Bush says Islam is a great religion

The above is true even if we allow for the Islamic religion as such making “philosophical” contributions. I’m no scholar of Islamic philosophy, but if this brief treatment is a fair one – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_philosophy – then most Islamic philosophy is as worthless as Thomist scholasticism, and for the same reasons.

That’s not a premise, it’s a question. The answer could be “none”.

I read the OP and I still think my point stands. The OP did ask for “technical” contributions and that’s a bogus way to measure a religion. Asking for “cultural” contributions is kind of a non-starter since there is no such thing as monolithic Muslim culture. Most Muslims are not even Arabs.
Philosophical? How about this. Islam is the only major religion which has always condemned racism from its very inception.

But the counter example you gave of Edison clearly indicates you were considering only technological contributions.

If your point still stands, how can there be a valid answer? Seems like you just invalidated your own protest.

Umm… what about Christianity? There’s the Parable of The Good Samaritan for starters.

And the Islamic states I and my family have visited are even more racist than we in the West used to be.

Yes, of course. For example this overview of charities involved in the tsunami relief mentions organizations from many different backgrounds, three of them clearly muslim: Islamic Aid, Muslim Hands, Muslim Aid.

Nope. Christianity never condemned racism. In fact, the Bible frequently condemns interracial marriage. Jesus called Gentiles “dogs” and “swine.” The Samaritans were the same “race” as the Jews. There is nothing in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament condemning racism.

I doubt that. I think you’re confusing other hostilities with racism. If you’re a Muslim, they don’t care what your race is (and some aspects of Islamic countries are based on culture, not on religion).

Nonetheless, Islam is the only major religion which has always and explicitly condemned racism. Whether Muslims always adhere to that or not (Christians rarely live out their own ideals either) it doesn’t change the fact that the Koran condemns it and the Bible does not.

Islam has indeed condemned racial discrimination for most of its history, and also emphasied charity. In fact, Muslims are required by the Koran to give up a portion of their income each year to charity (IANAMuslim, but I believe its 10%). The vast majority do so, in my experience. Christianity has no such exact requirement, although that’s not to so that Christians aren’t charitable, of course :).

As to scientific achievements, I was under the impression that the Islamic world was, from about the c.8-15 centuries, considerably ahead of Christendom in terms of developments of chemistry, optics, medicine, mathematics and a deal of other practical sciences. I think that a portion of this was probably due to easier access to China, which had still more advanced technology (at the time), but I would not be suprised if a portion were due to the respect Islam accords for scholars. Does anyone know if the Koran is more permissive about scientifc study in general? For example, I know the study of anatomy in Europe was retarded to a signifiant degree since dissecting corpses was banned by the church- did anything similar exist in Islam?

As for philosophical developments, I think its difficult to characterize this. I suppose that, in a sense you could draw Enlightenment philosophy (on which “Western” philosophical thought is heavily based) to the writings of figures like Aquinas. Certainly the (Christian) church served as a haven for thinkers and preserved a significant number of documents (of course, it also persecuted other thinkers and destroyed their works, so maybe it balances out). Anything comparable in the history of Islam? I know there’s that old chestnut about an Islamic prince ordering the destruction of the library of Alexandria, stating that “If they agree with the Koran, they are unnecessary; if they disagree, they are blasphemous”, but I think that’s untrue.

Hmm. That post sounds very wooly. I don’t really know that much about the subject. Anyone here a student of, or interested in, Islamic history of culture?

The Taj Mahal and various other examples of Mughal architecture are amongst the most accomplished buildings ever created.

Racist against whom?

Say, where’s Tamerlane?

He died in 1405, at Utrar on his way to conquer China.

I guess the striking thing about Islamic architecture, and Islamic art generally, is that it had to fit within the strictures of the Koranic prohibition of “images.” So, no statues, no gargoyles, no murals if they depict humans or animals; but plants are OK and so are abstract geometric patterns. So you wind up with all those complex geometric frescos and mosaics; and also stuff of beautiful simplicity, like Taj Mahal.

I have a hard time finding things to read about pre-Islamic Arab, Persian, Turkish, etc. history that don’t in some way have an axe to grind, be it pro or con. So I will humbly submit what I’ve gotten from what I’ve read and from people I know, and wait for someone more knowledgeable to come along and straighten me out [it’s too bad Tamerlane died in the 15th century, and will no longer be able to post here].

As I understand it, Islam had largely the same effect on the Arabian peninsula, Asia Minor, and the lands to the east and west, that Christianity had in northern Europe. It served to unite a fractious set of peoples under one belief system, and to weaken or eliminate some of the more odious practices in place at the time.

Moreover, because Mohammed was a religious, military, and political leader rolled into one, Islam was equipped from the start to effectively subdue, unite, and govern. In this it has a better track record than Christianity, which suffered immensely from centuries of power struggles between civil government and the various churches.

Islam also has generally been less racist and more religiously tolerant than Christianity. The Jews, in particular, while not treated as equals under Islam, have had better luck under Islam than under Christianity. In spite of the dangerous, well-financed whack jobs out there, Muslims remain (in my experience) a remarkably tolerant people.

You may doubt it, but I’ve seen it, as have my father and my brother. Hostilities had nothing to do with it. Two examples: Saudi Arabia wasn’t in conflict with Pakistan, nor Brunei with China or the Philipines. The racism was just so damn casual. And never mind the institutionalised sexism.

Mmmm Samarkand !

What do you mean? In SA, do Arabs spit on non-Arabs in the street, or what?

In my limited experience in the UAE, Pakistani and Iranian migrant workers are treated like absolute shit. A friend who was living there said she saw several incidents where a local Arab in a big car would run a migrant cyclist off the road - sometimes leading to the cyclist’s death - and just drive off.

As others have pointed out, it was not the Islamic Religion which contributed to cultural, technological or philosophical advances. Historically, Islamic intellectual advances go back to a period spanning about 600 years, from the 10th to the 16th century. At this time, it is known that the Muslims were quite tolerant and relatively secular for the time. In a secular, tolerant society, science flourishes. Europe in the same time period was experiencing the Dark Ages, where witch hunts and inquisitions ensured there was little scientific, cultural, or philosophical enlightenment.
It’s no coincidence that the renaissance in Northern Europe occurred at about the time of the Protestant movement, and more specifically the separation of church and state in countries such as England, Holland, and France. Although the struggle between the Catholics and Protestants produced some fanatics, there were also those who found they could turn their minds to scientific research in relative freedom. No church could hinder the scientific advancement of those who chose to use their mind in the pursuit of knowledge rather than religion. Indeed, both England and Holland welcomed Jews, fleeing the inquisition in Spain. (A side note: the Jews had found themselves persecuted by the Catholic church after the Spanish “liberated” the Iberian peninsula. Under the Muslim Moors, the Jews were free to live and practice their own faith. An example of the tolerant and secular society of the Muslim world back then).

Frankly, I find it sad that the once tolerant, secular, and culturally advanced, (for its time), Muslim world is now filled with fanaticism and intolerance, not to mention ignorance. Just look at how Afghanistan was under the Taliban rule. Talk about a window into the dark ages.

The point is, technological, cultural, and philosophical enlightenment occurs most commonly in a secular society as history proves. Less God = More enlightenment.