Source: Huffington Post
By Akbar Ahmed; Chair of Islamic Studies at American University
One of the right-wing tropes about Islam in Europe, which is making alarming inroads into the mainstream, is that it represents a “culture of backwardness, of retardedness, of barbarism” and has made no contribution to Western civilization. Islam provides an easy target considering that some 3,000 or more Europeans are estimated to have left for the Middle East in order to fight alongside the Islamic State. The savage beheadings and disgusting treatment of women and minorities confirm in the minds of many that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization. This has become a widely known, and even unthinkingly accepted, proposition. But is it correct?
Let us look at European history for answers. At least 10 things will surprise you:
1. Contrary to common belief, Muslims did not first arrive in Europe with the intention of conquering it.
A small military contingent landed on the southern coast of Spain in 711 in response to the pleadings of the Jewish community, which faced harsh persecution under the Visigoth rulers. The arrival of the Muslims and their victory prevented what New York University Professor David Levering Lewis terms “the final solution.” Christian leaders like Count Julian, whose daughter had been dishonored at court, had also been requesting Muslim intervention. It is precisely this reason, the support of large sections of local society, that allowed the Muslims to so easily establish their domination over Al-Andalus.
2. By describing Muslims as “backward”, “retarded” and “barbaric,” it is suggested that they are not capable of balancing their religion with rational thought. Yet Muslims had already attained a balance between the two positions centuries before other European societies.