Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis

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Bernard Lewis, FBA (born May 31, 1916) is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies
Oriental studies
Oriental studies is the academic field of study that embraces Near Eastern and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, peoples, history and archaeology; in recent years the subject has often been turned into the newer terms of Asian studies and Middle Eastern studies...

, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus
Emeritus
Emeritus is a post-positive adjective that is used to designate a retired professor, bishop, or other professional or as a title. The female equivalent emerita is also sometimes used.-History:...

 of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

. He specializes in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West, and is especially famous in academic circles for his works on the history of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

.

Lewis served in the British Army in the Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...

 and Intelligence Corps during the Second World War before being seconded to the Foreign Office. After the war, he returned to the School of Oriental and African Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies
The School of Oriental and African Studies is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the University of London...

 at the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 and was appointed to the new chair in Near and Middle Eastern History.

Lewis is a widely read expert on the Middle East, and is regarded as one of the West’s leading scholars of that region. His advice has been frequently sought by policymakers, including the George W. Bush administration. In the Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing Martin Kramer
Martin Kramer
Martin Seth Kramer is an American scholar of the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Shalem Center. His focus is on Islam and Arab politics.-Education:...

, whose Ph.D. thesis was directed by Lewis, considered that, over a 60-year career, he has emerged as "the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East." Lewis is known for his refusal to describe the Armenian Genocide
Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide—also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, by Armenians, as the Great Crime—refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I...

 as such, a stance many consider tantamount to Armenian Genocide denial. He is also famous for his public debates with the late Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 concerning the latter's book Orientalism
Orientalism (book)
Orientalism is a book published in 1978 by Edward Said that has been highly influential and controversial in postcolonial studies and other fields. In the book, Said effectively redefined the term "Orientalism" to mean a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the...

(1978), which criticized Lewis.

Biography


Bernard Lewis was born to middle-class Jewish parents in Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington is a district in the London Borough of Hackney. It is north-east of Charing Cross.-Boundaries:In modern terms, Stoke Newington can be roughly defined by the N16 postcode area . Its southern boundary with Dalston is quite ill-defined too...

, London. He became interested in languages and history while preparing for his bar mitzvah.

Lewis graduated in 1936 from the School of Oriental Studies (now SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies
The School of Oriental and African Studies is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the University of London...

) at the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 with a B.A.
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 in History with special reference to the Near and Middle East, and obtaining his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 three years later, also from SOAS, specializing in the History of Islam. Lewis also studied law, going part of the way toward becoming a solicitor
Solicitor
Solicitors are lawyers who traditionally deal with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts. In the United Kingdom, a few Australian states and the Republic of Ireland, the legal profession is split between solicitors and barristers , and a lawyer will usually only hold one title...

, but returned to study Middle Eastern history. He undertook post-graduate studies at the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, where he studied with the orientalist Louis Massignon
Louis Massignon
Louis Massignon was a French scholar of Islam and its history. Although a Catholic himself, he tried to understand Islam from within and thus had a great influence on the way Islam was seen in the West; among other things, he paved the way for a greater openness inside the Catholic Church towards...

 and earned the "Diplôme des Études Sémitiques" in 1937.
He returned to SOAS in 1938 as an assistant lecturer in Islamic History.

During the Second World War, Lewis served in the British Army in the Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...

 and Intelligence Corps in 1940–41, before being seconded to the Foreign Office. After the war, he returned to SOAS, and in 1949, at the age of 33, he was appointed to the new chair in Near and Middle Eastern History.

In 1974, aged 57, Lewis accepted a joint position at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 and the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

, also located in Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

. The terms of his appointment were such that Lewis taught only one semester per year, and being free from administrative responsibilities, he could devote more time to research than previously. Consequently, Lewis's arrival at Princeton marked the beginning of the most prolific period in his research career during which he published numerous books and articles based on the previously accumulated materials. In addition, it was in the U.S. that Lewis became a public intellectual. Upon his retirement from Princeton in 1986, Lewis served at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 until 1990.

Lewis has been a naturalized citizen of the United States since 1982. He married Ruth Hélène Oppenhejm in 1947 with whom he had a daughter and a son before the marriage was dissolved in 1974.

In 1966, Lewis was a founding member of the learned society
Learned society
A learned society is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline/profession, as well a group of disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honor conferred by election, as is the case with the oldest learned societies,...

, Middle East Studies Association of North America
Middle East Studies Association of North America
Middle East Studies Association of North America is a learned society, and according to its website, "a non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples...

