a backdrop in a work that, living up to its title, Parallel Histories (first published in Spanish, Historias paralelas), looks at various facets of the history of Muslim and Jewish forced converts focusing on sixteenth-century Spain. Amelang’s is, in fact, one of the few thorough and exhaustive efforts to study the two communities in a parallel way, thus breaking with established historiographical practices. He is original in using the same model of analysis and method for Moriscos and Conversos. Such an approach helps to highlight the similarities and differences in the respective places and trajectories of the two groups within the project of the nascent Hispanic monarchy, as well as their relations with the Christian majority, which he addresses briefly in the epilogue, although he leaves the comparative minutiae largely to the reader. One of the strengths of Parallel Histories is that it is guided by the claim that the study of religions has so far been left mainly in the hands of their practitioners, but it should not be left to them alone, but should also be the concern of non-practitioners. It is also to include an extensive bibliographical essay of Spanish and English publications on Moriscos and Conversos. What is furthermore characteristic is that he in his approach does not deal with the internal lives of the respective communities, i.e. their written texts in Hebrew, Arabic and Romance. In this sense it is an approach from the outside.

  • 15 J. Amelang, Historias paralelas…, pp. 145–161.
  • 16 M. Monge and N. Muchnik, Early Modern Diasporas…, 2022.
  • 17 N. Muchnik, “Judeoconversos and Moriscos…”, pp. 413–439.

8Amelang elaborates on the expulsion of the Moriscos and the Conversos from different angles and touching on key political-social circumstances. For the Converso case, he highlights the main lines of change in thought and practice following the settlement of their groups in their new homes and, in particular, discusses the paradoxical impact of the diaspora on the Iberian Conversos. Paradoxical, he notes, because contacts with communities in diaspora and with individuals who were able to practice Judaism with relative freedom, such as those in Amsterdam, seem to have facilitated the maintenance and return to their former religion of the Conversos who had remained in the Iberian territories.15 But, still, comparatively Amelang touches on these phenomena briefly, while Monge and Muchnik’s Early Modern Diasporas makes it into their main focus of study.16 They situate the diaspora of the Moriscos and Iberian Conversos as one more case within a comparative study of the phenomenon from a much broader perspective that includes other groups such as Protestants, Huguenots, Walloons and Mennonites, among others. Here, their communities are studied outside Spain but continuously in relation to their country of origin: the authors thus imagine the diaspora as a diaspora outside Spain and in particular in relation to Europe as the continent from which both groups were expelled and had their origins. In this sense, the work is part of a current of studies on European refugees and forced migrants who were victims of European persecution. It takes a transversal and comparative perspective that cuts across possible national and geographical frameworks. Monge and Muchnik understand that there is a flux between the past and the present in terms of diasporic human displacement and that the cases of early modernity offer an exceptional laboratory for reflecting on related phenomena in the present. Muchnik is also the author of a comparative article in a book dedicated to the Morisco diaspora that one of the present authors co-edited with Mercedes García-Arenal in 2013 in Spanish and in 2014 in English. This book has its origin in the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of the Moriscos in 2009.17 The article published in this volume entirely falls into the same category as the book, and evinces a strong interest in Diaspora theory.

  • 18 I. Poutrin, “The Jewish Precedent…”, pp. 71–87.

