On the other hand, there were so many errors of history that I was left wondering if there is anyone in the White House that checks facts. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.” But the Muslims had been driven out of Spain by the time of the Inquisition. The Inquisition was Catholic, after all. What was he thinking? And even if he was thinking about an earlier epoch, the so-called Golden Age, “tolerance” is hardly the right word. Yes, non-Muslims were permitted to live, provided that they submitted to Muslim rule and paid their rulers. Yes, Jews were better off in Muslim lands than in Christian areas during the Middle Ages. But “toleration” it wasn’t. One of my best professors used to argue that the word, in its contemporary sense, only began to make sense in the seventeenth century.
He credited Muslims for inventions of others, from the magnetic compass to algebra to pens, arches, and even to printing. It’s as if there were no ancient Chinese inventions, and the Romans had to await the Prophet before they could build the Pantheon. And someone really should tell him that printing came from the Orient, was rejected in Muslim domains, and then developed in Europe. It was introduced into the Middle East in the 15th century by Jews, who were not permitted to publish in Arabic. So the first printing press in the region was brought by Jews who then published in Hebrew.
The absolute worst part of the speech was the mush about Iran. He could have talked about the great Persian contributions to Western culture, or credited Cyrus the Great for issuing the first known document dealing with human rights. He didn’t do that (Cyrus wasn’t a Muslim, after all). Instead, he regretted American meddling in Iran in 1953, and then moved on to assure the mullahs that they were fully entitled to have a (peaceful) nuclear program. As if nobody knew (Bushitlercheney had made the same point, let us not forget). Not a word about Iranian killers around the world. Not a word about the dreadful repression of the Iranian people. Not a word about any possible consequences if, as everyone expects, Iran builds atomic bombs.
That’s because he expects there to be none. I suspect that the Israelis have a different idea.