 (MESA), but in 2007, he broke away and founded Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa
Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa
The Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa was founded on October 24, 2007 by Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami . ASMEA is a learned society dedicated to promoting research and teaching in Middle Eastern and African studies, and related fields...

 (ASMEA) to challenge MESA, which the New York Sun
New York Sun
The New York Sun was a weekday daily newspaper published in New York City from 2002 to 2008. When it debuted on April 16, 2002, adopting the name, motto, and masthead of an otherwise unrelated earlier New York paper, The Sun , it became the first general-interest broadsheet newspaper to be started...

 noted as "dominated by academics who have been critical of Israel and of America's role in the Middle East." The organization was formed as an academic society dedicated to promoting the highest standards of research and teaching in Middle Eastern and African studies, and related fields, with Lewis as Chairman of its academic council.

In 1990 the National Endowment for the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency of the United States established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at...

 selected Lewis for the Jefferson Lecture
Jefferson Lecture
The Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is an honorary lecture series established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities . According to the NEH, the Lecture is "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."-History of...

, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. His lecture, entitled "Western Civilization: A View from the East," was revised and reprinted in The Atlantic Monthly
The Atlantic Monthly
The Atlantic is an American magazine founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1857. It was created as a literary and cultural commentary magazine. It quickly achieved a national reputation, which it held for more than a century. It was important for recognizing and publishing new writers and poets,...

under the title "The Roots of Muslim Rage." His 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture, given to the American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

, was published as Europe and Islam.

Research


Lewis' influence extends beyond the academe to the general public. He is a pioneer of the social and economic history of the Middle East and is famous for his extensive research of the Ottoman archives. He began his research career with the study of medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Arab, especially Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n, history. His first article, dedicated to professional guilds of medieval Islam, had been widely regarded as the most authoritative work on the subject for about thirty years. However, after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, scholars of Jewish origin found it more and more difficult to conduct archival and field research in the Arab countries, where they were suspected of espionage. Therefore, Lewis switched to the study of the Ottoman Empire, while continuing to research Arab history through the Ottoman archives, which had only recently been opened to Western researchers. A series of articles that Lewis published over the next several years revolutionized the history of the Middle East by giving a broad picture of Islamic society, including its government, economy, and demographics.

Lewis argues that the Middle East is currently backward and its decline was a largely self-inflicted condition resulting from both culture and religion, as opposed to the post-colonialist view which posits the problems of the region as economic and political maldevelopment mainly due to the 19th century European colonization. In his 1982 work Muslim Discovery of Europe, Lewis argues that Muslim societies could not keep pace with the West and that "Crusader successes were due in no small part to Muslim weakness." Further, he suggested that as early as the 11th century Islamic societies were decaying, primarily the byproduct of internal problems like "cultural arrogance," which was a barrier to creative borrowing, rather than external pressures like the Crusades.

In the wake of Soviet and Arab attempts to delegitimize Israel as a racist country, Lewis wrote a study of anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

, Semites and Anti-Semites (1986). In other works he argued Arab rage against Israel was disproportionate to other tragedies or injustices in the Muslim world: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and control of Muslim-majority land in Central Asia, the bloody and destructive fighting during the Hama uprising in Syria
Hama uprising in Syria
Hama uprising in Syria may refer to several events:* Siege of Hama during the 2011 Syrian uprising* Hama massacre 1982 during the Islamic uprising in Syria* April 1981 Hama massacre during the Islamic uprising in Syria* 1964 Hama uprising...

 (1982), the Algerian civil war
Algerian Civil War
The Algerian Civil War was an armed conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups which began in 1991. It is estimated to have cost between 150,000 and 200,000 lives, in a population of about 25,010,000 in 1990 and 31,193,917 in 2000.More than 70 journalists were...

 (1992–98), and the Iran-Iraq War
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

 (1980–88).

In addition to his scholarly works, Lewis wrote several influential books accessible to the general public: The Arabs in History (1950), The Middle East and the West (1964), and The Middle East (1995). In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

, the interest in Lewis's work surged, especially his 1990 essay The Roots of Muslim Rage. Three of his books were published after 9/11: What Went Wrong?
What Went Wrong
What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response is a book by Bernard Lewis released in January 2002, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attack, but written shortly before...

(written before the attacks), which explored the reasons of the Muslim world's apprehension (and sometimes outright hostility) to the modernization, and The Crisis of Islam, and Islam: The Religion and the People (published in 2009).

