I was looking at a liberal website that had an article up focusing on the widespread myths about Islam in the West. It basically came to the premise that it is the West and specifically unenlightened conservatives that are in the wrong for much of the problems between warring nations/competing religious ideologies, and that Westerners who do not speak Arabic cannot make any statements about Islam because they cannot read the Qu’aran in its intended tongue. It also goes to make some embarrassing claims in the name of Islam that are just–well, intellectually fraudulent.
One of the most blatant assertions in the article is that
“Even before the whole terrorism thing, Islam had a reputation in the West for violence. Part of it has to do with how abruptly Islam was all up in everyone’s face. For instance, while Hinduism took about 1,000 years to spread through India, and Christianity took about 400 years to go from persecuted cult to the state religion of the Roman Empire, Islam went from one guy’s epiphany to the dominant political and religious force in the Middle East and North Africa in about 100 years.
So a lot of people have reached the conclusion that the religion spread like holy wildfire for one reason: the sword. The next logical leap from this viewpoint is that as a people, Muslims must be violent and barbaric conquerors. Even before 9/11, you saw this portrayal in popular culture all the time:
Muhammad laid out some pretty progressive rules of warfare, and medieval Muslims out-niced the Christians in battle by a landslide. Especially since Muhammad personally issued “a distinct code of conduct among Islamic warriors” that included:
- No killing of women, children or innocents — these might include hermits, monks or other religious leaders who were deemed noncombatants;
- No wanton killing of livestock or other animals;
- No burning or destruction of trees and orchards; and
- No destruction of wells.
In short, Muhammad wanted his armies to fight like freaking hippies. During the (expletive) Dark Ages. And they did.
But the biggest territorial gains were made after Muhammad’s death, right? Maybe that was when Islam earned its bloodthirsty reputation? Not exactly. His successor codified the existing rules and made them the standard for his army. Which probably explains why the Muslim army conquering Europe “exhibited a degree of toleration which puts many Christian nations to shame,” in the words of one expert.
So while Christian crusaders were beheading enemies and tossing their heads like oversized hacky sacks, their Muslim counterparts had a whole honor code that led them to feed the armies of their defeated enemies.”
Now—I am going to respond to this. Normally, revisionists need a lot of space, because it takes quite a bit of room to rewrite world history. This website is certainly no exception! One of the things I noticed in the article was a repeated use of Wikipedia as a reference source, and other non-scholarly websites as if they are authoritative–all the while invoking intellectual authority. This is suspect. They claim to be arguing from a point of enlightenment and ‘capital R’ Reason, but source their work with Wikipedia. Credible.
Speaking of credible, liberal historian James Carroll wrote a book recently titled Crusades. This work of intellectual sciolism and historical revision portrays the Crusades as a horrific act of Western aggression on the poor Muslim people. In the book, Carroll says,
“The Crusades were a set of world hihstoric crimes. That trail of violence scars the earth and human memory even to this day–especially in the places where the crusaders wreaked their havoc.”
This is where the first lie peddled by liberal scholars and apologists of radical Islam comes into play: The Muslim world, and specifically Radical Islamists, furious with the West because of the Crusades. This is one of the dominant arguments of this blog. The author spent a good deal of space making his case for this point of view.
Is this claim legitimate? The Crusades happened nearly 1,000 years ago!
Before the rise of Islam, the region we call the Middle East was predominately Christian. There were Zoroastrians in Persia, polytheists in Arabia, and Jews in Palestine, but most of the people in what we now call Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt were Christian. The sacred places where Christ lived and died are in that region. Its holy site was Jerusalem. Inspired by jihad, Muhammad’s armies conquered Jerusalem and the Middle East, then moved to conquer Africa, then moved east to Asia, and finally went north into Europe. This was an offensive campaign that was highly successful. In the 11th Century, and more than two hundred years after Islamic armies conquered the Middle East and spread into Europe, the Christians decided it was time to do something. This is what we know as the “Crusades,” though this term is a recent one, and those involved knew nothing of the term “Crusade.” Rallied together by the Pope, Christians attempted a recovery of the Heartland of Christianity. They also attempted to repel the irredentist forces of Islam from recovery. The Crusades represent an important moment in Christian history. This was a fight to recover the holy city of Christianity and also because this fight was literally for the survival of Europe. To support that claim is Edward Gibbons, certainly no friend to Christianity–he says in his book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that had the spread of Islam not been stopped,
“Perhaps the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the Revelation of Mahomet.”
To Muslims however, the Crusades are not important (even when Bin Laden used the term Crusader–it didn’t refer to the Crusades). Think about it. They already had their holy sites—Mecca and Medina—and never did the Crusades ever threaten the Heartland of Islam. If you look at this from the point of view of a Muslim historian, the Crusades were a dubious attempt to hold off Islam from conquering what was theirs to begin with. This was only a minor disruption that sat on the periphery of the Islamic empire.
This response to Islam was poorly timed, dubious, ill-conceived, and unsuccessful. But make no mistake; this was a counter against a relentless Muslim assault on Christendom. The glaring hole in the liberal critique (and there always is one) is the focus on the defensive campaign of the West and the horrors that took place at its hands, and to ignore outright the jihad that prompted the need for a defense in the first place.
Even if you detest the Crusades, there is no good reason for today’s Muslim’s to care. I think if you look into it, you will find that there is no evidence that they do.
It isn’t pointed out in bold headings in the article, but another one of the underlying gripes that I see is that Muslims are Mad about Colonialism. I am reminded of liberal scholar Edward Said who basically said that all Muslim rage could be attributed to the ‘fresh wounds’ of Western conquest and subjugation. He talks about the difficulties of,
“The ravaged colonial people who for centuries endured summary injustice, unending economic oppression, distortion of their social and intimate lives, and a recourseless submission that was the function of unchanging European superiority.”
Interestingly enough, the USA—is the focal point of Muslim aggression (as conveniently pointed bout by the American secular left) despite having virtually NO history of Middle Eastern colonialization. If Filipinos or American Indians wanted to unleash suicide bombers in New York, this could be legitimately attributed to colonial subjugation—but this is not the case with Muslim countries. Until President Bush led America into the Middle Easter after 9-11, the USA never occupied a Muslim country. This was however, not due to a lack of opportunity. After WWII, we could have easily colonialized the entire Middle East, but we never even gave it a thought.
I think another area that I can read between the lines in the article is that it portrays America as being hated by Muslims because America has Killed Many Muslims. I think the point should be made that in actuality, Americans have fought alongside Muslims in several recent conflicts. In the 1970’s, the US supported the Afghan mujahideen and their Arab allies in driving the USSR from Afghanistan. In 1991, the US formed a coalition of forces that included Muslim countries to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in order to restore sovereignty to its people. Even with the Clinton presidency, we saw him order bombings and interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia in order to save Muslim lives.
Many Muslims do hold the United States accountable for Israelis bulldozing Palestinian homes and for the Israeli shooting of Palestinian stone-throwing youth. Muslims also deplore the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan—as do liberals in our own country. Now, granted these deaths are horrible; however, they are small in comparison to the devastation that other invading armies, including Muslim armies, have wrought throughout history on the Muslim people to the present day.
More recently however, would be the Iran-Iraq war. This conflict has produced unbelievable horrors and casualty lists. Over an 8 year period, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Muslims were killed. Islamic radicals KNOW this, which is why you cannot find in their literature the kind of indignation over Americans killing of Muslim civilians that one routinely sees on our liberal television shows, magazines, and websites.
On another subject, the article makes the Islamic empire to seem as if they played a great role in the development of science, mathematics, and the academy. In fact the article plainly states,
“Science and math as we know it wouldn’t even exist without Islam. The Islamic Golden Age caused a revolution in virtually every field of human thought, during which they (expletive) invented algebra — and advanced everything from geography and exploration to the arts, architecture, philosophy, urban development, medicine and health.”
