At ninety-five he is still writing, still sharp and to the consternation of the Left, he continues to be be considered an architect of neo-conservatism and Islamophobia. He has also been vilified as the architect of neo-conservatism and Islamophobia, and they are likely not entirely wrong, but not plausible enough to move the needle based on facts on the ground. What is not arguable is that Lewis has tremendous command of language, and extra-elite skill and craft in writing, despite the exasperation he gives rise to given a perceived lack of empathy with the subject. The short book on Lewis is that the Islam-Christian confrontation is subject to a long arc of time and is the subject of a deep animus towards Christendom and the West that had ebbed and flowed for 1400 years. The theme is similar to that of Harold Bloom, and by intrinsic bias has a pro-Zionist tangent that effectively seals off the Judeo-Christian heritage from a more barbarous and dangerous Islam.
To scholars like Edward Said, Lewis was anathema, a Leo Strauss advocate and a neo-con enabler of the first order. Agree with Lewis or not, there is a certain genius at work that always posits a certain optimism that an essentially bourgeois understanding of history, like John Luckacs, will over the long term prove less disruptive and more stable in elevating the lot of humankind. It’s a bit elitist but it is also coherent in its own way of extirpating Marxism and far left ideologies from the range of analytic departure, though within certain contexts, particularly the islamic one, Lewis seems to have a bias for stability over democracy and its volatile potential; There are traces here of Sam Huntington in safeguarding the West’s advantage in the application of organized violence which forms part of the composite base of Islamic anger and resentment.(see link at end)…Authoritarian regimes throughout the region will be swept away, but what will come after? “I think that the tyrannies are doomed,” Lewis argues. He is apparently “delighted” by the developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Now the real issue for him is “what will come instead.”
Western-style democracy may not be the answer. “We have a much better chance of establishing—I hesitate to use the word democracy—but some sort of open, tolerant society, if it’s done within their systems, according to their traditions. Why should we expect them to adopt a Western system? And why should we expect it to work?” Lewis says that Islam has a long tradition of diffuse and limited government, the basis for a modern pluralistic society. “The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule. There is a very strong tradition—both historical and legal, both practical and theoretical—of limited, controlled government.”
Islam’s mistreatment of women has put them behind the West. “My own feeling is that the greatest defect of Islam and the main reason they fell behind the West is the treatment of women,” he posits. “Think of a child that grows up in a Muslim household where the mother has no rights, where she is downtrodden and subservient. That’s preparation for a life of despotism and subservience. It prepares the way for an authoritarian society.”…
…Turkey could be the next Iran. Turkey, once a bulwark against Islamic radicalism with its secular, pro-Western orientation, is changing. The Journal says that Lewis is alarmed by developments there. “In Turkey, the movement is getting more and more toward re-Islamization. The government has that as its intention—and it has been taking over, very skillfully, one part after another of Turkish society. The economy, the business community, the academic community, the media. And now they’re taking over the judiciary, which in the past has been the stronghold of the republican regime.”
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(see link at end)…hen we look at Turkey and compare it with the rest of the Muslim Middle East, Turkey stands out in terms of its achievements – civil liberties, economic performance, global status. How was it that Turkey got set on a path that led to such relative achievements?
Lewis: The past is always important. The present is the product of the past. Turkey’s great strength was that it had never lost its independence. Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan were really the only Muslim countries which retained full independence. All the rest of them passed under one form of European imperial rule. And, I think, it is interesting to compare the three with one another and the rest.
…In Turkey now, we can observe somewhat a glorification and a romantization of the Ottoman civilization and the role the Turks played in leading the Muslim Middle East. An enthusiasm to revive that role, perhaps using education and economic development, to carry the Muslim Middle East to a higher global stature can be heard.
Do youthink Turkey has the potential to lead change?
Lewis: They have had such a role but from time to time this role is interrupted and reversed. Take for example the question of astronomy. I do not remember the exact date, but it must have been around 1600, there were two major observatories in the world, one in Turkey, one in Europe. These were observing the sky and collecting data of the stars and so on. And, they were about equal in their accomplishments. At that point, the difference became enormous. Then, the European one became the basis of the whole modern science, while the Ottoman one was destroyed by official order on grounds that it contradicted the Quran. Read More:http://www.turkishpolicy.com/dosyalar/files/interview_bernard_lewis-10_4.pdf