Opinion: West committing cultural genocide
2015-09-15 16:30:28 -
World News

Mohammed Samaana


In recent weeks, months and even years and decades, the Arab world and the wider Muslim world have been presented as exporters of trouble, especially with the ongoing refugee crisis as a result of conflicts in different countries, particularly in Syria. While this is the way the colonial powers want the world to see them in order to justify their wars and interventions, very little attention has been paid to their significant contributions to civilisation, both before and after the birth of Islam.


Archaeologists believe that the oldest continually inhabited city in the world is Jericho in Palestine, dating back 11,000 years. The second city is Byblos in Lebanon, while Aleppo and Damascus in Syria are the third and fourth respectively. Fayium in Egypt is sixth. Beirut is the 10th and Jerusalem is 11th.


Having the first cities ever in human history built in that region can be attributed to the fact that it was one of the first places where humans farmed land and domesticated animals, transforming from hunters and gatherers to settlers.


Let’s look at some other contributions. The earliest alphabet from which other alphabets were derived was invented by the Arab Canaanites in Palestine in the 17th or 17th century BC. Arabic numerals, too, are the most commonly used numerals in the world. Muslim mathematician Mohammed Alkhawarizmi (Algoritmi), who lived about 1,200 years ago during the Abbaside caliphate, was significant to the developing the numeral system. He is also considered the original inventor of Algebra. One of his other main contributions is the algorithm, which is derived from his name. Without algorithms, we would have no computers or mobile phones.


The Muslim world pioneered education. Two young Muslim women, Princess Fatima and her sister Miriam, founded the first degree-granting university in the world, the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University in Morocco, about 1,200 years ago – and it’s still teaching today. The House of Wisdom was another ancient Islamic educational institute in Iraq.


Health and hygiene is another field where Muslims have made important contributions. The surgical encyclopaedia of Alzahrawi, known in the west as Albucasis and written 1,000 years ago, was a reference book in European universities for 500 years. Alzahrawi also discovered using dissolving catgut to stitch wounds, performed the first caesarean section and created the first pair of forceps.


Around the same time, Muslim physicist Ibn Alhaytham, the father of optics, proved that humans see objects by light reflecting off them and entering the eye, not the opposite as was believed. He also discovered the camera obscura phenomenon, which eventually formed the basis of photography.


Hospitals as we know them today, with wards and teaching centres, were first opened in Cairo by Ahmad bin Tulun in 872 for free, then spread across the Muslim world.


Many inventions or discoveries taken for granted today have their roots in the Arab world. Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and fly in the ninth century, which inspired Leonardo da Vinci hundreds of years later.


The crank-connecting rod system essential for any engine and transport means, from bicycles to cars to planes, was invented by Al-Jazari in the 12th century.


Music instruments such as the violin and lute have their origins in the Arab world. Miswaks, made from miswak trees, were also used by Muslims to clean their teeth well before the toothbrush was invented. Muslims also invented the condom as a means of birth control.


And coffee, so the story goes, was discovered by an Arab shepherd after noticing that his goat became hyperactive after eating it.


The above is only a drop in an ocean of Arabic or Muslim contributions often ignored in the west. British educational institutes, for example, take an ethnocentric approach by teaching only about westerners as pioneers and inventors. At worst, this could be termed cultural genocide, committed by colonialist academics in the very countries mainly responsible for the chaos in the Arab world.



Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast

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