Islam vs. the West, Round 1


England's Guardian (yes) has a review of Richard Fletcher's The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation. In general, Karen Armstrong praises the book, which has obvious relevance to the current moment. She concludes her review:

While Muslims established fruitful relations with Mongols, Greeks and Hindus, they remained utterly uninterested in the west. The great 14th-century traveller Ibn Battutah journeyed all over the known world, but never visited Europe. His contemporary, Ibn Khaldun, a historian and faylasuf (philosopher), dismisses the rumour that philosophy and science were developing in western Christendom: "God knows best what goes on in those parts."

Why this indifference? It springs, I believe, not from an inherent flaw in "one-text" Islam, but from the kind of superiority that, until recently, caused western people to dismiss Islam with such patrician disdain. In the early 16th century, when Fletcher ends his account, the Ottoman empire was probably the most advanced state in the world, and had no way of knowing that Europe, which had for so long been a backward region, was about to develop a civilisation that was entirely without precedent in world history, and which would have a catastrophic effect on the Muslim world.

[Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily]