President Obama recently decided to travel to Egypt to speak at a university in Cairo. In it, the self-proclaimed student of history had this to say:
“I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed”
I too am a student of history, and I would like to offer a different interpretation of the facts. The reason people (rightly) study history is to interpret facts. A very small amount of a good historian’s time is spent accumulating facts. The bulk of his time is spent on examining the facts to draw conclusions and learn from past mistakes and failures.
Briefly, Al-Azhar University, the example Obama employs to illustrate his conclusion that Islam and Muslim communities are responsible for all the wonderful things Arabs have contributed to civilization, is a poor one. This is the university responsible for expelling and filing a report with the state that one of their students had committed a grave crime: fighting for women’s rights and secularism on a personal blog, and arguing against professors who sought to stifle his freedom to think. This is the antithesis of “[carrying] the light of learning”, Mr. Obama. (Although, faced with trying to argue that Islam was the torch for innovation and education that led to the Renaissance and Enlightenment, Al-Azhar University does look like a beacon of light.)
Attributing developments in mathematics and science to Islam is ridiculous and dangerous. Islam did not produce any of those values; the mind of the free-thinking Arab did. Islam produces the same type of “education” that those officials at Al-Azhar did: one that teaches faith as a means of knowledge. The human mind is heroic because it produces the values necessary for a long and happy life when it is taught how to think and given the freedom to do so. Nothing is more evil than that which represses the mind, i.e., faith.
The Arabs who contributed to mathematics and science were Arabs who benefits from saturating themselves in Greek culture- reason- via Alexandria. In other words, the Arabs responsible for creating the values Mr. Obama mentions might have been Muslim in name but they were Greek in thought, and that is what was responsible for their discoveries.
President Obama had some finer points right, but his conclusion were way off the mark. Islam is a true culture of death, not the lighthouse in a world gone dark. It seeks to stifle the human mind, thereby destroying man’s source of creating the values needed to sustain his life. In contrast, the culture of life, of morality, is that of the Greek’s and the West’s in general, because it promotes thinking among its citizens’ minds, thereby freeing the mind to create the values need to sustain his life.
The fact that Islam’s death cult was equated with the culture responsible for the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the same culture as America’s, in such a salient speech heard around the world is an unforgivable act for an American president.