Myths about Islamic ScienceIn response to arguments presented in the previous post, I will post Hugh Fitzgerald's reply at Jihad Watch to claims made by Muslim reformist Irshad Manji. The one bad thing about Jihad Watch is that the largely unmoderated comments do not always hold the same quality as those of Robert Spencer and Hugh:
Irshad Manji and Islamic history
What is called, too loosely, "Islamic" or -- still worse -- "Arabic" science was in fact the product of many non-Muslims as well as Muslims. The famous translators in Baghdad and Corboda were almost entirely Jews and Christians. Even among the Muslims, none of the major figures were Arabs, but rather Persians and some from Central Asia (as al-Farabi) -- a possible reflection of the importance of having something other than Islam, which is all the Arab Muslims possessed, in the cultural background.
Who cares what the real story was? Who cares that so much of the 200-300 years of achievement depended so much on borrowing and transmission -- paper-making from China brought to Damascus (see Dard Hunter), the concept of zero brought from India to the MIddle East. And those acts of translation were important -- but why act as if the translation of some books of Aristotle rival in importance Aristotle himself, or why refuse to note that while Aristotle was translated, as a living thing, to be acted upon and developed, it was only in the Western world that Aristotle had influence. He remained, an authority but an inert one, for Islamic students of Aristotle.
There were two possible outlets: architecture, and calligraphy. As for Islamic architecture, so heavily dependent on Byzantine models (e.g., the squinch) and naturally on Byzantine workmen -- for Arab tribesmen could not suddenly become experts in architecture. The Dome of the Rock is a Byzantine martyrium -- there is nothing especially Islamic about it. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is essentially built upon the vast Christian church that was there first, and much of which remains. There have been Islamic architects -- Sinan comes to mind -- and some beautiful mosques, mainly in Persia and Central Asia. But a good-sized city in Italy contains more art work than all of Islamic civilization ever produced. Surely that is worth noting.