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Reader comment on item: On New York's "Khalil Gibran International Academy"

Submitted by Archimedes2 (Canada), Mar 8, 2007 at 08:45

The claim that some Arab "invented 0" is the first and foremost claim made by Arabic or Islamic extremists to try to prove the superiority of certain middle eastern/islamic culture or knowledge over western. As if inventing 0 somehow places them at the pinnacle of great thinking or outweighs in significance all the technological advances of the Western and Far Eastern nations to which they obviously feel a tremendous inferiority.

The claim is repeated in the context of "proving a miraculous Koran", although it demonstrably has nothing to do either with the Koran or the Islamic faith itself. But our number system is not called the "Hindu-Arabic" system for nothing. Zero is not an invention of Islamic society. Symbols for zero were in use for many centuries before. The precise claim about zero is that he Arabs invented its use in the place-system for representing numbers.

This is also false; in fact, this use of zero was introduced by some Hindu whose name history does not record, some 300 years before Mohammed, and acquired by Islamic culture as they assimmilated the tools and wealth of India as a result of military conquest. See: http://oregonstate.edu/~peterseb/misc/sonja_dots.html Zero, therefore, did not originate in Arabic culture. While it had probably already migrated to Arabia by the time of Mohammed and so was not itself "stolen" through jihad, the specific claim to have "invented it" is demonstrably is no more than one of the spoils of war. You can't steal 0 but you might get away with claiming the credit for it if you entirely subjugate the people to whom credit is due.

This claim itself is a clear sign of cultural imperialism, and I would regard the entire curriculum of this school with suspicion on this basis, simply because it was used as the principal example of how Arab influence will be brought into the curriculum. This is not a curriculum, it is pro-Arabic historical revision.

Submitting....

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