Beware, It’s Bernard Lewis
By Anjum Niaz

The anti-Islam venom spewed out by some ill-informed westerners won’t take them anywhere. It would do them a world of good if they see things in their correct perspective.

The octogenarian is a one-man demolition army against Islam. He’s been in the business since the last 50 years, but none has embraced him so fondly as the Bush White House. He’s revered as a sage, and among his disciples of neo-cons are Vice-President Dick Cheney and Richard Perle, Pentagon’s former policy adviser and an anti-Palestinian Zionist warrior.

Bernard Lewis is the man who first coined the term, a ‘clash of civilizations’ in his essay The Roots of Muslim Rage, later done to death by Samuel Huntington who borrowed Lewis’s skewed thesis that the western civilization comprising a Judeo-Christian bloc forever faced a “hostile Islamic world hell-bent on the conquest and conversion of the West.”

Hailed by intellectuals here in America as the “doyen of Middle Eastern studies,” the “father” of Islamic studies, “arguably the West’s most distinguished scholar on the Middle East,” Lewis’s most recent weapon of mass destruction against the Muslims exploded over Turkey, when in an interview to a German newspaper Lewis predicted that Europe would be Islamic by the end of this century, thereby putting up red flags all over the European Union to keep Turkey out of the EU.

Frits Bolkestein of the Netherlands, the outgoing European Union Commissioner, picked up the Princeton professor’s remark and warned that the EU would “implode” if it expands too quickly. In a hand-wringing dirge, the Dutch keened the fate of the people of Europe being irrevocably yoked to the Islamic world.

Having morphed into a journalist, Lewis’s polemics now religiously appear in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He’s more a sophist than a scholar, observes M. Shahid Alam in Counterpunch, America’s respected political newsletter. “This Orientalist tiger has not changed his stripes over the fifty-odd years that he has been honing his skills. Now at the end of his long career - only coincidentally, also the peak - he presents the summation, the quintessence of his scholarship and wisdom on Islam and the Middle East.”

Boasts the right-wing Wall Street Journal: “The Lewis doctrine in effect has become US policy.” Indeed, he has persisted in persuading the Bush administration to topple and invade “unappealing regimes” arguing that the only languages “they” understand is brute force. The Muslim world, according to him, scoffs America when it does not use force, “that the Americans have gone soft.”
In his blinkered view, the Muslims hate the US, not because of its foreign policy or support of Israel, but because of “envy” and “rage” against Christians: “A feeling of humiliation - a growing awareness among the heirs of an old, proud, and long dominant civilization, of having been overtaken, overborne, and overwhelmed by those whom they regarded as their inferiors.”

For a thousand years, Bernard Lewis says, Islam was superior to Christendom and dominated its Christian neighbors. But since the failure of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, the Muslims were eclipsed militarily, economically and scientifically and have thus never forgiven the West.

The voice that constantly exposed Lewis and his virulence against Islam fell silent last year. Edward Said hit back at him in Orientalism that Lewis’s work “purports to be liberal objective scholarship but is in reality very close to being propaganda against his subject”.

Edward Said, professor at Columbia, succumbed to cancer, leaving the field vast open to Bernard Lewis, professor at Princeton, to distort facts, gain currency with Bush and become the ultimate Christian fundo!

Younger by several decades, but with a pretence of understanding Islam is a woman called Irshad Manji. Claiming distant Pakistani roots, the 35-year-old, now settled in Canada, has become quite the rage among the westerners who would love to see her beat up Islam, the religion, Manji professes to believe.

And guess who her buddies are? Yup, they are none other than Lewis’s gang - Daniel Pipes (who hailed Manji as a bespectacled Lesbian Muslim Feminist Martin Luther) and Bill O’Reilly of Fox TV (the holier than thou talk-show czar who forced his senior producer to have phone sex and got slapped with a sexual harassment case that Fox had to clean up after him with a hefty out-of-court settlement).

