When will the West wake up?
- Last Updated: 3:33 AM, December 29, 2011
- Posted: 10:29 PM, December 28, 2011
As if further proof were needed of the fecklessness of Western civilization when confronting savagery, consider the destruction of the Institut d’Egypte in Cairo this month. Once again, the world watched helplessly while a horde of Muslim rioters wantonly annihilated a piece of history, and thus served warning that its cultural jihad against the West will advance until we stop it.
The Institut was founded by Napoleon in 1798 during his campaign in Egypt and Syria. Its ranks have included scholars from all walks of life, dedicated to researching Egyptian culture from antiquity to the present. The building, near Tahrir Square — the center of the protests that have marked the Arab Spring in Egypt — was filled with some 200,000 rare books and manuscripts. Gone now, burned in a fire, set off by a mob, that raged for more than 12 hours.
This isn’t the first time a Muslim horde has annihilated a priceless part of civilization. The litany of cultural vandalism emanating from Arabia is stunning, from the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the defacement of the Sphinx and the conquest of Persia in the 7th century, to the Arab assault on India over the next four centuries — which resulted in a staggering loss of Hindu art and artifacts — to the near-eradication of Christianity from the lands of its origins in Syria and Turkey, to the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan in March 2001.
True, some sources ascribe the destruction of the Alexandria Library to Julius Caesar and some Roman emperors, although no less than five Arabic sources attribute the event to the Caliph Omar, who supposedly said of the manuscripts: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.”
Similarly, the blame for loss of the Sphinx’s nose is, probably apocryphally, placed at the feet of some Napoleonic soldiers, who supposedly fired a cannonball at it. But, once again, Arabic sources say that the Sphinx was vandalized by iconoclastic Muslims in the 14th century as part of their ongoing campaign against idolatry and the representation of the human form in art.
This can’t stand. For, in addition to the mortal threat militant Islam poses to the Western political system, it poses an even greater danger to our cultural history and that of non-Western cultures. Under the Taliban, music in Afghanistan was banned, and in more repressive Muslim states it’s looked upon with deep suspicion.
If, as seems likely, Islam extends its reach into “Eurabia,” it will come as no surprise when European cultural institutions gradually come under attack, including the great symphony orchestras and opera houses, art galleries and (of course) churches.
In 2006, for example, the Deutsche Opera in Berlin canceled an avant-garde production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, which included the severed heads of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed out of fear of reprisals from Muslims.
It‘s instructive to remember that one of Christendom’s greatest cathedrals, Saint Sophia in Constantinople, was converted into the principal mosque of Istanbul in 1453; since 1935, it’s been a museum.
So where’s the international outrage? Where are the international agencies, which are so quick to protest the most tenuous slight to “human rights” in the West? Most of all, where’s the United Nations? Instead of sending its blue-helmeted troops around the world on futile peacekeeping missions, why doesn’t it throw a cordon sanitaire around sites of historical import. If that offends certain sensibilities, so what? The planet’s cultural patrimony belongs to everyone.
Clearly, not all of the Islamic world is antithetical to civilization, nor has Islamic culture always been so militant. As Daniel Pipes has pointed out, the Europeanized Cairo that flourished between 1863 to 1952 was a city of hedonistic pleasures and high culture — Verdi, after all, premiered his opera Aida in Cairo in 1871. In Turkey, it was the secularist reformer, Ataturk, who turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.
But in too many places, militant Islam has the upper hand, and is on the march, enforcing its religious proscriptions through dynamite and fires. Appeasement won’t work. Only a clear and unmistakable declaration by civilized nations — backed up with force, if necessary — can stem the tide of destructiveness.Follow @NYPostOpinion