Another rerun first published on June 4, 2009.
NOTE: The following information is what I learned in my graduate studies in Medieval History and the origins of Islam. It may offend some people. It is not politically correct. It comes from notes I took years ago in my history classes. I majored in British Medieval History and do have a grasp on the time frame Barack Obama mentioned in his pathetically stupid speech today in Cairo.
Unfortunately the liberal world says we must learn our historical lessons a certain way. My barbaric Norman ancestors were evil and Obama’s pure Islamic background is beautiful and enlightened. Sorry, but I don’t hold with that view of the world.
Everything that is good about our modern world came out of the same time frame as the Golden Age of Islam. BUT – it came out of Barbarian, dirty, stinky, plague ridden Europe. The backbone of Western Civilization, that had been broken during the alleged fall of Rome, was starting to be rebuilt. What we are today comes from Rome, not Islam. We are a Republic with a Bill of Rights that came out of England and the Magna Carta. Our Declaration of Independence came out of Scotland.
Brought down to the mud by the barbarian invasions of Europe, we pulled ourselves out of the ditches, and rebuilt civilization. Today, the barbarians of Islam are trying to destroy that civilization and cast us back into the Dark Ages.
Sorry, but I’m not going. Obama can pander to them, but I’m not.
It is also obvious that who ever wrote Obama’s speech for him spent a heck of a lot of time reading Wikipedia.
The real problem is that on the surface, there is truth to Obama’s diatribe about Islam’s Golden Age. The problem is he did not truly stress the Golden Age was completely different from today’s Islamic barbarianism.
Unfortunately for my Pink Flamingo readers, you are dealing with a former Medievalist, who specialized in Post-Roman Britain. I did quite a bit of graduate work dealing with Medieval Europe, the Crusades, and Arthur. For once I get to use it!
The truly sad aspect of today’s culture of abject ignorance is the fact that there are so many misconceptions about the origins of Islam. At one time Mohammad was possibly a Christian. His wife (at the right time) was Coptic and something of an odd duck. She kept filling him full of strange stories and heresy. At one time he was so confused with the “visions” he was seeing that he was positive they were demonic. Naturally the current wife talked him out of it.
One of the tenets of Islam was conquest by the sword. It was die or convert. Most people chose conversion.
It should also be noted that Mohammed’s strange vision of the world happened at a time when everything was falling apart. Rome had been besieged by invading barbarians from the Steppes. The “barbarian” European tribes held in a vice grip by Rome’s power were free to go about their jobs of conquest.
It was the right story at the right time, bringing order into a disorderly world. The “learning” that was the hallmark of the Golden Age of Islam was not because of the religion but the Borg like conquests that extended well into India where civilization was in exquisite bloom.
To attribute the learning and arts of the Golden Age to the religion is somewhat false and superficial. People who lived in the Islamic world of that time frame were living in one of the great moments of civilization. My unfortunate ancestors were struggling to survive wave after wave of Barbarian Germanic and Viking conquest of Britannia. Oops – 85% of my ancestors were Norman, so I guess my barbarian Viking ancestors were the ones doing the plundering. They were rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.
The Golden Age of Islam may have produced beautiful moments of “learning” and civilization, but my rude, crude and socially unacceptable Norman ancestors who conquered England did something else.
This mandate to conquer by the sword brought about the Crusades. My barbaric ancestors (many of whom actually survived the Crusades) brought back to England certain niceties of Islamic life: pepper, cinnamon, perfumes, exotic spices, nutmeg, beautiful fabrics, new designs for jewelry, exotic foods, and the basics for a way of life that became Chivalry.
Yea, we were barbarians compared to Islam at that time, but look who’s barbaric today!
My ancestors are the ones who produced the following:
The Charter of Henry I
Constitutions of Clarendon
Assize of Clarendon
Inquests of Sheriffs
The Magna Carta
The Declaration of Arbroath
We may not have been well educated, may have smelled bad, drank too much, belched, and scratched flees but WE invented the basics of Western Civilization and modern democracy. The laws of the barbarian, un-enlightened Englishmen became the bases for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States as well as the Bill of Rights.
I’ll take freedom and democracy any old day of the week.
Barack Obama claims to be a student of history. He says so in his “Speech” in Cairo.
“…As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality….”
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.
Western Civilization does owe a debt to Islam – the Golden Age – which lasted from about 700 until maybe 1200. During that time frame, the world was the exact opposite of what it is today. Islam was enlightened, learning was encouraged. Science, experimentation, knowledge was encouraged. Christian Europe was just emerging from the “Dark Ages” where it was a time of religious over tones.
The sad part of this is today’s basic Islamic student, among the most ignorant in the world, making our high school drop-outs look like Rhodes Scholars, had no concept of the Golden Age of Islam of which Obama spoke. I don’t think Obama even knows much about it.
“…Many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic, rational and scientific discourses in their search for knowledge, meaning and values. A wide range of Islamic writings on love, poetry, history and philosophical theology show that medieval Islamic thought was open to the humanistic ideas of individualism, occasional secularism, skepticism and liberalism…”
During the “crash of civilization” brought about by the onslaught of the barbaric nomads who basically brought down, but did not destroy the Roman Empire, learning in Europe was all but forgotten. Only the Church preserved learning, and then it was sketchy. Islam was LIBERAL. It was enlightened. It was decadent.
It was the time of the 1001 Nights, harems, scantily clad and naked women who danced and seduced their “masters”. Women in Europe were covered from head to toe in what was the basic Catholic Nun (penguin dress) that is only now going out of style in various Holy Orders. Christian women were basically covered by a “burka” of ignorance and repression. Islamic women painted their nails, wore make-up, and two-piece outfits that exposed their naval, and were transparent, showing everything there was to see. European women took maybe three baths their entire life.
Today culture has reversed itself. The problem is the average person is so ignorant of history, they do not comprehend any of this. Neither does Barack Obama.
It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University –
The following is a list of the universities founded between 859 and 1300. Those which are Islamic are noted. The rest are Christian. While Islamic scholars may have founded the university system, they were quickly over-taken by Christian monks, priests, and church scholars who adapted their basic ideas and used them to change learning forever.
Christian youth in Europe, enchanted by the romance of the crusades, had this desire to get out and see the world. The hardship of “dark ages” life had given away to a newly Renaissance of the 12th Century in England, France and the Italy. As Europe climbed out of the “Dark Ages”, Islam began it’s descent into the barbarian darkness that is Islam today.
University of Al-Karaouine, Fes, Morocco – Founded in 859. (Islamic)
Al-Azhar University was founded in 957AD in Egypt. (Islamic)
University of Constantinople 9th Century
University of Balogna – 1000 – teaching
University of Paris – 1056
Oxford – 1096
University of Modena – 1175
Bosnian Church University – 1175
University of Vicenza – 1204
Cambridge – 1209
University of Palencia, Spain – 1212
University of Arezzo, Italy – 1215
University of Salmanca – 1218
University of Padua – 1222
University of Naples Frederico II – 1224
University of Toulouse – 1229
University of Siena – 1240
University of Piacenza – 1248
University of Villadolid, Spain – 1250
University of Seville – 1254 (Islamic)
Sorbonne – 1257
University of Northampton – 1261
University of Montpellier – 1289
University of Coimbra, Portugal – 1290
University of Lleida, Spain – 1300
that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.
The Renaissance began in Tuscany in the 14th Century. It was probably due to the migration of Greek scholars and classical Roman and Greek texts and literature that who fled Constantinople when it was captured by the Ottoman Turks. The Byzantine Empire, once part of the Roman Empire, preserved the ancient classical writings of such luminaries as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, etc. Yes, the ancient ENLIGHTENED Islamic scholars preserved this learning, but the Renaissance was NOT a result of Islam. Neither was the Enlightenment, which was as far from Islam as freedom is today.
It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra;
Learning in the Golden Age of Islam had more to do with geography than actual religion. The “world” was divided into basically three political entities. Christendom included the old Western Roman Empire. Byzantine was the Eastern Empire. Islam conquered the Middle East and the regions along the African coast. Basically geography allowed for Islam to lay claim to the learning of the ancients and the classical world that once occupied the lands now claimed by Islam.
Obama claims that algebra was developed by Islam. This isn’t quite true. Many ancient Greek texts only survived through Arabic translations. Anyone who knows their classical history knows that the great “thinkers” in mathematics and theory in history were Greeks like Euclid, Archimedes, Apollonius, Ptolemy, etc. The ancient world blossomed with math, astronomy (because of astrology) and science. When the followers of Islam conquered those lands, they were assimilated into the ancient learning.
“...Indian influences were later overwhelmed by Greek mathematical and astronomical texts. It is not clear why this occurred but it may have been due to the greater availability of Greek texts in the region, the larger number of practitioners of Greek mathematics in the region, or because Islamic mathematicians favored the deductive exposition of the Greeks over the elliptic Sanskrit verse of the Indians. Regardless of the reason, Indian mathematics soon became mostly eclipsed by or merged with the “Graeco-Islamic” science founded on Hellenistic treatises…”
Islamic holy days were determined by phases of the moon, etc. The only way to accurately deal with these was to expand the practice of astronomy and math.
our magnetic compass and tools of navigation;
Islamic navigation came out of the classical world. Here it is important to understand that Christian Europe was basically the old Western Roman Empire. The Romans were terrified of the sea. They were bad sailors, whose idea of navigation was hugging the coast line. It must be noted that the Islamic world developed in the old Middle East and Arab world where they were expert seamen. Once again, it had little to do with the beauty of Islam and everything to do with geography. The same thing was true of navigation.
our mastery of pens and printing;
Paper was invented by the Chinese and brought to the Islamic world after the battle of Tales. This was during the Golden Age of Islam where knowledge and enlightenment was prized over religion. More
It should be noted that this time frame was called the “Dark Ages” in Europe. Very few people, aside from certain members of the clergy knew how to read or write. Kings could neither read nor write.
During this time in the Islamic world ““The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs”
our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.
Medicine today owes much to the Golden Age of Islam. Once again, because of geography and the assimilation of the ancients, Islam had a leg-up so to speak on the former Roman world. It was that simple.
Islamic culture has given us majestic arches
Once again Obama is wrong. The arch was used in Mesopotamia, but became an art form under the Etruscans. Romans copied their arches from the Etruscans and went from there. The Roman Arch is one of the great architecture wonders of history.
and soaring spires;
Those “soaring spires” Obama credits to Islam are considered “Gothic”. They are a distinctly Norman and French creation. Islam has nothing to do with it.
Islamic classical literature of the Golden Age included the Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade, Aladdin, and adaptions of Mesopotamian, Roman, and classical Greek literature, mythology, and tradition.
and cherished music;
Arabic musical instruments such as the lute, violin guitar, bass drum, etc. came out of Arabic. To stress that these were “Islamic” is going to far. Once again it is geography, not religion.
Celtic illuminated manuscripts – I rest my case.
and places of peaceful contemplation.
The classical Islamic patios, fountains, and tiles that were in Spain have evolved into today’s patio, etc. It should be noted that Islam did not develop this. Such locations were known throughout the classical world. It was called the Roman Atrium.
And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
Islam was spread by conquest, death and murder. Like the Borg, they assimilated culture after culture, stealing the best of those cultures. The original Muslims were barbaric tribesmen out of Arabia who refused to live in peace with their Christian and Jewish neighbors.
It’s too bad today we have a politically correct version of the history of Islam, one which is factually lacking in accuracy. But then so is Barack Obama.