Written by Daniel Greenfield
Rebuilding the Library of Alexandria some 1300 hundred years after its final destruction at the hands of its Islamic conquerors in a country where blasphemy against Islam is still a crime was always a fool’s errand. But it was a fool’s errand lavishly embraced by every collection of useful idiots from UNESCO to the National Library of France, which kicked in half a million books.
Most of the money was spent constructing a massive edifice housing only a fraction of the books that could be found in the Harvard University Library, the Library of Congress or the British Library– in a country with a lower literacy rate than much of the African continent. The Library was a Mubarak project and as the wonderful Arab Spring turns into the Islamic Winter, the mobs of Tahrir are coming for the library.
The Library of Alexandria 2.0 is hardly a beacon of culture and enlightenment, but its arts programs, feeble as they are, have already become a target for Egypt’s rising Islamists. There’s no room for ballet in a country where women are expected to cover themselves head to toe in black and walk behind a man. To learn its future, we need only go back to the words of Caliph Omar who declared that if the contents of the library accord with the Koran then they are redundant, if they contradict the Koran, then they are heretical and must be burned.
Ibn Khaldun, the Berber historiographer, whose statue stands in a Tunis now fallen to Islamic mobs, asked, “Where is the literature of the Persians? Their literature was destroyed by order of Omar when the Arabs conquered the country. And so the literature of the Chaldees, the Babylonians, and a literature still more ancient that of the Copts.”
This cultural genocide isn’t discussed much by modern Western scholars who spend a great deal of time on what the Conquistadors did in South America, but are reluctant to address what the Arabs did in North Africa and the Middle East. Every traveling fair showcasing Islamic science, a misnomer in a religion that denies science, is an obscene spectacle of revisionist history by the conquerors who destroyed much of the knowledge and culture of the peoples they ground under their boot, and now want to take credit for what little they appropriated and put to use.
The true picture of Islamic science is of fragments of knowledge that survived despite Islamic barbarism. Caliph Omar’s encounter with the rich science of Persia is a frightening repetition of the same formula, according to Ibn Khaldun.
“We know that the Muslims, when they conquered Persia, found in that country an innumerable quantity of books and scientific treatises, and that their General, Saad Ibn Abi Oueccas, asked Khalif Omar by letter if he would allow him to distribute those books among the true believers with the rest of the booty. Omar answered him in these terms: — “Throw them into the water. If they contain anything which can guide men to the truth, we have received from Allah what will guide us much better. If they contain errors, we shall well be rid of them, Praise Allah.” In consequence of this order, the books were thrown into the water and the fire, and the literature and science of the Persians disappeared.”
What will happen to the Library of Alexandria, or to any library, under a new caliphate of the Muslim Brotherhood? The same thing that will eventually happen to the National Library of France, the British Library and the Library of Congress if the Islamic conquest continues to advance.
The Christians, Jews and pagans living in Alexandria could not have foreseen the crushing dark ages that would come with Islamic rule. And many Persians, Berbers and Copts still resent Islam for what it did to their cultural heritage. New York is the next Alexandria, Paris is the next Constantinople and London is the next Babylon.
When Muslims target our freedom of speech, when they tell us what we can say and think, they are acting as the vanguard of the new conquest. The Ground Zero Mosque is another Mosque of Omar, raised to celebrate the conqueror’s triumph in bringing down our great buildings and erecting their own mosque nearby.
The city of Alexandria once held many of the wonders of the ancient world. The Pharos Lighthouse, the Empire State Building of its day, was turned into a mosque by Muslims and then allowed to decay into ruin. Islamic rulers tore apart what was left of the building for their own projects. According to a story recounted by Al-Suyuti, the Caliph broke the lighthouse looking for the gold that he thought was buried under it and then could not get the lighthouse to work again. An apt metaphor for what Muslims are doing to the modern day wonders of the West.
Alexandria’s former multiculturalism has given way to Islamic dominance after the Arab-Muslim conquerors seized native women and converted them to their religion. Alexandria was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. Today it’s down to twenty-three people. But it’s not only the Jews who have vanished from Alexandria.
Life has become increasingly intolerable for Egypt’s Christians. In 2009, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life listed Egypt, along with Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia as having the most restrictions on religion. Of the ten countries that scored “Very High” along with Egypt, only two, China and Burma, were non-Muslim. That was in the Mubarak era, the rise of the Brotherhood means that Copts, Bahai and other minorities will be able to look back on those days with nostalgia before the unfiltered version of Islam held sway over Egypt.
Al-Azhar University’s Islamic Research Council already controls what books may be published. It has succeeded in banning books directly through legal channels or through rioting and threats. Islamic pressure has resulted in the censorship of even the American University library. And the IRC has the power to seize books, magazines and other materials that violate Islamic codes. How long until the IRC’s power extends directly into the Library of Alexandria? Not very long.
Three years before the UNESCO design competition for the new Library of Alexandria began, an Egyptian court confiscated three thousand copies of “One Thousand and One Nights”. If one of the classics of Arabic literature could be seized that way and its publisher prosecuted, then any lesser book could.
The Library is a relic of the Mubarak era and it is easy for Islamists to make the case against an expensive building full of heretical books while the population doesn’t have enough to eat. The question isn’t whether Islam will burn the Library of Alexandria a second time around, but of when it will get around to pouring the gasoline and lighting the flames.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.