Islam and history

From: Steve Drew (
Date: Sun 15 Dec 2002 - 22:23:59 GMT

  • Next message: Lawrence DeBivort: "RE: Pax Americana Imperium"

    > Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 00:10:22 -0500
    > From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    > Subject: Islam and history
    > Hi, Grant,
    > I wish there was a clearer answer to this question...
    > An easy way to respond, I suppose, would be to mutter something about the
    > 'inevitable' rise and fall of empires. Different people is the world find
    > at different times something that works, something that provides them with
    > special capabilities, for a while. Why did a renaissance start in northern
    > Italy? Where do people like Francis Bacon and ibn Khaldun and Benjamin
    > Franklin 'come from'? Is it luck? Is it that difficulty in a society gives
    > rise to genius? If so, why didn't the Cathars fare better?

    I suppose it would be an easy answer to say that empires rise and fall, but it is not a very useful answer for anyone :-)
    > Many writers have tried to answer this question: e.g. Bernard Lewis, WHAT
    > WENT WRONG, 2002. Karen Armstrong, THE BATTLE FOR GOD, 2000. John Esposito,
    > THE ISLAMIC THREAT; Myth or Reality, 1999. Fouad Ajami, THE DREAM PALACE OF
    > THE ARABS, 1998. Benjamin Barber, JIHAD VS. MCWORLD, 1995 These are all
    > thoughtful books by knowledgeable experts, and present quite different
    > understandings. There is a plethora of good books on the Ottoman Empire and
    > its 'fall,' which I mention here because the fall of Islam preeminence can
    > be followed through the fortunes of the Ottoman Empire. But even here the
    > answers are elusive, for the Ottoman Empire had a shaky relationship to
    > Islam and the Arabs. There were times when the Ottoman Government viewed
    > itself as secular, at times European, and during many times, including at
    > the end, at war with Islamic and Arab entities.
    > I am left with this deep question: is Islamic fundamentalism (and in
    > particular its aggressive sub-forms) a cause of the incapacity that we find
    > within the Muslim and Arab world? Or is it a consequence, an effort by some
    > Muslims and Arabs to find a solution to the growing incapacity, in the same
    > way that secularism and 'modernism' and mysticism may be other efforts to do
    > the same thing?
    > We see in Judaism and Christianity similar strainings: these too have their
    > fundamentalists, and their extremists, their haters and their bigots.
    > Armstrong is persuasive is suggesting that members of all three religions
    > are experiencing similar tensions and fears. And all three have today their
    > visionaries, people who realize that a new kind of world is struggling to
    > emerge; all have their people of good-will, who have the energy and courage
    > to ask themselves the difficult questions and to probe equally difficult
    > answers.
    > So what 'happened' to the Muslim world? Are the Durants, and Gibbon, right?
    > Empires rise and fall, and it has nothing to do with Islam, per se?

    My own opinion is that empires can rise and fall, but each for different circumstances, and that chance must play some part, though I would be hard pressed to prove it. I have come across the idea (though I don't know where from) that when an empire or dominant culture becomes complacent with their own success they do not pay proper attention to things and events that may threaten this position. This does have shades of Gibbon, I know, but is much wider.

    For example, I will look at us Brits and our empire. It had its good points and bad as many do, but one thing that sticks out is the constant failure to address the genuine grievences of the subjects of the empire until too late, because (IMO) the prevailing idea was that we were the greatest people in the world and we what was best for "Johnny Foreigner" We did learn, but too late to retain an empire. And the first major crack that started us on the downward spiral was the failure to address the grievances of the North American Colonies.

    Each empire, whether in terms of lands held or cultural dominance, regards itself as the apex in terms of superiority.

    To my mind there is still a muslim cultural empire, that contains some of the closed and inward looking aspects of the early and middle medieval christian cultural empire.

    Why islam fell as an enlightened empire I don't know, else I would not have asked the question. If the enlightened aspect of islam could revive, with its love of knowledge and learning as opposed to rote learning of the quoran, the world may take a turn for the better.
    > I wish I could understand things well enough to know the answer.

    I agree.
    > Grant, you are a student of China. What is your sense of the comparable
    > question, posed of China?
    > Scott, Steve, Jeremy?
    > Cheers,
    > Lawry


    >> -----Original Message-----
    >> From: []On Behalf
    >> Of Grant Callaghan
    >> Sent: Saturday, December 14, 2002 11:20 PM
    >> To:
    >> Subject: RE: Examples of the Radical Islamicist Memeplex
    >> Lawry,
    >> What's the answer to the second half of steve's question?
    >>> Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2002 23:10:53 -0500
    >>> Greetings, Steve,
    >>> I think the answer is fairly simple: what happened was Israel.
    >>>> When did the Muslim world change from one which sheltered the Jews in
    >>> the
    >>>> Middle East, in North Africa and in Spain till the late middle
    >>>> ages from the
    >>>> christians, to one where they are the personification of anti
    >> Muslim and
    >>>> evil? Assuming the Qu'ran has not changed too much why are jews
    >>> acceptable
    >>>> 400 years ago and not now? These are questions that need looking at.
    >>>> Why did an advanced tolerant society skilled in science, medicine etc
    >>>> whilst we in the west struggled under the yoke of an ignorant church,
    >>> lose
    >>>> such an advantage?
    >>>> Regards
    >>>> Steve

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