Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Importance of Knowing History

A thought-provoking article from Global Politician. Fjordman - 10/16/2007 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. Rest of story.

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