Monday, April 02, 2007


Wouldn't you know it, another superb essay from Fjordman:

Europe, 480 BC:
"Come and take them!"

Leonidas, King of Sparta, to the vastly more numerous Persian forces calling for the Greeks to lay down their arms during the battle of Thermopylae. Leonidas and his men died in battle after holding their ground for three days, but bought the Greek city-states enough time to defeat the Persians and permanently end Persian inroads into Europe.

Europe, 2004 AD:

"We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us."

Jens Orback, Minister for Democracy, Metropolitan Affairs, Integration and Gender Equality from the Swedish Social Democratic Party during a debate in Swedish radio.

Europe, 2006 AD:

You stone your mothers
Flog your sisters
Mutilate your daughters
Behind veils
But I want to be your friend

Norwegian singer Åge Aleksandersen in his song "Æ vil vær din venn" ("I want to be your friend") about his relationship with Muslims. No irony was intended in the lyrics.

Henry Ford once famously said that "History is bunk." Personally, I subscribe more to the view of Edmund Burke: "People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors." Knowing your people's history is crucially important when you want to shape your future. Unfortunately, especially in my native Europe, we are either suffering from a deliberate historical amnesia or are being spoon-fed a mixture of half-truths and outright lies.

One of the most persistent myths so eagerly promoted by Eurabians is that of the "shared Greco-Roman heritage" between Europeans and Arabs, which is now going to lay the foundations for a new Euro-Mediterranean entity, 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 or France. However, the Arab conquerors later rejected many elements of this Greco-Roman era once they invaded these nations.

As British philosopher Roger Scruton has explained, one of the most important legacies of the Roman Empire was the idea of secular laws, which were unconcerned with a person's religious affiliations as long as he accepted the political authority of the Roman state. This left a major impact on Christian Europe, but was neglected in the Arab Middle East because it clashed fundamentally with the basic principles of sharia, the law of Allah. Scruton calls this "the greatest of all Roman achievements, which was the universal system of law as a means for the resolution of conflicts." The Roman law was secular and "could change in response to changing circumstances. That conception of law is perhaps the most important force in the emergence of European forms of sovereignty."

Likewise, it is true that Arabs translated some Greek classics, but they were highly particular about which ones to include or exclude. Historian Bernard Lewis writes in his book What Went Wrong?, page 139:

"In the vast bibliography of works translated in the Middle Ages from Greek into Arabic, we find no poets, no dramatists, not even historians. These were not useful and they were of no interest; they did not figure in the translation programs. This was clearly a cultural rejection: you take what is useful from the infidel; but you don't need to look at his absurd ideas or to try and understand his inferior literature, or to study his meaningless history."

Iranian intellectual Amir Taheri agrees:

"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."

In other words: There was a great deal of Greek knowledge that could never have been "transferred" to Europeans by Arabs, as is frequently claimed by Western Multiculturalists, because many Greek works had never been translated into Arabic in the first place. Arabs 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.

Lars Hedegaard, president of the Danish Free Press Society, believes that economic progress hinges on free speech. In the 1760s, a scientific expedition financed by the king of Denmark set out from Copenhagen destined for Egypt, today's Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey. The objective was to study all aspects of these lands, their culture, history and peoples. Only one participant survived, the German Carsten Niebuhr, whose notes have left us with important information from this period.

Notice that this expedition was partly arranged due to Western intellectual curiosity. Ibn Warraq has severely criticized Edward Said and his book "Orientalism" for ignoring what has been a hallmark of Western civilization: the seeking after knowledge for its own sake: "The Greek word, historia, from which we get our 'history,' means 'research' or 'inquiry,' and Herodotus believed his work was the outcome of research: what he had seen, heard, and read but supplemented and verified by inquiry."

This part of the Greek heritage was, again, carefully ignored by Muslims. Carsten Niebuhr's writings leave a powerful impression of a region that was primitive underdeveloped and steeped in Islamic fatalism. This was prior to European colonialism in the area and before the United States had even been created. Western influences thus had nothing had to do with it; the backwardness was caused by local cultural factors.

