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History, anthropology and the Islamic migration to Europe

Reader comment on item: Europe's Muslim Population in Demographic Free-fall?

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Aug 12, 2006 at 07:54

Very interesting information provided by Doctor Pipes.

More re-assuring is that anthropologists and historians provide us with the following historical/anthropological model:

What really happens when the barbarians (or if you wish the invaders or the migrants) invade the land of the civilized?

The first question that we have to answer is why would the barbarians/invaders/migrants invade the land of the civilized? The clear answer here is that the civilized has something (food, shelter, jobs etc..) that the invaders do not have in their homelands.

Having established the above, the answer to the question posed would be: In the long term the invader/barbarian/migrant will adopt the language of the civilized (notice that almost all British born children of Pakistani origin do not speak Urdu and almost all of them inform us that they find the culture in Pakistan to be very alien), and with the central rule of language in shaping a culture (Sapir Whorf Hypothesis) almost all of 2nd generation British born Pakistanis will become real Brits, and Britain will not be an Urdu speaking nation or Muslim for this matter. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes and see below.

As for religion: The most surprising thing here is that the invader/migrant/barbarian will adopt the religion of the civilized. Case in point the Monguls that invaded the Middle East adopted Islam.

So what do I predict for the Muslim population in Europe? Almost all of them will adopt the languages of Europe and will convert to the religions of Europe be it secularism, atheism or Christianity. Is this wishful thinking? Not really.

Are there exceptions to the above rule?

Yes. The Arab invasion of the Middle East at first glance defies the above model. The invading Arabs in 635 CE were estimated by historians to be around 200,000 versus an estimate of millions that resided in the Middle East at the time (in the case of Egypt: Gaston Weitz suggested that the Arab migration to Egypt was very minimal and that 92% of the population isn today's Egypt are of Cotpic decent, but still the Egyptians adopted the Arabic language and the majority converted to Islam), in other words the invading Arabs were a drop in the bucket. Still we see that the civilized Middle East adopted the Arabic language instead of the languages of the Middle East at the time (Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, Persian to some extent) and the majority converted to Islam.

For the unsophisticated historian the obvious answer here is that this was a case of "Historical Discontinuity" and this is what has been proposed by the Islamic Historical Tradition under the concept of al-jahiliya.

In real life there is always a _continuity_ in history and the idea of historical discontinuity to explain such radical change in the Middle East is a proposal that cannot be proven.

The only possible explanation for such radical change was provided by the great German historian Becker and his much celebrated comment: "It is bizarre but without the Greek civilization there would have been no Islamic civilization"

What Becker is saying is that far from being a historical discontinuity the Arab invasion was only a catalyst for a linguistic/cultural/religious changes that were already taking place in the Middle East _prior_ to the Arab invasion of the Middle East.

In other words: Islam is the product of the sectarian debates that pre-occupied the civilized in the Middle East _prior_ to the Arab invasion (see Wansbrough). The invading Arab polity had no well defined religion in 635 CE (eg: The name of Muhammad does not apear in the extant Muslim sources until 72 years after his death, the Quran is no where to be found until the turn of the 8th century, the word Islam does not apear in the sources until 691 CE, and the word Muslimeen does not apear until 767 CE, we have no books of Islamic law, hadith, sira, sunna or even Arabic language until the 3rd century and all of this literature is the product not of the invading Arabs but of the mesopotamian religious elite), and this Arab polity happen to select, for reasons that we still do not understand, the emerging new religion of Islam.

As for the Arabic language: there is no doubt that the rule of the Arabs in the evolution of their own language is marginal at best. The father of the Arabic grammar was an Afghani (Sibawayhe) and those that worked on the masora were non-Arabs including Tabari, Suyuti etc.... Imagine the invading Brits arriving India with no garmmar books or dictionaries in hand and leaving their language to Indians to sort it out. The Englsih language of today as would be excepted would have the imprint of India and not of England, and the Arabic language was not any different.

The Arabic language as we know it now is the porduct of the civilized Middle East and not Arabia (case in point here is the great Hunein Ibn Ishaq who was a Nestorian and who lived in Baghdad in the 3rd century of Islam and worked at Dar al-Hikma translating the Greek learning to Syriac and then to Arabic. Hunein had to invent new Arabic words based on Sibawayhe's F3L as in Tuhal (spleen), safra (jaundice), shabakiya (retina) very much Arabic words now and you can even find them in Ibn Manzur's Lisan al-3Arab dictionary, but these words would have had no meaning to Muhammad or to his generation).

So what does this have to do with Europe? Only time would tell if Europe is in the process of change, not historical discontiuity, both in langauge and religion. But it is not going to be Islam and it is not going to be the Arabic language. So we all have to stay tuned.

Submitting....

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