More than a thousand years ago, the sun-washed lands of southern Spain were home to Muslims, Christians and Jews living together and flourishing. Their culture and beliefs intertwined, and the knowledge of the ancients was gathered and reborn. But this world too quickly vanished. Greed, fear and intolerance swept it away. CITIES OF LIGHT: THE RISE AND FALL OF ISLAMIC SPAIN, a documentary that takes viewers back to one of the most fascinating and important periods of world history, airs Wednesday, August 22, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. The special uses feature-film-style re-enactments, footage of great Islamic architecture, scenes of Spain’s beautiful landscapes and analysis by world-class historians and scholars to tell a story of vital importance for the contemporary world — a story about the triumphs and achievements of diverse cultures co-existing and thriving and about the tragedy that ensues when religious extremism begins to rise. The history of Islamic Spain, told in CITIES OF LIGHT, demonstrates that when religious diversity is accommodated within a social and political system, problems and tensions may still exist, but society is able to successfully manage them, generally to the benefit of all. But when governing powers and religious movements reject complexity and insist on a single cultural and religiously centered point of view, society is likely to come to grief, often terrible grief, with widespread loss for everyone. “Islamic Spain shows the rise and fall of a very rich culture, a complex culture that struggled with many of the things that face us today — diverse populations, nationalism, fundamentalism, power and war. When complexity and diversity were embraced, the culture flourished. When fundamentalism and absolutism set in, the culture became toxic and failed,” says director Rob Gardner. “This is a rare history because it is shared by both the Muslim and Western worlds. In many ways, Medieval Spain provides the closest model to the global world we live in today, in the way that Muslims, Christians, Jews and others intermixed, competed and tried to cooperate. Its history presents examples of long periods when diversity was embraced, and other times when bigotry, fear and exclusion dominated. Seeing the great heights and terrible lows that followed can help open a deeper dialogue about where we are headed in the world today,” added executive producer Alex Kronemer. “We have the great literature,” co-executive producer Michael Wolfe remarks, “we have the fabulous architecture, we have the philosophy, the poetry and even the music of this centuries-long experiment in pluralism that Jews, Muslims and Christians staged together in the heart of Western Europe. What we lack today in our classrooms and our living rooms and our media is a dramatic understanding of what produced this blaze of civilization in a dark age and why it broke down in bloodshed, condemnation and exile. CITIES OF LIGHT addresses that gap in our understanding with visual power and scholarly accuracy. The story of Medieval Spain brings real understanding to the very difficult terrain we are negotiating globally right now.” CITIES OF LIGHT: THE RISE AND FALL OF ISLAMIC SPAIN airs Wednesday, August 22, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7.
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