Culture

'Scholar' Claims Landmarks of Western Architecture Were 'Stolen' from Islamic World

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

In yet another installment of what is apparently a never-ending series of articles designed to make their readers take no pride in their own culture and heritage, the UK’s Guardian on Thursday published a lengthy, breathlessly enthusiastic article entitled: “Looted landmarks: how Notre-Dame, Big Ben and St Mark’s were stolen from the east.”

They are beacons of western civilisation. But, says an explosive new book, the designs of Europe’s greatest buildings were plundered from the Islamic world – twin towers, rose windows, vaulted ceilings and all.

Plundered! Of course! When has the Judeo-Christian West done anything except steal, oppress, and kill?

The Guardian article highlights the “discoveries” of a “Middle East expert” named Diana Darke, author of a new book called (what else?) Stealing from the Saracens, which the Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright calls “an exhilarating, meticulously researched book that sheds light on centuries of borrowing.”

“Borrowing” is a more polite word than Diana Darke herself used, but otherwise Wainwright is completely on board with her project, reporting her dismay at finding that it was not common knowledge in the West that everything we have, everything we have done, everything we have made, has come from Islam: “I was astonished at the reaction,” she lamented. “I thought more people knew, but there seems to be this great gulf of ignorance about the history of cultural appropriation. Against a backdrop of rising Islamophobia, I thought it was about time someone straightened out the narrative.”

Sure. And who better to do that than the illustrious Diana Darke, who is often featured on the BBC, as well as in the Guardian. It’s easy to see why she would be the British intelligentsia’s favorite “Middle East expert”: her new book, with its ridiculous claims, is yet another example of the UK elite’s ongoing efforts to compel Britons to believe that Islam is part of their own culture and heritage, so that they will be shamed into fearing to oppose mass Muslim migration into Britain, as well as jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women and others. It’s just more of Britain’s continuing cultural suicide.

In this case, the deception and sleight of hand are clumsy and obvious. Note that the subtitle of the Guardian article claims that “the designs of Europe’s greatest buildings were plundered from the Islamic world.” A centerpiece of Diana Darke’s case for that is that “Notre-Dame’s architectural design, like all gothic cathedrals in Europe, comes directly from Syria’s Qalb Lozeh fifth-century church.”

A fifth-century church. Islam arose in the seventh and eighth centuries. What exactly does the design of a pre-Islamic church in Syria have to do with the Islamic world? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It just happens that the site of this church was conquered by Muslims several centuries after it was built, so for Diana Darke, the Guardian, and their luckless readers, this becomes an example of how the West “stole from” or “plundered” the Islamic world.

Even more ridiculous is the claim that the Dome of the Rock was the basis for church architecture in Europe, when the Dome of the Rock itself was patterned after the great cathedral in Constantinople, Hagia Sophia. St. Mark’s in Venice was also patterned after Hagia Sophia, although Darke claims it was based on the Dome of the Rock. The interior of St. Mark’s is covered on virtually every available space with Christian art, as was the interior of Hagia Sophia. Which is its more likely influence? If those who built St. Mark’s were imitating the Dome of the Rock, why didn’t they opt for a more austere interior?

This nonsense from Diana Darke is part of a much larger effort. Another example of the same cultural self-abnegation came last fall, when the British Museum ran a lavish exhibition called “Inspired by the East,” about how Western art had been massively influenced by Islamic art. Never mind that the Islamic influence on Western art was severely limited by the fact that Sharia forbids representation of the human form. That fact might have reflected negatively upon Islam and Sharia, and was left to the background.

Did the British Museum host an exhibition on how Western art influenced the Islamic world, a topic about which there is a great deal that could be said, ranging from the cultural appropriation of Byzantine church architecture to the stylistic similarities of Shi’ite iconography to Western art? Of course not. The objective here is to get Westerners to despise their own heritage, not revere it.

The British Museum, Diana Darke and the Guardian are doing the British public, and people all over the Western world, a grave disservice by misleading them about their own culture and heritage, and doing so in a way that is designed to render them complacent and defenseless in the face of a genuine threat: that of jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women and others.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.