The Impact of Islam Paperback – 1 Jan 2014
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When Islam comes to a land, what happens? In this sweeping and thorough historical overview, Emmet Scott answers that question definitively, illuminating the shockingly devastating effects of Islamic encroachment upon Europe during the Middle Ages. This is history with all the timeliness of today's headlines, and an urgent message that our governing authorities ignore at their—and our—own risk.
— Robert Spencer, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad
In this excellent follow up to Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited, Emmet Scott demonstrates that the centuries-long struggle between the Christian world and the Muslim world during the Middle Ages left lasting effects on Christian thought and attitudes. The revival of slavery in the West after it was nearly extinguished is quite conclusively shown to be the direct result of prolonged contact with the vast Muslim slave-raiding and trading empire which took millions of slaves from Europe and Africa during the Middle Ages. More controversially, Scott also points to violent antisemitism, iconoclasm, vendetta, the toleration of torture, extreme religious intolerance and the idea of “holy war” as all having first developed in the Christian world in areas of prolonged contact and war with Islam, most notably in Spain. Scott further demonstrates that while Islam initially conquered the most advanced areas of the world, at a time when Medieval Christendom was a poor backwater, within five centuries the balance of power was completely reversed, with the Islamic world stagnant and deteriorating and the Christian world poised for global domination. This is no accident, but the inevitable result of the opposing world-views created by Islam and Christianity.
Today, the Islamic revival once again threatens Western progress. It is imperative that our leaders become thoroughly acquainted with the history of earlier Islamic advances. The Impact of Islam is a factual, scholarly and unexaggerated look a period of history more relevant today than ever before.
— Rebecca Bynum author of Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion--New English Review
About the Author
Emmet Scott is a historian specializing in the ancient history of the Near East. Over the past fifteen years he has turned his attention to Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the rise of Christian Europe and the impact of the Islamic world, which he sees as one of the most crucial periods in the history of western civilization. He is also the author of Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy. (New English Review Press, 2012)
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I have one criticism about the book.Emmet Scott tends to lean toward Christianity.Atleast in his book,'The impact of Islam',I notice this tendency.For instance, he states that women were respected in Christianity as opposed to Islam.Iam afraid,that isn't correct.I request everybody to read,'Woman,the church and the state'written by an American lady,Matilda Joslyn Gage,in the last decade of the 19th century.The book is a shocking account of the position of women in Christendom.Nonetheless as a non-Christian and a non-Muslim I find that to be much better than the position of women under Islam even today.The abominations such as the scold's bridle and the ducking stool have become forgotten in the Christendom.Judaism also wants adulterers to be stoned to death,like Islam.But Jews are not clamouring for that kind of punishment anywhere.Truly Christianity and Judaism have evolved,but that doesn't seem to be happening in Islam.Therefore allowing the facts to speak for themselves,is the best course for Emmet Scott to adopt in his future books.But if he leans towards any side then that would certainly detract from his polemic.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RXK0UEVCUDGVU/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg2?ie=UTF8&asin=0988477874&cdForum=Fx31TN13H9FSC4W&cdPage=2&cdThread=Tx2RNAR0T6M4GOK&store=books#wasThisHelpful (scroll down for my argument)
The last 60-70 years witnessed such a degradation of standards in western Academia (in Humanities) that today truth is seen as little more than an appendix to 'social consensus', definitely secondary to cultural relativist considerations. Not surprising then that an attempt (which I consider correct overall) to give more space to other civilizations (other than the Western Civilization) in a curriculum about World History led to a 'multicultural history' whose conclusions are diametrically opposed to Reason (allegedly the Scientific Revolution and Modernity were in reality 'multicultural ventures', the Western Civilization did not have the crucial impact believed before).
Yet this is not all for, unfortunately, academic freedom was also severely curbed, indeed today it is almost impossible to argue that culture did actually play a crucial role in the apparition of Modernity without being labelled, pejoratively, at least an 'eurocentrist'. Not a big surprise that very few academics dare to pursue an otherwise fully legitimate direction of research.
And definitely the situation is far worse in the case of islamic studies and history where even before WW2 there had been already a long tradition of defending the indefensible (starting with the myth of the 'noble savage' during the Enlightenment till the the 'guilt of colonialism' syndrome). After 1978 at least the 'Academia' in this field has definitely ceased to be a reliable source of information about islam (search on the net for example "Ivory Towers on Sand The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America" by Martin Kramer to understand how the advent of Saidism destroyed all academic freedom in this field; before there had been still possible for scholars to hold a critical view of the main paradigms without being labelled automatically 'racist' or 'bigot' and no one wanted to invent unnecessary terms like 'islamophobia').
One of the worst effects of this approach is that even today there is no quranic criticism on a par with Biblical criticism in Western Academia (critical evaluation of the Bible and the decline of innerantism among Christians played a decisive role in the apparition of Modernity). Sadly the western 'islamic studies' departments have been basically happy to adopt many of the medieval, entirely devotional, methodologies characteristic to the so called 'islamic scholars'. But if even Western Academia mainly agrees with the official point of view of the islamic scholars we should be not surprised that the absolutely necessary self criticism is almost inexistent in the muslim world and an army of fanatics is basically free to 'punish' those who dare to criticize islam rationally.
Secondly history of islam was rewritten along lines which support the cultural relativist ideology prevalent today (but of course outlandish criticism of Christianity and the 'evil' West is fully OK) on minimal justification (whilst downplaying for example the writings, critical of islam and muslims, left by the non muslims living under islamic rule along centuries). Crucial counter evidence, like the Geniza Letters (which show that the so called 'islamic tolerance' is rather the exception than the rule), was ignored or reinterpreted (no matter that this involved 'epicycles' to save appearances; the same can be said for the evidence that large persecution of the Jews in islamic land predate the Crusades, that Jew hatred can be traced, contra Bernard Lewis by the way, to basic islamic tenets and so on).
And the real tragedy is that the academic freedom in this domain has been basically zero for a long time now, as Jaques Ellul wrote in the preface to one of Bat Ye'or 's books criticism of islam was already taboo in France in 1980s. Even rational criticism of the main paradigm was severely discouraged. I'm afraid this is not the intellectual environment which to pave the way toward Truth.
So I can only salute the apparition of this (long due) frontal attack on, mainly, wishful thinking. Primarily because freedom of (rational) inquiry is not negotiable. Never heard of Emmet Scott before last year but this is the last of the problems, the way he writes is definitely academic and the position he defends not only a fully legitimate direction of research but also sound in almost all its aspects (finally, given the multicultural realities of our time, it is understandable to try to hide your true identity when religious fanatics have huge avenues to at least attempt to kill). Ultimately the main point of the book is that Islam is not a benign religion and that its violent past (in Europe here) can only add to this conclusion. I fully agree, Islam has always had the borders on fire.
I recommend the book to all those interested by the real impact of islam along history (along with Robert Reilly's 'The closing of the muslim mind', with the criticism that a mere return of Mu'tazilite view of Reason is not enough to bring a durable Islamic Enlightenment (the collapse of the 1930s, 1940s modernist currents in the Islamic world is a strong warning), and Toby Huff's 'The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West' + 'Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective'). islam has definitely not been a force of progress and even more there is a strong justification that its basic tenets (which include the attitude taught toward the value of unaided Human Reason) are significantly worse, from a modern ethical perspective, than those of Christianity (for an interesting perspective, which i consider sound, search on the net 'Is Islam a More Radical Religion? An Inside View - by Kaveh Mousavi' and 'Is Islam a More Radical Religion? Part 2'). The justification for such a stance is much stronger than believe some self appointed 'progressives' whose main 'counter-argument' is basically to delegitimize the critics of islam via fraudulent use of word like the (largely imaginary) 'islamophobia'.
I mainly agree with Scott's fine points (although i give a bigger importance to the barbarians in the West for the destruction of the classical world and doubt the 'Phantom Dark Age' hypothesis) and fully support his treatment of Christianity (by the way some people should read also Remi Brague's 'On the God of the Christians' to understand that Christianity is not about following blindly a holy book and the Jewish Law). I definitely learned a lot from reading this book, a lot of interesting arguments I was not aware before. Being from an eastern european country, centuries under Turkish rule and less influenced by political correctness, I was aware long time long ago of fully valid criticisms of the history of islam, madness by the way to argue for example that the practice of 'devshirme' was something good, but Scott's book managed to significantly enlarge my perspective on the subject.
The effect of muslim influence over the Balkans (more generally eastern Europe, finally all non muslims under muslim rule/influence) was definitely negative, we will never know how much did humankind lose because of Islamic jihad (it is well known for example that the Byzantine empire was an active participant in the early stages of Renaissance, a process brought to an abrupt end by the Turkish conquest; I dare say that participation in this movement would have benefited much more these people than remaining fossilized in the so called 'Islamic tolerance' (actually dhimmitude in the definition given by Bat Ye'or, the dhimmis a little better than slaves in classical Antiquity) and borrowing from there defective parts of islam; among others I don't think that the current conservatism of Eastern Christian Chruches is entirely alien from past muslim influences, no chance for important reforms under muslim rule with its severe downplay of unaided Human Reason).
Every historian should be fully aware of the real nature of islam itself (and capable to admit it publicly of course) before writing about its past or present. The postmodernist / multiculturalist evasion tactics (finally we cannot even come close enough to establishing rationally what the islam taught and lived by Muhammad was at least based on Islamic traditions) does not work, in reality we know enough many about islam to conclude that Salafism or Khomeini's shia islam are closer to 'undiluted' islam (taught and lived by Muhammad). Even muslims themselves had never hidden before 150 years ago the fact that islam aims at world domination (via Islamic law imposed all over the globe, the 'no compulsion in religion' part restricted to 'people of the book' only, providing that they pay the Jizya tax and respect a humiliating set of rules, the parts of sharia regulating the 'rights' of non muslims under muslim rule, see Bat Ye'or 's books for details).
