Sunday, 9 March 2008
Ruthie Blum interviews Bernard Lewis for the Jerusalem Post:
The first moral of the tale seems to be that women have been terribly mistreated in the West until recent times. Apparently the tide began to turn roughly thirty four years ago, when Bernard Lewis brought the advancing attitudes of England to the benighted American intellectual landscape, so obviously, if the Muslims are a little behind now, well, they can soon catch up and we shouldn't worry nor should we be judgmental toward them.
The second thing is his assertion that under Islam, women had it better during the time of Muhammad than they did later. Again this buttresses the notion that reform of Islam is possible if Muslims can get back to the purity of the Koran and the first Muslims; the sola scriptura as Mustafa Akyol likes to say. The problem with this is, it's the same idea as had Qutb, Mawdudi, Al Banna and so forth. The direction of Islam, no matter which way one looks at it, is always toward Islam, Islam and more Islam. And under Islam, the situation for women is little short of hopeless and always has been. Even Muhammad's nine-year old bride, Aisha, said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women."
Andrew Bostom has a good discussion of Lewis' use of the word "jihad" a little later in the interview here.
Posted on 03/09/2008 12:05 PM by Rebecca Bynum
9 Mar 2008
There are so many disturbing things about Bernard Lewis' interview, but the most disturbing is the possible effect of his ill-considered remark counselling against the use of force with Iran, because Iran, you see, has a venerable history, and the Iranians are proud nationalists, and no doubt an attack that destroyed Iran's nuclear facilities would cause some -- but how much, and for how long -- rallying around the Islamic Republic of Iran by those who are otherwise disaffected. The problem is that Israel, and the United States, can't wait, in order for that "regime change." And Lewis surely must know -- he's keenly aware of it -- that his every word is held up by some as holy writ, and therefore, when he off-handedly counsels against any military attack on Iran, he's making the likely task of the Israelis, and others who know that they cannot wait, much harder. It was a foolish remark, foolishly made, and even though he adds, afterthoughtedly, some modification, the damage has been done. For this is how it will be used: "See, even Bernard Lewis says that Iran's nuclear project should not be attacked for it will only make the regime stronger." Well, maybe yes, and maybe no. The Islamic Republic of Iran could hardly be doing more than it is doing to threaten Israel and, in Lebanon and elsewhere, other Infidels. It is at least conceivable -- but Lewis can't conceive of it -- that the humiliation of having that nuclear project destroyed will lead to a temporary rallying-round, followed by a realization that the regime has failed on every count. Or, to put it otherwise, if the regime does acquire nuclear weapons, is successful in defying the Americans, the Israelis, and everyone else, will it not then have such prestige that those who want regime change will be put on the defensive, will be weakened? This appears not to occur to Lewis, for he doesn't even consider it. Lewis, remember, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Oslo Accords. It annoys him to be reminded of this. And even now, though he calls that support a "mistake," he has done nothing to explain why he made that "mistake." Was it that he had faith in Arafat? Was Arafat the problem? Or was it something deeper than Arafat, something about the tenets of islam, and the example of Muhammad? Lewis should be asked, but was not asked in this or in any other interview, two questions: 1) does he think that the Mulsims and Arabs will ever accept, as permanent presence within borders that are turly defensible and not hopelessly vulnerable, an Infidel nation-state, smack in the middle of Dar al-Islam? If he thinks that, on what basis does he do so? 2) why does he think that Muslims can somehow overcome 1350 years of ideology, and of behavior based on that ideology? What makes him think, for example, that Muhammad is no longer uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, and that his dealings with the Meccans in 628 A.D., at Hudaibiyya, does not have continuing vitality as the example for all treaty-making with Infidels? Lewis was not only such a fervent admirer of the Oslo Accords that he privately told a Jewish leader who, early on, was attempting to bring violations by the "Palestinians" of those accords to the attention of others, to "keep quiet," because he, Lewis, didn't want anytying to rock the damn Oslo boat. And he was also, as we know, a famous proponent of the war in Iraq, and of remaking Iraq, for he knew what he had to know about Iraq from the likes of Ahmad Chalabi. This is not a function of age. Lewis is as keen now as he ever was. The question is: was he quite as keen ten years ago, or twenty, as his admirers of the World's-Greatest-Authority School seem to think, no matter what Lewis supports, or how incautiously he may, though seeming to be cautious, express himself. It is Israel that will pay the price for that remark.
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