This article traces the history of the forced conversion of Jews to Islam in al-Andalus and Morocco from the Middle Ages to modern times. An account is given of the various discriminative measures and even persecution to which Jewish converts were exposed. Indeed, even though they became with time sincere and learned Muslims, just as the Marranos in Christian Spain, the sincerity of their conversion was doubted and they were constantly accused of the negative traits attributed to the Jews. The article also discusses a recently discovered defence of the New Muslims authored by an Islamic scholar of Jewish origin which throws new light on the fate of these converts.
Both an Arabist and Hebraist, Paul B. Fenton is Co-Director of the Department of Arabic and Hebrew Studies at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, where he has been Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature since 1996. After Rabbinical studies at Jews’ College, he majored in Semitics at Strasbourg University and St. Joseph University in Beirut, going on to complete his PhD in Mediaeval Jewish philosophy and Judaeo-Arabic literature under Georges Vajda (Sorbonne, 1976). His field of research covers various aspects of Jewish civilisation in the Muslim world and he is considered a specialist on the Cairo Genizah manuscripts. He is director of the E.J. Brill series ‘Études sur le judaïsme medieval’, and has published numerous studies and monographs in the field of Jewish culture in the Islamic context in several languages, notably his Deux traités de mystique juive (1987), Moïse Ibn ‘Ezra, philosophe et poète andalou du XIIe siècle (1997), Le Commentaire kairouanais sur le Livre de la Création (2002), Joseph Ibn Waqâr, The Principles of the Qabbalah (2004), Judah Ibn Malka, La Consolation de l'expatrié spirituel (2007), Juda al-Harizi, Kitâb al-Durar, The Book of Pearls (2009), and Exile in the Maghreb (2015). His latest book Muhammad Ibn Zikri (17th c.), On the Eminence of Israelites and Arabs (CSIC, 2015) is an apologetical work in defence of the neo-Muslims of Jewish origin in Morocco.