Armenian Genocide


The first two editions of Lewis' The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961 and 1968) describe the Armenian massacres of World War I as "the terrible holocaust of 1915, when a million and a half Armenians perished". In later editions, this text is altered to: "the terrible slaughter of 1915, when, according to estimates, more than a million Armenians perished, as well as an unknown number of Turks." Lewis was later one of 69 scholars to co-sign a 1985 petition asking the US Congress to avoid a resolution condemning the events as "genocide".

The change in Lewis' textual description of the Armenian massacres, and his signing of the petition against the Congressional resolution, was controversial among some historians and journalists, who suggested that Lewis was engaging in historical revisionism
Historical revisionism
In historiography, historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding a historical event...

 to serve his own political and personal interests. The original text had already drawn criticism for what some historians believe to be its exaggeration of unity and strength among Armenians: "[Lewis] implies that both had equal military and political force at their disposal to defend their interests. The fact is that the Armenians had neither a police force nor an army".

Lewis later called the label "genocide" the "Armenian version of this history" in a November 1993 Le Monde
Le Monde
Le Monde is a French daily evening newspaper owned by La Vie-Le Monde Group and edited in Paris. It is one of two French newspapers of record, and has generally been well respected since its first edition under founder Hubert Beuve-Méry on 19 December 1944...

article, for which he faced a civil proceeding in a French court. He was ordered to pay one franc as damages for his statements on the Armenian Genocide
Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide—also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, by Armenians, as the Great Crime—refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I...

 in Ottoman Turkey. Lewis has stated that while mass murders did occur, he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to conclude it was government-sponsored, ordered or controlled and therefore did not constitute genocide. The court stated that "by concealing elements contrary to his opinion, he neglected his duties of objectivity and prudence". Three other court cases against Bernard Lewis failed in Paris tribunal, including one filed by the Armenian National Committee of France and two filed by Jacques Trémollet de Villers
Jacques Trémollet de Villers
Jacques Trémolet de Villers is a French writer, lawyer, president of the Catholic fundamentalist group La Cité Catholique since the 1980s and monarchist activist in the Restauration nationale movement....

.

When Lewis received the National Humanities Medal
National Humanities Medal
The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.The award, given by the...

 from US President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 in November 2006, the Armenian National Committee of America
Armenian National Committee of America
The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively...

 objected: "The President's decision to honor the work of a known genocide denier — an academic mercenary whose politically motivated efforts to cover up the truth run counter to the very principles this award was established to honor — represents a true betrayal of the public trust."

Lewis' views on the Armenian Genocide were criticized by a number of historians and sociologists, among them Alain Finkielkraut
Alain Finkielkraut
Alain Finkielkraut is a French essayist, and son of a Jewish-Polish manufacturer of fine leather goods who had been deported to Auschwitz and survived. He currently teaches at the École polytechnique as professor of the "history of ideas and modernity" in the department of humanities and social...

, Yves Ternon
Yves Ternon
Yves Ternon is a French physician, author of historical books about the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. Doctor of medicine's history of University Paris IV Sorbonne...

, Richard G. Hovannisian
Richard G. Hovannisian
Richard G. Hovannisian is an American historian and scholar. He was born and raised in Tulare, California. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles. He was also Associate Professor of History at...

, Albert Memmi
Albert Memmi
Albert Memmi is a Tunisian Jewish writer and essayist who migrated to France.- Biography :Born in colonial Tunisia,from a Tunisian Jewish mother and a Tunisian-Italian Jewish father, he speaks Hebrew and Tunisian-Arabic...

, Pierre Vidal-Naquet
Pierre Vidal-Naquet
Pierre Emmanuel Vidal-Naquet was a French historian who began teaching at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in 1969....

, Stephen Zunes
Stephen Zunes
Stephen Zunes is an international relations scholar specializing in the Middle East specializing in Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, and strategic nonviolent action. He is known internationally as a leading critic of United States policy in the Middle East, particularly under the...

 described Lewis as a "notorious genocide-denier", and Yair Auron
Yair Auron
Yair Auron is an Israeli historian, scholar and expert specializing on Holocaust and Genocide studies, racism and contemporary Jewry...

 suggested that "Lewis’ stature provided a lofty cover for the Turkish national agenda of obfuscating academic research on the Armenian Genocide". Israel Charny
Israel Charny
Dr. Israel W. Charny is an Israeli psychologist and historian, world renowned genocide expert. He is the editor of two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, and Executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem....

 wrote that Lewis' "seemingly scholarly concern... of Armenians constituting a threat to the Turks as a rebellious force who together with the Russians threatened the Ottoman Empire, and the insistence that only a policy of deportations was executed, barely conceal the fact that the organized deportations constituted systematic mass murder". Charny compares the "logical structures" employed by Lewis in his denial of the genocide to those employed by Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

 in his Holocaust negationism.

