When Muslims ruled the civilised world
Al Jazeera English

I’m a huge Middle-Eastern history fan, with tremendous respect not only for Seljuq culture, but also for the Abbasid culture in Baghdad and Persia (where university-trained scientists were conducting advanced experiments in physics and astronomy in the 800s A.D.), for the culture of Al-Andalus (where surgeons were performing delicate operations with anaesthetic in the 1000s), and for the Ottomans in their golden age.

That said, I think it is extremely over-simplistic to lump all these diverse cultures and peoples under the heading of “Islamic civilization” (as if there were just one “Islamic civilization,” and not a millennia-spanning array of Caliphates that spoke many unrelated languages, sometimes had little or no mutual contact, inhabited vastly different regions of the globe, and exhibited a dizzying variety of cultural and doctrinal contradictions with one another) — and furthermore, to lump that whole range of Caliphates in with modern Americans who happen to be Muslim, as if all those individuals automatically belong to the same civilization.

All those people believed (and believe) in the same God and Prophet, yes; and most of them learned to read some Arabic. Absolutely. But what other similarity is there, really, between a modern American Muslim and Suleiman ibn Qutulmish? About the same as the similarity between me and, say, Charlemagne.

Of course anyone of Seljuq descent — or Abbasid or Ottoman descent, or descent from any culture— should be proud of their ancestry. At the same time, I personally feel a close kinship with Achaemenid Persian culture, and with Classical Athenian culture, and with the Han Dynasty — but I have no direct relationship to any of them, except that I’m proud to belong to the same planet and species as the people who created them.

We should all be proud of Seljuq culture — not because it’s an Islamic culture, but because it is a human culture.

That’s exactly what ISIL forgets. That’s what separates us from them.

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