Letter: Islam's contribution to world civilisation and culture

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Sir: Perhaps Robert Fisk ("Burying the Crusader's sword", 1 August) can explain why the 800-year occupation of Spain, the 400-year occupation of Greece and the Balkans, the 200-year occupation of Sicily, and the 100-year occupation of Corsica (longer than the occupation of Iraq by the British) by Arabs or Turks are not seen for the acts of aggression, colonialism and imperialism that they were. Add for good measure, the three-year siege of Malta, the siege of Vienna in 1683, the capture of Taranto, the yearly raiding parties along the French and Italian coasts and it becomes quite difficult to see these events as merely the actions of uninvited and over-boisterous guests whom the police have been unable to control.

Islamic triumphalism and consequently Islamic jihad or "crusade" and aggression are not fantasies but established facts. If the Pope is to apologise for the Crusades, then perhaps an Islamic Council can apologise for Islam's past depredations. It would be useful and salutary to bear in mind, that in its conquering course, Islam destroyed one major Middle Eastern religion, Zoroastrianism, and in the words of one Indian writer, "broke the back of Indian civilisation."

None of this would detract from Islam's contribution to world civilisation and culture. We would be much the poorer without the Alhambra, without Averroes and Avicenna, without algebra, without Persian and Moghul miniatures, and without the Taj Mahal or the Dome of the Rock.

Once apologies have been made on all sides, we could then see yearly gatherings of European and Islamic and Jewish artists and intellectuals, scholars and scientists to examine our common problematic future seen, alas, in the light of a long history of mutual aggression. Hopefully, they would display more balance than Robert Fisk who, in warning against the demonisation of Islam, almost succeeds in demonising Americans, Israelis and Jews and sundry Europeans who happen not to share his views.

JOHN D NORMAN

London W3

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