In response, Lewis argued that:
Lewis stated that he believed "to make [the Armenian Genocide], a parallel with the Holocaust in Germany" was "rather absurd." In an interview with Ha'aretz he stated:

Views and influence on contemporary politics


In the mid-1960s, Lewis emerged as a commentator on the issues of the modern Middle East, and his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

 and the rise of militant Islam brought him publicity and aroused significant controversy. American historian Joel Beinin
Joel Beinin
Joel Beinin is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University. From 2006 to 2008 he served as Director of Middle East Studies and Professor of History at the American University in Cairo.-Education:...

 has called him "perhaps the most articulate and learned Zionist advocate in the North American Middle East academic community ..." Lewis's policy advice has particular weight thanks to this scholarly authority. U.S. Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

 remarked: "...in this new century, his wisdom is sought daily by policymakers, diplomats, fellow academics, and the news media."

A harsh critic of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Lewis continues the liberal tradition in Islamic historical studies. Although his early Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 views had a bearing on his first book The Origins of Ismailism, Lewis subsequently discarded Marxism. His later works are a reaction against the left-wing
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 current of Third-worldism
Third-worldism
Third-worldism is a tendency within left-wing political thought to regard the division between developed countries, and developing countries or "Third World" nations against the background of primary political importance...

, which came to be a significant current in Middle Eastern studies
Middle Eastern studies
Middle Eastern studies is a name given to a number of academic programs associated with the study of the history, culture, politics, economies, and geography of the Middle East, an area that is generally interpreted to cover a range of nations extending from North Africa in the west to the Chinese...

.

Lewis advocates closer Western ties with Israel and Turkey, which he saw as especially important in light of the extension of the Soviet influence in the Middle East. Modern Turkey holds a special place in Lewis's view of the region due to the country's efforts to become a part of the West. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Turkish Studies
Institute of Turkish Studies
The Institute of Turkish Studies is a foundation based in the United States with the avowed objective of advancing Turkish studies at colleges and universities in the USA....

, an honor which is given "on the basis of generally recognized scholarly distinction and... long and devoted service to the field of Turkish Studies."

Lewis views Christendom
Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

 and Islam as civilizations that have been in perpetual collision since the advent of Islam in the 7th century. In his essay The Roots of Muslim Rage (1990), he argued that the struggle between the West and Islam was gathering strength. According to one source, this essay (and Lewis' 1990 Jefferson Lecture on which the article was based) first introduced the term "Islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism is a term used to describe religious ideologies seen as advocating a return to the "fundamentals" of Islam: the Quran and the Sunnah. Definitions of the term vary. According to Christine L...

" to North America. This essay has been credited with coining the phrase "clash of civilizations
Clash of Civilizations
The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world....

", which received prominence in the eponymous book by Samuel Huntington
Samuel P. Huntington
Samuel Phillips Huntington was an influential American political scientist who wrote highly-regarded books in a half-dozen sub-fields of political science, starting in 1957...

. However, another source indicates that Lewis first used the phrase "clash of civilizations" at a meeting in Washington in 1957 where it is recorded in the transcript.

In 1998, Lewis read in a London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Al-Quds Al-Arabi , is an independent pan-Arab daily newspaper published in London since 1989. The paper is owned by Palestinian expatriates, and edited by Abd al-Bari Atwan who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza Strip in 1950. Its motto is . Its circulation is estimated to be...

a declaration of war on the United States by Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

. In his essay "A License to Kill", Lewis indicated he considered bin Laden's language as the "ideology of jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

" and warned that bin Laden would be a danger to the West. The essay was published after the Clinton administration and the US intelligence community had begun its hunt for bin Laden in Sudan and then in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

.

Views on Islam


Lewis presents some of his conclusions about Islamic culture, Shari'a Law, jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

, and the modern day phenomenon of terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 in his text, Islam: The Religion of the People. He writes of jihad as a distinct "religious obligation", but suggests that "it is a pity" that people engaging in terrorist activities are not more aware of their own religion:

Muslim fighters are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged unless they attack first; not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners; to give fair warning of the opening of hostilities or their resumption after a truce; and to honor agreements... At no time did the classical jurists offer any approval or legitimacy to what we nowadays call terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism as it is practiced nowadays."


