Recommended book: The Muslim discovery of Europe

I’ve always been interested in finding out “the other side of the story”. That was one of my main incentives in learning foreign languages, and the reason why I usually scan international newspapers.  As a recent project put me in constant contact with Turkey, I was able to pick up this book at Istanbul airport and was able to read it through.  While this blog gives a longer review of the book than I’d be willing to write here, the most interesting bit of the whole book was that for the peoples comprising Medieval Islam, Europe was an uninteresting barbaric fringe following an antiquated superseded religion, and so approached their contact with Europeans from a stand of perceived moral superiority.  Not unlike the way Europeans viewed the peoples of the New World in the 1500’s.

The book then gives a summary of how those attitudes changed with the faster European development of the Renaissance to a situation where while European technical, scientific & military expertise was sought after, cultural contact was still avoided.  300 years later, the situation is starting to change as can be seen in the TED talk below:

Disclaimer: I know Turkey is in general much less traditionalist than other Muslim countries. It is generally agreed that the push West was started by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which was not covered in this book.

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