Sunday, 16 September 2012

Wot no history?!

Speaking in 2003, the abominable Blair said 'There has never been a time when... the study of history provides so little instruction for our present day.' This was the man who had helped the abysmal Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. It was earlier that year that a journalist (I think it was Robert Fisk) asked him in a press conference to comment on the Sykes-Picot agreement. Blair had not heard of what Mr Sykes and Monsieur Picot had agreed in 1916, namely the division of the Arab Provinces of the Turkish State between Britain and France, out of which came the whole sorry mess of the modern Middle East. There is now total incomprehension between most Westerners and most Muslims; and much of it is down to ignorance of history. People in the West can't understand why so many in Muslim-majority countries get worked up about a crappy anti-Islamic home movie made by adolescent idiots in California. People in the Muslim world can't understand why they seem to suffer so many gratuitous attacks from America and Europe. The trouble is that most Westerners do not know what every Muslim knows, even if only in the vaguest way: that Islam once ruled the known world between Europe and China, and that its supremacy was then taken away by the expanding British, French, Dutch and Russian empires. This was not supposed to happen. Muhammad had come to renew the religion of Abraham, Moses and Jesus; their followers should have accepted his message. This folk memory does not make for easy relations. Westerners don't look back so far. For Americans, history starts in 1776, and even of that they seem to remember a mythical version. Europeans are aware that their continent was once dominated by the Roman Empire, but the history of the nation-states goes back only a few centuries, and even the 19th century seems like a different world. With leaders like the bothersome Blair, our knowledge of history is not going to improve.

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