In his speech in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009, President Obama stated:
"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance."
Civilization is indeed indebted to Islam for Europe's Renaissance, but the President's speech was conspicuous in its omission of certain details.
The Renaissance was a revival of interest in Greek art, architecture, sculpture and philosophy, brought about by Greeks fleeing the Islamic invasion of the Byzantine Empire.
It began in the year 1071, when Turkish Muslims defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert and proceeded to invade the Byzantine Empire, which is today Turkey.
First Muslim Seljuk Turks, followed by Muslim Ottoman Turks, turned Byzantine Churches into mosques, melted church bells into cannons, leveled cities, dug up remains of Christian Saints and gave them to dogs.
In fact, civilization is indebted to Islam for Santa Claus, for in 1087, to prevent desecration, Christians moved the bones of Saint Nicholas, the generous 4th century Bishop of Myra, to Bari, Italy, thus introducing his gift-giving traditions to Western Europe.
Later Muslim Ottoman Turks took boys from Christian families and forced them into the Sultan's service as janissary soldiers, and if they were handsome, into Muslim pederasty - "the sodomy of the Turks."
In 1095, the proud Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, humbled himself and sent ambassadors to beg the Roman Catholic Pope for help.
Robert the Monk recorded in the Medieval Sourcebook (Fordham University) that Pope Urban II pled at the Council of Clermont for Europe's monarchs to help their Byzantine brethren, whom Muslims "compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow."
In 1097, Europe sent help - the First Crusade.
In the next 200 years there were nine major Crusades, notable among them were the 3rd Crusade, led by Richard the Lionheart, and the 7th and 8th Crusades, led by Saint Louis, King Louis IX of France, for whom the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, was named.
Toward the end of the Crusades, a Muslim warlord arose named Tamerlane (1336-1405).
Related to Genghis Khan, Tamerlane killed an estimated 17 million, conquering from the Black Sea to India.
Tamerlane built a grand mosque at his capital of Samarkand and had a Qur'an so large it had to be carried in a wheelbarrow. He insisted his troops observe Islamic prayer, even on marches, which brought complaints from his soldiers.
Tamerlane captured Moscow and the Afghan city of Isfizar, building a tower of bricks, mortar and 2,000 prisoners cemented into it.
He destroyed the city of Kartid, massacred 70,000 in Ishfahan and destroyed Sarai Berke, one of Eastern Europe's largest cities with a population of 600,000.
In his memoir "Malfuzat-i-Timuri," Tamerlane wrote:
"There arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels and to become a ghazi, for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr.
"It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India.
"In this matter I sought an omen from the Qur'an, and the verse I opened upon was this, 'O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity.' (Sura 66:9)
"My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I ordered an expedition against them."
Tamerlane slaughtered 100,000 in Delhi, leaving pyramids of skulls. His memoirs record that at Hardwar his troops:
"Displayed great courage...slaying the foe (during a bathing festival on the bank of the Ganges)...
"So many of them were killed that their blood ran down the mountains and plain, and thus (nearly) all were sent to hell."
Tamerlane turned west and captured Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus, leaving 20 towers of skulls. He bombarded the Christian city of Smyrna with decapitated heads of its fallen defending knights.
Tamerlane buried alive 4,000 Georgian soldiers and forced their Christian King, Bagrat V, to convert to Islam at sword point.
French Academy member, Rene' Grousset (1885-1952), wrote in his original edition of L'Empire Des Steppes (p. 513), how in 1403, Tamerlane destroyed all the Christian churches in Georgia's capital of Tiflis:
"Mongols were mere barbarians who killed simply because for centuries this had been the instinctive behavior of nomad herdsmen toward sedentary farmers.
"To this ferocity Tamerlane added a taste for religious murder. He killed from Qur'anic piety. ('Il tuait par piete coranique')
"He represents a synthesis, probably unprecedented in history, of Mongol barbarity and Muslim fanaticism, and symbolizes that advanced form of primitive slaughter which is murder committed for the sake of an abstract ideology, as a duty and a sacred mission."
To escape the Islamic invasion, Byzantine Greek scholars fled west to Florence, Italy, bringing with them their architecture, art, sculpture and philosophy, fueling Europe's fascination with Greek culture.
This was called the "Renaissance," which President Obama reminded Europeans they were indebted to Islam for.
Additionally, as Greeks fled west with their ancient manuscripts, scholars began translating the Bible not just from Latin, but from Greek - thus laying the groundwork for the Reformation, - so even Protestants are indirectly indebted to Islam for the Reformation.
In fact, the very concept of "Europe" was a result of Islamic invasion, as previously, Europe viewed itself as innumerable independent kingdoms.
"As a student of history," President Obama did indeed acknowledge "civilization's debt to Islam...paving the way for Europe's Renaissance," though his lack of detail hints of a little intentional ambiguity, or as it has been euphemistically called, "obamaguity."
How about that "Muslim Intellectual Achievement”
“It was Islam—at places like Al-Azhar—that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment,” Our brilliant Messiah asserted.
