What does the West owe to Islam? Very Little...

One often hears, ad nauseum, about how much Europe owes to Islam for this and that. I have from time to time shared how suspicious I am of this hypothesis. I mean, it does a lot to inflate the self confidence of Muslims who live in countries that (excepting Sub-Saharan Africa) are the worst in the world in areas like economic growth, education, new technologies, human rights, corruption, and so on.

And then I find there is a whole book about the topic of what Europe owes to Islam. Sylvain Gouguenheim has proposed that the West owes very little to Islam in his book (only in French, alas) Aristote au Mont-Saint-Michel. Here is a section from a review of the book by Roger-Pol Driot (Le Monde, 4 April 2008):

Now this serious academician, a professor of mediaeval history at l’École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, refutes a number of convictions that had become dominant. During the last decades, following the works of Alain de Libera, or Mohammed Arkoun, Edward Said, or the Counsel of Europe, a wrong turn had been taken regarding the role of Islam in the history and culture of Europe … Should we follow this book, it will be necessary to revise further our judgments. Rather than believing that the entire body of European philosophical knowledge was dependent on Arab intermediaries, we should remember the major role played by the translators of Mount-Saint-Michel. They had transmitted all of Aristotle directly from Greek into Latin, several decades before the same works were translated in Toledo from the Arabic versions. Instead of dreaming that the Islamic world was both open and generous and offered to dark and dormant Europe the means for its renewal, it is necessary to remember that Europe did not receive all that learning as a gift. It had to go and search for it. And it was Europe alone that applied that knowledge both in the scientific and political fields.
Have any of you read the whole book? If so, what did you think?


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