Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Hani Nakshabandi: Islamophobe?

Hani Nakshabandi

The writer Hani Nakshabandi expresses Islamophobic doubts that Muslim Spain was a cultural light unto Europe:
I believe that we, who oppose occupation, practiced the same kind of occupation ourselves. We fought against the French occupation of North Africa, and against the French and British occupation of the Levant, but we practiced the same type of occupation in Spain . . . . Everything that is written in our history books should be reexamined. We present Europe as if it had been immersed in darkness and ignorance, until we came along and ushered in an era of light . . . . [I]n Saudi Arabia, we still have villages with no electricity. Wherever you go in the Arab world . . . you see villages where people still live like cavemen, yet you say that we ushered civilization into Europe?! . . . I lived in Spain . . . Well, I didn't really live there, but I visited there a lot, and I went to the museums and libraries. What kind of civilization did the Arabs leave behind in Andalusia? Cordoba . . . . is a Spanish city. What new things did [the Arabs] leave there? Even the Umayyad Mosque was a church they turned into a mosque, just like the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, which still bears the hallmarks of a church to this day . . . . Who created the image of Andalusia that we have in our minds? People attack me because their image of Andalusia is the Andalusia of songs and of dancing women or the Andalusia that they see on TV soap operas -- with water fountains, trees, and beautiful women . . . . This is not Andalusia. Andalusia was a real political tragedy [for the Spanish]. It is not true that the Arabs spread Islam there. Is Spain a Muslim country? It is the pinnacle of Catholicism in the world. ("Saudi Author Hani Nakshabandi: We Should Reexamine Our History Books, The Arabs Were Occupiers In Spain," Memri, Special Dispatch No. 5431, September 2, 2013)
How Islamophobic of Mr. Nakshabandi! Everyone knows that Andalusia was Europe's intellectual center, that the Muslims brought enlightenment to a continent groping in the darkness of ignorance (jahiliyya). The poor, deluded man must be suffering from Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam. Except that he's a Saudi Muslim:
Hani Nakshabandi was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He edited Sadiyah, a London-based Arab women's magazine, then moved to live and work in Dubai, editing Al-Majallah magazine and presenting a television news show. He has two novels, Ikhtiras [The Interloper] and Sallam, excerpted here, both with Dar al Saqi. (Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, Banipal 34, "The World of Arab Fiction," 2013)
As a Muslim, albeit a liberal one, Nakshabandi can't be an Islamophobe. But I do wonder if he's entirely right about Muslim Spain. While the Muslim presence was an occupation and suppressed Christians and Jews as dhimmis, Islamic Spain was at times a center of learning and intellectual exchange, as often happens within empires . . . or so I read in my history-of-science days. Perhaps there's been some historical revisionism since my student years, but that sort of revising goes back and forth, and there's usually a bone of contention with a bit of meat on it, else there'd be nothing to argue about.

Whatever one might think about Andalusia -- or any other Muslim issue -- both Muslims and non-Muslims should be free to express their opinions openly without charges of 'Islamophobia' or, far worse, being charged with 'hate speech' for criticizing Islam.

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At 7:35 AM, Blogger Able said...

I may be wrong, I usually am, but wasn't Spain a 'centre of enlightenment' specifically because of the more 'tolerant' attitudes (as long as they knew their place) towards certain Christian 'sects' and of Jews than the rest of Europe?

As such was it really a Muslim centre of learning?

Questions, not opinion.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My guess is that the early Muslim empires possessed centers of learning because they brought together a variety of people and ideas at a time when Islamization was only within its early stages.

For whatever reasons, Islam grew ever more rigid and dogmatic as more dhimmis converted to Islam, but I haven't really studied the issue enough to say precisely why.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:31 PM, Anonymous erdal said...

"Hani Nakshabandi was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia" alright, but he isn't a local Sunni Arab. This interview isn't a story about a liberal voice in Saudi Arabia, or Sunni Islam. Hani Nakshabandi isn't a liberal as commonly understood, he simply harbours a deep sectarian animosity toward wahhabi and other othodox sunnis. He belongs to this guy's outfit, who in turn was sponsored by U.S. neoconservatives in their heyday. Don't know what they're up to these days. They are quite a weird sect, intensely politicised and playing with everybody against everybody else, changing partners as is suits them, like the Lebanese Druze. They operate a theologiacally antagonistic, sensational, and thus pretty popular Arabic-language TV station out of Cyprus, that (as I see it) is intent on creating strife, usually in Egypt.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. I'm often finding that I'm treading water in depths way over my head!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Aisha said...

This is in reply to Erdal and Jeffery. Shouldn't the contention be on the claims he put forward and not his purported affiliations? Also there is an insinuation that only non-Muslims or in this case, non-'local arabs' can be Islamophobes although we have anti-Semitic Jews and anti-Christian Christians. In addition, contrary to your opinion, his views expressed in his novel only prove that he is indeed a liberal Muslim, or at least, a leftist 'moderate' Muslim. I'm one myself and if his calling for a better revision of our history equals fueling division and being an Islamophobe, then I believe that says more of the people accusing him of such than Mr. Hani.

The argument used by many Muslims as justification for the Islamic occupation of whole regions in the name of scientific contribution or enlightenment falls apart when viewing modern Israel. Israel remains one of the most innovative and developed countries in the world. Jews are regularly awarded Nobel Prizes, Einstein is honored worldwide, yet they blatantly occupy Palestine.How can we justify one and pour our selective outrage on the other? It's hypocritical. The Islamic conquests outside the time of Mohammed (pbuh) were fueled by the greed of the caliphs and we justify it!

Regardless, I think we should contend with him on his claims and only that. And I do think it's telling that while the Roman empire conquered land and developed their technology, their civilization and subsequent derivatives continued to develop; however the innovation of the Islamic empire has stagnated quite dramatically as though that period were an abberation and the knowledge of that period was only absorbed and not innate. This is truly frightening, so please Mr. Horace, do your research so we can have true answers. Insha'Allah. You will be blessed.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Aisha, for your comment.

Erdal knows far more about Islam and its history than I do.

My comment about Nakshabandi was meant in irony, for I don't consider criticism of Islam to be evidence of Islamophobia.

I'm using my iPad, so I'll stop now.

Jeffery Hodges

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