Robinson Crusoe’s Arab Andalusian forbears?

by Rashmee

Posted on September 16, 2020


The story goes as follows. Ibn Tufail, a 12th century Arab Andalusian thinker, wrote a philosophical novel titled ‘The Epistle of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan on the Secrets of Eastern Philosophy’. (When I bought a Kindle version, incidentally, it bore the following name: ‘The Improvement of Human Reason: Exhibited in the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdhan’). … Continue reading “Robinson Crusoe’s Arab Andalusian forbears?”

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Back to the culture wars then

by Rashmee

Posted on September 14, 2020


The gains from the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement were many. It proved to be a great investment for the Arabs. Not only did they create a vibrant environment of intellectual enquiry, they were able to use their very appetite for Hellenic knowledge as a cultural cudgel against their rivals next door, the Christian Byzantines. Interestingly, Muslim … Continue reading “Back to the culture wars then”

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What was the logic of the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement?

by Rashmee

Posted on September 13, 2020


Why did the second Abbasid Caliph Al Mansur (r.754-775) initiate the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement? He was no scholar but there was a very particular reason to lay claim to the fruits of Hellenic thinking. Al Mansur had an interest in astrology and may have been keen to form a dynastic ideology. This was to be … Continue reading “What was the logic of the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement?”

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The Greek-to-Arabic translation movement: no expense spared

by Rashmee

Posted on September 12, 2020


The 200-year-old Greek-to-Arabic translation movement begun by the Abbasid Caliph Al Mansur (r.754-775) has no equivalent in world history. Never before and never since has one culture tried to import the knowledge of another in so sustained a manner as the Arabs did with Hellenic thought. It was an expensive business too, creating its own … Continue reading “The Greek-to-Arabic translation movement: no expense spared”

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Culture wars and cultural gaps: the Hellenic equation

by Rashmee

Posted on September 11, 2020


The culture wars between the Muslims and the Byzantines had decided effects. Often, they left the Byzantines feeling small and with the sense that they were late-starters. Consider this interesting story recounted by British archaeologist and academic of Late Antiquity Judith Herrin. The Byzantines were trying to brush up on their knowledge of math and … Continue reading “Culture wars and cultural gaps: the Hellenic equation”

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Don’t despair over the culture wars. They’re benign compared to 8th and 9th centuries

by Rashmee

Posted on September 10, 2020


Not too long ago, British sociologist Frank Furedi wrote a piece on the culture wars in the US and UK. He asserted that the culture war was historically “set in motion in Western societies by a powerful impulse to detach the present from the past, which emerged at the turn of the 20th century”. He … Continue reading “Don’t despair over the culture wars. They’re benign compared to 8th and 9th centuries”

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Is there an inherent Islamic hostility to representation?

by Rashmee

Posted on September 3, 2020


  The issue of Islam’s attitude to free expression is back in the news with the trial having begun of 14 alleged accomplices of the gunmen who massacred ‘Charlie Hebdo’ staffers in January 2015. The massacre, remember, was supposed to be revenge for ‘Charlie Hebdo’s’ 2006 republication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were … Continue reading “Is there an inherent Islamic hostility to representation?”

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In France, it’s yesterday once more with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Prophet cartoons and a terrorism trial

by Rashmee

Posted on September 2, 2020


  Except for the pandemic, it feels like 2015. The French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ has republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, deemed blasphemous by some Muslims. And the trial has begun (Sept. 2) of 14 alleged accomplices of the gunmen who massacred ‘Charlie Hebdo’ staffers in January 2015. The magazine’s cover featuring the cartoons bears … Continue reading “In France, it’s yesterday once more with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Prophet cartoons and a terrorism trial”

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Turning the NYT’s Morning Briefing into a ‘good news’ bulletin – Part II

by Rashmee

Posted on July 29, 2020


Here’s an update on my July 24th creative experiment in positivity bias in which I turned part of the NYT’s ‘Morning Briefing’ into a good news bulletin. A reader, whose profile says they are a “startup engineer”, commented that “the doom laden news cycle isn’t a representation of reality – it has huge negative bias … Continue reading “Turning the NYT’s Morning Briefing into a ‘good news’ bulletin – Part II”

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Turning the NYT’s Morning Briefing into a good news bulletin

by Rashmee

Posted on July 24, 2020


Today, as a creative experiment in positivity bias, I turned part of the NYT’s Morning Briefing into a good news bulletin. This wasn’t because I’m Panglossian, suffer from Pollyanna-ish tendencies or the glass-half-full syndrome. I’m not prone to view the world through rose-coloured spectacles. It was an experiment. Why? Curiosity, mainly. I wanted to see … Continue reading “Turning the NYT’s Morning Briefing into a good news bulletin”

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Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK