The following essay was written for Trykkefrihedsselskabet (the Danish Free Press Society) last year, but its thesis is still timely. In his article, Geoffrey Cain echoes some of the themes that have frequently been discussed here by Fjordman, among others.
Many thanks to Anne-Kit of Perth, Australia, for translating this excellent piece:
From Marx to Mohammed
By Geoffrey Cain, 24 July 2009
Pietro Cini writes (15 June 2009) in Information [intellectual, left-leaning Danish daily newspaper] a poetic piece about how we Europeans should be aware of the “cultural and historical macro context that ties us to the Middle East”. Because that is where our roots are.
“Even Europe itself came from the Middle East,” Cini continues, and this happy relationship with the Middle East is beneficial to all parties (although mainly to us, if we read between the lines), and here Cini is quite in line with other Western intellectuals, who following the fall of the Wall dropped Marxism for a new saviour religion. All of them have passed seamlessly from Marx to Mohammed and now swear by the beard of the Prophet that Muslims will civilize us just like their ancestors did; the victorious Jihadis from Saudi Arabia who brought us medicine, Arabic numerals, navigational techniques, optics, chemistry and the soup bowl.
But before we disappear completely in oriental euphoria it is a good idea to recall the pragmatic words of the orientalist — and arabophile — Bernard Lewis, in his essay “The Arab/Muslim Non-Contribution”, where he writes “… furthermore even the notion of Islamic contributions to pre-modern science and philosophy — in the wake of heady Jihadi victories and land acquisitions — is nothing but myth”.
Those who doubt this can easily confirm it by self-study, but they should commence with a thought experiment: What if the Arab Muslims had defeated Charles Martel and made themselves masters of all of Europe?
Music as the Devil’s Work
Would Bach have composed his often Christian-inspired music as well under Islam? Would music have been permitted at all? Or — as the Ayatollah Khomeini demanded — would it be banned because it was the work of the Devil? Under the Islamic ban on pictures, would Rembrandt have painted anything but flowers? Would Einstein, a despised Jew, have thrown up groundbreaking theories that are in direct conflict with the laws of Allah?
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Many would answer in the affirmative; art and science is well able to thrive in Arabic/Muslim countries. Just look at Moorish Spain and the Muslim philosophers and scientists of the Middle Ages. People like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). And this is quite true.
However, it is important to bear in mind that Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd are not held in much esteem in the Muslim world, where they are almost viewed as heretics. They were two of the few “genuine” Muslims from the heyday of Islam who didn’t come from a Jewish, Christian or other background, and it was really the subjects of the Arabs — Christians, Assyrians, Hindus, Persians and Jews — who made it possible for the Arab/Islamic Empire to blossom, and with that for a rather short historical period. Only a few of the people who were behind this blossoming were Arabs, and most of them had conveniently converted from among the conquered peoples.
Christian and Jewish Translators
If you are even slightly doubtful of the real circumstances, you only have to look at Islam’s Arabic cradle, Saudi Arabia, today. Without oil it would look like the barren and backward Somalia, that is, technically in the Middle Ages, socially in the Stone Age. But that is not how the story is told. Modern, culturally radical historians tell us that all the good things we enjoy come from Arab Muslims. Nothing could be more wrong.
Let’s take the example of the translation of the Greek cultural inheritance which led to the European Renaissance. Were the translators Muslim Arabs, which many claim? No. The translations were mainly carried out by Christians and Jews and — interestingly enough — only really took off after the Arabic conquerors had been driven out of the translators’ city of Toledo.
Likewise the architectural pearls of Cordoba, Granada, and the Taj Mahal were created by people “picked up” by the Arabs on their way. What else? How could a desert people who had always lived in tents or mud huts suddenly become architects? How could cattle-herding nomads create irrigation systems which were completely unknown in the Arabs’ own lands, but were found fully developed in pre-Islamic North Africa, Mesopotamia, and India? The same goes for the Islamic miniature painters and ivory carvers. They were Persians and Hindus respectively. The mathematicians and astronomers were Coptic Egyptians. Many were people who fled from the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Baghdad and Damascus to the more liberal regime in Spain, and when fundamentalism came to Spain many of them had to flee again.
But that is another story.
A Muslim Kierkegaard?
In summary it is possible to claim that the balance of Muslim achievement is owed to the natives of the countries they conquered, and as these countries were gradually arabized and muslimized around the year 1000, the Arab/Islamic culture lost its life force and fell into decay. And what has it achieved since then? Not much. Denmark alone has achieved as much as, if not more than the entire Muslim world combined.
Where is the Muslim Kierkegaard? Where is their Saxo [historian]? The Arabian Nights was borrowed from India, just like their numeric system and the famous zero. Where is their Grundtvig [national hymn writer], their Hans Christian Andersen? Where is their Niels Bohr? How many Nobel Laureates have come from the 56 Muslim nations combined? Where is their Carl Nielsen, their Dirk Passer, their Storm P., their Olsen Banden [comedians]? Where is their humour, where is their ability to think for themselves, an ability which originated in Christian Europe without any help from Pietro Cini’s new role models? The latter are unlikely to have much to offer except a return ticket to the Stone Age.
Is that the way we want to go?