This “Arab Culture Night” — “jointly organized by embassies of 10 Arab countries in Seoul — Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia” — seems to have been exclusively an Islamic culture night. While noting that Islam “spread” for a thousand years, it doesn’t say how. And before the emails from jihadist apologists and pseudo-intellectual Westerners start rolling in, let me clarify: I know how Muslims hate it when Westerners say that Islam “spread by the sword.” And I am well aware that Islamic law forbids forced conversions, in line with Qur’an 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Although I also know that historically that restriction was often ignored.) But dhimmi status was so onerous for non-Muslims in the lands that Muslims had conquered that many saw conversion to Islam as the only path to a better life. Over a thousand years, that was the surest and most sustained way that Islam “spread.”
From the Seoul Times, with thanks to Anthony:
In order to promote closeness and understanding between the Arab world and the people of Korea, the wives and Arab envoys in Korea staged an Arab Culture Night at Hotel Lotte in downtown Seoul Nov. 29, 2004 showcasing traditional Arab food, handicrafts and art objects but most importantly performances by troupes arriving from the State of Kuwait and Lebanon.
Arabic folklore dances and music from various regions of the Arab world fascinated more than 300 jam-packed audience….
The event, the first of its kind ever staged in Korea, was jointly organized by embassies of 10 Arab countries in Seoul — Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia.
As an Arab specialist pointed out, the Islamic world is indeed a mosaic, not a monolith. It stretches from Indonesia to Morocco and from central Europe to southern Africa.
It reaches into western Europe, the Americas and Australasia. It comprises men and women often divided by race, culture or language, yet united – by the powerful bond of Islam.
Over a thousand years, Islam spread from the land of the Prophet Muhammad into large parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Islamic scholars produced a dazzling array of achievements — in theology, philosophy, history, literature, architecture, art, astronomy, mathematics, medicine and other sciences.
I survey those achievements in Islam Unveiled. They came at a time when the Islamic world was open to other cultures — for most of what they accomplished in the fields listed above built on the discoveries and findings of non-Muslims. When Qur’anic literalism prevailed, most intellectual exploration was closed off.
This rich history proves that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the sad state in which so much of the Islamic world finds itself today.
Extremist dogmas are gaining ground, impeding the progress of the entire Umma and threatening the security of people all over the world.
But of course at Arab Culture Night, the problem was not Qur’anic literalism, but the big bad West, and little bad Israel:
These contemporary maladies, along with many other factors — including the legacy of colonialism and the unfair world trading system — are holding Islamic societies back.
And the Islamic world has been traumatized, particularly in recent years, by the suffering of Muslims in many places.
Nowhere is that suffering more acute than in Palestine, where thousands have been killed.
No one can be surprised at his or her feelings of humiliation, anger and despair — feelings that are shared by Muslims everywhere.
Indeed they are.