I was at an iftar recently and made a comment to my mother how it appeared as though other ethnic groups seemed to be more… loyal to each other than The Bong. Specifically, that there appeared to be far more inter-cultural marriage among our cohort.
My mother accepted this difference with a resigned sigh. However, my father, as ever a cultural patriot, came to the defense of such blasphemic co-mingling. He made the point that by replenishing the hoardes with non-Bengali genes, our culture was all the more robust and full of depth. New additions would not necessarily dilute the people but strengthen and provide depth and breadth to cultural and other forms of expression. To him, This interplay is crucial to a culture’s continued development.
I thought about this observation later as I read more news of the fighting in Syria’s civil war. The golden age of Islam in the Middle East, in particular, seems to have coincided with the greatest amount of cultural interplay in the region. Though warring between various dynasties occurred, the interplay of various cultures (Syrian, Turkish, Mongol, etc) resulted in some of the greatest advances in scientific and religious thought at the time. The Islamic Middle East was a melting pot of dissident views that shone a light in the world while Europe languished in their Medieval Dark Ages. Europe’s ascendancy coincided with the economic and scientific (or technocratic) decline of the Middle East’s ruling dynasty, the Ottoman Empire, which had become a decrepit and corrupt husk of its former self.
When Muslims speak of a Pan-Islamic caliphate, they would do well to realize that after the demise of the Rightly Guided Caliphates, the Islamic World wasn’t always unified but nor was it stagnant or in descent either. Today’s warring, teeming nation-states don’t need unification. They need more trade, more cultural and scientific exchange, more interplay. And perhaps a little more inter-marriage.