Clever Name To Come Later

Clever Name To Come Later

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Learning from Islam

Tariq Ramadan, whom Ian Buruma says is regarded as an 'Islamic superstar', has decided to tell us what the West can learn from Islam.

At least, that's the title of his essay in the February 16, 2007 issue of The Chronicle Review. But what can we learn from Islam? Ramadan never does quite tell us.

Oh, he does mention two Muslims from more than half a millennium ago who had an influence on Western thought -- Averroës and Ibn Khaldun -- but nothing more recent than that. And, in truth, how could he? There simply have been no important Muslim thinkers since Ferdinand and Isabella threw the Muslims out of Spain in 1492.

So what are we to learn from Islam? Science? Well, perhaps not -- the only important Muslim scientists of the past 500 years (Salam and Zewail) practiced their craft in the West. Nor is it possible to imagine a scientific breakthrough coming out of Cairo or Islamabad or Jakarta.

Perhaps we are to learn tolerance from the Sunnis and the Shi'ites.

Sorry. Bad joke.

Perhaps we should learn politics from the examples of, say, Libya, Iran, Palestine, and Egypt.

Oh. Worse joke.

Actually, Ramadan seems to think that we need to learn diversity from Islam.

No, that's not a joke. He writes, "... the presence of Muslims in Western societies is of vital interest for those societies themselves. The West today runs a substantial risk of seeing itself as a monolithic whole, as a civilization based exclusively on Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian tradition, to whose specific nature Islam is an outsider. The presence of Muslims makes it imperative to reconsider that selective, erroneous historical construction."

So Ramadan would have us break the monolith and replace our history with a fictional construct, as if the (wholly marginal) Averroës and Ibn Khlduns of the Middle Ages somehow have equal standing with Moses, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, and Newton. Is this, then, learning?

Well, yes: that is apparently what passes for learning among the Muslims. Ramadan rambles for 3300 words, but can find absolutely nothing -- or nothing factual -- that the West can learn from Islam. Yet he is, by all accounts, the best scholar Islam has to offer.

But isn't that a relief? There is no longer any reason for any of us to give Islam a single moment's further thought. Tariq Ramadan has proven that it is utterly irrelevant to the Western -- which is to say, the modern -- world.

posted by vepxistqaosani 8:56 PM

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Who or what is vepxistqaosani? The hero of the medieval Georgian epic, The Knight in Panther Skin by Shota Rustaveli. You could look it up ... use the spelling ვეფხისტყაოსანი to see it in Georgian. And why use an unspellable and unpronounceable moniker? Just for fun ... and to do a little to popularize Georgian culture beyond the Caucasus.