Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fjordman: Medieval Myths

Fjordman’s latest essay has been published at Jihad Watch. Some excerpts are below:

I should thank the pro-Israeli, Islam-critical blog Document for bringing this to my attention. The two Norwegian essays cited here were written by Ole Jørgen Benedictow, a professor emeritus at the University of Oslo specializing in the history of the Middle Ages. The translations were made by me, and the shorter excerpts should capture the spirit of the texts.

Benedictow, as an expert in the field, has tried to influence the public debate on issues related to Islam vs. Europe in the Middle Ages, but has repeatedly experienced being rebuffed in favor of young Marxists with little knowledge of the period. He is annoyed by the fact that people who know very little about this era and its complexities have easy access to the mass media and can spread falsehoods virtually unchallenged. “Revolutionary Socialists” — that is, Communists — have no problem promoting their propaganda in major newspapers despite representing a totalitarian ideology that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people — 100 million if you believe The Black Book of Communism — during the twentieth century alone.

For some reason, allegedly “anti-imperialist” Marxists in the Western world just love brutal, aggressive and oppressive imperialism — as long as it comes in an Islamic shape. There is no hint of an understanding of why the Spanish and Portuguese fought so many centuries for their liberation, nor of the plight of the Balkan Christians or those who suffered under Muslim rule elsewhere in the world, for example following the extremely bloody Islamic conquest of India. Islamic advances must be celebrated; the West demonized and ridiculed. European medieval peoples are invariable portrayed as barbarians with no culture of their own.

Yet the Middle Ages represented a creative growth period where we find the seeds of a new civilization — the European one — which replaced that of Greco-Roman Antiquity but also carried with it a number of Classical elements, albeit often in a somewhat altered form.

Read the rest at Jihad Watch.


Fjordman said...

Thank you for posting, B. And please, for regular readers here, do donate a few bucks at the very least to the Baron and Dymphna. Every dollar, yen, euro or pound helps.

Zenster said...

From the full article: According to Benedictow, “Like other great conquering peoples, from Romans to Mongols, the Arab-Muslim conquerors took over landed property and political control and established a tax regime that benefitted the small, but superior warrior elite. For many centuries this was the essence of the Arab-Muslim presence, the imperialist exploitation model. But since Muslims didn’t pay taxes there was also no great urge to do Muslim missionary activity.[emphasis added]

[cough] Zakat [cough]

Zakat, one of the “Five Pillars of Islam”, is a religious tax introduced for the benefit of the poor and needy, as well as for the advancement of Islam itself, and is often quoted as one of the best elements of Islam. [emphasis added]

As to any supposed lack of "Muslim missionary activity", I think jihad more than qualifies for that position. While also fueled by looting and brigandage, zakat was an essential method of financing Islamic expansionism.

Any missing "urge to do Muslim missionary activity" could just as easily be traced to the Muslim world's intense corruption and how its culture of male preference tended to ensconce not just a "small … superior warrior elite" but also a rather less small and far more greedy group of craven cowards in the form of Islam's clerical aristocracy.

Historically, Zakat being one of the five ‘pillars’ of Islam, is the holy tax introduced by Muhammad.

To this very day, zakat continues to fund jihad in the form of global terrorism. At an accepted tithing rate equalling 10% of one's annual income, it represents cash flow amounting to some billions of dollars per year.

Additionally, zakat is of vital importance as it cements into place the highly abusive, ossified and parasitic clerical superstucture that continues to institutionalize Muslim poverty and precludes any whiff of prosperity that might make the ummah love life more than Islam's damnable jihad.

Fjordman said...

Zenster: I didn't entirely agree with that comment, either, but I was translating a direct quote of Professor Benedictow. We should also keep in mind that although zakat is one of the pillars of Islam as it exists today, Islam as we now think of it simply didn't exist during the earliest generations of Arab rule.

mace said...

There was certainly rapid technical innovation in the late Medieval period in Europe-more than the whole era of Classical Antiquity.
For example, water wheels were used to power a wide range of manufacturing processes, in contrast the Romans seem to have restricted water power to flour milling. Of course the origins of modern banking and capitalism can be traced to the medieval period.

Perhaps we shouldn't use 'medieval' as a perjorative term.

Hesperado said...

"But since Muslims didn’t pay taxes there was also no great urge to do Muslim missionary activity."

