Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Islam's New Golden Age

Now that I'm able to spend most workdays doing research for my graduation paper on the future of Islam, some potentially novel thoughts are crossing my mind.

Many in the Muslim world long for a return to the Golden Age (roughly 750 to 1050 AD) when Islamic scholars led the world in science and technology. As the respected Islamic expert Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong?, the Muslim Empire inherited "the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle east, of Greece and of Persia, and it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India."

There are parallels between Islam’s Golden Age and what is now becoming its Information Age. Once again, leaders in the Islamic world (the guys we call terrorists) are innovating with technology in ways uniquely advantageous to their objectives. In the Golden Age it was paper and decimals, now it is video cameras and IP addresses.

Many Islamic terrorist groups have accomplished what our own military has been trying to do for years -- move away from formal, hierarchal organizations to a loose networks of individuals and subgroups that have strategic guidance but, nonetheless, enjoy tactical independence. The Islamists are employing net-centric warfare, the brain-child of the U.S. military, before we can get it off the drawing board.

In the first Golden Age Islam adapted the technology of those they conquered to their unique advantage. In the Information Age, they may be doing it again.

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