Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tharoor, and what sort of symbol is Cordoba?


Previous Lawrence: I oppose the Cordoba Mosque, but those who accuse me of intolerance have it exactly backward. I oppose the Cordoba Mosque because Islamism is intolerant, violently so, and they are running roughshod over Muslims who don't agree with them. And they represent a danger to any Liberal Democratic nation that tolerates them.

Eric Easy solution as I said. If the mosque is ever officially used to facilitate extremism, ceremonially burn it down every September 11.

W****: Here's a bit more on the proposed Mosque, including why it's to be named the "Cordoba" Mosque:,8599,2009147,00.html

Lawrence: Wager's article is an excellent example of a Politically Correct opinion about the Cordoba Mosque. Billy Blogblather in another note applauds Tharoor and hopes I'll read his article with an open mind. I did my best, Billy, but I can't pretend Tharoor is introducing me to a subject I'm unfamiliar with. That sort of openness is beyond me. Before I say too much about Tharoor's article, let's look at some other authors.

Noble, Forsyth & Maric: The following is from their "Regional Guide" which provides a brief description of the Cordoban period for visitors: "The Cordoban Caliphate (929-1031). "In 929 Abd ar-Rahman III (r912-61) gave himself the title caliph (meaning deputy to Mohammed and therefore supreme leader of the Muslim world) to assert his authority in the face of the Fatimids, a growing Muslim power in North Africa. Thus Abd arl-Rahman III launched the biggest, most dazzling and most cultured city in Western Europe. Its Mezquita (Mosque; p301) is one of the wonders of Islamic architecture anywhere on the planet. Astronomy, medicine mathematics, philosophy, history and botony flourished, and Abd ar-Rahman IIs court was frequented by Jewish, Arabian and Christian scholars.

"Later in the 10th century, the fearsome Cordoban general Al-Mansur (or Almanzor) terrorized the Christian north with 50-odd razzias (forays) in 20 years. In 997 he destroyed the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain --home of the cult of Santiago Matamoros (St James the Moor-Slayer), a crucial inspiration to Christian warriors. But after Al-Mansur's death, the caliphate disintegrated into dozens of tairfas (small kingdoms), ruled by local potentates, who were often Berber generals."

Observation by Lawrence: We see from the above that this golden period of Cordoba described in the "time" article was relatively brief. The Caliphate began in 929 as a sort of parenthesis, as though the Islamic conquerors forgot why they were there. But by 997 general Al-Mansur got them back on track. So at the very most, this period lauded by Tharoor lasted 68 years -- after which Muslims resumed to slaughtering Spanish Christians. Islamists looking back on this period are ambivalent about it. On the one hand they like the idea that Arab Muslims were at one time more advanced than Europeans. Cordoba became a symbol for them of what could be achieved when Mohammad's Jihad was in full swing. But on the other hand they believe the Cordoban Caliphate lost sight of its Mission. It backed away from its military obligations, the conquering of all non-Muslims. So Islamists applaud the Cordoban general Al-Mansur for getting back to business. They applaud both the Cordoban Caliphate and the Cordoban general Al-Mansur without acknowledging a conflict.

Hourani: Here is Albert Hourani (an Oxford Historian) from his A History of the Arab Peoples. Southern Spain was conquered during the Jihad begun by Mohammad and continued by his immediate successors. On page 41 Hourani writes, "The Arabs first landed in Spain in 710 and soon created there a province of the caliphate which extended as far as the north of the peninsula. The Arabs and Berbers of the first settlement were joined by a second wave of soldiers from Syria . . .

"In their new kingdom the Umayyads were involved in the same process of change as took place in the east. A society where Muslims ruled over a non-Muslim majority gradually changed into one where a considerable part of the population accepted the religion and language of the rulers, and a government which ruled at first in a decentralized way, by political manipulation, became a powerful centralized one ruling by bureaucratic control.

"Once more a new capital was created: Cordoba . . . Once more, as the dynasty became more autocratic it withdrew from the life of the city. The cities grew -- first Cordoba and later Seville . . . ."

"The movement of Berbers from the Magrib into Spain continued . . . In time, too, part of the indigenous population was converted to Islam and by the end of the tenth century possibly a majority of the people of Andlus were Muslims."

Observation by Lawrence: We can see by Hourani's account that, in partial support of the Tharoor article, that though the Arabs conquered Southern Spain militarily, during a portion of the time they were in that conquered region, they were good to Christians, Jews, and visiting scholars. How pleased, I wonder, would we be by German or Japanese treatment good treatment if they had won World War II?

Grunebaum: [from his Classic Islam, A History, 600-1258] "The burgeoning towns, particularly the capital of Cordoba, were refractory; the fuqaha of the dominant (since c. 800) Malikite law school, who accused the government of godlessness on the least provocation, provided moral support for the malcontents. The cruel suppression of the 'Suburb Affair', an obstinate revolt against al-Hakam I (818), occasioned the first wave of Andalusian immigration, or re-emigration into North Africa, which was to become of great cultural importance. Other 'Suburbanites' occupied Alexandria and after their expulsion from Egypt took possession of Crete, where a Spanish Islamic dynasty held power until the island was reconquered by the Byzantines in 961.

Observation by Lawrence: The Islamic paradise of Andalusia "refractory"?

Grunebaum: [from his Medieval Islam] "Conservatism expressing itself as the determination never to let go of past achievement and thus unduly accentuating the crudeness of its origins, and the tendency natural to despotism and orthodoxy to discourage revision and reform, combined with Islam's catholic curiosity and receptiveness, are responsible for the lack of integration of the component elements which makes Islamic civilization look like a torso. Arrested in its growth during the eleventh century, it has remained an unfulfilled promise. It lost the power of subjecting the innumerable elements to an organizing idea more comprehensive than the desire for individual salvation. It stagnated in self-inflicted sterility. And expecting renascence from return to its beginnings Islam, in the last centuries of the Middle Ages, weeded out whatever remnants of Hellenism could still be isolated from its structure."

Observation by Lawrence: Here you have the Islamist dilemma in a nutshell. A very high period of intellectual achievement did occur in Andalusia during the period when Arabs and other Muslims ruled Southern Spain, but they did it by embracing Hellenism and other "pagan" views; which Islamists deplore. What we westerners value in Cordoba is not something Mohammed urged upon his followers. It occurred because the Muslim message was diluted by Hellenistic admixtures. We know that the "Islam" resumed its Jihad after the Cordoban aberration was overcome. So here is the question we must ask about the new Cordoba Mosque: Is it to be filled with Hellenism, tolerance, and intellectual achievement? If so then surely the people building this mosque will have no problem repudiating Islamism and the teachings of Sayyid Qutb. But if they do not repudiate these teachings then we who know something of Arab history must be pardoned for believing that this is a thumb in the eye of the West. Here is Islam with its great symbol, Cordoba, showing how much it can achieve in the world when it is engaging in Jihad. There they are in their overweening pride, plunking their symbol right next to the ashes of a Western symbol they recently destroyed. Allahu Akhbar!

E.B. 11th ed, vol 7: "But the glory of Cordova, surpassing all its other Moorish or Christian buildings, is the mezquita, or mosque, now a cathedral, but originally founded on the site of a Roman temple and a Visigothic church by Abd-ar-Rahman I. (756-788), who wished to confirm the power of his caliphate by making its capital a great religious centre. Immigration from all the lands of Islam soon rendered a larger mosque necessary, owing to the greatly increased multitude of worshippers, and, by orders of Abd-ar-Rahman II (822-852) and Al-Hakim II. (961-976), the original size was doubled. After various minor additions, Al-Mansur, the vizier of the caliph Hisham II. (976-1009), again enlarged the Zeca, or House of Purification, as the mosque was named, to twice its former size, rendering it the largest sacred building of Islam, after the Kaaba at Mecca.

