There is a widespread belief, especially among right-wing politicians in Europe, that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization and has contributed nothing to it. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders captured this perception when he described Islam as a ‘culture of backwardness, of retardedness, of barbarism.’ It is worth our while therefore to investigate whether this assertion is, in fact, correct. If it is not, the basis of the Islamophobia of Islam’s critics like Wilders collapses like a house of cards. They will then have to use some other arguments against Islam or their racial prejudices will stand exposed; they will be naked without benefit of a niqab to cover their modesty.The impact of Muslims on European culture is deep and extensive. I will use material from my book Journey into Europe to illustrate the assertion over the next few weeks. Perhaps Islam’s greatest contribution was to introduce the idea of a unified understanding of our spiritual universe, which was reflected in the art, architecture, literature, and society in Andalusia based in religious pluralism and acceptance, one that valued learning and the ilm ethos. It is this society that produced an Ibn Firnas, who attempted flight, and religious philosophers like Maimonides and Averroes, who sought to balance reason and faith. Andalusian society, in turn, sowed the seeds for what would become the European Renaissance, which would lead to the Enlightenment and go on to shape our modern world. Some of Islam’s contributions are familiar in the daily lives of Westerners and yet most people are unaware of their sources. Take, for example, coffee (and café), lemons, oranges, peaches, almonds, eggplant, bananas, rice, dates, pomegranates, sugarcane, dried pasta, spinach, and the croissant is said to be patterned after the Islamic crescent; the guitar, from the Arabic qitara, has its origins in the Arabic musical instrument, the oud; the names of the notes on the Western musical scale, ‘do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti,’ are believed to derive from the letters the Arabs used to represent the notes, ‘dal, ra, mim, fa, sad, lam, sin’; the cry ‘Ole!’ so frequently heard at American football games derives from ‘Allah’; silk; muslin, derived from ‘Mosul,’ gauze, from ‘Gaza,’ and satin after Zayton, the Muslim name for the Chinese port where it was imported from; cotton, from the Arabic qutn; financial terms such as tariff, from the Arabic tarifah, and check, from sakk; the Dutch tulip, deriving “from the Turkish pronunciation of Persian dulband or ‘turban,’” the marching band, and vaccinations against disease, all of which came from the Ottoman Empire; the development of advanced irrigation systems, including canals, wells, sluices, and waterwheels; the hospital, which was established in accordance with Islamic charity rules and was open to everyone regardless of gender, social status, or religion; Muslim stories like The Arabian Nights, which influenced numerous European folktales; the subjects of alchemy and algebra; the concept of zero; chess; the numeral system; and paper.The very foundation of empirical and scientific discovery, the scientific method itself, originated with al-Haytham (Alhazen), who was born in BasraIn the field of architecture, features like the pointed arch, used so often in Gothic cathedrals and much stronger than the rounded arch frequently used in Europe at the time, were derived from Cairo’s ninth-century Ibn Tulun Mosque and brought to Europe by southern Italian merchants, who financed their own monastery incorporating the design. In his study of Westminster Abbey, Sir Christopher Wren, arguably England’s most celebrated architect, stated, ‘This we now call the Gothic manner of architecture… . I think it should with more reason be called the Saracen style.’ Wren’s crowning achievement, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, displays Islamic influences, including its dome flanked by two towers, which Wren patterned after Ottoman mosques with dome and large minarets. Other iconic European churches were also influenced by Ottoman mosques like Vienna’s Karlskirche, or St. Charles’s Church, which was inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. European languages and literature were also influenced by Muslims. Dante confirmed that what became known as the Italian language was first used by Sicilians, whose poetry and literary tradition were profoundly influenced by the Arabs. The first literary work in Spanish, commissioned by Alfonso X, was Calila-e-Dimna, a translation of the Arabic book Kalilawa Dimna. Less well known is the fact that the legal codes of European monarchs such as Frederick II, Roger II, and Alfonso X, which laid the foundation for jurisprudence in countries across the world, derive in part from Islamic law and the Islamic model of the state, as scholars have demonstrated.The celebrated European universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne, were also influenced by Islamic universities. Islamic universities were the first to grant degrees (ijazah), and scholars have argued that the baccalaureate, or bachelor’s degree, is derived from the Arabic bi-haqq al-riwayah, meaning ‘the right to teach on the authority of another,’ a phrase used in ijazah degree certificates for six centuries. A university’s faculty ‘is a direct translation of Arabic quwwah, which refers to ‘the power inherent in an organ.’’ Even the concept of a university chair comes from the Islamic practice of the teacher sitting on an elevated chair, kursi in Arabic, so he could be seen and heard by the students. The caliph, aided by a committee of scholars, appointed professors who normally kept their position for life. The first professorships endowed by a Christian European ruler were established by Frederick II when he created the University of Naples in the thirteenth century. The very foundation of empirical and scientific discovery, the scientific method itself, originated with al-Haytham (Alhazen), who was born in Basra and lived in the tenth and eleventh centuries. In Neil deGrasse Tyson’s series Cosmos, Alhazen is called ‘the first person ever to set down the rules of science.’ Alhazen influenced later scholars, including the thirteenth-century scientist Roger Bacon, often called the father of empiricism, who ‘adopted Alhazen’s theory of vision almost in its entirety.’ Alhazen was so famous in medieval Europe he was referred to simply as the Physicist. His impact can be seen in his depiction alongside Galileo on the frontispiece of Selenographia (1647), a monumental study of the moon by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, considered the father of lunar topography. Of these two giants representing science itself, Alhazen and Galileo, one has unfortunately been dropped and forgotten in Europe.The writer is an author, poet, filmmaker, playwright, and is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, DC. He formerly served as the Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland. He tweets @AskAkbarPublished in Daily Times, March 3rd 2018.