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My last article, Suggestions to the Crucified, attracted attention beyond my usual circle of readers. Fragments of it, with comments, were posted on Sabah's Blog under a headline reading "From the annals of racism in the 21st century", and reproduced on quite a few anti-American, anti-Semitic sites, whose names ranged from uninviting, like Mahmood's Den, to meaningless, like Planet Jordan (Does that have anything to do with the recent demotion of Pluto?) promising a visitor "Your Daily Portion of Jordanian Wisdom", to outright misleading, like Exposing Corruption.
In fairness to my opponents, they didn't just call me a racist. They offered experimental proof for their statements. They quoted a passage from my article and suggested replacing every occurrence of the word Arab in it with the word nigger. Of course, even the NAACP charter will sound outright racist if you subject it to a similar process. Nevertheless, I honestly tried; here's what came out of it:
Unlike Jews, niggers do not form communities; instead, they form the "nigger street". The "nigger street" has never produced an Einstein and, I am sure, never will. Instead, it is producing an abundance of mass murderers.
Aside from the unfortunate terminology, one thing is immediately obvious in the modified passage. The original was true. The substitution has rendered it utterly false. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such phenomenon as a "nigger street", while references to the "Arab street" and its opinions are readily available in the media. As a matter of fact, black people do form communities. And although statistics of violent crime in predominantly black urban areas remain higher that in predominantly white upper-middle-class suburbs, mass murderers, at least in the United States, are overwhelmingly white. The only exception that comes to mind are the "Beltway sniper", John Muhammad, and his sidekick, Lee Malvo. But those people were converts to Islam, which kind of makes my point rather than my critics'. As to future black Einsteins, I am optimistic. Twenty years ago, it was impossible to imagine a black Secretary of State -- not that I am terribly happy with the performance of the current one, or several of her predecessors regardless of their skin color and gender.
However, I might have been more precise in my language. I definitely wasn't talking about Arabs like Joseph Farah, one of the most talented and honest journalists in this country, or Dr. Wafa Sultan, who had courage to openly and convincingly challenge the Islamic establishment on its own turf. Actually I wasn't talking about Arabs exclusively. I was talking about Muslims -- excuse me -- observant Muslims. Discussing World War II, I might have spoken similarly about the Germans while meaning the Nazis and not meaning those ethnic Germans who opposed Fascism while it was devastatingly powerful, although Nazism never presented as imminent a threat to our existence as does Islam today.
I hope I haven't created an impression that I am trying to defend myself here. I don't think there is any need for defense. People accusing me of racism routinely greet each other with the words, "May you kill a Jew before you die". They call Jews "children of apes and pigs". They consider "infidels", in general, and Jews, in particular, subhuman and don't even try to keep that belief a secret. They kill us at every opportunity and without any specific reason; they believe that, as Muslims, they have a license to kill us. They adhere to ideology demanding them to destroy not just Israel with its entire population, but every culture that exists in this world except their own -- even though the latter can be called a culture by anthropologists only. They openly and proudly admit their intention to Talibanize the entire world. Accusations of racism coming from them are as ludicrous as calls for abstinence coming from a retired prostitute who is now running a brothel.
Nevertheless, some of their arguments are worth looking at. For example, they quoted out of context some of the great Jews I mentioned in my article and made them sound anti-Zionist. That should have been a devastating blow to everything I wrote, but it wasn't. I am not going to delve into analyzis of Einstein views on Israel (he wasn't anti-Israel), Zionism (he wasn't anti-Zionist) or any other subject. I will merely state that Einstein was one of the greatest physicists of all times. That was the extent of his prominence -- and his license. I wouldn't seek his advice if I was having marital problems; I wouldn't expect him to be able to fill a dental cavity; I wouldn't rely on his opinion when it came to politics, either.
And now comes the most interesting part. My Arab critics provided a link to an article posted on the ADC site outlining the Arab contribution to the progress of humankind. There, I found such an impressive list of names and achievements that I am unable to resist the temptation to comment on it. I will begin with the area in which I am less ignorant than in most others -- mathematics. Here's what it says about Arab contribution to mathematics:
In mathematics, the Arab sifr, or zero, provided new solutions for complicated mathematical problems. The Arabic numeral -- an improvement on the original Hindu concept -- and the Arab decimal system facilitated the course of science.
Having read that, I opened Wikipedia and looked for Arabic numerals. Here's what I found:
The numbers were developed in India by the Hindus around 400 BCE. However, because it was Arabs who relayed this system to the West after the Hindu numerical system found its way to Baghdad, the numeral system became misidentified as "Arabic" in the eyes of the Europeans. Arabs themselves call the Eastern Arabic numerals "Indian numerals," (arqam hindiyyah).
People with limited understanding of the foundations of mathematics may find it hard to appreciate, but the realization that zero was a number was a monumental brerakthrough in mathematics that can be compared to the invention of the wheel. That's why I suggest that you look at another Wikipedia article, 0 (number), and see for yourself that the Arab participation in the introduction of zero was exactly zero. The ADC article doesn't say exactly how Arabs improved |on the original Hindu confucept", and here's why: once someone shows you how to use the ten digits to write down numbers, that's it; there is no room for improvement. The only zero the Arabs gave us is Ground Zero in Manhattan.
