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Saturday, 8 September 2007
Aldous Huxley on Muslim Attitudes, and Islam, with a Prescient Warning
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From “In a Tunisian Oasis” (1936)

 

Talking to an Islamically educated Arab is like talking to a pious European of the fourteenth century. Every phenomenon is referred by them to its final cause—to God. About the immediate causes of things—precisely how they happen—they seem to feel not the slightest interest. Indeed, it is not even admitted that there are such things as immediate causes: God is directly responsible for everything. “Do you think it will rain?” you ask pointing to menacing clouds overhead. “If God wills,” is the answer. You pass the native hospital. “Are the doctors good?” “In our country,” the Arab gravely replies, in the tone of Solomon, “we say that doctors are of no avail. If Allah wills that a man die, he will die. If not, he will recover.” All of which is profoundly true, so true, indeed, that is not worth saying. To the Arab, however, it seems the last word in human wisdom. For him, God is the perfectly adequate explanation of everything; he leaves fate to do things unassisted, in its own way—that is to say, from the human point of view, the worst way.

 

It is difficult for us to realize nowadays that our fathers once thought much as the Arabs do now. As late as the seventeenth century, the chemist Boyle found it necessary to protest against what  I may call this Arabian view of things. “For to explicate a phenomenon,” he wrote, “it is not enough to ascribe it to one general efficient, but we must intelligibly show the particular manner, how that general cause produces the proposed effect. He must be a very dull inquirer who, demanding an account of the phenomena of a watch, shall rest satisfied with being told that it is an engine made by a watchmaker; thought nothing be declared thereby of the structure and coaptation of the spring, wheels, balance, etc., and the manner how they act on one another so as to make the needle point out the true time of the day.”

 

The Arabs were once the continuators of the Greek tradition; they produced men of science. They have relapsed—all except those who are educated according to Western methods—into pre-scientific fatalism, with its attendant incuriosity and apathy. They are the “dull inquirers who, demanding an account of the phenomena of a watch, shall rest satisfied with being told that it is an engine made by a watchmaker.” The result of their satisfaction with this extremely unsatisfactory answer is that their villages look like the ruins of villages, that the blow-flies sit undisturbedly feeding on the eyelids of those whom Allah has predestined to blindness,  that half their babies die…

 

From Religion and Temperament (1948)

 

Mohammedanism…in its primitive form…is hard, militant, and puritanical; it encourages the spirit of martyrdom, is eager to make proselytes, and has no qualms about levying “holy wars” and conducting persecutions. Some centuries after the prophet’s death it developed the Sufi school of mysticism—a school whose strict Islamic orthodoxy its theologians have always had some difficulty in defending.

 

From a Letter to Norman Douglas, June 26, 1925

 

One winter I shall certainly go and spend some [more] months there [in Tunisia], about the time of the date harvest—tho’ I have no doubt that the site of the Arabs picking and packing the dates would be enough to make one’s gorge turn every time one set eyes on that fruit for the rest of one’s life. How tremendously European one feels when one has seen these devils in their native muck! And to think that we are busily teaching them all the mechanical arts of peace and war which gave us, in the past, our superiority over their numbers! In fifty years time, it seems to me, Europe can’t fail to be wiped out by these monsters. Intanto

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Posted on 09/08/2007 11:10 AM by Andrew Bostom
Comments
16 Jan 2015
Ebulating
The rise of the Islamic State and terrorist attacks in Europe have proven Huxley's views on Islam to be very accurate.

20 Sep 2007
Bryan

"For someone like the indefatigable good doctor, so concerned about anti-semitism...doesnt seem to be the least worried about the obvious racism...in the Huxley exerpts.  Why is that? is it because racism against arabs (ie Muslims) is acceptable dear doctor?"

Huh??  You've completely lost me.  Weren't Huxley's comments TRUE for the vast majority of Muslims in Tunisia, especially back in 1936?  If you have evidence to the contrary, please cite it.



10 Sep 2007
Damir Halilovic
This is really pathetic. I am a Muslim myself and I live in a country where the majority of the people are Muslim. And I have never ever heard of "Islam promoting non-education" and completely relying on God.

I simply can't understand how people can stereotype THIS much. It's sad really.

10 Sep 2007
Send an emailgavroche
For someone like the indefatigable good doctor, so concerned about anti-semitism (apparently inherent in Islam and in every single Muslim country) doesnt seem to be the least worried about the obvious racism and anti-semitism (against arabs this time) in the Huxley exerpts.

Why is that? is it because racism against arabs (ie Muslims) is acceptable dear doctor?

10 Sep 2007
Spanners
...And with that very good point about commenting on the article, not trolling each other for kicks, fresh in our minds, my tuppenyworth:

Whilst some of the opinions offered by Huxley are useful in terms of gaining an insight into how the mindset of the Arabic muslim world has developed, Huxley wrote in a time when discussions of 'race' were all the rage throughout the European and American world - and 'race' wasn't the intellectually defunct and dangerous approach we know it to be today. That's why you'll find what appears to be scathing racism in his writing.
Reading Huxley in order to apply his thinking to today is worthwhile ONLY IF you interpret his observations for the more open-minded time you live in now. Presented like this, one has to question whether the article will cause more harm than good in the minds of readers like those who commented before me.


9 Sep 2007
TheAutophobe

Huxley ate alot of things, and occassionally wrote books about the experience. (I recommend them, they're interesting reads)

That aside, it is generally more productive to respond to the article in question rather than get sidetracked by ad hominem.



9 Sep 2007
Eoin
'Mushroom', I hate to burst your bubble, but:

http://listverse.com/history/20-famous-last-words/ Apparently, Aldous Huxley's last words involved LSD (quote #12 in the above article).

And, according to Wikipedia:

"LSD was first synthesized on November 16, 1938[3] by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, as part of a large research program searching for medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives."

Take these facts into account, then re-read your comment. How much of an arsehole do you feel like? Complete and utter, I would imagine. Deservedly so, in my opinion.

9 Sep 2007
mushroom

Dear commenter, your education and knowledge of the subject ironically agrees with Huxley - like Islamism promotes a lack of education, so does opinion or 'appearing knowledgeable' without investigation as to the facts (which is one of humanity's worst failings and the main reason power is given to the 'powerful' ):

LSD wasn't discovered till well after Huxley's death.



9 Sep 2007
midnightjester
Sad but true. It is also sad to see the United States reversing it's non-religious ideoligies and heading down the same road.

9 Sep 2007
Send an emaillenina
Aldous Huxley spent lots of time eating LSD