In historical fact, a number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule—by no means all of them Muslims either nominally or substantially—have played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to the West… but it was the Westerners who were able to make good use of them. Their assertions were subjected to rigorous testing by a recognized adversarial method of proof. They were thus able to proceed to “the invention of invention,” the institutionalization of research, resulting in the exponential growth of knowledge.
It is said that when the Caliph Umar conquered Alexandria he had its huge library burned, saying that if the writings contained within were in agreement with the Koran, then they were redundant and therefore useless; if they disagreed with the holy book of the Muslims, then they were blasphemous and must be burned. Modern Muslims delight in debunking this apocryphal story as anti-Islamic slander; yet it was not invented by Christians or Jews, but by Umar’s twelfth century successors to justify the end of critical inquiry, ijtihad.
After the brief period of flourishing—first in Baghdad and then in Spain—the “light of learning” was thus extinguished and a long decline started, almost a thousand years ago. It still continues. The Golden Age of Islam was “golden” only on its own terms; whatever flourished, it did in spite of Islam. It never encouraged science—disinterested inquiry—because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge. By claiming that it is otherwise, Obama is not doing us—or them—any favors. The late Oriana Fallaci offered a resolute reply to “the fatal question” of what is behind the other culture: “We can search and search and find only Mohammed with his Koran and Averroe with his scholarly merits, his second-hand Commentaries on Aristotle”—all worthy but, on the whole, pretty second-rate stuff, really.
Obama’s claim that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story… and since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States” is ridiculous, of course, but can be dismissed as relatively harmless rubbish. By contrast, his assertion that “throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality” is outrageous. It was merely compounded by his claim that “the Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”
What Islam has demonstrated throughout history is that it contains a highly developed doctrine, theology, and legal system of mandatory violence against non-believers. It was the first political ideology to adopt terrorism as a systemic tool of policy, not as a temporary and unwelcome expedient. While it is possible to dispute the details of al-Qaeda’s theological justifications for terror, it is not possible to dispute that its arguments are based on standard Islamic sources, precedents, and methods of deduction. Those sources and principles are independent of any dubious or capricious interpretations of the Koran or the Hadith. The gap between the pillars of respected “mainstream” Islamic thought at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University and “the Evil” of 9-11 does not compare to the gap between Pope Benedict and Eric Rudolph, but merely to that between Vladimir Ilich Lenin and Pol Pot.
Obama’s view that colonialism and the Cold War had denied rights and opportunities to Muslims, prompting blowback from “violent extremists,” reflects the prevailing dogma of the Western elite class which sees the jihadist mindset as a pathology that can and should be treated by treating causes external to Islam itself. Predictable failure of this approach merely leads to ever more pathological self-scrutiny and morbid self-doubt.
Even Obama’s Koranic quote was a distortion of verse 5:32, which states that “if anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land [emphasis added]—it would be as if he slew the whole people.” Immediately thereafter follows a list of horrid torments for those who create “mischief,” including death by crucifixion. That loophole embraces all those who resist the establishment of the Muslim rule or who disobey the sharia once it is established. Furthermore, Obama should be told—unless he knows well, but does not want us to know—that one single Koranic verse, “the Verse of the Sword” (9:5, which gives the infidel the choice between conversion or death) abrogates all 124 earlier verses, the ones that are quoted most regularly by Islam’s apologists to prove its tolerance and benevolence.
Great Muslim Inventors
There need not be contradiction between progress, development, and Islamic tradition, Obama said, but his assertion is belied by history. For some centuries now the Muslim world has failed to resolve the tension between the view of man’s destiny as the fulfillment of Islam and its triumph everywhere on the one hand, and the reality of the squalor and decadence on the other.
The problem has always been in the Islamic tradition. The spirit of critical inquiry essential to the growth of knowledge—without which there can be no “development”—is completely alien to it. When the Ottomans finally grasped some two centuries ago just how badly they were lagging behind Europe, their view of knowledge was that of a commodity that could be imported and used. Ever since that time Western engineers, military officers, and doctors trained their Muslim students, but the latter never managed to produce more than what was imparted to them.
“Contradiction” does exist, and it remains insoluble: the Muslim world wants the fruits of Western culture, but not the culture characterized by self-discipline, cohesion, ingenuity, and delayed gratification of free men willingly coming together for a purpose, from Greek hoplite squares to Italian guilds and American research labs. Getting the results but avoiding the undesirable trappings of democracy, of the spirit of critical inquiry and debate, is not possible. Saudi royal kleptocrats are no better at squaring the circle today than the Sultan and his advisors in the 1850s, when Turkish regiments acquired field guns and steamboats plied the Bosphorus, but there was no creative spark from within that could use foreign novelties to transform the society and jumpstart it into modernity.