Jordy Cummings, a Toronto-based editor of Pure Polemics, calls Manji’s book The Trouble With Islam, “fraudulent, confused and contradictory”. According to her, Manji combines the rationalist critique of the Muslim leftists with the racist critique of Zionists: “What intrigued me was her (Manji’s) bibliography and footnotes - which revealed it to be the most contradictory of all books, equally indebted to Eqbal Ahmed and Bernard Lewis, Paul Wolfowitz and Tariq Ali, neo-cons and Pakistani socialists.”

Remember Taslima Nasrin? She fled Bangladesh and today lives in grand exile pampered by the West because she attacked Islam. Manji’s ambitions are similar. As host of “Queer Television” on Toronto’s Citytv, which according to her is the “world’s first program on commercial airwaves to explore the lives of gay and lesbian people,” she has attained a celebrity status.

Oprah Winfrey, impressed by the Muslim lesbian, has awarded her the first annual Chutzpah Award for “audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction,” while Ms magazine named her a “Feminist for the 21st century.”

Calling herself ‘Muslim Refusenik’, Manji, who sports spikes sticking out on her head and lives in a bulletproof glass window apartment in Toronto says, “That doesn’t mean I refuse to be a Muslim; it means that I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of God.”

She blames the madressah that she attended in Canada for challenging Islam and says that when she began asking awkward questions of the Imam she got “booted out”.

“At this point, I had a choice to make: I could walk away from my Muslim faith and get on with being my ‘emancipated’ North American self, or I could give Islam another chance. Out of fairness to the faith, I gave Islam another chance. And another. And another. For the past 20 years, I’ve been educating myself about Islam. As a result, I’ve discovered a progressive side of my religion - in theory,” she says.

The Salman Rushdie wannabe debates why the Muslims hate the Jews, gays and treat their women bad. While I have no issue with some of her talking points, for example the shabby treatment meted out to our women or an ingrained hatred against the Jews by the Muslims, the trouble I have with Manji is that she comes across as a lightweight, a mere chatterbox, full of herself and an opportunist to boot.

Fellow Torontonian Jordy Cummings perhaps sums her best in her article, Hey, Irshad, your 15 minutes are up: “The fact is that Manji is a fraudulent opportunist, not a feminist or a secularist, but a confused little bourgeois with an axe to grind, who has been used by the Israel lobby against the very beliefs she professes to have.”

Contempt for Islam by outsiders is no new phenomenon. Islamic Spain’s contribution to the West has studiously been wiped out by scholars like Lewis. William Dalrymple in The truth about Muslims reminds us that the “basic facets of western civilization as paper, ideas of courtly love, algebra and the abacus passed on into Europe”, as did the Unani medicine. Read George Makdisi of Harvard University and discover that terms like “fellows”, holding a “chair” or practices such as inaugural lectures and academic robes can be traced back to the mediaeval Islam.

Admits the great mediaevalist Sir Steven Runciman in his 3-volume history of the Crusades, “Our civilization has grown out of the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident,” underscoring that the Crusades were in effect barbarian invasions against the Muslims.

Who were the real heirs of the Roman civilization? In Runciman’s view, they were not the knights of Christendom, but the “sophisticated Byzantines of Constantinople and the cultivated Arab caliphate of Damascus.”

Islam today has lost its glory. It is much more misunderstood since Al Qaeda arrived. The mullahs have hijacked it to make it appear anti-West, anti-women, anti-liberal. Many mosques decidedly incite cruelty, killing and hatred.

As far as hating the Christians and Jews is concerned, says historian Richard Fletcher, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) didn’t think he was “founding a new religion as much as bringing the fullness of divine revelation, partially granted to earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses or Jesus.” Fletcher quotes Surah 29 of the Quran that says: “Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the most courteous manner except those of them who act unjustly, and say, ‘we believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you: Our God and your God is one, and to him we have surrendered.”
Touche Bernard Lewis and Irshad Manji!


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.