Why You Should Read Bernard Lewis
In the normal course of things, America is not a country given to excessive deference to historians and to the claims of history, for the past is truly a foreign country here. But the past quarter century was no normal time, and Mr. Lewis no typical historian. ... He is, through and through, a man of public affairs. He saw the coming of a war, a great civilizational struggle, and was to show no timidity about the facts of this war. "I'll teach you differences," Kent says to Lear. And Mr. Lewis has been teaching us differences. He knew Islam's splendor and its periods of enlightenment; he had celebrated the "dignity and meaning" it gave to "drab impoverished lives." He would not hesitate, then, to look into--and to name--the darkness and the rage that have overcome so many of its adherents in recent times.Lewis' essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage (1990) can be said to have been the first distant clarion call of impending struggle. Huntington merely became famous for quoting Lewis. Additionally, while many in the policy communities of the West know his value and judgement, even those who Lewis examines - and names as a threat - respect him.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which once translated one of Mr. Lewis's books into Arabic, said that his book was "the work of a candid friend or an honest enemy." Either way, the Brotherhood said, it was the work of "someone who disdains falsification."And, In classic, understated Lewis style, he may very well have predicted the domestic struggles we're seeing play out today in America and Western Europe:
In one of his many splendid books, "Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery," [Lewis] gave voice to both his fears and to his faith. "It may be that Western culture will indeed go: The lack of conviction of many of those who should be its defenders and the passionate intensity of its accusers may well join to complete its destruction."If you've read Lewis and have looked around, you probably see clearly why we must all work with renewed committment to ensure that this Sage of Princeton is, this time at least, wrong. And, if you're not reading Lewis already, you should start. Soon.
Trackbacked in Mudville.