Thursday, October 19, 2006

The "Muslim Ages"?

Apparently, there is a move amongst the ubiquitous "group of academics" to get rid of the terms "Dark Ages" and "Middle Ages".
The ambitious project, backed by the British foreign office, aims to contest the very notion of a period that is known in the West as the Dark Ages, and highlight what has been called by Prince Charles of Wales as the "indebtedness" of Western civilisation to the Muslim world.

"We are told that nothing happened between the Roman Empire and [the Renaissance]. How can we accept that humanity went to sleep for that long?" asked Salim Al Hassani, the Iraqi-born British professor of mechanical engineering behind Muslim Heritage, which held a lecture about 1001 Muslim inventions at the Madinat Theatre on Tuesday, also featuring an address by the British consul general in Dubai, John Hawkins.

The term 'Dark Ages', Al Hassani told Gulf News, is losing ground and the period is more commonly referred to as the 'Middle Ages', which according to him is also misleading.

"'Middle Ages' refers to a period between two ages. Why don't we just give that period a name?" he asked, adding that the only appropriate name for the period would be the 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' age. Al Hassani said it is time for historians in the West to give due credit to Muslim academics.

Richard Brown, spokesperson for Muslim Heritage, said the response the programme has received has been overwhelming. A recent exhibition held by Muslim Heritage in Manchester, UK, attracted 80,000 visitors and was extended from three months to six, due to popular demand.

According to Brown, there is growing interest in the project's work in the West. Interestingly, he said, the largest number of requests for the exhibition came from the United States.

"'Middle Ages' refers to a period between two ages. Why don't we just give that period a name?" asks Al Hassani.
Sure....but wouldn't it strike today's medievalist as a bit disconnected to be called a "Muslim Age" scholar while they are studying, say, Eleanor of Aquitaine or St. Patrick? Others have attempted to rid us of this particular set of historiographical baggage and have failed. Heck, couldn't China lay claim to just as much "progress" during this time as the Muslim world? Maybe we should call it the "Eastern Age" or something. Anyway, I seriously doubt that such a generic appellation would catch on, but I'm nearly certain that naming an entire age after a specific culture isn't going to be widely accepted.

No comments: