Monday, September 8, 2008

Considering the Arab Enlightenment


I never called Islamists “stone-age,” but their social structure and laws were developed in medieval times and they want to return to them. The absolutes prescribed by Mohammad remain valid for them. Sharia law came from Allah through Mohammad and applies today the same way it did in the 7th century.

Also, the Arabs didn’t invent all the things you give them credit for. The Islamists indeed make such claims, but they aren’t true and are easily disproved. Many of the scholars I’ve read have taken the trouble to do so. There was a period when Arabic learning was more advanced than anywhere else, but this was a result of their translating Greek texts. Albert Hourani also refers to Indian and Persian texts but Arabs didn’t go beyond what these earlier civilizations developed except in very minor ways. Hourani refers to some advances in astronomy and surgery.

Western enlightenment began with the “discovery” of the Greek texts handed on by the Arabic scholars, that is true, but what these Arab scholars had done and were doing wasn’t in keeping with the Sharia; so it was discontinued. Those Arab scholars were in violation of the Sharia and not exemplars of it. They were shut down. The Arabs returned to the medieval teachings of the 7th century while the West advanced. As the West became increasingly enlightened, the Arabs remained in a medieval dark age – not because they were conquered (although they were by the Turks) but because they felt Sharia Law demanded it. It is ludicrous to hark back longingly to your Arabic Golden Age when the ideology you now support was the same philosophy that condemned your Golden Age Arab scholars to oblivion. Put your Islamists in charge of a country and they become like the Taliban, destroying cultural artifacts and burning books.

The Arabs did not invent the West. I don’t know where you got that. Western Society began with Greece, continued through the Roman period and on into a medieval period, but then beyond it to the Enlightenment.

So not only did the Arabs not invent the West but the Arab scholars who were congenial to Western thinking were repudiated by the Arabs. The Islamist brand of Islam that we are contending with isn’t pure 7th century Islam but it is as close as the Islamists can make it. It began with Wahhab in the 18th century, was advanced by the Salafists, carried on by the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, picked up by Maududi, Sayyid Qutb & the Ayatollah Khomeini. They believe the medieval crusades are still in effect. They have declared war upon us. I see no good reason for not taking them at their word. I don't know why you try to make them enlightened. They aren't.

Lawrence Helm

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