I’m flabbergasted that this one clear historical point about Islam is even argued about: that the several billion people who are living and have lived under Islam over its entire 1400 year history have contributed very little to the well-being of the world, especially when compared to the contributions of the West.
This isn’t clear upon a moment’s reflection? That when anyone – not only including, but *especially* world travelers and scholars – looks at the world, they don’t see that the contributions of the West dwarf the contributions of Islam like an elephant dwarfs a flea? Perhaps someone who was totally ignorant – but you’d need to be *really* ignorant….
So here is a though experiment, to help clear this up: let’s take a single Western city and compare the amount of civilizing creations that come from that one city with the civilizing output of all of Islam. We could chose Florence – or Paris, or Rome, or London, or Prague, or Vienna, or Athens, or any number of other cities, and the exercise still works. Here’s how it goes using Florence:
Imagine a couple square miles of clear land across the Arno, in which we can magically place Islamic contributions to civilization. The thought experiment is this: place some Islamic contribution to civilization in that area, building as you go a giant museum or monument to Islamic Civilization. Then, each time you add an item to your monument, look across the Arno and pick, from the contributions of Florentines, a comparable contribution.
Any honest and knowledgeable person will run out of Islamic contributions well before Florentine contributions. And that’s just one Western city among dozens for which this experiment works.
the Taj Mahal: the Duomo of Santa Maria della Fiore
the Alhambra: the Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
the Koran: the Divine Comedy
all Islamic scientists taken together: Galileo (born in Pisa, but funded by Grand Duke, lived in and around Florence for much of his life and is buried there. If this is too audacious for your taste, Google around for a batch of Florentine scientists and put them here – but that’s frankly overkill. BTW – I think Galileo is overrated – kinda like the Kobe Bryant of science – really, really good, just not *that* good. But still better than anything coming out of Islam.)
all Islamic artistic masterpieces: the Ufizi (seriously, again, overkill – there are individual works in the Ufizi that dwarf all Islamic art)
and so on. In this experiment, you will build a very nice Monument to Islamic Civilization, one full of fascinating and worthy works, one well worth studying and one that any civilized person can appreciate – and yet, across the river in Florence, is a real, live and far greater monument.
And that’s just one city.
Of course, this presumes the experimenter knows about the contributions to civilization of Islam and Florence – clearly, not a safe assumption – and can roughly judge the relative value of these contributions – also, not a safe assumption. Well, then, Google. An afternoon’s work won’t make up for a lifetime of study, but for any reasonable open-minded person, it should prove the point.
Note also how arguments against any particular pick pretty much prove the point – one may reasonably dispute the claim that Botticelli’s Primavera is a greater work of art than anything Islam has produced – but that is arguing about one piece in one museum in one Western city, versus *everything* inspired by Islam. One may reasonably dispute that Galileo’s contributions are not equal to all the contributions made by Islamic science – but he’s one guy from one city. How about if we add Fermi? Heck, da Vinci taught in Florence, if we want to reach a little. But the point: we’re responding to ALL of Islam with people and works from ONE Western city – and, at worst, it’s a debate. There’s no conceivable way Islam is clearly superior in its contributions to civilization – to ONE western city. Among dozens of such cities, let alone nations, let alone Christendom.
Conclusion: Islam has not made anything like the contributions to civilization, to human happiness and well-being, as the City of Florence. Florence is one city among many, and represents a tiny fraction of the total civilizing contributions to the world of the West. The contributions to civilization of the West – of Christendom – dwarf the contributions of Islam.