Some comments by Lawrence on Ishaan Tharoor's article: "Islamophobia" What do you suppose Tharoor means by that term? Were the Visigoths Islamophobic when they fought against the invading Arabs in Southern Spain? Were the Spaniards who drove the Muslims out of Southern Spain "Islamophobic"? How about all the people today who hear that a major portion of the world's 1.3 Billion Muslims have declared war against the non-Muslim world and have resolved to conquer it by force or "any other means at their disposal"? Are such people Islamophobic if the fear the Islamists who have converted millions of Muslims to their view? Are such people Islamophobic when they believe Islamists when they say they are committed to killing infidels? If these descriptions are what is meant by "Islamophobic," then I am Islamophobic.

If on the other hand this term is supposed to represent some sort of baseless racism, a singling out of harmless, well-meaning perfectly benign American citizens who happen to be Islamic for undeserved abuse, then no, I am not "Islamophobic." I rather doubt that there are many Americans who would sign up to that description.

Tharoor writes, "And Islam, of course, has long been a bogeyman for the West. For centuries, a more advanced powerful Islamic world haunted the imagination of snow-bitten Christendom. When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they brought the language of the Reconquista with them . . . " I can hardly imagine anything more insulting to the West. If the Reconquistas were brutal, it was because they learned that brutality combatting a brutal invader. They learned brutality as a result of years of fighting against the invader which Tharoor benignly terms "a more advanced powerful Islamic world."

Notice the contrast Tharoor makes: "more advanced powerful Islamic world" versus "snow-bitten Christendom" haunted, presumably, by its inferiority. Tharoor refers to this Spanish conflict as a "bogeyman." Aren't bogeymen supposed to be imaginary, Tharoor? My history books tell me there really was an Islamic invasion of Southern Spain and that the Spanish had to fight for years to reclaim their nation. Were they fighting against imaginary bogeymen?

Continuing to contrast the good things of Islam with the bad things of the Christian West, Tharoor writes, "The Sultanate of Morocco was the first government in the world to recognize the existence of an independent United States, in 1778. But it was America's naval expeditions to North Africa -- the two early-19th century Barbary Wars -- that first marked the U.S.'s arrival on the global stage and crystallized a new American patriotism at home." It would be very difficult to read his second sentence as complimentary to the U.S. I take him to be saying that first Morocco did a very good thing by recognizing the independent United States. So how does the U.S. repay them? They send their navy to harass the poor innocent Barbary pirates. Shame on the U.S.

Tharoor tells us that "Most Muslim African slaves" were not very lucky. "Memory of their varied cultural heritage dissipated over generations of enslavement." He neglects to mention that Muslims were the chief if not the only slave traders that went about the actual capture of those

Tharoor reports that "many muslim communities have come under siege, facing a barrage of media scrutiny and xenophobic bluster.

"In this context figures like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf -- the Arab-Americn cleric behind the mosque project near Ground Zero -- stand out."

Here is Wikipedia on Rauf: In a 2001 60 Minutes interview, though Abdul Rauf condemned the 9/11 attacks as un-Islamic, he said that the U.S. was "an accessory to the crime that happened" because "we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world." In 2010 he declined to state that Hamas was a terrorist organization. . . ."

"The building of [Rauf's] mosque and community center, as well as the initiative itself, was criticized by other Muslims, such as Sufi mysticist Suleiman Schwartz, who said that a building built by Rauf barely two blocks from ground zero, is inconsistent with Sufi philosophy of simplicity of faith and sensitivity towards others."

Is this the sort of Islamic "tolerance" we can expect from those building the Cordoba Mosque? Well, good luck to you all you New Yorkers who would like the rest of us to keep out of your business. May you prosper as you slowly convert yourself to this enlightened form of Islam.

No comments: