Wednesday, July 20, 2016

History is just one damned thing after another

The seventh and eighth centuries were the years were when the Pallava Empire in the southern peninsular India was at its peak.  (Click here for my favorite post after visiting an old Pallava temple.)  About that time, the concept of zero in mathematics was a breakthrough invention in a different part of India. The Hindu-Arabic number system, along with zero, then spread to Europe, as interactions between Muslims and Europeans escalated after the first conquest in of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 by the invading Muslims.  Thus, as Bertrand Russell is supposed to have remarked to Jawaharlal Nehru, India gave "nothing" to the world.

While the mathematician-philosopher Russell was punning about the "nothing," there are quite a few white supremacists who passionately believe, out of their arrogance and ignorance, that nothing good ever came from any part of the world that was not European and Christian.  The GOP's Steve King spoke for them all:
"I'd ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you're talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"
How conveniently we forget history, and how easily do we spin stories that do not have to resemble truth in any form!  King went on to talk about the glories of Western Civilization and Christianity, before the host of the show effectively cut him off.

Oh well ... The world seems to have forgotten about the long and rich history of Islam in Europe.  A year ago, Robert Kaplan argued in his short essay that Europe's identity itself was nothing but a response to Islam:
Europe was essentially defined by Islam. And Islam is redefining it now. ... the swift advance of Islam across North Africa in the seventh and eighth centuries virtually extinguished Christianity there, thus severing the Mediterranean region into two civilizational halves, with the “Middle Sea” a hard border between them rather than a unifying force. Since then, as the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset observed, “all European history has been a great emigration toward the North.”
The Crusades, and then the colonial empires.
Europe’s very identity, in other words, was built in significant measure on a sense of superiority to the Muslim Arab world on its periphery. Imperialism proved the ultimate expression of this evolution: Early modern Europe, starting with Napoleon, conquered the Middle East, then dispatched scholars and diplomats to study Islamic civilization, classifying it as something beautiful, fascinating, and—most crucial—inferior.
That "inferior" is what now King and his fellow white supremacists in the GOP talk about!

The colonial era of the recent times brings us to Nice, which "was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia":
It was not until 1860 that Nice would become a permanent part of France, thirty years after France invaded and occupied Algeria. In the Second World War the region was occupied by Italy, and Nice became a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in Vichy France, allied with Nazi Germany. When the Germans seized the city in 1943, they deported thousands of Jews to be murdered in occupied Poland.
When France’s 132 year colonial history in North Africa came to an end in 1962, more than a million people left Algeria, and others left Tunisia and Morocco to “return” to a France that was not their home.
Among them were Europeans of different origins, many North African Jews, and Muslims who had fought for the French in Africa. 
All that complicated history, along with the recent economic migration, is why at least 30 of the dead in the attack in Nice were local and visiting Muslims.  Including children.
Oucine Jamouli, 62, the head of a Moroccan association, attributed the heavy Muslim turnout at least partly to the fact that there is less drinking at the Bastille Day festival than at other big events in Nice because it is a family-oriented celebration.
It is also less religious than Nice’s other major festivals: a Christmas market, the Carnival festival at Mardi Gras and the fireworks for Aug. 15, which marks the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to heaven.  
Nice is, thus, more than the mere French Riviera, and is a city that is increasingly divided by religion and ethnicity, and the political leaders who want to deepen this divide;
Muslim and non-Muslim, lived alongside each other in relative peace for generations, but that has begun to change along with the rise of France’s far-right National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen. Nice is governed by the center-right, which includes the Republicans, but some say its leaders increasingly play the politics of division.
I suppose getting along will become increasingly difficult in such a political climate.  But then, history is one damned story of people not getting along! :(


Ramesh said...

You are dead right. Islam has been the noble religion for most of history. It has been in the name of Christianity that untold horrors have been committed. And the current bout of fanatical terrorism unleashed by nut cases has harmed far more Muslims than people of any faith.

It is the leadership of the Muslim world that is to blame - both political and religious. Extremists of the most vile kind have taken positions of authority and fuelled by oil money and have created mayhem. Perhaps the collapse of oil prices, more than any thing else, might contribute to the decline of terrorism, at least of the organised kind.

Where is the Saladdin of the modern era. Or Ataturk. Can there be a Mandela who rises in the Middle East.

Sriram Khé said...

There is really only one Islamic country that has made Jihadists a global problem. It is not the Palestinians--their violence and terror was for a specific geographic agenda (not that it justifies the violence.) It is not the mullahs of Iran--they are also very geography-specific.
The only country that made sure that jihadism would systematically spread all over, to far corners of the world: Saudi Arabia, with the maniacal funding of the extreme Wahhabi ideological interpretations. Yet, and knowing this, the entire world pretty much kept bowing to the Saudis because they provided cheap oil.
Now even the Saudis are fighting the very monster they created.

I would not want another Ataturk--that kind of a strongman who decimates the individual spirit and makes people soulless appealed to me only in my early teenage years. Not since. BTW, now we are witnessing in Erdogan the mirror image of Ataturk--a strongman who wants to make sure Turkey will become way less secular. A strongman is never, ever, the answer.

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