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Comments on Auster's reply to Pipes's reply to Auster

Reader comment on item: [The Search for Moderate Islam:] A Reply to Lawrence Auster
in response to reader comment: My reply to Daniel Pipes's reply

Submitted by bucephalus (United States), Feb 10, 2005 at 00:23

Mr Auster claims: "Historians estimate that Muslims massacred around 100 million Hindus in India over a period of five centuries."

Which historians has Mr Auster in mind? This 100 million figure, derived from one K. S. Lal, is a very popular number amongst Hindu fundamentalists. Everything about the calculation is suspect. His method of estimating the population of India ca 1000 is suspect. His extrapolation of what the Hindu population of India "should have been" in 1500, based on projecting pre-1000 growth trends (which are also suspect) over the succeeding five centuries, is equally suspect. Lal doesn't even distinguish between Hindus killed by Muslims and Hindus converted to Islam, so that the 100 million figure is not even a fatality count, but just a datum on "missing" Hindus.

There is absolutely no doubt Muslim invaders of India caused many deaths and much destruction, but there's no factual reason to suppose their destructiveness was proportionately any greater than any other conqueror's in history. This "100 million" figure is spurious historiography.

Mr Auster asks, "Is there any European Christian behavior that is remotely equivalent to that?"

Perhaps not to the spurious 100 million, but surely Muslim depredations in India are comparable in scale and scope with the Christian European conquest of the Americas. Belgian atrocities in the Congo during the 19th century, by themselves, were also pretty sizeable.

Mr Auster comments on Dr Pipes's comments on the golden age of Islamic civlisation: "In fact, the myth of great "learning" in the medieval Muslim world was exploded as far back as the Renaissance, when Europe discovered the original Greek scientific works that had previously been known only through highly distorted Arabic translations. Believing those translations to be original Arab works, and knowing nothing of the Greek works on which they were based, medieval European scholars falsely concluded that Islam had made staggering, unheard-of advances in science. This was the genesis of the belief in great Arab learning, which has persisted right up to the present moment."

Mr Auster plays a silly game of who first invented this and first thought of that. He apparently thinks that a civilisation cannot be vital unless it produced utterly original ideas. While it's not true that Islamic science and mathematics had no innovations of their own, originality and pride of first place are not really at issue. Yes, Arab science, mathematics and philosophy were based on Syriac translations of Greek works. So what? The fact of the matter is, Islamic civilisation in its first few centuries displayed a remarkable openness to new ideas and a thirst for the very best of classical knowledge, as proven by its assimilation of classical Greek science and philosophy (as well as Hindu science and mathematics). This openness was matched in the dynamism of its economy and use of technology. In other words, it was a vibrant civilisation, how ever you look at it.

Mr Auster claims that the idea that Jews were better treated by Muslims than by Christians, before the modern era, is a myth: " It is, once again, a myth, formed by comparing the parts of Europe where Jews were treated the worst, with the parts of Islam (mostly in the former Eastern Orthodox lands) where Jews were treated better, while ignoring the parts of Europe where Jews were treated better, and ignoring the parts of Islam where Jews were treated worse."

In what parts of Europe were Jews were treated particularly well? I can think of only one region -- Italy. The rest of southern Europe can't count, since Iberia is the locus classicus of modern anti-Semitism, and southeastern Europe was Muslim-controlled.
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