Saturday, July 06, 2002

I've added a link to Telford Works' excellent blog, Clutter from the Desk of Telford Work over on the left. As someone who has read, profited from, and mentally argued with the work of theologian Stanley Hauerwas over the years, I refer you to Work's site for links and reactions to the controversy over some remarks of Hauerwas' post (and pre-) 9/11. Work also has some interesting comments on the stagnation of Islamic world. Let me quote a passage that goes to the heart of the matter:

It took only a few centuries for the Muslim empires to burn through the cultural capital it inherited from late antiquity. Early Muslims relied on Jewish and Christian expertise to administer their territories (John of Damascus, for instance, worked for a while as the Christians' representative to the caliph). Early modern Muslims, unable at first to incorporate themselves into businesses, needed people free from the sharia to be engines of economic ingenuity.

I would follow this up by asserting that Islam is a fundamentally parasitic faith. It is tempting to quote a comment attributed to Samuel Johnson about a new work he had read; "Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is orignal is not good." The great vitality of the Muslim empires came from a prodigious borrowing from their non-Muslim predecessors. In addition to the Jewish and Christian influences mentioned by Work, there was also the influence of Persia, a great empire with its own heritage, and the material and cultural treasures of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Northern India. What we call "Arabic" numbers, including the zero, were adapted from Hindu mathematicians. The Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban were some of the last relics of a civilization annihilated by the Islamic "religion of peace." Islam flowers in the aftermath of the rape of a higher culture. With the end of conquest comes stagnation.

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