I don't get the connection between

1) not paying taxes


2) not being inclined to missionize

-- nor, for that matter, between

1) paying taxes


2) wanting to missionize.

Secondly, as Zenster pointed out, Muslims not only have the "urge" to missionize, Islam is probably the most intensely missionary religion in all world history; their infusion of murderous rapine with their evangelical zeal shouldn't distract one's attention on that account.

Anonymous said...

Hesperado, I'll guess the not paying taxes and not wanting to missionize connection might be, since non-believers had to pay tax, and Muslims didn't, if Muslims converted non-believers (tax-payers) to Islam, there would be fewer tax-payers, which would inconvenience Muslims.

Sagunto said...

Not entirely sure what's not to get here and I agree with latté island.

Converting the dhimma population to Muslims would have reduced the tax base for the predatory - or better still, parasitical Islamic system. As reasonably accomplished parasites who can't produce anything - let alone civilization - of their own, Muslims must be "tolerant" of tax-paying dhimmies (jizya, the other tax).


Professor L said...

Sagunto, if I recall correctly, the first Caliphate actually collapsed because of the very reason you state - too many people converted to Islam and the bottom fell out of the treasury.

Hesperado said...

Sure, Muslims had a vested interest in keeping some non-Muslims alive (not only for taxes, but for doing slave labor and for doing brain labor -- how many intellectual Persians, Hindus, Greek Christians, and Jews were pressed into service thus?)

But there seems to be a tendency among Western analysts (including in the anti-Islam movement) to think of Muslims as rational. They are not rational. They are gripped by a spiritual and mental disease of hectic proportions. This results in individual incoherencies, and mass incoherencies throughout their societies. Thus, they can simultaneously massacre millions of the people they need for their crude infrastructure while needing them all the same. They are madmen; stop trying to fit them into your ordered Western slots whilst trying to explain them.

Sagunto said...

LAW Wells -

That is correct. It is a well documented historical fact.

Hesperado -

Well, perhaps it is because you don't associate a "vested interest" with "rational" considerations. Let me put it this way then, and I repeat: Muslims are parasites, usually very bad ones for they kill their hosts pretty quickly. But history has shown that some Muslim rulers have perfected this Islamic parasitical reflex and put it to some sort of sustained use. If you're not inclined to call this a rational application of Islamic parasitism, then you might consider "para-rational self interest" as a description.


Hesperado said...


I didn't mean, in my outburst, to imply that Muslims are merely stark raving lunatics: that would be to err on the side of assuming they are empty vessels. Still, such an assumption has the advantage, at least, of preserving the fundamental incomprehensibility of Muslims to us -- a necessary antidote to glib superimpositions onto Muslim psychology and sociology of Western models of explanation.

Thus, provisionally your model of incompetent parasitism is sound, as long as we keep in mind that the reasons for that incompetence reside mostly in the positive content of Islamic fanaticism, however deranged that positive content may be.

I.e., for practical purposes, Muslims might as well be invading alien beings from another planet. We should not be spending time (much less forming policy upon) trying to understand Muslims in the sense that we can reform them or mollify them. All our time with regard to them (and resulting policies) should be spent on trying to protect ourselves from them. Understanding their imperfections then, of course, should be exploited to that end.

One particular imperfection, however, is an impermissible imputation upon the masses of Muslims: namely, the imperfection, or chink in the armor, of humanity. Any humanity that may reside in Muslims (i.e., that has managed to struggle its way out of the torturous abyss of the psychic, ontological and cultural Gulag of Muslim being) should be seen as the exception that proves the rule -- and thus the various imperfections we perceive among Muslims are not an indication of that humanity struggling to get through (if only we could save them, through one form or another of Wilsonian projects), but are rather various permutations of spasms of the incomphrensible disease of this alien life form and its unearthly creed. This would be the preferrable guideline for how we approach the problem of the danger Muslims pose to our civilization.

Hesperado said...

incomphrensible --> incomprehensible

preferrable --> preferable

Need a second cup of coffee.

Sagunto said...

Hesperado -

You wrote:

"We should not be spending time (much less forming policy upon) trying to understand Muslims in the sense that we can reform them or mollify them. All our time with regard to them (and resulting policies) should be spent on trying to protect ourselves from them. Understanding their imperfections then, of course, should be exploited to that end."

I couldn't agree more.