What a bold assertion. This is interesting because, only once in human history has science been organized and sustained enterprise. Where did it arise? The Middle East? No. Europe. The West. Why did modern science develop here and nowhere else? In his September 12, 2006, speech in Regensburg, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI argued that it was due to Christianity’s emphasis on the importance of reason. The pope argued that reason is a central distinguishing feature of Christianity. While the Regensburg address became controversial because of the pope’s remarks about Islam, on his point about Christianity and reason he was right. An unbiased look at the history of science shows that modern science is an invention of medieval Christianity, and that the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians. Even atheist scientists work with Christian assumptions that, due to their ignorance of theology and history, are invisible to them.Before religion as we understand the term, there was animism, which was based on the idea of an enchanted universe. Every river, every tree, and every stone was thought to be populated by spirits. The world was mysterious, capricious, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. Then came the various polytheistic religions, like those of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. Each of these religions posited divine beings—sometimes immortal, sometimes not—who involved themselves in the daily workings of nature, creating storms and earthquakes, turning humans into stags, and so on. Then appeared the great religions of the East, Hinduism and Buddhism, followed by the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Now out of all these different views, only one—Christianity—was built upon reason. Islam is primarily a religion of law—which says there is a divine lawgiver who issues commands both for nature and humans. The laws are revealed to man, and they must follow them. Muslims may debate amongst themselves, but at the end of the day, they are confined to the best way to interpret and apply the written edicts. Christianity is not like this. Christianity is based around creed. It is interested with doctrine, which is a true set of beliefs about man’s relationship to God.
In Christianity, the highest discipline may be theology, while in Islam it is jurisprudence. The Christian is expected to employ reason in order to understand the ways of God. This is not so in Islam. So, how does theology matter here? Look at the church father, Augustine. He had a deep problem, namely that–before today there was a yesterday, and before yesterday, there was a day before yesterday, and so on. How could this be true? Does a series of yesterdays extend infinitely into the past? If it does, how could God have created a universe that has always existed? If not, there must have been a beginning, but what had been going on before that? If the universe was created by this all-powerful God, what was God doing before he created? His answer?—God created time along with the universe. In other words, “before” there was a universe, there was no time. He was making a bold claim; however, today we know from modern physics, cosmology, and astronomy that he was right. Time is a property of our universe, and it came into existence with the universe itself. How did he come to find this? By edict? No. He found it through reason. CS Lewis says it this way, “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Christianity brought forth the rise of modern science. A final example from science: one of the first tasks given to man by God in the Bible is taxonomy. We know this as the science of naming and categorizing. This was not dictated by Allah.
Another point worth raising about Christianity and its influence on science is this: It is the idea of a superrational God that allows us to work with the presuppositions that we use in modern science. I stated this above in regard to atheism–yet it is important to note here as well. Science works off of a tripod of faith-based presuppositions; namely, that our universe is rational, that our universe obeys laws, and that our mind corresponds with reality and nature. There are no REASONS for these three accepted tenants of science. They are just accepted. They cannot be proven in a lab–yet they must be accepted before science can be engaged in. Where did this come from? Answer–Christianity. How is this in contrast with Islamic science? Well the philosopher of science Al-Ghazali stated that it is absurd to imagine that an electron obeys a law, or that a proton acts a certain way. He posits that the universe exists in Allah’s mind–and every action that happens from the action of a quark to the gravitational pull of the earth affecting a falling rock–is the will of Allah.
Another point worth mentioning is that the vast list of scientists in the 19th and 20th century are composed of–well–many Christians. Where is the Islam Kepler, Galileo, Maxwell, Newton, or even Pascal?
The article asserts that mathematics were created by Muslims. The source? Wikipedia. This is fallacious and embarrassing. It is clear that arithmetic evolved from the Babylonian Empire and also from early Egyptians. Even algebra was refined in a way by Arabic people, but certainly not created. This is absurd. To assert otherwise is foolish. What about the arts? Has Islam influenced it? Lets look at music. Now, this is misleading, as is the entire argument– Yes, the arts did develop in Muslim countries–but that is only the Arts in THOSE countries. What did the early musicians in Perisa do to influence J.S. Bach? How are Verdi’s operas influenced by the Quran? I think this is a poorly constructed argument. When is the last time you bought tickets to hear one of the great keyboard sonatas by one of Islam’s great composers–or a setting of the Mass by one of their own?
Muslims have contributed to history; however, to assert that they have influenced all of Western culture as this article seems to imply is tomfoolery.
I would link to the article but it is poorly written, and has even less consideration for its readers with its use of profanities.