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Monday, 15 September 2014

The Islamization of the Teaching of Western Civilization

by Ricardo Duchesne

Eurabia


In the United States today only two percent of colleges offer Western Civilization as a course requirement. I teach Western Civ in two parts, but they are not required, and I had to change the title to "Sociology of Western Civilization" for approval. Since I decided to teach this subject ten years ago, I have detected in new texts, and in newer editions of older texts, a growing emphasis on Islam in their narration of the cultural history of the West.

The Western Heritage Textbook


A well-established older text is The Western Heritage, by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank Turner. This is a relatively conservative text by the standards of today. I have the tenth edition at hand, published in 2010 (a new 11th edition has just come out). I can't say when this text began to include sections on "the Western debt to Islam", cute captions on topics such as "European Embrace of a Black Saint" or an alleged "Multicultural Book Cover" from Carolingian times. But it is clear that the 2010 edition, in comparison to the first editions, with the first going back to 1979, has felt the impact of political correctness. The Wikipedia entry on the first edition(s) of this text observes:
Considered conservative and old-fashioned when it was published, reviewers chided it for ignoring the Byzantines and Ottomans as well as giving short shrift to Russia and Poland. Others indicated lack of attention to the role of the Islamic states and ignorance of Islamic sources.
But now in stark contrast it is clearly stated in the Preface that a new feature of the 10th edition is a greater emphasis on the West's connections to the rest of the world, with a series of comparative essays added at various points in the text under the general heading of "The West & the World". There is nothing wrong with this per se. Students should learn about the West's connections with the world. But something else is going on here. Without getting into details, older editions did not neglect these connections; the difference now is that academics who still teach the West — as this course has been replaced by more loving histories for Us All — feel that they can only justify the teaching of the West as long as they frame its history as an inclusive affair in which all the peoples of the world participated.

Most of the Preface reads like an effort to placate those who think that the West should no longer be taught. They are not calling for an end to the teaching of Western civilization; they are right wing liberals who believe that the West represents the first magnificent example of a civilization that speaks for humanity. The Preface notes:
Students reading this book come from a variety of cultures and experiences. They live in a world of highly interconnected economies and instant communication between cultures. In this emerging multicultural society it seems both appropriate and necessary to recognize how Western civilization has throughout its history interacted with other cultures, both influencing and being influenced by them. For this reason, we have introduced in this edition a new chapter on the nineteenth-century European age of imperialism. Further examples of Western interaction with other parts of the world, such as with Islam, appear throughout the text (xxii).

The Cultures of the West Textbook


Nevertheless, Western Heritage is still a very good text. It is the textbooks being published in current times that show the full impact of multicultural correctness. A recent text is Clifford Backman's The Cultures of the West: A History, first published in 2013. This two-volume text calls for the inclusion of the Islamic world in the West:
This book overtly...insists on including the region of the Middle East in the general narrative, as a permanent constitutive element of the Greater West. For all its current appeal, Islam is essentially a Western religion, after all...To treat the Muslim world as an occasional sideshow on the long march to western European and American world leadership is to falsify the record and to get the history wrong (xxii).
Check its front cover here. What justifications Backman offers for the "Greater West"? To students already accustomed to diversity and wobbly images about connectedness, he says that the "European world and the Middle Eastern world have been in continuous relationship for millennia". World historians, of course, follow this idea to its logical end: Europe is a continent connected to Asia, and the history of the Middle East and Asia constitute an amalgam of many cultures and civilizations, all of which have been in continuous relation with each other and with Africa, and with the Americas after 1500; therefore, a proper understanding of the history of the West requires a history of the whole world.

But Backman is a modest man seeking fairness in a world of extremes, he believes that it is possible to teach a course in Western Civ as long as this civilization is conceived as "the Greater West", which, I might add, includes not just the Near East but Muslim India and Muslim Africa. He thinks this "Greater West" is justified on the grounds that
nearly every one of the fundamental turning points in European history...have been experienced jointly by the European and Middle Eastern societies (xxii).
This is a falsification of the historical record. Nowhere in Backman's textbook do we find a substantive argument supporting this claim. For one, there is no way round the fact that the classical Greek invention of deductive reasoning, disciplined infantry warfare, invention of prose writing, analytic historical writing, discovery of the mind, the literary forms of tragedy and comedy, and citizenship politics were achieved when Islam was not in existence, and so was the Hellenistic revolution in scientific knowledge, the Roman invention of the legal persona, continuation of republican institutions, and numerous novelties in warfare and engineering. The Muslims played a role in retaining, commenting, and advancing some of the works of the classical Greeks from about the 8th century until 1200, but thereafter every single turning point in European history was accomplished by Europeans.

Proponents of connectness never care to pose why all the turning points in the making of modernity happened inside Europe; if Europe was connected to the Muslim world, and the Muslim world was connected to Europe, why can't they point to a single turning point inside the Muslim world? Even the Twelfth Century Renaissance was a uniquely European phenomenon, and so was, in fact, the Papal Revolution of the eleventh century, and numerous technological inventions and innovations.

Clifford Backman
Clifford Backman at Boston University

Volume 2, which is three times the length of Volume 1, commences with the "Renaissances and Reformations", pluralizing these two terms so as to give the impression that there were renaissances and reformations in the Middle East and North Africa. But since Backman cannot marshal a single argument demonstrating any degree of Muslim responsibility for these turning points, he is compelled to create separate sections for the Muslim world with bits of information about trade connections and European impacts on this world, as well as events in this world, none of which can be framed, however, in terms of anything that could reasonably be called a renaissance or a reformation.

The net result of making space in the text for events outside Europe is the diminution and suppression of key formative events, intellectual figures, and even whole epochs in the making of the actual West. He leaves out all the great artists of Renaissance Italy: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Botticelli, to name a few. There is nothing about how Italian merchants created modern double-entry accounting.

In separate sections, he tries to create the impression that Muslims were at the forefront of modernity; for example, in the championing of the rights of women (807). We are supposed to have a picture of Muslim co-participation in the Industrial Revolution simply on the strength of the eventual adoption by a Muslim country of techniques invented in Europe. Forget that not a single technology of this revolution is shown to have been invented in the Muslim world.

Students are actually made to think that if there was any opposition to modernity it came from the nasty Catholics. In a section, "The War on Modernism", Backman writes:
To many in the broader Western society, the [Catholic] church's war on modernism seemed a painful embarrassment, not merely a flat-out inability to understand modern scientific and textual thinking but a petulant refusal by pious ideologues to think or to allow others to do so (773).
This description actually applies to Backman. It is well known in the narrow circles of medieval scholarship that the Catholic Church played a crucial role in the development of Western modernity starting in the Middle Ages, as Thomas Woods explains in How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, Rodney Stark in Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success, and Edward Grant in The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages. In the words of J. L. Heilbron of the University of California, Berkeley:
[The] Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and probably, all other institutions.
Yet, Backman, an expert in medieval European history, though the "social history" type, ignores this literature. He acknowledges that "few of the advances and discoveries of the 19th century made much of an impact in the Islamic world", but then asks his students to show sympathy for Muslims and disapproval of Europeans:
[Muslim] opposition was not merely a knee-jerk rejection of innovative thinking. Rather it was a rejection of European political imperialism (779).
In the introduction Backman portrays himself as an edgy professor willing to rock the boat, a man with a peculiar talent for "eccentric" ideas, a dissident in a world of conformity; in short, the one and only proponent of the "Greater West". The truth is that this idea has been in the air for some time, proposed by Ian Morris in Why the West Rules — For Now, by many advocates in the West (and the Islamic world) of an "Islamo-Christian Civilization".

As I explained at length in a two-part paper (part I and part II), the idea that Europe's history has to be seen in connection to the rest of the world cannot be divorced from the political promotion of the colonization of Europe by non-Europeans through mass immigration and indoctrination. This political agenda is being pursued by all the established parties and institutions. Backman is another pawn pushing in the same direction. Deep down he knows it is about politics, and says as much in the concluding pages of his text dealing with Europe after 2001. "To center Western identity on Christianity is just bad politics." Why? Because "the Western world is increasingly Muslim" (1154).

Good politics equals the rewriting of the history of the West so as to justify the current reality of Muslim mass immigration. It does not matter that the historical evidence invalidates the concept of a "Greater West"; students must be made to believe in this concept; they must accept the current Third World colonization of their homelands. "We have often forgotten that Islam has been a Western religion from the start" (1156). From the start? There was no Islam in the Middle East through the entire epoch of classical Greece, Hellenistic times, the long reign of Rome, and the first centuries of the Middle Ages. Historical veracity is not the issue. The goal is to create students who will view an increasingly Muslim Europe as a natural phenomenon consistent with the past.

Will these students, then, see the Rotherham rapes as a "Western" problem committed by ethnic groups that were British "from the start"?

9 comments:

  1. "The goal is to create students who will view an increasingly Muslim Europe as a natural phenomenon consistent with the past."

    That is essentially it in a nutshell. But that's why blogs like this exist: to defend European Heritage.

    "I had to change the title to "Sociology of Western Civilization" for approval"

    Really? Then again, it doesn't surprise me because at my University (York U), I asked the Prof. whether he would re-instate the former courses on Classical Music composition (i.e., Western compositional courses consisting of Sonata and Fugue styles, based on none other than the master himself: J.S. Bach.)

    Unfortunately, he said that it was not up to him, and that the department decides which courses are to be taught. So yes, even in the Arts such as music, Western perspectives are definitely declining due to the anti-European political agenda of department heads who tote the same ideological line. It's too bad; he would have been great at teaching those courses from a purely Western perspective. Thus, left to my own devices, I continued studying these concepts on my own, unfettered by ideological oppression from the university. In fact, even when reading up on music history, I found contradictions in what my music history professor taught and what I actually read on my own.

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  2. "In the Introduction Backman portrays himself as an edgy professor willing to rock the boat, a man with a peculiar talent for "eccentric" ideas, a dissident in a world of conformity;"

    It is truly laughable that Backman portrays himself as such. It seems the more "safer" they feel from persecution, (by railing against the West and Europeans) the more they indulge in "puffing their chests" full of hot air.

    like this bird:

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/01/30/article-0-1B12C7A500000578-395_964x999.jpg

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  3. Sorry Richardo, apart from the purposeful dismissal by many historians of Catholic innovation and the fact western Europe pulled away in the recent centuries, I agree with the 'Greater West'.

    Trying to say that Greek achievements are European in the sense that we take for granted today, is ahistorical. Its precisely the impact of the Classical common heritage that shape the Greater West, to the exclusion of China or Japan, or even India.

    Of course Greece itself borrowed from Egypt and West Asia in the period before Islam. Surely these achievements were modified as they became internalised into Indo-European society. But you can say the same for the Hittites, or the Persians who no one claims as Europeans.

    Older histories of Europe or the west were by nature Anglocentric. This is the reason for their ignoring the Byzantines and Ottomans as well as Baltic and Black Sea states such as Russia and Poland. To English eyes Poland is distant, but to a German it would be a lot closer. The bias reflects who writes the texts.

    Which kind of brings me to question the importance of the west as a concept, for ethnonationalists. In Europe itself, the concept of Europe is seen as Jacobin in nature and that of the west as philo-Zionist. Over in North America - a melting pot for whites - identity politics requires an identifiable, shared homeland so the unity of Europe becomes stressed. I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but its as political as the multicultural myth because its just version 1.0 of it.

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    1. I think that what we have here is a case of simple misunderstanding. The Europe that White ethno-nationalists refer to is a racial and cultural collective civilization deriving from the common origins of ancient European peoples and civilizations. In this sense, yes, it is true that this civilization was historically not confined to Europe and had much interaction with the cultures of Near Eastern peoples, both through colonization and cultural diffusion. However it is also true that due to events following these earlier interactions, notably Islamic and other invasions, the territory of this civilization -in a meaningful sense- shrank to the borders of Europe (before expanding again under European colonialism).

      Arab Islamic civilization originated in the southern-central Arabian Peninsula. There it was influenced mainly by Afro-Asiatic East Africa, and the somewhat Hellenized (although not Hellenic) Semitic Near East. From there it spread, during the Middle Ages, encroaching upon, and ultimately conquering, formerly 'Western' territory in the Near East and North Africa (briefly Europe also), but also Persia, Turkic Asia, and India. They brought with them darker traits of African origin, supplemented by later arrivals from Muslim-colonized Africa and the Trans-saharan slave trade. This has been confirmed by genetic studies which have determined that the genetic composition of the pre-Islamic Levant was closer to Europe than to the modern Middle East: (http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1003316).Islamic civilization is therefore an independent civilization, whose expansion has been at the expense of the original Western Civilization, which only included North Africa and the Near East insofar as they were Hellenized or Latinized (i.e. Indo-European).

      European -or Western- civilization can be understood as the branch of Indo-European civilization which interacted with the indigenous peoples of Europe, and became grounded in White European race and culture. Had Persia and Anatolia and other areas not been subjected to racial invasion and Islamization, the concept of a Greater West might be more meaningful today. But as it happens, the civilization of the Near East and North Africa is of a different extraction, even there are plenty of mutual influences (as there always are between civilizations).

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    2. "[Muslim] opposition was not merely a knee-jerk rejection of innovative thinking. Rather it was a rejection of European political imperialism (779)" This is a classic example of how cultural marxism/liberalism is not ultimately based on any concrete ideology or belief, but on a virulent anti-European impulse inculcated into White saps by hostile (often Jewish) elites who desire the end of ethnic European civilization for their own benefit. It's not that I object to fully analyzing the perspective of Islamic civilization in such matters, I just cannot bring myself to understand why Whites would hold such obvious double-standards with regards to their own civilization, which they instinctively and simple-mindedly label as 'backward' whenever they deviate from the modern progressive doctrine (which is by the way, far less often than any other civilization in human history). It's as if they internally believe European civilization to be so great and unmatched that us Europeans could never have legitimate fears and interests as a society.

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    3. In addition to what Kellner said: what Danaerys says in the last two paragraphs of his comment makes sense; quite a number of different definitions of the West have been offered over the years; a good source outlining these definitions is
      Davies book __Europe: A History__. He lists about 12 definitions of the West. But I think that Backman's "greater West" is arbitrary in a way that the older definitions were not, say, those definitions which neglected Russia or Eastern Europe, or were to Anglo-oriented.

      Davies writes "Western civilization is essentially an amalgam of intellectual constructs which were designed to further the interests of authors". Yet I would argue that each of the 12 definitions Davies lists (in which academics have defined the West) addresses some true cultural aspect of the European and American continent (e.g. Christianity, the Roman Empire, Protestantism, the ‘WASP variant’, the ‘Cold War-variant’), whereas the notion of a greater West includes a culture --Islam -- which has never been part of the West other than as a conquering culture of southern Spain, rightfully expelled by the end of 1400s.

      Note too that what Davies faults is the exclusion of Eastern Europe by some authors, but in the end he concludes that "for purposes of comprehensive treatment, however, the important thing about all these definitions is that each and everyone contains a variety of regional aspects ... Despite their differences, all the regions of Europe hold a very great deal in common. They are inhabited by peoples of predominantly Indo-European culture and related kin. They are co-heirs of Christendom..."

      The initial points Danaerys makes amount to the idea that since ancient Greece was connected to other areas in the Near East and Egypt, it follows that ancient Greece did not have its own identity and should be placed or seen as part of the East and Egypt, rather than the West. But, again, this argument can't explain why the "miracle" occurred only in Greece, and it cannot explain why Europeans cared to preserve and develop further the heritage of the Greeks, create institutions reflecting this heritage, starting with the conscious assimilation of this heritage by the Romans. The Romans conquered many civilized regions in the East but were attracted mostly to the high culture of the Greeks. Later they came under influence of East adopting some of their despotic customs and some religious cults but as far as their institutions were concerned, the greatest influence came from the Greeks; there is an ethnic connection between the two in their Indo-European origins and heroic aristocratic culture. The same process of assimilation and further development happens after the Roman Empire breaks up with the Western part consciously preserving the Greco-Roman heritage even as it is conquered by Germanic Barbarians, and the West then continues in Europe. Meanwhile, the Hellenistic world disappears in the East, as this area is taken over by Asiatic peoples. The Muslims paid attention to some of the achievements of Greeks, but then forgot it and did not develop it much further.

      I agree that the term "Western Civ" has been appropriated by Neocons, but I still think it is useful as a shorthand for the common heritage of all European peoples.

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  4. Keep up the good work Richardo.

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  5. Note: I don't know if this properly posted, so I'm posting it again:

    I just finished reading “The Urbanization of Rome and Latium Vetus.” Having already heard Richardo in interviews, several things jumped out at me.

    I think Rome was founded by Cretans, and then largely settled by Cretans after the Bronze Age Collapse of 1200 BC. So I was happy to see that the chain of competency in building a city state went thus: Latium, then the Greek colonies in Italy, and then in Greece. Exactly opposite of what even the Romans would have expected. Therefore demonstrating the Romans were never the backwards pastoralists we thought they were – and supporting my thesis that they’re Cretan. But right after discussing that, the author IMMEDIATELY declares the city-state to be a general Mediterranean phenomenon that everyone should get credit for. (Including the Jews of Israel, I’m sure. And soon I’m sure it will be: ESPECIALLY the Jews in Israel.)

    They walk us through all sorts of systems for sorting through the avalanche of data we’ve been pulling in the last thirty years – exciting stuff in and of itself in my opinion; but very worrying in light of what their ultimate goal is – yet in not a single instance do they ever mention the ROMANS. Yes. Rome was situated nicely for trade within Italy. But there are probably a thousand places in the world equally well situated for regional trade. But none of those people built a Rome. Then the Romans did it again with Constantinople. Then they did it AGAIN with Venice.

    I hate to sound like a sexist pig, but I’m seeing a lot more female names pop up in academia. I’m sorry. But the last thirty years has proven to me that women and the feminization of our society has been an unrelenting catastrophe. Clearly we’ve having the same problem in academia. If you can’t defend boundaries, Sweetheart, get the hell out of the way.

    And on a final note, in the spirit of defining a "Greater West": I have to say – speaking as a man with a Cretan Y-Chromosome – people really do go out of their way to minimize the accomplishments of my people. And Anatolians in general. The Hittite Empire was full of men like me? Men like me didn’t build the Hittite Empire. Italic-speaking territories were full of men like me? Men like me didn’t build Rome. As with the build-up to the city state, so with the documented evidence of writing: Rome, then the Greek colonies in Italy, then Greece itself. Yet even then: according to “Urbanization…,” the olla found in a grave at Gabii MUST have Greek writing on it. But why? Somebody threw it in their grandma’s grave before they covered her in dirt. It clearly says “ni lui” – “don’t touch” – written in archaic Latin from right to left. Why on earth would someone have written on grandma’s olla in GREEK when they’re in the middle of LATIUM?!

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    1. This entire comment is extremely confusing and seems to based largely on personal bias and bad scholarship. First of all, what evidence is there that Rome had anything to do with Cretans? And secondly, who does he even mean by Cretans? Does he mean the Minoans or the Doric Greeks that settled the island after the Bronze Age? It's great that he's proud of his ancestry, but it's always sad when people feel the need to appropriate the accomplishment of others for their own fulfillment. Rome was originally an Italic city-state founded by an Indo-European tribe called the Latini, and later came under the influence of Old European Etruria as well as Greek colonists in Italy. As for what connection the poster posits between Anatolian peoples and Cretans, or the former with Rome, I have no idea. In my personal opinion, the Greek concept of the polis is the result of old Indo-European ideals about society coming into contact with the established urbanization of the Bronze Age civilizations of the Near East.

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