Murat over at AmerikanTurk does an extremely good job of postings that provoke discussion, although sometimes it seems he would prefer to just say, please no more!!!
One thing that happens is though is that the comments end up in a he said she said condition where people with entrenched positions be they Muslim/Christian, Turkish/Armenian/Greek end up shouting at each other, trading insults and not listening......and you wonder why he wants to quit!
For a change I thought I would devote a post not to the beautiful game (sic.) but to reasons why and where religion or similar has made a positive contribution.
Where shall we start.
I know how about philosophy. Well the Greeks, and I use that term loosely were the masters of this, many of the cities where the philosophers lived and published were in what is now modern day Turkey but so what it makes no difference to what they said or published.
Architecture. Where to start. Maybe the sun worshipping, incest tolerating Egyptians and the pyramids? Or how about Ayia Sofia in Istanbul consecrated in 576 and built by the Romans because they could and effectively the heart of the Orthodox church until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, whereafter it became a stable and then a mosque. More impressively it was the biggest domed structure in the world until St Peters was built in the 1800's. With the fall of Constantinople the Ottoman empire flowered as did patronage of the arts and the talents of Mimar Sinan came to the worlds attention. The mosque at Edirne being the supreme example. Prior to that and if you research the history of architecture you will see the shifting paterns of development. The Islamic arched window for example was transported back from the "Holy Land" by Crusaders. Military architecture reached a high point with the scientific design of the Krak des Cheavliers and siege warfare became an art that the Islamic armies had to master against their bedouin inspired inclinations which culminated in the breaching of the walls built more than 1000 years before 1453 and still standing today in Istanbul. Between 744 (I think) and 1453 no Muslim army troubled Istanbul, that is a longer period than from 1453 until now...think about that. Excellent book on the subject is "Constantinople, the Last Great Siege" by Crowley. Suffice it to say that religion has influenced most of architecture and given that for centuries the main patrons of architects were religious, government or both that is hardly surprising.
Medicine. For a long while Islamic doctors were streets ahead of western doctors in the diagnoses and treatment of illness, mainly as the catholic church considered prayer the best for of cure and discouraged learning and inquiry. Then for whatever reason scientific inquiry or debate became less tolerated in Islamic circles and western scientist in mainly protestant countries pushed the boundaries of medical science to where they are today with each benefitting from the other. Interestingly in warfare Islamic armies suffered less "camp fever" than western as they understood the link between hygiene and illness which was helped by the necessary ablutions. However it should be noted that most Ottoman armies had their fair share of non-Muslim mercenaries and conscripts who also benefited form the attention to hygiene.
I guess what prompted this post is that I just finished a remarkable book entitled "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" by Arthur Herman. despite being one of the poorest nations in Europe Scotland has produced more than its fair share of free thinkers, scientists, economists etc. whose contribution to what we see around us today should not be overlooked. Why did this happen. Well Scotland benefitted in the 17/1800's from a religious viewpoint that considered "bettering yourself" and education to be of greater import than slavish adherence to a set of rules and edicts issued from Rome. Sunday Schools flourished, illiteracy decreased, Universities were filled with enquiring minds freed from the threat of persecution by Priests who still considered it was heresy to claim the earth was a globe and not flat. Although religion was important in this case it freed the mind and assisted in the invention oif many of the items that have created the world we see around us today. Interestingly another set of non-conformists ,the Quakers, were busily developing the iron and steel industry in Ironbridge in England that would pave the way for the start of the Industrial Revolution that has culminated in me being able to post this blog. It is no coincidence that the countries not controlled by a repressive religion, Britain, with the USA and Germany caught in the wake were at the forefront of this development as challenging the status quo did not lead to ostracim and burning at the stake or equivalent.
My point is this. It is very easy to blame religion for all of the problems, strife, conflict and hatred we see in the World today. But stop and think of the benefits that the atmosphere created at different times and in different parts of the world has created that benefits people today. Turkish Muslims undertaking the haj would not be able to fly from Istanbul to Jeddah on an Airbus or Boeing for example, a nice example of the benefits the muslim world obtains from non muslim developed technology. Cataract removal was being undertaken by Islamic doctors in the 1400's and todays techniques owe alot to that. There are thousands of other examples that illustrate the cross pollination of ideas and practices, these are two I could think of easily as its getting late.
I say lets celebrate our differences, the world would be an incredibly boring place if everyone was the same, but not use those differences as an excuse to kill each other.