Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fjordman: The Importance of Cicero in Western Thought

Fjordman’s latest essay has been published at the Brussels Journal. Below are some excerpts:

One of the most persistent myths promoted by Eurabian Multiculturalists is that of the “shared Greco-Roman heritage” between Europeans and Arabs which is now going to lay the foundations for a new Mediterranean Union, Eurabia. It is true that countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Algeria were just as much a part of the Roman Empire as were England, France and Spain. However, the Arab conquerors later rejected many elements of the Greco-Roman era once they invaded these nations. Many Greek classics were translated to Arabic, but Muslims were highly particular about which texts to exclude. There was a great deal of Greek thought that could never have been “transferred” to Europeans by Arabs, as is frequently claimed today, because many Greek works had never been translated into Arabic in the first place. Muslims especially turned down political texts since these included descriptions of systems in which men ruled themselves according to their own laws. This was considered blasphemous by Muslims, as laws are made by Allah and rule belongs to his representatives. Even Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) political texts were turned down.

As Iranian intellectual Amir Taheri states, “To understand a civilisation it is important to understand its vocabulary. If it was not on their tongues it is likely that it was not on their minds either. There was no word in any of the Muslim languages for democracy until the 1890s. Even then the Greek word democracy entered Muslim languages with little change: democrasi in Persian, dimokraytiyah in Arabic, demokratio in Turkish.…It is no accident that early Muslims translated numerous ancient Greek texts but never those related to political matters. The great Avicenna himself translated Aristotle’s Poetics. But there was no translation of Aristotle’s Politics in Persian until 1963.”
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Even Dimitri Gutas in his very pro-Islamic book Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (page 1) states that “from about the middle of the eighth century to the end of the tenth, almost all non-literary and non-historical secular Greek books that were available throughout the Eastern Byzantine Empire and the Near East were translated into Arabic.” It is true that most scientific works in Greek, and some in Persian, Sanskrit and other languages, were translated during this period and that all later scholars in the Islamic world were deeply affected by these translated works. But as Gutas indicates, even at the best of times High Greek (and other non-Muslim) literature was never translated, not even the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. European scholars were interested in the entire body of learning and literature from the Greco-Roman era and from other cultures while Muslims consistently ignored much of it. Muslims who wanted translations of Greek or other non-Islamic works were primarily concerned with topics of medicine, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. They usually ignored playwrights and dramatists such as Sophocles (ca. 496-406 BC) and Euripides (ca. 484-406 BC) or historians such as Thucydides (460?—404? BC) and Herodotus (ca. 484—ca. 425 BC). This corpus of literature could only be saved from the originals preserved by Byzantine Christians since Roman times. There was a large body of Greek learning that was never available in Arabic in the first place. In addition to being selective about Greek works, Muslims showed little interest in Latin writers, for instance Cicero.

Virtually everything that I have quoted in this essay was ignored by Muslims throughout Islamic history. There was no institution similar to the English Parliament in the Islamic world, nor was there developed a concept similar to Montesquieu’s (1689—1755 AD) separation of powers, and the political writings of Aristotle, Cicero and others was aggressively rejected. All the elements underlying the American political system were thus rejected by Muslims before the USA had even been created. If Americans had remembered that, they might have been less eager to export their political system to Muslim countries. They might also have remembered that the idea that “democracy” is 100% good and the only valid political system is naïve. It is a development of the period after the French Revolution and was not shared by serious thinkers before this, including the American Founding Fathers.

Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.


Fjordman said...

I could add that when I am talking about the rule of law here, I am obviously referring to secular laws and equality before the law:

Is Islam Compatible With Democracy?

