The first post tells why. It may be too little, but hopefully not too late.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Geese and the Muslim civilization

An interesting film has made its way into the Uncharted Forest. Titled 1001 Inventions, it features "Oscar-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley". Copyrighted and bearing a "Not for reproduction" sign, it is reposted many times on YouTube with the titles like "THE BEST THING WEST DO ABOUT ISLAM" (sic). It does indeed come from the West, namely from the UK, from "a global educational initiative that promotes awareness of a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim civilisation from the 7th century onwards, and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world." It is made in collaboration with the British "Jameel Foundation", which can be traced to an apparently Saudi gentleman, Abdul Latif Jameel, about whom "HRH Prince Saud ben Abdul Muhsin" said, "My friend, Engineer Mohammed Jameel, is considered a first-class community servant." The servant may be not that upstanding though, because his business has been monitored by the Saudi authorities "to trace whether they were being used, possibly unwittingly, to siphon money to terrorist groups". An English court in 2002 judged the Wall Street Journal report about that to be a defamation and awarded damages to Mr. Jameel, but that decision was later annulled by a higher court.

The film is made in the traditions of Harry Potter and National Treasure, with magic and ghosts of ancient inventors in turbans, and fairy-tale-like soundtrack. Whiffs of smoke containing drafts of things like airplanes and space shuttles appear in the air, giving an impression that they were thought about by the Muslim Leonardos. It sounds like we owe so much to the "Muslim civilisation".

With all the effects, however, it sounds about as convincing as the Soviet propaganda about how everything was first invented in Russia. But, with all the effects, it is much more pathetic than the Soviet propaganda. First, regardless of whether all the content is factually true, it is uncertain whether you can ascribe all these ancient inventions to the "Muslim civilization", or whether Islam had anything to do with those inventions, like, for instance, Judaism had to do with the "Jewish" discoveries, because of the spirit of intellectual inquiry and the value of education in the Jewish culture. Related to that, not all the famous ibn's and Abu's of that civilization were Muslim, even though they lived in the countries conquered by the Muslims. And not all Muslims associated with a discovery necessarily made it. Another difference is that at least the Soviets made their propaganda themselves for themselves. Here, the film  borrows a Western school setting - imaginary Western at that, a la Harry Potter's Hogwarts school, with a British actor suddenly turning into somebody donning a fairy-tale "Islamic" garb (is he possessed by some incubus - and why does he disappear at the end instead of just turning back into a British librarian?), to reveal the facts known from the Western history books - to what exactly audience? Is this part of the concerted and desperate effort to make Muslims feel good about themselves - the task that is assigned now even to NASA? Is it in hope that, reassured in this manner in their worthiness, Muslims will stop thinking about their more traditional means of reassuring themselves - by jihad, murder, terror and conquest? It was not by gentle persuasion and awe of the Muslim "1001 inventions" that "For a thousand years, Muslim civilisation stretched from southern Spain as far as China", as the website puts it.

The film originates from the exhibition in the British Museum, and "was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation  (FSTC), a British based non-profit, non-religious and academic organization. Working with world’s leading academics, 1001 Inventions engages with the public through educational media and interactive global exhibitions, in order to highlight the shared cultural and technological inheritance of humanity." Not much about humanity in that film - none but the Muslim religion is mentioned, although the website gives a brief nod to "highlight the scientific and technological achievements made by men and women, of different faiths and cultures that lived in Muslim civilization".

The most pathetic thing about this, however, is the very fact that to prove their worth (to whom?), Muslims or their enthusiastic British fans cannot appeal to anything but "their" achievements of many centuries ago. In a fable, geese who did not want to become a meal argued that because their ancestors had saved Rome they were exempt. The argument did not work for the geese, if you are unfamiliar with the fable. The Islamic culture of today has so far brought into the world medieval mentality, mass murder, barbaric executions of innocents, female genital mutilation and enslavement, global blackmail and suppression of free speech, wars, rebirth of genocidal antisemitism and other similar achievements that no feel-good 1001 Inventions film or NASA Muslim outreach can fix - neither to convince Westerners nor to mollify the jihadis. The 1001 Nights was at least fun to read.

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