Islam was able to spread into Europe through two entry points. The first was the in the East, where Arabian invaders were able to capture parts of Turkey from the weakened Eastern Roman Empire; Islam, from here, eventually spread to the Balkans and parts of Greece, where many people from countries like Bosnia became Muslim. The second was in Western Europe, more specifically the Iberian peninsula, when Moors (descended from the Arabs and the Berbers) invaded Spain in 711. They were eventually expelled from the peninsula, but not before influencing Western European science, medicine, technology, and culture.


The East: The Spread of Islam into the Balkan States

The spread of Islam into the Balkan states of Eastern Europe took place over the course of hundreds of years and was encouraged by the growth of the Ottoman Empire.


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The conquests of the Ottoman empire between 1460-1480 led to the capture of many parts of the southern Balkan region (including the two states of Bosnia and Herzegovina). As a result of this, many Southern slavs (which were formerly Christian) converted to Islam.

The people belonging to the ethnic South Slavic group from Bosnia and Herzegovina that converted to Islam in the 15th century are called "Bosniaks". They are bound by a common ancestry, language, culture, and their adherence to Islam. However, despite the fact that these people converted to Islam under the Ottoman empire, the Bosniaks did not adopt Arabic as their written and oral language; many of their linguistic traditions are shared with their Serbian and Croatian neighbors (who are Eastern Orthodox and Catholics, respectively).


The West: Spanish Moors and the Iberian Peninsula

Islam's presence within the Iberian peninsula began with Berber invasions in 711 AD; an army, buoyed by the force of 10,000 men, and led by Moorish general Tariq bin Zaid, made it across the Strait of Gilbraltar and met the Visigothic forces of King Roderick. The Muslims were successful in the conflict with the Visigoths, winning the Battle of Guadalete, and seizing the entire Iberian peninsula (which includes present-day Spain and Portugal) within a mere seven years.
Tariq ibn Ziyad: Conquerer of the Visigoths
Tariq ibn Ziyad: Conquerer of the Visigoths


After the successful capture of the peninsula, the area that the Moors had conquered was called Al-Andalus, and it was one of the western-most territories under the control of the Umayyad caliphate, based in the Syrian city of Damascus. Great cities like Cordoba, Sevilla, Zaragoza, and Toledo became urban centers rich with culture, and, for the most part, Islam was able to diffuse into present-day Spain peacefully.However, in 756, Abd-ar-Rahman founded a new Caliphate of Cordoba, six years after fleeing the Middle East when the Umayyads had lost their grip over the Caliph in Damascus in 750 to the invading Abbasid forces. The Caliphate of Cordoba included most of the Iberian peninsula, and for several hundred years after the 8th century, Cordoba, as a city, rivaled the great learning centers of the Muslim empires in the West.
Abd-ar-Rahman I: "The Immigrant"
Abd-ar-Rahman I: "The Immigrant"

The economy of the Caliphate of Cordoba was spurred by Muslim trade routes that connected al-Andalus with the rest of the Islamic empire (this was helped by their proximity to northern Africa/ Morocco). Cordoban industries produced textiles, ceramics, glassware, and other agricultural products that were distributed West towards the heartland of the Muslim empire (Damacus, Baghdad, and Mecca), and beyond. The Spanish Moors also benefitted from occasional state-sponsored raids into Christian kingdoms.After the Umayyads were expelled by the Abbasid forces from the west, the first ruler of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Abd-ar-Rahman, fled Damascus and traveled to Spain. Bitter about his political exile, he vowed to make the city of Corboda rival the traditional urban centers of the Islamic empire. And indeed, this is what happened: grand mosques (like The Great Mosque of Cordoba) showed interesting trends and patterns within Moorish architecture; the Moors studied, preserved, and passed on prior knowledge saved by the Arabs from the Greeks and Romans; and the people living under the the Caliphate of Cordoba made other strides in fields of science, history, geography, and grammar.
The Mezquita de Cordoba
The Mezquita de Cordoba
___Moorish architecture also took new shapes and development within the borders of the Iberian peninsula. Common characteristics and features of Moorish architecture include the use of arches, illustrious courtyards, murqarnas, domes, voussoirs and highly decorative tiles. Existing examples of this type of architecture include the Mezquita/The Great Mosque of Cordoba (pictured left), the Giralda in Seville, and the Alhambra in Granada (pictured below).
Animation that shows the Recapture of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian forces
Animation that shows the Recapture of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian forces

The native inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula were generally received Islam well, with about 5.6 out of the peninsula's 7 million people becoming Muslim. These Muslims, who were not related to the Moors or the Berbers who conquered them, were called the Muladi. The Muladi were initially encouraged to convert to Islam by the ruling Ummayad caliph, and later on the Caliphate of Cordoba, but it was not forced upon them. Some Christians converted to Islam merely to avoid the Jizya tax (which the Dhimmis, or "the people of the book" were forced to pay) and to increase their social and economic positions. By the 11th century, however, the distinction between the Muladi and Muslim invaders had become blurred; years of intermarriage between the Berber invaders and the indigenous inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula created a new, more homogenous populous, who were categorized as Moors.




http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/05/world/europe/05cordoba.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=world