Hate speech laws amount to "sharia lite": they are used to silence infidels for criticizing Islam, which again corresponds to the workings of sharia. The sharia lite of political correctness is thus paving the way for the gradual implementation of full sharia in the West. Hate crime legislation, too, is legalized political correctness and constitutes a radical departure from the ideal of equality before the law. You will be punished differently for assaulting a black Muslim than for the same crime against a white Christian, a Hindu woman or a Jewish man etc. Some would argue that this already happens in real life. However, the point here is that this de facto inequality has now become de jure. This formal change constitutes a gross perversion of justice. It mirrors Islamic law, which mandates different punishments for the same crime, depending upon the religious background and the sex of both the perpetrator and the victim.

laine said...

"de facto inequality has now become de jure. This formal change constitutes a gross perversion of justice. It mirrors Islamic law, which mandates different punishments for the same crime, depending upon the religious background and the sex of both the perpetrator and the victim".

This is another example of what draws the Western Left to what they should consider benighted Muslims, forming what David Horowitz calls an "Unholy Alliance".

Their collectivism and willingness to favor certain groups over others puts them in bed together. Control freak backs other control freak.

Once they've combined to bring down their (conservative) opposition, the useful idiots of the Left imagine there will be some kind of power sharing. They haven't noticed the technicality that no matter how thoroughly they sell out their own country and fellow citizens, they still don't get into the collective favored by Muslims unless they give up their atheism, feminism, abortion, gay rights, in other words their life's blood. And even if they convert to avoid the other two choices, death or dhimmitude, they will forever be second class in a Muslim world that gives zero power to former infidels.

The Left's laziness at learning about the cultures that they indiscriminately embrace combined with their sneering meida put downs of conservatives who have the facts put us all in peril. Cold consolation that they themselves will feel the blade of the scimitar. They at least are bringing it on themselves. We are not complicit in this stupidity yet endangered by it.

Robin Shadowes said...

"Cold consolation that they themselves will feel the blade of the scimitar. They at least are bringing it on themselves. We are not complicit in this stupidity yet endangered by it."

I will not shed any tears for them, not even if I'm still alive at this point, which I'm pretty certain I won't. They have sown fear and deceit and they will reap the whirlwind - eventually.

Czechmade said...

The Greek in Arabic:

G سوفطیون sūfat̤iyūn, Castoreum.
سوفی sūfī

سوفی sūfī, Wise.


سوف sūf (G. sofi/a), Wisdom.


g a فلسفة falsafat, Philosophy.

g a فلسفی falsafī, Philosophical; a philosopher.

a فیلسوف failasūf (G. filo/sofos), A phi- losopher; intelligent, knowing; cunning, artful.

g a فیلسوفگی failasūfagī, Philosophy.

g a فیلسوفی failasūfī, Sophistry, hypocrisy; deception; cunning; trickery

The Greek logos:


A لغة lug̠ẖat, Tongue, idiom, speech, lan guage, dialect; word, vocable; a dictionary, lexicon, vocabulary; an error in pronunciation; a different, and less correct reading

Less obvious, not mentioned as a loan-word from Greek in this dictionary...

It would be interesting to make a survey of loan words and kalks (words transposed by the way of imitation - like ex-pressio German Aud-druck.. Czech vý-raz) focusing on intellectual and political words.

The word for súfí is written with a different s, but was this meant as a hint on sofia, súfís being sort of heretics, embellishing the dry islam military material somewhat?

Czechmade said...

Errata - German Aus-druck (imitating the Latin word

Czechmade said...

Those responsible for the translations from Greek were Christians. They could be declared and viewed as reformers of the Arabic. They must have included lot of new words and probably someone is looking right now into the matter on a university writing his PhD. Online I found only some old material from 19th century, google
"Foreign vocabulary in the Quran".
Or finding some index of words - appendice to an Arabic text might help. It could be found in Spanish?

Or Arabic-Arabic index of "difficult words" in the Arabic translation would contain the words we are quite familiar with.

Profitsbeard said...

And Cicero met the same end as Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg.

At the hands of the proto-dictator Marc Anthony's thugs.

For championing the free Republic.

A tragic great soul.

And lesson in liberty against any despotism.