9The expulsions and the preceding conversion policies of Moriscos and Conversos are happenings whose investigation not only shows how beneficial it is to place the respective histories of these two communities next to each other. They also strongly suggest an intertwining between expulsion and conversion, and the need to consider them together to properly understand the place of minorities in Iberian society. This is the view espoused by Isabelle Poutrin when she discusses how the historical precedent of the Jews was used by Christian society to deal with the so-called Morisco problem.18 Poutrin convincingly shows that rather than a chronological sequence between conversion and expulsion of the Moriscos there was an ongoing debate between the defenders and detractors of these two positions. In this debate, the Jews were at the center. The issue at stake was the validity of forced conversions both in terms of the sincerity of the faith of the new converts and the ability of a ruler to institute such a policy (and thus to be given power over the church) and, for those, there was a legal precedent – the canon of the Visigothic king Sisebut. Thus, the canon known as De Judeis, and its recalling at different moments of the history of canon law (in particular, when used by Gracian of Bologna (12th c.) and Innocent III (13th c.)) served to justify the conversions by force. But the edict was not only debated with particular force by opponents of forced conversion, such as the Dominicans. It was also reread in such a way that, although it did not do full justice to the original, it gave justification to the expulsions. Thus, we see that it was the policies adopted on the Jews in the seventh century and the subsequent generations of converts (with special attention to their successful integration or not into mainstream Christian society) that became the main anchor points with the debate that took place more than eight centuries later on the Morisco question.

  • 19 H. Chachia, The Sephardim and the Moriscos…, 2015.

10What has been said allows us to affirm that the histories of Moriscos and Jews were interwoven in the Christian discourses on religious difference and contributed to shape them. But it is equally worth asking whether they also do so when it comes to how one minority related to the other. Houssem Eddine Chachia’s work on the Moriscos’ and Jews’ expulsions, migrations and settlement in North Africa, in Morocco, Algiers and, above all, Tunisia, which is the author’s own background, combines the official Spanish and North African perspectives with the emic study of the communities on the basis of their written documents. Among other questions, The Sephardim and the Moriscos (in Arabic) interrogates the bonds of solidarity that were fostered by shared Iberian origins and the experiences of expulsion once they arrived in their new residences.19 A first volume is analytical and follows a discursive approach as set out by the author in a methodological section; a second volume is devoted to the edition of documents – translated into Arabic (stories, archival documents). The book was awarded the Ibn Battuta Prize in 2015 when it was originally published, being submitted as a doctoral dissertation in history (University of Tunis, 2014). Interestingly, Eddine Chachia’s work is praised as “the first comparative historical study of its kind by an Arab researcher on the subject of the Sephardim and the Moriscos […].” This statement indeed seems correct.

  • 20 See, F. Soyer, The Persecution of the Jews and Muslims…, pp. 241–281.

11We aim to conclude this review with some recent comparative studies on Jews and Muslims in Portugal. The first is a monograph by François Soyer. Soyer compares forced conversions and expulsions of Jews, Muslims and Jewish Conversos during the reign of the Portuguese King Manuel I, around 1496–7. He proposes a new hypothesis with regard to the expulsion of the Muslims from Portugal in 1496–7, namely one in which this measure is connected to Manuel’s plans to conquer Morocco rather than with any Jewish precedent of expulsion in Portugal.20 This study can be seen as a parallel to Amelang’s work, but in this case focusing on the said crucial period, and written from both an emic (Jewish and Muslim sources) and etic (or outsider’s) perspective. The author does not undertake a systematic comparison between Jews and Muslims in Portugal, although he offers a rich and “thick” analysis.

  • 21 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus: as comunas…”, pp. 1–21. See also by the same author, “Muslims and (...)
  • 22 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 1.
  • 23 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, pp. 9–10.
  • 24 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 13.
  • 25 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 17.
  • 26 What has been said in this section follows the ideas set out in M. Barros, “Muslims and Jews in Med (...)

