Andaloosely Speaking

The obsession over who borrowed what from whom, when it comes to the relationship between the Arab world and the West, is extraordinarily tiresome and long ago ceased to be remotely interesting.

The extent to which Western high culture is indebted on numerous accounts to learning produced under Islam is by now so exhaustively demonstrated that reading an article which treats this fact as somehow news feels like something of an insult to my intelligence. Anyone who actually needs to be informed of so staggering a point of banality wouldn't be reading this kind of thing anyway. (Of course, not all the borrowing was salutary. The Castillian religious militarism and caste culture which the Spanish brought to the New World owed almost as much to the models of Arab-ruled Andalus as the study of Aristotle did. Yet somehow Islamic contributions of this sort never come up.)

All in all Arab culture borrowed as much (if not more) from Christian Syria, Byzantium and post-Sassanid Persia, as Western European culture later borrowed from it. But that's not the real issue. The real issue is: who's keeping score, and why don't they have anything better to do with their time?

Can we get past this whole thing now? Please? Or does an entire discipline have to continue to act like it's always talking to a drunk version of somebody's obtusely racist uncle?

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