About Mesopotamia (Iraq), Niebuhr had this to say: "In Cairo there is at least still a store where the Muhammedans can buy old books. In Baghdad one will not find that sort of thing. If one collects books here, and is neither prepared to copy them oneself nor to let others copy them, one must wait till somebody dies and his books and clothes are carried to the bazar, where they are offered for sale by a crier. A European who wants to buy Arabian, Turkish or Persian manuscripts will find no better opportunity than in Constantinople for here at least there is a sort of bookstore where Christians—at least Oriental Christians—can buy books" (Niebuhr, Vol. 2, p. 305)

Printing had not been adopted in the Muslim Middle East due to religious resistance. Three centuries after Gutenberg had invented the movable type printing press in 15th century Europe, and a thousand years after the earliest versions of printing were invented in China, books were still rare in Muslim countries and could be bought most easily when somebody died.

Printing was reinvented in Europe at exactly the same time as the last vestige of the ancient Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire (Constantinople), fell to Turkish Muslims. It was a major stroke of historical luck that the classical texts that had been preserved by the Byzantines for a thousand years could now be rescued forever by printing instead of quietly disappearing. It was printing, introduced during the later stages of the Renaissance, that ensured that the Renaissance marked a permanent infusion of Greek knowledge into Western thought, not just a temporary one.

According to historian Elizabeth L. Eisenstein and her celebrated book "The Printing Press as an Agent of Change", page 220:

"The classical editions, dictionaries, grammars and reference guides issued from print shops made it possible to achieve an unprecedented mastery of Alexandrian learning even while laying the basis for a new kind of permanent Greek revival in the West. (...) We now tend to take for granted that the study of Greek would continue to flourish after the main Greek manuscript centers had fallen into alien hands [Constantinople in 1453] and hence fail to appreciate how remarkable it was to find that Homer and Plato had not been buried anew but had, on the contrary, been disinterred forever more. Surely Ottoman advances would have been catastrophic before the advent of printing. Texts and scholars scattered in nearby regions might have prolonged the study of Greek but only in a temporary way."

Eisenstein also points out that printing greatly facilitated the Scientific Revolution in the West. Young students could rely on the wide diffusion of works by earlier masters, and could thus bypass their own teachers and educate themselves. The young Sir Isaac Newton took full advantage of available libraries, learned by himself from mathematicians, modern and ancient, and astronomers such as Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler in order to develop his ideas about gravity into his 1687 treatise Principia.

In the notes from his travels, Carsten Niebuhr wrote about the state of the desert around the Syrian town of Aleppo: "Under the Muhammedan and especially Turkish administration the most beautiful areas have been turned into wastelands. This despotic government does not protect the inhabitants bordering the desert provinces against the Arabs, Kurds or Turkomen, who live under tents and wander about with their cattle and who like to reap what they have not sown.. Unconcerned whether the peasant is robbed of his grain or his cattle, they let the taxes be collected with all possible severity; little by little the peasants leave their ancestral dwellings where they can no longer secure their livelihood; the fields are no longer plowed but abandoned to wandering bands of people and thus the limits of the desert are expanding more and more" (Niebuhr, Vol. 2, p. 457).

The famous 14th century Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta visited Cairo, Egypt, and gave this description of the Great Pyramids: "The pyramid is an edifice of solid hewn stone, of immense height and circular plan, broad at the base and narrow at the top, like the figure of a cone." This grossly incorrect description of them as circular strongly indicates that he never actually saw them, possibly because he as a devout Muslim didn't find such infidel monuments worthy of attention. His attitude is indicative of the general view of many Muslims, who were at best uninterested in non-Muslim cultures, past or present, at worst actively hostile.

