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Benard Lewis – Visionary Historian August 10, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Books, Geopolitics, philosophy & politics, Religion.

It sounds like an Oxymoron, but Professor Benard Lewis understands the axiom thet “Those who don’t learn history are bound to repeat it”. In February of 1998, he read in an obscure Arabic paper, which was published in London, Bin Laden’s American Jihad declaration.

In 1990, The Atlantic published his prophetic warning to the West “The Roots of Muslim Rage”. He just happened to have his book “What went Wrong” come out at the time of 9/11, which catapulted him from academic obscurity to the best seller list and controversy.

The rage of Islam was no mystery to Mr. Lewis. To no great surprise, it issued out of his respect for the Muslim logic of things. For 14 centuries, he wrote, Islam and Christendom had feuded and fought across a bloody and shifting frontier, their enmity a “series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests.” For nearly a millennium, Islam had the upper hand. The new faith conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa — old Christian lands, it should be recalled. It struck into Europe, established dominions in Sicily, Spain, Portugal and in parts of France. Before the tide turned, there had been panic in Europe that Christendom was doomed. In a series of letters written from Constantinople between 1555 and 1560, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, imperial ambassador to the court of Suleyman the Magnificent, anguished over Europe’s fate; he was sure that the Turks were about to “fly at our throats, supported by the might of the whole East.” Europe, he worried, was squandering its wealth, “seeking the Indies and the Antipodes across vast fields of ocean, in search of gold.”

But Busbecq, we know, had it wrong. The threat of Islam was turned back. The wealth brought back from the New World helped turn the terms of trade against Islam. Europe’s confidence soared. The great turning point came in 1683, when a Turkish siege of Vienna ended in failure and defeat. With the Turks on the run, the terms of engagement between Europe and Islam were transformed. Russia overthrew the Tatar yoke; there was the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula. Instead of winning every war, Mr. Lewis observes, the Muslims were losing every war. Britain, France, the Netherlands and Russia all soon spilled into Islamic lands. “Europe and her daughters” now disposed of the fate of Muslim domains. Americans and Europeans may regard this new arrangement of power as natural. But Mr. Lewis has been relentless in his admonition that Muslims were under no obligation to accept the new order of things.

A pain afflicts modern Islam — the loss of power. And Mr. Lewis has a keen sense of the Muslim redeemers and would-be avengers who promise to alter Islam’s place in the world. This pain, the historian tells us, derives from Islam’s early success, from the very triumph of the prophet Muhammad. Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land; he had led his people through wilderness. Jesus had been crucified. But Muhammad had prevailed and had governed. The faith he would bequeath his followers would forever insist on the oneness of religion and politics. Where Christians are enjoined in their scripture to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s,” no such demarcation would be drawn in the theory and practice of Islam.

Bernard Lewis to Tom Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist of The New York Times.

“But Lewis is just warming up. Talk next turns to the Saudis. “Imagine,” says Lewis, “if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity. This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism. The oil money has enabled them to spread this fanatical, destructive form of Islam all over the Muslim world and among Muslims in the west. Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country.”

Bernard Lewis argued, in a recent talk in Washington, is that “Islam as taught in Turkish schools is a sort of modernized, semi-secularized version of Islam, and Islam as taught in German schools is the full Wahhabi blast.” (This is a good reminder of why the American model of keeping religious instruction out of public schools facilitates assimilation.)



1. george from sherwood - August 17, 2006

as a study of middle eastern history “your right on” very well done Dr lewis’
i have made a study and researched this myself in colloge i found the same conclusions

this war is and always will be east and west christian and muslim.

its foundation dates to bibical times from ishmeal and issiac
its a emity that will broden in scope until its final conclusive end

when billions of members of the world community are lost

god help the world

2. Barry O'Connell - December 30, 2006

God help us from Bernard Lewis
To describe the war as “this war is and always will be east and west christian and muslim” misses the whole point of who Bernard Lewis is and what he is working for. He only asks that we die for his agenda and you are foolish enough to buy it.
By the way using the image from my site without attribution is intellectually dishonest.
Happy New Year,
Barry O’Connell

3. tkcollier - December 31, 2006

Actually Barry I fall in the “Clash with Modernity” school of thought, rather than the “Clash of Civilizations” camp. I think that once we get through the current Muslim “youth bulge” and the current “Counter Reformation” revolutionary zeal peters out, tolerance will return.
Since you are so active in Democratic politics, I would like to recommend my favorite geopolitical thinker on this subject. He is a strange hybrid, having been a Democrat in the Naval War College. http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/
Sorry about upsetting you by using your image. I found it on Google Image and since the book is in the public domain…well any way I changed it to a book seller’s site. At least from pointing out your site, I enjoyed viewing your informative Rug minutia. It’s amazing the depth of interests out there on the web.
I tried to link to the discussion on Turkmen Salt Bag, but the link was broken. When we had a flock of a thousand sheep, the salt lick provided essential elements for bone & and muscle development. As an example, our soil in Virginia was deficient in selenium, but by adding it to our salt blend, we discouraged the development of White Muscle Disease.

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