Empires of Faith

Islam and the Academy

A story long popular in London tells of a foreign visitor losing his bearings while walking along Whitehall and politely asking a passerby, "Excuse me, sir, which side is the Foreign Office on?" Hearing the visitor's accent, the Brit despairingly replies, "Yours, probably." This story comes to mind when we read the histories of Western culture and civilization served up by many current academics, particularly in popular textbooks that are sold by the millions. Over the last generation or so, the one thing we can reasonably assume about these works, regardless of the exact topic or period under discussion, is that they are going to be on the other side. If an evil interpretation of Western conduct can possibly be applied to a given event, if a Western achievement can be distorted to expose the sinister and exploitative side of our civilization, then, without fail, it will be done. The story of ancient Greece thus becomes a heartrending saga of slavery and patriarchal brutality; the age of global discoveries is seen in terms of imperialism and genocide; Christian churches existed to demean women, suppress knowledge, and persecute their rivals.

Modern scholars have no wish to repeat the errors of their despised predecessors, who supposedly served as mindless cheerleaders for Western imperialism and oppression. No, indeed! Why do that when you can be a mindless cheerleader for the imperialism and oppression of...

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