12The second publication on Portugal are to be sure two recent studies by Maria Filomena Lopes de Barros, the scholar honored and commemorated in this volume, which take a broad perspective on Portugal, as well as an orientation towards the other Iberian kingdoms as an integral and necessary part of the discussion on minorities. Her contributions highlights the heterogeneity of the Muslim and Jewish groups. One of her most recent publications, based on this perspective and focused on the south of Portugal, is especially worth discussing.21 The argument revolves around the ethno-religious difference of the two minorities, which showed parallelisms at the structural level in the ways such difference was projected on the political sphere and seems to adhere to the parameters of the Christian councils (concejos). Muslim and Jewish community organization seems to reproduce the municipalities, indeed, the most notable difference being in who commanded the highest authority within the groups, the rabbi among the Jews and the alcalde among the Muslims, and in the positions linked to religious offices. Hence, according to Barros, we can speak of acculturation (or “Christianization”, as she calls it), that is not understood religiously, but in the sense of a community organization that gradually adapted to that of the Christians.22 These are processes that respond to asymmetrical power relations, where minorities cannot formally enter Christian structures and influence them, while the other way around it is possible. Barros also observes the aforementioned imbalance between the Christian documentation and that coming from the minorities and the impact this has for their study. In particular, she delves into various elements of the organization of communities that seem to have been subject to different institutionalization processes in their beginnings. In the case of the Jews, this seems to be due to a lesser need on the part of the Christians, since we are not talking about residual groups that emerged from the confrontation on the battlefield and that previously held power, like those of the Muslims. The author points out that we lack foundational documentation on the Jewish communities, but like the Muslim forais (or legal charters), or legal frameworks, the organization of the communities evolved over time and also in light of the perceived needs at each moment. Interestingly, the case of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Kingdom of Portugal, in Coimbra, shows an organization that in its evolution reveals several aspects similar to the organization of Muslim communities. This seems to run parallel to a trend, not only noticeable in the case of the communities in Portugal but also in those of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, towards urbanization, which benefited the centralized control of their groups by the Christian society. As important disparities in the evolution of the communities are demography, which decreases in the case of the Muslim communities, affecting the continuation and vitality of the administrative structures. Also, the distribution of the groups in the Kingdom of Portugal, which is throughout the Kingdom for Jews and in the south for Muslims. The article by Barros puts the aforementioned comparative perspective to work by analyzing important positions within communities such as the rabbi mayor or the alcaide mayor of the kingdom (the last, the author notes, not found in the Lisbon community, making the structures there more easily permeated by Christian power),23 and the systematization of royal rights over the communities. She also discusses the community offices such as the religious leaders (the rabbi and the imām), and the intervention of Christian justice, which is gradually increasing, in the affairs of minorities. They will also do so with respect to the institutionalization of scribes who translate and even dictate the death penalty for the use of Hebrew or Arabic as a notarial instrument (although it seems that this provision of Don Joaõ I was not applied in all its rigor).24 On the other hand, if we look at the organization of the religious offices within the communities, a strict separation does not always seem to be maintained, even in cases that seem to better express the identity of the communities, such as when it comes to the one in charge of the ritual sacrifice of animals. Here, for example, Barros cites the case of Elvas, in 1466, where we find a Jewish butcher within the Muslim quarter who also sells to Christians.25 This, remarkably enough, is the same place where the spatial separation of Muslims and Jews became compulsory in 1361 and led the way for separation in the Kingdom. According to Barros, despite the specificities of the communities, there are, on the one hand, horizontal alliances between the communities in order to resist Christian pressure more effectively. Sometimes, the horizontal alliances seem to extend and include Christians and in communities such as Loulé (Algarve) its inhabitants seem to take joint municipal decisions, all together, although the organization of these sessions follows the structures of the Christian society. On the other hand, she notes that there is a growing rapprochement between their structures and the structures of the Christian councils. The redefinition of the structures is continuous and is given by the need of the minorities to see themselves reflected in the majority community and the need of the latter to exercise control over its subjects and to homogenize the social structures. This is achieved in various ways, including, for example, the obligatory participation of Muslims and Jews in public manifestations of Christian power, such as royal celebrations.26 Such homogeneity, which, as Barros notes, is not only linked to policies but also to a Christian ideological discourse, is finally achieved through expulsions and the extirpation of religious difference in Iberia.


  • 27 O. Freiberger, “Elements of a Comparative Methodology…”, p. 4.

