Wednesday, February 12, 2003


Apologists for Islam often speak of a �Golden Age� in mediaeval times when the Islamic world was allegedly more civilized than the Christian world. But that is mostly hype. The Muslim Arabs got most of their civilization when they took over Zoroastrian Persia and most of their ancient Greek texts direct from the Greeks themselves.

Yes. The Greeks did not fade away after the death of Alexander the Great. They continued on in the Eastern Mediterranean just as before. And when they were conquered by Rome, Rome simply took over their culture. The teachers for educated Roman youth were generally Greek. Far from suppressing Greek learning. Rome admired and promoted it. And anybody who knows his Bible knows how strong Greek culture still was in the time of St Paul. St Paul spoke Greek and wrote his letters in Greek to congregations in Greek cities such as Ephesus, Corinth etc.

And St Paul did not labour in vain. Christianity flourished in Greek lands. So 300 years later when the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire was set up it was both Greek and Christian from the beginning. Its headquarters was what we now call Turkey but it extended far and wide at various times. It was founded as a Christian empire by Constantine the Great and continued on as a fervently Christian empire for nearly 1000 years. But its culture was Greek and all the old Greek learning was preserved there. Although the Byzantines called themselves Romans, they spoke Greek -- mainly because they were Greek. And Byzantium coexisted with Islam for 500 years -- plenty of time for Greek culture to percolate across the borders -- which it did.

So the idea that the Muslims preserved ancient Greek learning is a laugh. The Greeks themselves preserved Greek learning and had a great Christian Greek civilization flourishing right alongside the Arab world for 500 years. The Christians taught the Arabs, not vice versa.

So the acclaimed civilization of Moorish (Islamic) Spain in the middle ages was little more than a projection of Byzantine culture and that was theological rather than philosophical and certainly not liberal in any sense. So Islam has not regressed. It has stood still. It was never innovative and is now just about as good or bad as ever it was. If you want to see what it was in the past look at what it is now.


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