Sunday, November 4, 2007
One Big Inferiority Complex
Islamic History Month passed with October. I didn't actually see anything, did you? But, anyway, I want to look at this phenomenon which Islamic History Month is largely part of: the exaltation of contributions to the arts and sciences as if they were part of this ideology named Islam. You see this quite a bit.
A called this "one big inferiority complex", but that's just a good headline, and it may not exactly be the case. It may be partly the cause of this phenomenon, but another part is probably dawa -- the advancement of Islam by propaganda. (Or, perhaps, the relationship between these two causes may be more complex than simple separateness.) But first, a little discussion.
We could call Islam, or Christianity, or Platonism, or whatever, we could call these "topics." There's two senses in which something (in our case we're looking at contributions) may rightly be said to be of a topic (e.g. an Islamic contribution). These two senses are really quite different. 1) The thing is about the topic. For example, a history of the WWI may be rightly called a piece of "World War I writing" because it's about the war. And, 2) The thing is actually a working part of the topic itself. For example, the Balfour Declaration may be rightly called a piece of "World War I writing" because it was actually part of the goings-on of the war. In both these cases you could describe the pieces of writings with the same term, though, in each case, the terms would be giving very different descriptions.
But there is this third sense which creeps in which is quite wrong. A sense that something is of a topic if the person who who actuated that something also happened to be involved in the topic. The use of this sense is in saying that a contribution is Islamic, merely if a Muslim made it. This is wrong because the topic doesn't in anyway lend itself to the making of the contribution -- someone who had nothing to do with the topic could also have made the contribution. For example, Beethoven was a Christian, but who ever described Moonlight Sonata as a "Christian piece"? No one rightly, because the piece had nothing to do with Christianity -- it could have been composed just as easily by Beethoven if he was a non-Christian.
But this doesn't stop those behind the phenomena being talked about here from describing, for example, the Sears tower as "Islamic architecture", just because a Muslim was one of the people on the design team. (Hmm, most Muslims in Canada live in kafir-designed houses, do they all live in "kafir houses"?) And that's what this phenomenon is: the use of the third sense in order to dishonestly conflate Islam with the real causes of the contributions.
Here's a look at "Islam's forgotten contributions to medical science" that has found its way into Canada's main medical journal. It's linked from the Islamic History Month's website. None of these contributions have anything to do with Islam, except that the people who did it were Muslim. The contributions don't come from the Islamic texts, don't find their influence from the Islamic texts, and weren't made by Mohammed or his companions. And they certainly aren't, in the first sense mentioned, about Islam. In what way are the contributions part of Islam? Well, they're not. Yet the authors say they are "Islam's contributions", wanting you to think: "Islam brings plenty of good!" Just empty propaganda.
Similarly, where do they talk about algebra in the Islamic texts? Nowhere; yet algebra is called a contribution of Islam. Where do they talk about the architecture of domes in the Islamic texts? Nowhere; yet this too is called a contribution of Islam. And so are all the things brought up by these apologists -- not contributions of Islam, but contributions of people who also dealt with Islam.
And who is doubting that people who believe in Islam can make useful contributions? Silence. But who is doubting that Islam itself can make important contributions? 120dB. There's people other than Muslims who can make contributions to the arts and sciences, and they don't come with an incompatible ideology: let's stick with these people in Canada and forget about the Incompatibles.
(For a related discussion regarding ancient Greek heritage and Islam read Fjordman's post.)