Equally untrue is that:The Arabs invented and developed algebra... Al-Khwarizmi, credited with the founding of algebra?
First of all, algebra is a science and not a natural phenomenon or a machine. Therefore, it could be neither discovered, nor invented. It could only be founded, the way geometry, for example, was founded by Euclid, who not only formulated its axioms, but developed the very foundation of mathematical thinking. Al-Khwarizmi did nothing of the kind. He found a method of solving quadratic equations and formulated rules for long arithmetical operations. Although the concept of algorithm emerged many centuries later, those rules could, in some way, be considered algorithms, and his contribution was marked by deriving the term algorithm from his name. Similarly, the word algebra derives from the title of his book, al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa'l-muqabala or The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing. Let me remind you, however, that America was not discovered by Amerigo Vespucci after whom it was named.
It would be impossible to disagree that, against the intellectually barren background of the Muslim world, al-Khwarismi does look like a giant. However, he didn't found algebra or anything else of any importance to us. Without him, algebra today would have been exactly what it is. You can't state the same about geometry and Euclid or physics and Newton.
Also interesting is the fact that al-Khwarismi wasn't even an Arab. He was Persian. Al-Khwarismi is not his surname; it is a descriptor defining him as a native of the ancient city of Khwaresm, or Khorezm, which still exists today and is located in the territory of modern Uzbekistan, formerly a part of Persian empire. Some hints point at the possibility that his family followed not Islam, but Zoroastrianism -- a religion virtually exterminated by Muslims today.
Many, if not most, of the other great "Arab" scientists listed in the article were not in fact Arabs either. Al-Biruni, al-Farghani (meaning from Fergana, also in Uzbekistan), al-Razi, Ibn Haytham, Ibn Sina, Musa bin Shakir and his three famous sons -- were Persians. Ibn Battuta was a Berber. But their ethnicity is not as important as the chronology of their achievements. Even if you decide to accept everything in that self-congratulatory article for fact, you can't help noticing that none of the Arabic "contributions" listed there is less than 350 years old. Why?
The ADC article provides a hint. Here's what it says:To be Arab, then [between 7th and 13th centuries CE -- ZL] as now, was not to come from a particular race or lineage. To be Arab, like American, was (and is) a civilization and a cultural trait rather than a racial mark. To be Arab meant to be from the Arabic-speaking world -- a world of common traditions, customs and value -- shaped by a single and unifying language. The Arab civilization brought together Muslims, Christians and Jews. It unified Arabians, Africans, Berbers, Egyptians, and the descendants of the Phoenicians, Canaanites, and many other people.
Let me translate this into plain English for you. To be Arab means to conquer every nation that can be conquered and claim its historic achievements as if they belonged to Arabs from the beginning of time. Why not? According to the teachings of Islam, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, Jesus and you are Muslims. Yes, you too, because Islam teaches that every human being is created Muslim. The Arab civilization does bring together Christian, Jews, and an ever growing list of other peoples. It brings them together in the mass grave of their destroyed civilizations, never bothering to ask whether those people ever wanted to be brought together by Arabs or anyone else.
The most interesting aspect of this is that Arabs sincerely believe that they save those they conquer from the darkness of eternal ignorance.
I remember reading somewhere that Egyptian peasants living today along the shores of the Nile are still using the same primitive irrigation devices that were used by their ancestors in Egypt 5,000 years ago. I believe that people who, in the course of 5 millennia, have failed to improve primitive, prehistoric technology, upon which their survival immediately depends, can be reasonably called primitive. Actually, it's worse than that. Today's Egyptians have nothing to do with the builders of the pyramids. Today's Egyptians are Arabs. Their ancestors did not live along the Nile. Arabs invaded, occupied and conquered Egypt in the middle of 7th century CE, 20 short years after the invention of Islam. They invented Islam, but Inventing or even improving the water wheel was beyond their ability to create.
I don't mean to say that Islam does not stimulate our own creativity. Without it, our engineers would not have had reasons to invent ways to tell baby formula from explosives. Without it, our ethicists would not have to decide whether profiling Muslims is morally and legally admissible. Considering that all terrorists in the modern world are Muslims, I would say that we should not profile them. We shouldn't allow Islam -- the greatest global humanity has ever faced -- on our soil either. Without Islam, we would have been as safe from terrorist attacks on our soil today as we thought we were 5 years and one day ago, on the eve of 9/11.
Here's another question for the ethicists. When someone hates the enemies of his country and his people, does that make him a racist? And if he doesn't hate them, then what does that make him?
1. You can read the article by clicking here.
Contact Zack Lieberberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. More of his articles can be read at http://www.middleeastfacts.com/yashiko/
This article was submitted September 11, 2006. It is archived at http://www.middleeastfacts.org/yashiko. It was translated by Yashiko Sagamori.
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