In reality islamism and islam can be strongly separated only if people also accept openly that the Quran is not perfect and some of Muhammad's deeds are not worth of emulation. In other words Islam needs a radical transformation. I'm afraid those who come with a rosy picture of islam do not follow Reason till the end. Finally creating a better world does not need an invented history and loads of imaginary merits given to a religion like islam to succeed, on the contrary I'd say that only the naked truth can really help if we think at the long run.
Now there were indeed some progressive islamic thinkers (like Avicenna, Averroes and so on) and no one rational denies the existence of some interesting developments in the islamic world in the Middle Ages (including some influence on the West). Yet the real problem is that one cannot put these on behalf of islam, actually many thinkers were in fact of non islamic extraction, be them muslims, still writing in the vein of the cultures predating islam and the temporary advent of Mu'tazilites was largely a by product of the fact that at the time the Islamic theology was not fully crystalized (also as Scott put it well the ideas originating in the far East would have reached Europe anyways even if islam never existed). Anyways after the severe 'closing of the muslim mind' (from al-Ghazali onwards) the islamic intellectual climate became totally inimical, on religious grounds, to those progressives I was talking about above. It was definitely not a fluke that Averroes books for example were burnt in public places and they had to be restranslated, way later, in Arabic from european languages.
The islamic world had its great intellectuals and even some discoveries but it lacked the healthy worldviews which to let the forces of progress develop further and evolve into something even more progressive. No one should be surprised that the existence of some progressive islamic thinkers in the Middle Ages never lead to an islamic Enlightenment or a Scientific Revolution. These progressive thinkers run indeed against the tide of islamic thought and religious education (which definitely put severe brakes to progress, very few 'de facto' secular places in islam, where the forces of progress to develop further along history). As Ibrahim al Buleihi put it well (see [...] , 'Western civilization has liberated mankind'): " these [achievements] are not of our own making, and those exceptional individuals were not the product of Arab culture, but rather Greek culture. They are outside our cultural mainstream and we treated them as though they were foreign elements."
My important criticism is related with the alleged inexistence of Muhammad. I'm afraid that (exactly as in the case of Jesus, in spite of Richard Carrier's recent book) one can at most advance an argument having some justification (thus i do not consider it anathema for academic studies) but the reality is that at the moment there is more justification pros his existence, anyways enough to accept his existence at least as provisional knowledge. But the main argument of the book does not depend on this hypothesis (or the 'Phantom Dark Age' hypothesis for that matter), overall the contribution of islam (and even the Islamic world) to the making of Modernity was minimal, its impact rather disastrous for Humankind*. Five stars anyways.
Finally some criticized Scott for writing the book to 'defend secular Christianity' (I admit I decided to write this review after reading that surreal 'criticism', a totally twisted account of islam and its history; i really read the whole book first by the way) but let me believe that this is not the case, in fact writing more favorably about Christianity appears naturally if one follows Reason till the end.
*still is, the remnants of the theological, educational and institutional 'defects' of islam are still with us actively discriminating and blocking progress; even more no conceivable 'islamic hybrid', where the 'defective' parts of sharia at least influence the laws and the Constitution (search the net and read 'The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam' for a model), can be made fully compatible with Modernity. Including those in the minds of many muslims in the West.
The best solution I see out of this situation, entirely secular in nature, is to 'catalyse' that which happened in Christianity, a process validated by History, namely the retreat of innerantism (of the quran) to a minority and putting unaided Human Reason to its right place (in other words the creation of a moderate islam on a par with liberal Christianity and Reform Judaism, 'moderate' in the western acceptation of the word), Only people fully aware of the limits of their religion can really 'direct' it where they want (but at limit the stance of real reformists like Tawfiq Hamid is fully acceptable, even if he does not confront the innerancy of the quran one can read 'between the lines' that he's fully aware of the existence of problems even at that level: search on the net for example 'How to end Islamophobia' or 'Don't Gloss Over The Violent Texts').
The outcome of such a process will lead of course to a moderate islam having quite little in common, beyond the name, with the 'mainstream' islam of today but what counts is that real, progressive, reform is fully possible. Only to exist the will to do it. Anyways I consider that it is our duty at least to try to 'catalyse' such a new islam. This is definitely a much better idea than the current cultural relativist method which is basically the counterpart of trying to democratize Germany after WW2 via encouraging the apparition of a more liberal Nazi movement which retains the infallibility of its doctrine (by cherry picking the very few positive characteristics of Nazism and Hitler + adding a long string of tortuous 'arguments' explaining away the many problematic parts and then jumping to the conclusion that Nazism and Hitler were positive in nature).
However when I read a history book I like to know something of the author - his background, what axes he may have to grind etc etc and it is difficult to find out much about Emmet Scott. Is anyone out there well-informed in this regard? I am also curious about the relation between Emmet Scott and John J O'Neill, many of whose ideas seem to be strangely similar (indeed whole passages from O'Neill's 'Holy Warriors' seem to appear in 'The Impact of Islam'), but who does not seem to be referenced in Scott's book....
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