The Descent of Islamic Culture

Dr. Gerhard Falk

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Closing of the Moslem Mind


The bombing of the World Trade Center and other forms of destruction employed by Moslems around the world in terror attacks against American interests was no doubt instigated by those Moslems who resent the technological superiority of the West and fear the secularization which has been part of Western culture for the past one hundred years.

Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University has written a book concerning this issue and calls it “What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response”.

In that book Lewis discusses how it came about that Europe and therefore America rose to cultural ascendancy while Islam has been in decline since its “Golden Age” during the years 700-1200.

During those years Islamic countries led the world in the highest standards of living, in literature, scholarship, science and medicine. Most important for the Jews of that day was the relative tolerance shown non-Moslems, in particular Jews.

For example, the rabbinical colleges of Sura and Pumbeditha, which were located close to Baghdad, served the Jews of Islam. The Gaonim, such as Saadia ben Joseph, wrote vast tomes of scholarship in Arabic as did other Jewish poets and scholars.

There were many Jews in Arabic speaking lands in those days. In the seventh century there were 40,000 Jews in Egypt alone and after the conquest of Spain by the Moslems in the eighth century (711) the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry surpassed anything the European Jews had ever experienced. By the tenth century Jews had risen to great prominence in Moslem Spain so that Hasdai ibn Shapruth and Samuel Halevi and others became “Grand Viziers” in Moslem principalities. Jewish schools flourished in Moslem Spain and elsewhere and a virtual Jewish aristocracy was formed in that country. It was reported that in the Spanish city of Toledo there were 70,000 Jews at a time when the population of any European city was far smaller that it is now.

All this ended with the Christian reconquest of Spain following the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. Of course, Moslems viewed the Europe of that day as a remote province of no greater meaning then than America seemed to the Europeans of the seventeenth century. Far away and not important.

As Islam declined after 1453, the West became more and more industrialized. Furthermore, Westerners included Arabic culture in their curricula while the Arabs ignored all Western culture. As a result, the Arab-Moslem world gradually lost contact with the advances in technology and science developed in Europe. Western democracy was also ignored in Arab lands.

The result of this divorce of Islam from western culture left all Moslem lands far behind in science, technology, inventions, discoveries and general knowledge. Except for oil, Moslem countries hardly export anything today. Their countries are medieval dictatorships. Illiteracy is rampant among the Arabs of this day and only a few enjoy a Western education.

Those elites who have such an education are generally envious of Western lifestyles and resent that Western culture is imposing itself on them. Some, like Osama bin Laden, blame the United States for the failure of Moslem society to “keep up” with the West. They hate America and they hate Israel.

Their real hatred is for themselves and their failure to reach the level of sophistication, freedom and achievement represented by Israel and its “high tech” society. Therein lies the major “root-cause” of all the pain and suffering the Arabs have brought on themselves, Israel and us these many years. May they soon recognize that hatred and resentment are not the answer to their problems but the teachings of Judaism are their salvation.

Shalom u’vracha.

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