Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book impressions and a small observation on Muslim backwardness

I was meaning to write this post for a long time, but first it took me quite a bit of time to finish it: I started reading Amin Maalouf's The Crusades Through Arab Eyes in Turkish, but then decided to use it to practice my French when I got hold of the original through a friend- that kind of slowed me down:), and then I constantly delayed writing about it, until this morning, when I managed to find half an hour to squeeze it in...

I am not planning on a full-fledged review; Amazon has plenty of that. Neither I want to delve too much into what I learned about reasons behind Islam's falling behind. Some of them, like the differences in bequests in Christian and Muslim societies (the former leaves the lands to the eldest male child, the latter to all the children, resulting in land wars throughout the more than two centuries covered in the book), are very obvious to observe throughout the book. But you'd be much better to read those from Timur Kuran and other academics who have written about it. 

I wouldn't bet I am the first one to see this, but my small insight comes from the way the two societies (Christian and Muslim) have been learning from each other: In the book, you see many many Christians who speak Arabic and know Arabic customs very well.  But the same does not go for Arabs: There are so few Arabs who actually know their enemy well. As a result, most of the learning highway is a one-way street!

I am not even attempting to hypothesize the reasons behind this observation: Maybe, it reflects a general inclination for visitors to adapt, rather than cultural or religious differences. But the impression I got from the book was that this crucial difference played an important role, not only during the crusades, but afterward as well...

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