The History Wars Continue, Part III

We’ve been seeing a pattern: the Texas Freedom Network denounces textbooks, not for saying things that are false, but for declining to give their preferred narrative. They attack books for giving arguments on the other side of their own political positions.

This is clear from their treatment of World History textbooks. Let’s look at their next complaint:

3. “Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.”

(a) One text says, “Much of the violence you read or hear about in the Middle East is related to a jihad.” The Network cries foul: “This broad charge effectively blames Islam for a very complex cycle of violence and counter-violence, a cycle driven by a host of factors (e.g., natural resources, population pressures) besides radical Islam.” But the text says that much of the violence relates to jihad. My objection would be that ‘relates to’ is vague; how does it relate? Events and patterns of events, however, can easily relate to many different things; saying that much violence relates to jihad doesn’t in any way deny that other factors are at work as well. What the text says is true. It seems the Network wants the texts to whitewash Islam’s role in promoting violence. The complaint is bogus.

(b) One text says, “The spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western political and cultural influences and Western ideology.” The Network objects: “Not all international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism; for example, ETA in Spain and the Irish Republican Army are unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism.” But the ETA and the IRA aren’t international in anything like the same sense. Bogus.

(c) The same text speaks of the Middle East and North Africa as being “occupied” by Muslims. The Network says “the use of loaded terms like ‘occupied’ makes little sense when discussing the Middle Ages, when the population of those regions were by and large Muslim themselves.” I wish the same sensitivity were at work when people use the term to refer to Gaza or the West Bank! Still, I rate this complaint reasonable.

(d) The Network reports that the text maintains that “Islam synthesized, stored, and annotated Classical Greek and Roman learning but did not do much to add to it,” and objects that “in nearly every instance the ‘original’ scientist whose work inspired the scientist described is identified, which serves to minimize the contribution of Islamic scholarship.” It’s hard to evaluate this objection without looking in detail at each figure discussed and the particulars of the discussion. Some Islamic scholars were highly original; others made relatively minor contributions, serving mostly to transmit Greek or Indian ideas. So, let’s call this one debatable.

(e) Another book points out that “In the centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims spread their religion by conquest. Islamic rulers took control of Southwest Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and parts of India and Spain.” That’s uncontroversially true, even if politically incorrect. The Network holds, “This is a half-truth. While in this period Islam did spread in part by conquest, it was also taken to many regions (for instance, Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia) by traders and missionaries, not by conquest.” But notice that the book says nothing about Sub-Saharan Africa or those other parts of Asia (Indonesia, for example). ‘Half-true’ here appears to mean ‘true, but leaving out what we’d prefer they talk about.’ Islam spread by many means, not least offering people with little wealth a vast reduction in taxes. But the history of conquest is undeniable:

  • Byzantine–Arab Wars: 634–750
  • The conquest of Syria, 637
  • The conquest of Armenia, 639
  • The conquest of Egypt, 639
  • The conquest of North Africa, 652
  • The conquest of Cyprus, 654
  • The conquest of North Africa, 665
  • The first Arab siege of Constantinople, 674–678
  • The second Arab siege of Constantinople, 717–718
  • Conquest of Hispania, 711–718
  • The conquest of Georgia, 736
  • The conquest of Crete, 820
  • The conquest of southern Italy, 827
  • Conquest of Persia and Iraq: 633–651
  • Conquest of Transoxiana: 662–709
  • Conquest of Sindh: 664–712
  • Conquest of Hispania (711–718) and Septimania (719–720)
  • Conquest of the Caucasus: 711–750
  • Conquest of Nubia: 700–1606
  • Incursions into southern Italy: 831–902
  • Conquest of Anatolia: 1060–1360
  • Byzantine-Ottoman Wars: 1299–1453
  • Balkan invasion and civil war: 1341–1371
  • Fall of Constantinople: 1453
  • European attacks: 1200–1800
  • Wars in Albania
  • Bosnian Resistance
  • Croatian Resistance
  • Occupation of central parts of Hungarian Kingdom
  • Serbian Resistance 1463–1503
  • Wars with Venice 1462–1483
  • Wallachian and Moldavian campaigns 1526–1566
  • Attack on Habsburg Empire 1522–1573
  • Rhodes, Malta and the Holy League 1570–1571
  • Conquest of Cyprus 1593–1669
  • Austria,Venice and Wallachia 1620–1621
  • Poland 1657–1683
  • Conclusion of Wars with Habsburgs 1672–1676
  • Poland 1683–1699
  • Great Turkish War – Loss of Hungary and the Morea
  • Attacks on India 636–713
  • Invasion of the Western coast of India 636–870
  • Attacks on Hindu Afghanistan 870–1030
  • Turkish eorts to subdue the Punjab 1000–1030
  • Devastating campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazni 1175–1206
  • Muhammad Ghauri’s conquest of northwestern India and the Gangetic valley 1398–1405
  • Tamarlane’s destruction of northern India

The complaint is bogus.



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