It happened today - January 2, 2016

Today was a bad day for Osama bin Laden. Not, perhaps, as bad as May 2nd, 2011, when Navy SEALs finally shot him dead. But still bad. Because on Jan. 2, a mere half-millennium or so ago, in 1492, the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granada, the last Muslim kingdom in Spain. And bin Laden was still bitter about it to his dying day.

Arguably his position was unreasonable on several levels. One is that it was so long ago. We should remember and learn from the past. But there are limits. When the body of Richard III was found there was some dispute whether he should be buried in Anglican Westminster Abbey or in a Catholic church given that England and its monarchs were Catholic from the dark ages until Henry VIII. But there was no argument for putting one of his descendants on the throne in place of the current incumbent descended, in a tangled way, from the Tudor “usurpers”.

If we are to cherish every historical grievance we shall have righteous indignation in abundance. But we shall never have peace.

Even more fundamentally, and characteristically, bin Laden’s outrage over what he called “Andalusia” and is or was known in the West as the Reconquista was highly selective. Indeed it deliberately snipped the “Re” off “Reconquista,” ignoring the fact that Christians had to retake Spain because Muslims had seized it by force. The same is, of course, true of the Crusades, which were also a counterattack and differed from the Reconquista primarily in taking place closer to the original assault and in failing.

The Spanish made highly dubious use of their victory. Particularly in the decision, not eight months later, to expel all the Jews in Spain. Spain was riding high in the sixteenth century, but the long-term consequences not just of depriving yourself of a large number of dynamic citizens but of turning your back on diversity are very high, and Spain has been on a long skid since.

However that may be, the reconquest itself was no cause for irritation unless you think whatever Muslims take by force is theirs by a right of conquest no one else has.