Today’s news is full of pictures of irate Muslims getting extremely uptight about a bunch of cartoons.
So I am intrigued by the synchronicity of a quote I discovered this week in White Gold another Giles Milton book about the white slave trade in Africa in the 18th century: “(writer Simon) Ockley was fascinated by Islamic culture and horrified at the general level of English ignorance and prejudice on the subject. He…argued that a deeper understanding of Islam was ‘more necessary than the being acquainted with the history of any people whatsoever.’ (In Ockley’s) monumental History of the Saracens…he took a sideswipe at all who ‘contented themselves in despising eastern nations and looking upon them as brutes and barbarians.’
“Ockley’s book included the Sentences of Ali, a collection of maxims by the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law, which Ockley believed to be both instructive and wise…’There is enough, even in this little handful, to vindicate…the poor injured Arabians from the imputation of that gross ignorance fastened upon them by modern novices.”
Ockley wrote these words in 1718.
And now 288 years later we’re still in the crapper. Granted Milton’s book describes at great length and in appalling detail the horrific torture the white slaves were put to while incarcerated in Morocco but the thought remains: What have we learnt in these intervening 3 centuries with all our instant messaging, cell-phones, CNN updates and our global village? Certainly not understanding or tolerance of our neighbours.