The contrast with Japan in the period of Meiji Restoration is startling. The Japanese could make the transition because even without “democracy” it possessed a culture inured to discipline, approving of delayed gratification and self-restraint. By contrast, as Bernard Lewis has pointed out, Islam—fatalistic, hypersensual, and still puzzled by its own failures—was struggling even to limp along. Always reliant on the plunder of its neighbors and institutionalized robbery of its non-Muslim subjects, Islam remains as unable to create wealth today as it was unable to do so a thousand years ago. Attempts to copy Western methods of production will continue to fail for as long as they are not accompanied by the essential changes of social, political, and legal structure. Yet a society willing to accept such changes would no longer be Islamic…
Making Egypt Safe for The Brotherhood
It should be added that a dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood were invited to hear Obama’s speech in Cairo, reportedly at the insistence of the U.S. State Department and with the President’s explicit approval. This was taken by the media as “a clear sign that the Obama administration is willing to publicly challenge Egypt’s commitment to parliamentary democracy.” Indeed, just as Jimmy Carter publicly challenged the commitment of the Shah thirty years ago, with the results that are still with us today.
It is unsurprising but nevertheless depressing that Obama, too, hopes to effect the democratic transformation of the Middle East. Even if Mubarak’s tentative “commitment to parliamentary democracy” is pushed further, the end result would be detrimental to U.S. security—in Egypt and everywhere else in the region. He would be swept from power and the Muslim Brotherhood would turn Egypt into an Islamic Republic, without ever thanking Obama for the favor.
Obama’s claims about Islam’s compatibility with democracy reflect his failure to grasp that this particular model of governance is not feasible outside of the framework of ideas that sustain it. These ideas, in the case of the West, are rooted back into the history of the polis of Greece, the Scriptures, the Enlightenment, the notion of liberty, of individual responsibility resulting from the existence of individual free will, of collective creativity embodied in the rendering of classical symphonies and the launching of space missions.
Ultimately, the reason traditionally Christian societies have been able to develop democratic institutions while traditionally Muslim ones have not is the Christian concept of governmental legitimacy, which accepts the possibility of two realms. Christ Himself recognized the realm of human government as legitimate when he said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In Islam there is no such distinction. It condemns as rebellion against Allah’s supremacy the submission to any other form of law other than Sharia’s. It is noteworthy that the term “democracy” did not have an equivalent in any Muslim language until a century ago. Its fundamental principle, equality, is equally absent from the Muslim vocabulary.
As Middle East specialist Leon Hadar points out, Washington’s policy of cozying up to The Broothood and its ilk seems less “crazy if you take into consideration the current U.S. alliance with the pro-Iran Shiite fundamentalist parties in Iraq.” The Iraqi scenario entailed replacing an unpleasant secularist autocrat, Saddam Hussein, with Ayatollah Sistani’s people. In a similar vein, to bring down Bashar al-Assad—another secularist autocrat who presents no threat to America—Washington is cultivating some presumably “moderate elements” of the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.
The quest for a “moderate” variety of the Muslim Brotherhood is as absurd as the hunt for the unicorn. It is an organization based on a simple credo: Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. It was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, an Egyptian school teacher nurtured on Wahhabism, as an Islamic revivalist movement that opposed the ascendancy of secular and Western ideas in the Middle East. An Ikhwani tried to assassinate Nasser in 1954 and four others succeeded in killing his successor Anwar al-Sadat in September 1981.
During the Cold War Washington routinely pandered to various Islamists as a means of weakening secular Arab nationalist regimes. In the mid 1950s the Americans even promoted the idea of forming an Islamic bloc, led by Saudi Arabia, to counter the Nasserist movement. So Obama’s hope that the Islamists be co-opted into the system has a long bipartisan history. President Carter secretly authorized funds to help create an Islamist network that would destabilize the Soviet Union. By 1989, the jihadists thought that they had destroyed the Soviet Union and that led them to believe that they could triumph everywhere. The genie was released, but few Westerners knew this before it reached New York, Washington, Madrid, and London.
It is not the jihadists who are “distorting” Islam; the apologists and appeasers of Obama’s ilk are. Islam, in Muhammad’s revelations, traditions and their codification, threatens the rest of us. It is the religion of war and intolerance. It breeds a peculiar mindset, the one against which Burke warned when he wrote that “intemperate minds never can be free; their passions forge their fetters.” Until the petrodollars support a comprehensive and explicit Koranic revisionism capable of growing popular roots, we should seek ways to defend ourselves by disengaging from the world of Islam, physically and figuratively, by learning to keep our distance from the affairs of the Muslim world and by keeping the Muslim world away from “the world of war” that it seeks to conquer or destroy. It is a fair-minded, morally sound, and eminently achievable strategy. Obama, Bush, and so many presidents before them have been leading America in the opposite direction.
Obama was right to assert in Cairo that relations “between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it is not.” He is not telling the truth about what Islam is and what it is not, however. He is quite unworthy of our trust regarding relations between America and the greatest threat the Western world faces in the century ahead of us. That colossal failure alone makes Barack Hussein Obama wholly unfit for the post he currently occupies.
And yet still the excuses are made for Islam. In this case should we really expect anything more/less from a president who seems to make constant attempts to alienate half of "his people" and turn one race (his race, as if they aren't already the more racist group of modern times) against the other (who are too apologetic and neutered to stand up for themselves as the perceived oppressor). It's only going to get worse and I for one don't care for the idea of dhimmitude. So, as for Obama being a student of history... sure, but he's failing it miserably.