13Within the broader debate of Muslim-Jewish relations, the comparative studies that we have analyzed here present comparisons of Jews and Muslims in Christian Iberia, their commonalities and differences in different ways. Such studies, as all research into the past, have an intrinsic historical interest, but the questions which scholars ask also reflect their curiosities and interests of present-day cultures and societies. Most studies discussed are illuminative, that is to say they compare beliefs and practices of one group to the other in order to shed light on the beliefs and practices of the first group, although without aiming to compare them systematically and in a taxonomic way.27 Stuczynski’s interest in discussing Muslims within Iberian Jewish studies is put to work in the search for parallels between the communities. Other studies are shown to take a more systematic outlook. Amelang, for example, undertakes a parallel, systematic historical analysis. A recurrent notion is that of triangularity, i.e. the observation that the relations between Jews and Muslims are always mediated by the dominant Christian group and, also, that contacts, solidarity, and opposition between the groups varied strategically around this three-way equation.

14Regarding perspective, too, it should be noted that some studies discussed adopt a strongly emic approach and focus primarily on Muslim and Jewish sources. Others present a more outsider’s view and focus on non-Muslim and non-Jewish sources. On the other hand, a number of studies reflect an interest into Iberian Jewish Muslim relations within the context of European (religious) history and culture, as a site of tolerance and/or of persecution and expulsion. Interest in tolerance may involve focusing on Jewish and Muslim institutions, whether or not using “internal” sources. Other studies compare Iberian Jews and Muslim from the perspective provided by their diasporas outside the Iberian Peninsula, and theorize the positions of the groups from the theoretical perspective of Diaspora studies. It is here that we also see some evidence of a Middle Eastern turn in the studies of Sephardic Jews, the work of Houssem Eddine Chachia being a case in point: since it shows a clear interest into the Jewish Middle Eastern past.

  • 28 H. Ghalbane and R. Leeuwestein, Children of Al-Andalus…, 2021.

15The academic discussions about Jewish Muslim relations in Iberia are also reflected in the interest in Jewish Muslim relations today in Europe as well as the Middle East. Finally, by way of example, we would like to refer briefly to a work focusing on the present-day descendants of Iberian Jews and Muslims in Morocco, entitled Children of Al-Andalus. This study offers beautiful portraits of a number of them including interviews with them conducted by the authors, and (translated) recent publications on them accompanied by editorial introductions by the Dutch editors, Hicham Ghalbane and Rick Leeuwestein.28 Ghalbane is a photographer, Leeuwestein has a background in tourism studies. While they are not professional historians, the work includes articles by important scholars both from Islamic and Jewish studies. Interestingly the perspective in this work is very much that of present-day Moroccan society (it starts with a quotation of the passage in the Moroccan constitution about the Andalusian ethnic component as one of Morocco’s recognized identities) and how it looks at diversity and the history of Iberian immigrations, here again against the background of medieval al-Andalus (hence the title), and the increasingly intolerant policies in medieval Christian Iberia. The study also includes a discussion of immigration policies in Spain today from a comparative perspective of the descendants of expelled Jews and Muslims that reveals how the former can obtain citizenship, while the latter cannot. The work is not free from an idealizing tendency of the Arab-Islamic-Andalusian past of this part of Europe, as the title also suggests.

16Perhaps more than conclusions, we could first ask about the added value that these comparative studies have for advancing knowledge about Muslim and Jewish religious minorities. This is not a question that we are in a position to answer conclusively on the basis of the present evidence. The comparative study of communities has proved to be a task that has attracted a steady and even growing interest among scholars in recent times, but it is still in its infancy. Contributions such as those of Stuczynski and Amelang have led the way, and the insights of those who have embarked on such an analytical effort suggest that the picture of the Muslim and Jewish communities allows for a greater number of nuances than when they are approached separately. Importantly, the comparative lens seems to help give a more integrated view of a society in which groups organized themselves through continual shifting of communal boundaries in various ways and forms (with all its implications). From the said it can be inferred that minorities side by side or facing each other are not necessarily two different sides of the same coin: if one could speak in such terms, the most calibrate view of Muslim-Jewish relations seems at times to have been the one that cut through the hovering, non-tilted item. This line of research, which includes the work of Maria Filomena Lopes de Barros and others, needs further exploration which will hopefully take place in the near future.

