I have published a brief early review of The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization by Jonathan Lyons at the Gates of Vienna blog, and will publish a longer and more thorough rebuttal of this book at some point in April, either at Jihad Watch or at Atlas Shrugs. Lyons’ subject matter is related to that of John Freely’s book Aladdin’s Lamp: How Greek Science Came to Europe Through the Islamic World , which I will concentrate on here.- - - - - - - - -
The first chapters of Aladdin’s Lamp about the Greek scientific legacy and medieval scholarship are not too bad. I disagree with certain details here and there as well as with the relative emphasis on various scholars, but all in all this section is worth reading. However, you can get this information from other books which do not suffer from the same shortcomings as this one does.
Anatolia or Asia Minor, the region we now call “Turkey,” was a thousand years ago a land inhabited predominantly by Greek-speaking Christians. The gradual Jihad eradication of these communities has extended well into our own time. As late as in 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul with looting in Greek neighborhoods and the destruction of churches and synagogues. More than 5,000 shops belonging to the Greek minority were looted by an emotional crowd of several thousand people. The Muslim riots resulted not only from “fervid chauvinism, or even [from] the economic resentment of many impoverished rioters, but [from] the profound religious fanaticism in many segments of Turkish society.” Greeks and Armenians were savagely beaten and there were gang rapes. In some cases, Turks carried out “circumcisions” on the spot with knives.
Muslims have spent almost 1400 years wiping out Greek-speaking communities throughout the entire Eastern Mediterranean, yet they now want credit for “preserving the Greek cultural heritage.” If we are supposed to talk about what Muslims have “preserved,” shouldn’t we also talk about what their Jihad activities have historically destroyed, in Europe, Africa and Asia? Frankly, I suspect that if you make two columns, one for what Muslims have “preserved” and one for what they have destroyed, then the list over what they have destroyed will greatly exceed whatever they may have preserved through translations. And I’m being polite when I say that.
Lyons’ book The House of Wisdom is 200 pages long, Freely’s Aladdin’s Lamp 255 pages. Neither of them mentions the terms “Jihad” or “dhimmi” even once in their books about Islamic culture. This says a great deal about the current intellectual climate. I didn’t notice these words while reading the books and they are not listed in the indexes. The authors certainly don’t devote much time to debating the violent aspects of Islamic expansionism through the Islamically unique institution of Jihad, or the fates of the conquered peoples. Is it a coincidence that whatever useful work that was done in the Islamic world happened during the first centuries of the Islamic era, while there were still large numbers of non-Muslims living in the region? We don’t get to know because the question is never debated by these authors, but it deserves to be.
I’m not suggesting that there was no good scholarly work done in the Islamic world. There are a few Muslim scholars from the medieval period whom I respect. Their contributions should not be ignored, but nor should they be inflated beyond all proportions. If the Western scientific and technological contribution to the world is the size of an elephant then the Muslim one is the size of a squirrel, or a Chihuahua at best. There’s no shame in that. I like squirrels, but I would never confuse one with an elephant.
Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.