By Hichem Djaït
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Above all, his concern shifts from merely governing to maintaining himself in power, which changes his whole pattern of action. Meanwhile the French intellectual insists on being his old self-a conscientious champion of lofty values. As far as external appearances go, Arab political leaders speak the language of a humanism derived from the West and in particular from France. This convention has by now spread far and wide: one also finds it in the communist world where the concepts of freedom, progress, and constitutional government are constantly affirmed to be the operative principles of political faith.
The title of his lecture, "Islam and Science," eloquently suggests the orientation of his critical analysis. The Arab race, he argues, was at first the leading force in Islamic society. Preoccupied with the conquest and organiza- 44 IN ANOTHER'S EYES tion of an empire, it was strongly "antipathetic to Greek philosophy" and to rational activity. "Trapped like all the Semitic peoples within the tight circle of prophecy and poetic enthusiasm," it was interested in neither science nor philosophy. 7 There was no extraordinary development in either field until the day when the Abbasid dynasty opened up to Persia, which belonged to the Indo-European race and knew how to keep its genius alive.
Nor did he slip into the old Christian habit of belittling the Muslim adversary. One good thing about positivistic rationalism is that it puts all religions on the same level by refusing to adhere to any of them. And beyond this, Renan's own approach was neither narrow nor opposed, in principle, to all religious ideas per se. In his Memories he admits how much he owed, in human and moral terms, to Saint-Sulpice-in both what he enjoyed and what he renounced he remained a Christian. By the same token, he acknowledges that Islam always stirred up deep emotions in him, to the point that he never entered a mosque without regretting that he was not a Muslim.
Europe and Islam by Hichem Djaït