AS one of the fess British specialists in Islamic Studies who is also a practising Roman Catholic, may I be permitted to reply to Patrick O'Donovan's ill-informed comments on Islam in Charterhouse Chronicle (July 10).
He belives that Muhammad's triumph at Mecca in AD 630 "was almost certainly the greatest disaster ever to strike Christianity".
Leaving aside the rhetoric. I wonder whether Mr O'Donovan is aware of the enormous contribution that Muhammad made in moving the larger part of the Arabian people away from idol worship and animism towards the worship of the one true God.
That God is adored by all three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) albeit in very different ways? Mr O'Donovan mourns the Islamic conquests. But is he familiar with the history of doctrinal squabbling that existed among the Christians of North Africa and the Middle East at the time of those conquests, and the sorry scandal presented to the rest of the Christian world by Monophysites, Nestorians and Orthodox Byzantines disagreeing violently over the natures of Christ?
The advent of Islam brought relative peace among the Christians and allowed the Monophysite& for example, to pracise their brand of Christianiaty unpersecuted by a bigoted Byzantine Emperor.
Contrary to popular belief. Islam in this period did not persecute the Christians provided that they paid the necessary taxes; many Christians were delighted by the tolerance of their new Muslim masters.
Of course there are doctrinal differences — vast differences — between Islam and Christianity. But surely, in an ecumenical age, our ecumenism should extend beyond the frontiers of Christian sectarianism and try to reach an understanding. and Find some common ground. with other great world religions.
For Christians have a great deal to learn from Islam (and I do not refer to the fanatical brand practised in Iran today).
Islam's adherence to the doctrine of the virginity of Our Lady, and its great reverence for her, are features which are notably lacking in many modern Christians.
Finally, Islam's insistence on devout prayer five times a day presents a sublime example to those of us who make our faith a "Sundays-only" affair, and who can barely be bothered to remember our morning and night prayers.
Ian R. Netton Lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies University of Exeter CHARTERHOUSL is back, and we are all genuinely thankful for his recovery. But some of us, "Liberals, ex-army officers, delicately minded anti-semites" as he considers us, note wearily that he is at it again.
Hc fails inevitably to recognise his own "delicately minded anti: Arabism". or to conceal his contempt !Or such "lesser breeds without the law. • He considers Mohammed "was almost certainly the greatest disaster ever to strike Christianity!" Howzabout Marx?
He does not approve of Arab "financial renaissance". whatever that may mean: and he believes "it has produced no noticeable explosion of art."
How does he know'? Has he studied and dismissed modern Iraqi or Tunusian an, or the revival of the Moroccan crafts'?
Has he read the poetry of the Palestinian Resistance'? Probably not.
But as a confirmed Eurocentrist he expects Arabs to exhibit at the Royal Academy, and to publish their verse in English, before he notices that there is indeed an Arab explosion of an and literature — produced not by "financial renaissance.' but by Arab reaction against European aggression.
Sir John Richmond KCMG Durham City