With the 2016 presidential campaign now fully underway, I’ve been seeing a lot of the alleged quote about Islam from a speech given by Carly Fiorina, then the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, a couple of weeks after 9-11. One instance of it was pasted in a comment on last night’s post about Obama:
“…Not only was the civilization of Islam capable of defeating arrogant and proud empires. It displayed a complexity and richness unmatched and able to unite the human race under the truest and most harmonious way of life, that even the more honest of the kuffar are able to glimpse.”
That quote has been floating around on the Internet for years. I’ve always been suspicious of it, mainly because of its inclusion of the word “kuffar”. It seemed unlikely that a CEO of Hewlett-Packard would use it, especially not back in September 2001, when 99% of Americans had never heard the word.
So I did some careful searching, and tracked down what seems to be the source of the supposed quote. It appeared in an article at Militant Islam Monitor — which is a reliable source — but it was not presented as Ms. Fiorina’s words. MIM was quoting from a text on a now-defunct Hizb ut-Tahrir website. That version does not accurately reflect the words spoken by Ms. Fiorina in September 2001.
The prepared text of her speech is available at the Hewlett-Packard website. A global search of that page reveals no instance of the words “arrogant” or “kuffar”. What we have been seeing is evidently a paraphrase that had been modified from the original when it passed through the corpus islamosum in the brain of some Hizb ut-Tahrir writer.
Her publicly-presented remarks about Islam comprised the last 500 words of a 3,600-word speech given on September 26, 2001. The text of that section is posted below. As you can see, her ideas about Islam were clearly drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood “narrative”, which even then had already been successfully inserted into the minds of the oligarchs who manage political, cultural, and commercial affairs in the United States.
Her actual words are bad enough. Let’s not discredit ourselves as reporters and historians by presenting an urban legend as if it were an authoritative fact.
Here’s the official transcript of what Carly Fiorina said about Islam on September 26, 2001:
I’ll end by telling a story.
There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.
And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population — that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership — bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.
With that, I’d like to open up the conversation and see what we, collectively, believe about the role of leadership.