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AMELANG, James, Historias paralelas: judeoconversos y moriscos en la España moderna, Madrid, Akal, 2012 (Published in English in 2013 (Baton Rouge: State University Press).

BARROS, Maria Filomena Lopes de, “Muçulmanos e judeus: as comunas no Sul de Portugal”, e-Humanista/Conversos 8 (2020), pp. 1–21.

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1 These two aspects of the relationships between groups, particularly, among religious minorities, have been emphasized for present times by rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in The Home We Build Together (2007), who recommends the second position as a good way forward in interfaith relations. See: S. J. Vellenga and G. A. Wiegers. Jews and Muslims…, pp. 294–295.

2 See for a more extended discussion, O. Bashkin, “The Middle Eastern Shift…”, pp. 577–580.

3 See for example the recent conference “The Middle Eastern Turn in Jewish Studies” held on November 2nd, 2022, at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) at which Gerard Wiegers presented a first draft of the present paper. After the conference we conceived of the idea to elaborate further on the subject and write the present paper together on the basis of Wiegers’s first draft. On comparison in the case of Christianity see the famous contribution by J. Z. Smith, “On Comparison”, pp. 36–53.

4 A sign of this sustained general interest in a ‘side by side’ approach to minorities in the field of Iberian studies is the publication of the series now in its fourth volume edited by Kevin Ingram since 2009, The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond (Leiden: Brill).

5 O. Freiberger, “Elements of a Comparative Methodology…”, pp. 1–14.

6 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities Facing…”, pp. 127–143.

7 E. Gutwirth, “Hispano-Jewish Attitudes…”, pp. 237–262.

8 M. García-Arenal, “Rapports entre les groupes…”, pp. 91–101.

9 A. Echevarría Arsuaga, “Better Muslim or Jew?…”, pp. 62–78.

10 D. Nirenberg, “Love between Muslim and Jew…”, pp. 128–155.

11 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 127.

12 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 131.

13 C. Stuczynski, “Two Minorities…”, p. 131.

14 J. Amelang, Historias paralelas…, 2011.

15 J. Amelang, Historias paralelas…, pp. 145–161.

16 M. Monge and N. Muchnik, Early Modern Diasporas…, 2022.

17 N. Muchnik, “Judeoconversos and Moriscos…”, pp. 413–439.

18 I. Poutrin, “The Jewish Precedent…”, pp. 71–87.

19 H. Chachia, The Sephardim and the Moriscos…, 2015.

20 See, F. Soyer, The Persecution of the Jews and Muslims…, pp. 241–281.

21 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus: as comunas…”, pp. 1–21. See also by the same author, “Muslims and Jews in Medieval Portugal…”, pp. 351–369.

22 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 1.

23 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, pp. 9–10.

24 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 13.

25 M. Barros, “Muçulmanos e judeus…”, p. 17.

26 What has been said in this section follows the ideas set out in M. Barros, “Muslims and Jews in Medieval Portugal…”, pp. 353–358.

27 O. Freiberger, “Elements of a Comparative Methodology…”, p. 4.

28 H. Ghalbane and R. Leeuwestein, Children of Al-Andalus…, 2021.

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Electronic reference

Gerard Wiegers and Mònica Colominas Aparicio, Iberian Minorities “Side by Side” and “Face to Face”: An Analysis of Recent Comparative Studies in Muslim-Jewish RelationsHamsa [Online], 9 | 2023, Online since 19 November 2023, connection on 13 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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