Word on the street is that it is not fashionable to be Muslim. That’s becoming increasingly pronounced in Nation Trump. Islam has been portrayed as something reprehensible. It is thought that Muslims should do everything in their power to become Americans by embracing a radically changed way of life. There exists an impression that Muslims are inherently oppressed by virtue of their faith, portrayed as a religion with little tolerance for dissent, and quick to liquidate detractors.
Certainly, extremists who issue belligerent verdicts do no justice to Islam; they are its true enemies. They help preserve the slanted narrative that drives the modern-day perception of Islam. Yet, how many outsiders ask the simple questions: What is Islam? What are the beliefs of Muslims? And what are Islam’s core contributions to the world?
Contrary to conventional belief, the Islamic civilization of centuries past was the world’s premier intellectual superpower, which made the European Renaissance and Enlightenment possible. When the Dark Ages swept across Europe, Muslims preserved the knowledge of the ancient Romans and Greeks from incineration — a tactic now used by the illegitimate Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
How many Westerners know that the scientific method — an idea at the apex of a world of reason — was devised and developed by a Muslim scientist by the name of Ibn Al-Haytham? The idea was to evaluate the legitimacy of scientific discovery only through experimentation on testable results. The scientific method has been adopted as an underlying law of reason used to derive logical understandings of an otherwise chaotic world.
Secondly, how many Westerners know that it was a Muslim polymath by the name of Abbas Ibn-Firnas who invented the world’s first flying machine? When thinking of flight, we immediately refer to the likes of the Wright brothers or da Vinci. But in reality, Abbas Ibn-Firnas came first.
He devised a flying suit made in the form of a loose winged cloak complete with wooden struts. Jumping off a large tower overlooking Cordoba in Spain, he came crashing down — after a few brief moments of flight. Although he devised the world’s first flying machine, and achieved flight, he nonetheless failed to produce a practical, sustainable invention. Unfortunately, failures do not guarantee places in modern history, even if one’s successors adopt one’s basic ideas.
Finally, how many Westerners know that it was a Muslim woman by the name of Fatima Al-Fihri who established the world’s first degree-granting university? To this day, the same university she established so many centuries ago remains operational as the University of Quaraouiyine in modern-day Morocco.
History is riddled with unsung discoveries. But once they are uncovered, a world of renewed proportions is possible. The history of Islamic civilization proves that Islam grew as an active proponent of knowledge and learning. How much different would the world be had these inventions not arrived as they did? How much longer would Europe have remained in the Dark Ages had it not been for the knowledge and inventions of Islamic civilization, which served as the seeds of the European Renaissance?
The distorted perception of Islam confirms one unforgiving reality; victors make history, not the other way around. Civilizations rise and fall, mocking man’s ability to control his destiny. Overindulged power typically delivers us to an abrupt demise.
Why does society fail to emphasize a positive narrative of Islam? In an age of Islamophobia, why is it seemingly out of context to reiterate qualities that made the central foundation of Western civilization possible? In a world of lopsided political correctness, it is difficult to derive the impartial truth.
As Muslims, we have an unceasing obligation to be law-abiding citizens. But we also have an obligation to be stewards of renaissance. Once the West legitimately acknowledges Islam as a contributor to its existence, a decisive turning point will be reached against the rising tide of Islamophobia — an evil that turns innocents into scapegoats.
Omar Alansari-Kreger, of Richfield, is a writer and social activist.