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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Muslim opinion gradually hardened towards aniconism

by Rashmee

Posted on September 6, 2020


There are many examples of the gradual hardening of Muslim opinion towards aniconism. Aniconism, not iconoclasm. It’s important to note the distinction. Aniconism refers to cults where there is no iconic representation of the deity [anthropomorphic or theriomorphic, which is to say in animal form] to serve as the dominant or central cultic symbol. As … Continue reading “Muslim opinion gradually hardened towards aniconism”

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Early Muslims’ attitude to art in the sacred space

by Rashmee

Posted on September 5, 2020


What’s clear is that early Muslims maintained a separation between art considered appropriate for sacred and secular spaces. In the religious space, the Abbasids, the second Muslim dynasty, followed their predecessor Umayyads. Both employed great restraint in terms of decoration. So the Dome of the Rock, built by the Umayyads, followed Christian techniques of construction … Continue reading “Early Muslims’ attitude to art in the sacred space”

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Early Muslims’ attitude to art and creative expression

by Rashmee

Posted on September 4, 2020


  In the beginning, there was art. Lots of it, in fact, in the secular space. Consider this. Within 30 years of Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, there was abundant art for the secular space. The palaces and bathhouses of the Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty (661-750), were rich with exuberant figural art. Three Umayyad … Continue reading “Early Muslims’ attitude to art and creative expression”

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Leadership and the lessons from an empire in decline – in 10th century Baghdad

by Rashmee

Posted on April 9, 2020


This is the first global crisis in more than 50 years where no country is looking towards the US for leadership. If there’s anything that’s needed in a global pandemic it is a vaccine and leadership. A vaccine is not expected at least for a year, but what about leadership? Trump-led America is an empire … Continue reading “Leadership and the lessons from an empire in decline – in 10th century Baghdad”

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The only thing that’s guaranteed about Trump’s foreign policy is its unpredictability

by Rashmee

Posted on June 29, 2019 / The National


As US secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited India, and the G20 summit got under way in Japan on Friday, with President Donald Trump in attendance, there was increasing talk of Washington’s foreign policy incoherence. Multiple geopolitical crises remain at varying levels of volatility, notably Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. US-China trade tensions continue to … Continue reading “The only thing that’s guaranteed about Trump’s foreign policy is its unpredictability”

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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