Monday, March 2, 2009

Europe versus Islam - David Levering Lewis's reverse view

Ever since Professor David Levering Lewis produced the book God's Crucible; Islam and the Making of Europe he is touring the lecture circuit to speak on the subject. At the London School of Economics he appeared nearly a year ago and I reviewed the LSE podcast with the lecture then. Just now, UChannel Podcast published another one at Vanderbilt with the same title, A Counter-Narrative: Islam and the Making of the First Europe , where the audio is much better and the professor is more streamlined with the subject.

Basically the book and the lecture are about history and offer a different perspective on two battles long, long ago in history: The battles of Tours (732 AD) and Roncevaux (778 AD), which would be merely academic, had these battles not profoundly defined our narrative of European History and Identity and pitted the Christian West in an irreconcilable enmity towards the world of Islam. Roncevaux is the tragedy better known in its retelling in the Song of Roland. In this reconstruction Roland is the tragic hero of pure and uncompromising Christianity. The evil of the Islam is a given and its threat not questioned.

David Levering Lewis paints a whole different picture though. Exemplary is the cohabitation of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Spain before the reconquista, which allowed for a golden age for all. The mentality of Tours and Roncevaux reject that culture however and plunges Europe in a prolonged era of savagery until the Renaissance. It may now be responsible for the similarly unremitting Islamism. The counter-narrative, offers an alternative for our definitions of self and our relationship with the world of Islam. This history shows that the, albeit more complicated and demanding, cohabitation is far more advantageous than the eternal pitted fight. That makes the Song of Roland relevant for today and requires of us to evaluate its defining narrative anew.

More UChannel Podcast:
Power of Cities,
Gaza (Tony Blair),
Whither the Middle East,
Kafka comes to America,
Lord Lawson and the alarmists.

More Islam and Europe:
Europe and the Middle East,
Battle of Tours ,
Islam and Europe,
Making of the Modern World - UCSD,
Islam meets Europe.

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