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Review of "God's Crucible - Islam and the Making of Europe" in the New Yorker - Muslim revisionism?

Via Opinion Dominion comes news of a review in the New Yorker, by Joan Acocella, of David Levering Lewis' book "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215".

Aocella sums up the book:

The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as “the forward wave of
civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an
organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in
service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior” to that of
the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by
invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he
clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of
Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in
creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe
that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory
religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It
was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly
the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.”

This is a bold hypothesis.
While some of the criticism of the book appears to be sound, I think that Aocella, and Steve at Opinion Dominion, have failed to see that Lewis has at least clearly implied that there is some way that civilisations can be judged as backward or progressive.

At Opinion Dominion, I said:

Having just read the review, I'm not sure the book is as pernicious as
you and the reviewer appear to think, despite the examples of special
pleading for the Muslim regime in al-Andalus.

I think it is positive to be specific about why one thinks one civilisation is
superior to another - as long as this does not devolve into self-hatred.

Without making such distinctions, it would be impossible to say that today's
liberal bourgeios democracies are better places to live than the
stagnant fascist dictatorships that blight much of the Arab world today.

I certainly don't see that criticising the civilisation of mediaeval
Europe necessarily leads to the mistake of refusing to defend today's
civilisation against Islamo-fascist terrorists today - I imagine that
is one of the broad lines which causes you to have doubts about this

I also can't help wondering why a civilisation that was once so much more advanced that Frankland fell so far behind it.

I'd suggest you drop into Opinion Dominion to continue the debate over the book, the issue of judging civilisations, and the most important question - what was Islamic underarm deodorant made out of in Al-Adalus?

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