UK / Europe — 12 March 2006

“Two years ago, less than two weeks after the tragedy of September 11th, I gave a speech in Minnesota in which I said it didn’t take much to imagine that kind of world because we have seen that world before. All it takes is for us to think back to another time, to a civilization that was once considered the greatest in the world. It was a civilization that was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins. One of its languages became the universal language of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its writers created thousands of stories. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things. When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, as I said to the audience that day in Minnesota, the civilization I’m talking about of course, was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent – rulers who challenged our notions of self and truth; who contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership; whose leadership led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.” (Carly Fiorina former CEO Hewlett Packard)

Following the unprecedented uproar surrounding the Danish cartoon saga, there is a huge debate being aroused as to the future footprint of Muslims in Europe. Muslims living in the west are at the epicentre of a great and global challenge unmatched within living memory. Since 9/11 the spotlight has been focused on every minute detail and aspect of our lives. We have been subjugated to the most intense and intrusive scrutiny ever imaginable. Out of these extraordinary circumstances there have arisen within us, a multitude of voices and calls distinct in nature. Some have called in response for the doctrine of hate while others have exercised the doctrine of apology. Yet both these reactions have somehow missed the mark. If success post 9/11 is measured by our ability to have won a deeper understanding of Islam in western society then we have to be honest and state that we have failed the test spectacularly, despite our abundance of resources and capabilities.

However it is precisely for this reason, that with humility and a strong belief in our creator that we are now in need of strong characters and firm hearts. Here at New Civilisation magazine we try to do our bit; productively engaging with the host society on a range of contemporary topics in an articulate manner so that they begin to appreciate and see the true heritage and depth of Islam. Our culture, heritage and history are rich with examples of where Islam made a fundamental difference to the societies it came to and this should be an inspiration for us all. We are all I think familiar with Cordoba the capital of Muslim Spain, which became the centre for all light and learning for the whole of Europe. Scholars and students from various parts of the world and Europe came to Cordoba to study. The contrast in intellectual activity is demonstrated best by one example: In the ninth century, the library of the monastery of St. Gall was the largest in Europe. It boasted 36 volumes. At the same time, that of Cordoba contained over 500,000!. In the field of mathematics where the number Zero and the decimal system were introduced to Europe; the trigonometric work by Alkirmani of Toledo which was translated into Latin; in medicine where every major city of the Caliphate had a hospital, the one at Cairo having over 8000 beds, with separate wards for fevers, ophthalmic, dysentery and surgical cases. As Carly Fiorina says Muslims made a difference. However in addition to the divine obligation of explaining our beliefs with wisdom, we should also be reminded that people in the host society need our help not just our condemnation. We do not live isolated lives from the society around us; our communities, our businesses and our families are directly shaped by the prevailing thoughts and values within society. Reacting with hate or violence, isolating ourselves or engaging in permanent compromises are strategies which are doomed to fail.

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