Saladin or Salah al-Din, the twelfth century general loved by Muslims for his victories against the Crusaders, is renowned even in Western history for his supposedly tolerant nature. Very few seem to remember that his son Al-Aziz Uthman, the second sultan of the Ayyubid Dynasty founded by Saladin and presumably influenced by his father's religious convictions, actually tried to demolish the Great Pyramids of Giza only three years after his father's death in 1193. The reason why we can still visit them today is because the task at hand was so big that he eventually gave up the attempt. He did, however, manage to inflict significant damage to Menkaure's Pyramid, the smallest of the Great Pyramids, which contains scars clearly visible to this day. It is tempting to view this as a continuation of his father's Jihad against non-Muslims:

"When king Al-Aziz Othman, son of [Saladdin] succeeded his father, he let himself be persuaded by some people from his Court, who were devoid of good sense, to demolish the pyramids. One started with the red pyramid, which is the third of the great pyramids, and the smallest. (...) They brought there a large number of workmen from all around, and supported them at great cost. They stayed there for eight whole months (...) This happened in the year 593 [ i.e. 1196 AD)."

Such vandalism has been a recurring feature of Islamic nations throughout the ages. Guarding the pyramids at the Giza Plateau is the Great Sphinx. However, sphinxes in ancient times usually appeared in pairs, and there are indications in both classical and medieval sources that the Sphinx used to have a twin. According to archaeologist Michael Poe, there was another sphinx facing the famous one on the other side of the Nile, but it was damaged during a Nile flood, and then completely dismantled by Muslims using it as a quarry for their villages.

The legend that the missing nose of the Great Sphinx was removed by Napoleon Bonaparte's artillery during the French expedition to Egypt 1798-1801 is not only factually incorrect, it's ludicrous to anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of history. Sketches indicate that the nose was gone long before this. The Egyptian fifteenth century historian al-Maqrizi attributes the act to Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr, a Sufi Muslim. According to al-Maqrizi, in the fourteenth century, upon discovering that local peasants made offerings to the Sphinx to bless their harvest, al-Dahr became furious at their idolatry and decided to destroy the statue, managing only to break off its nose. It is hard to confirm whether this story is accurate, but if it is, it demonstrates that Sufis are not always the soft and tolerant Muslims they are made out to be.

Far from damaging the Sphinx, the French expedition brought large numbers of scientists to Egypt to catalog the ancient monuments, thus founding modern Egyptology. The trilingual Rosetta Stone, discovered by the French in 1799, was employed by philologist Jean-François Champollion to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822. In this task, Champollion made extensive use of the Coptic language, which in modern times survives only as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Coptic is a direct descendant of the language spoken in ancient Egypt, and might have been understood by pharaohs such as Tutankhamun or Ramses II, although they would no doubt have considered it a rather strange and difficult dialect.

Arab Muslims had controlled Egypt for more than a thousand years, yet never managed to decipher the hieroglyphs nor for the most part displayed much interest in doing so. Westerners did so in a single generation after they reappeared in force in Egypt. So much for "Arab science." And they did so with the help of the language of the Copts, the Egyptian Christians, the only remnant of ancient Egypt that the Arab invaders hadn't managed to completely eradicate.

According to Andrew G. Bostom, editor of "The Legacy of Jihad", the contrast between jihad and British imperialism was equally pronounced on the Indian subcontinent. Lord Curzon, who served as Viceroy and Governor-General of India from 1898-1905, stated:

"If there be any one who says to me that there is no duty devolving upon a Christian Government to preserve the monuments of pagan art or the sanctuaries of an alien faith, I cannot pause to argue with such a man. Art and beauty, and the reverence that is owing to all that has evoked human genius or has inspired human faith, are independent of creeds, and, in so far as they touch the sphere of religion, are embraced by the common religion of all mankind. Viewed from this standpoint, the rock temple of the Brahmans stands on precisely the same footing as the Buddhist Vihara, and the Mohammedan Musjid as the Christian Cathedral…To us the relics of Hindu and Mohammedan, of Buddhist, Brahmin, and Jain are, from the antiquarian, the historical, and the artistic point of view, equally interesting and equally sacred. One does not excite a more vivid and the other a weaker emotion. Each represents the glories or the faith of a branch of the human family. Each fills a chapter in Indian history."

As Hugh Fitzgerald writes, "One opens 'The World of Islam' by Ernst J. Grube and finds on p. 165 a picture of the 'Kutb Mosque (Quwaat al-Islam) Delhi' shown and described: 'Built by Kutb al-din Aibak in his fortress of Lallkot near Old Delhi in 1193. This mosque is the earliest extant monument of Islamic architecture in India and its combination of local, pre-Muslim traditions and imported architectural forms is typical of the earliest period. The mosque is built on the ruins of a Jain temple.' So the earliest 'extant monument of Islamic architecture in India' was 'built on the ruins of a Jain temple.'"

