For yesterday’s Obamateurism, we looked at Barack Obama’s Cairo speech for an assertion that Muslims invented the magnetic compass — which the Chinese did first, and the Europeans second before the Arabs. In the same passage, Obama gave credit to the Muslims for inventing printing — for which they have no claim whatsoever:
It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.
“Mastery of pens” might be true, although pens themselves certainly came long before Islam — about 5,000 years before for the cruder reed pens, and 1,000 years before for quills. Arabic calligraphers created marvelous manuscripts, but then again, so did Christian monks, who began that work before Mohammed ever appeared on the scene, and pens and books predate both the Christian and Islamic period. In fact, the Christian monks spent their time copying the books of ancient Greece and Rome.
Printing, however, is another matter altogether. The Chinese developed block printing, which Marco Polo brought back on his travels. The Koreans invented movable type in the 13th century, using metal type a century later. Europe caught up in the 15th century. The Islamic states didn’t have anything to do with the development of printing, which makes this particular claim completely baffling.
Oddly, the print media never batted an eyelash about Obama’s version of history.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!