Sita Ram Goel and other writers have tracked this massive cultural vandalism in the book Hindu Temples—What Happened to Them.

Infidels would be well-advised not to believe that such cultural Jihad is a thing of the past. In the early 21st century, a religiously motivated attack on statues at a museum in Cairo by a veiled woman screaming, "Infidels, infidels!" shocked the outside world. She had been inspired by Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who quoted a saying of the prophet Muhammad that sculptors will be among those receiving the harshest punishment on Judgment Day. The influential Sheikh Youssef Al Qaradawi agreed that "Islam prohibits statues and three-dimensional figures of living creatures" and concluded that "the statues of ancient Egyptians are prohibited."

Within a few years, thousands of churches have been destroyed in Indonesia, and many more Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries have been damaged or destroyed by Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia. Saudi hardliners are even wiping out their own heritage in cities such as Mecca and Medina. The motive behind the destruction is supposedly Wahhabist fears that places of historical interest could give rise to idolatry, although critics might also suspect that they don't want researchers to dig too deep into the early history of Islam, in case this might turn out to deviate from the traditional version of it.

The great Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were demolished by the Taliban regime in 2001, who decreed that they would destroy images deemed "offensive to Islam" and that the statues had been used as idols before. Mawlawi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, who was the Taliban's governor of Bamiyan province when the fifth-century Buddha statues were blown up, was elected the Afghan parliament in 2005.

The Taliban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal in 2001 complained that "The destruction work is not as easy as people would think. You can't knock down the statues by dynamite or shelling as both of them have been carved in a cliff. They are firmly attached to the mountain."

In fact, the statues, 53 meters and 36 meters tall, the tallest standing Buddha statues in the world, turned out to be so hard to destroy that the Taliban needed help from Pakistani and Saudi engineers to finish the job. Finally, after almost a month of non-stop bombardment with dynamite and artillery, they succeeded. Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor notorious for his Islamic religious zeal and his persecution of non-Muslims in India, had attempted to achieve the same thing centuries earlier, but failed.

Indeed, judging from the experiences with the Bamiyan Buddhas, it is tempting to conclude that the only reason why the Great Pyramids of Egypt have survived to this day is because they were so big that it proved too complicated, costly and time-consuming for Muslims to destroy them. Had Saladin's son Al-Aziz had modern technology and engineers at his disposal, they might well have ended up like countless Hindu temples in India or Buddhist statues in Central Asia.

As a European, I read about this and fear for the future of the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Michelangelo's figurative paintings in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. There is every reason to believe that they will end up the same way as the Bamiyan Buddhas if we continue to allow Muslims to settle in our lands. Some would say that this is not just likely, but inevitable. Although it may not happen today, tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow, sooner or later, groups of pious Muslims will burn these works of art, and doubtlessly consider it their sacred duty.

The official reason given by many Muslims for why non-Muslims are not allowed to visit the cities of Mecca and Medina is because they might damage or destroy the Islamic Holy Sites. But since Muslims have a proven track record of more than a thousand years, from Malaysia to Armenia, of destroying non-Muslim places of worship or works of art, perhaps we should then, in return, be entitled to keep Muslims permanently away from our cultural treasures?

According to military historian Victor Davis Hanson, 2,500 years ago, almost every society in the ancient Mediterranean world had slaves, yet "only in Greece was there a constant tradition of unfettered expression and self-criticism. Aristophanes, Sophocles and Plato questioned the subordinate position of women. Alcidamas lamented the notion of slavery. Such openness was found nowhere else in the ancient Mediterranean world. That freedom of expression explains why we rightly consider the ancient Greeks as the founders of our present Western civilization."

That freedom of expression is, and long has been, totally lacking in the Islamic world. Europeans, not Muslims, are the true heirs of the Greek heritage. Maybe saying so makes me a bigot, but if so, I think I can live with that.

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