In Lewis' view, the "by now widespread terrorism practice of suicide bombing is a development of the 20th century" with "no antecedents in Islamic history, and no justification in terms of Islamic theology, law, or tradition." He further comments that "the fanatical warrior offering his victims the choice of the Koran or the sword is not only untrue, it is impossible" and that "generally speaking, Muslim tolerance of unbelievers was far better than anything available in Christendom, until the rise of secularism in the 17th century."

Stance on the Iraq War


Jacob Weisberg
Jacob Weisberg
Jacob Weisberg is an American political journalist, serving as editor-in-chief of Slate Group, a division of The Washington Post Company. Weisberg is also a Newsweek columnist. He served as the editor of Slate magazine for six years, until stepping down in June 2008...

 has described Lewis as "perhaps the most significant intellectual influence behind the invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

". Michael Hirsh
Michael Hirsh (journalist)
Michael Hirsh is the former Foreign Editor and chief diplomatic correspondent for Newsweek. He is currently a senior editor in the magazine's Washington bureau. He was a member of JournoList...

 has attributed to him the view that regime change in Iraq would provide a jolt that would "modernize the Middle East" and suggested that Lewis' allegedly 'Orientalist' theories about "What Went Wrong" in the Middle East, and other writings, formed the intellectual basis of the push towards war in Iraq.

Writing in 2008, Lewis did not advocate imposing freedom and democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 on Islamic nations. "There are things you can't impose. Freedom, for example. Or democracy. Democracy is a very strong medicine which has to be administered to the patient in small, gradually increasing doses. Otherwise, you risk killing the patient. In the main, the Muslims have to do it themselves."

Ian Buruma
Ian Buruma
Buruma is a nephew of the English film director John Schlesinger, a series of interviews with whom he published in book form.-Works:*The Japanese Tattoo with Donald Richie ISBN 978-0-8348-0228-5...

, writing for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

in an article subtitled "The two minds of Bernard Lewis", finds Lewis's stance on the war difficult to reconcile with Lewis's past statements cautioning democracy's enforcement in the world at large. Buruma ultimately rejects suggestions by his peers that Lewis promotes war with Iraq to safeguard Israel, but instead concludes "perhaps he (Lewis) loves it (the Arab world) too much":

Alleged nuclear threat from Iran


In 2006, Lewis wrote that Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 had been working on a nuclear weapon for fifteen years. In August 2006, in an article about whether the world can rely on the concept of mutual assured destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

 as a deterrent in its dealings with Iran, Lewis wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the significance of August 22, 2006 in the Islamic calendar. The Iranian president had indicated he would respond by that date to U.S. demands regarding Iran's development of nuclear power; Lewis wrote that the date corresponded to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427, the day Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 from Jerusalem to heaven and back. Lewis wrote that it would be "an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and, if necessary, of the world." According to Lewis, mutual assured destruction is not an effective deterrent in the case of Iran, because of what Lewis describes as the Iranian leadership's "apocalyptic worldview" and the "suicide or martyrdom complex that plagues parts of the Islamic world today". He then suggests the possibility of a nuclear strike on Israel on August 22, 2006:
The article received significant press coverage though the day passed without any incident.

In his 2009 book, Juan Cole
Juan Cole
John Ricardo I. "Juan" Cole is an American scholar, public intellectual, and historian of the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. As a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, he has appeared in print and on...

 responded that there was no evidence to suggest that Iran "had been working assiduously on a nuclear weapon for fifteen years". He also takes issue with Lewis' suggestion that Ahmedinejad "might deploy this weapon against Israel on August 22, 2006":

Debates with Edward Said


Lewis is known for his literary sparrings with Edward W. Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

, the Palestinian-American literary theorist
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

 whose aim was to deconstruct what he called Orientalist
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

 scholarship. Said, a professor at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, characterised Lewis's work as a prime example of Orientalism in his 1978 book Orientalism
Orientalism (book)
Orientalism is a book published in 1978 by Edward Said that has been highly influential and controversial in postcolonial studies and other fields. In the book, Said effectively redefined the term "Orientalism" to mean a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the...

. Said asserted that the field of Orientalism was political intellectualism bent on self-affirmation rather than objective study, a form of racism, and a tool of imperialist
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 domination. He further questioned the scientific neutrality of some leading Middle East scholars such as Bernard Lewis on the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

. In an interview with Al-Ahram
Al-Ahram
Al-Ahram , founded in 1875, is the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper, and the second oldest after al-Waqa'i`al-Masriya . It is majority owned by the Egyptian government....

 Weekly, Said suggested that Lewis' knowledge of the Middle East was so biased it could not be taken seriously, and claimed "Bernard Lewis hasn't set foot in the Middle East, in the Arab world, for at least 40 years. He knows something about Turkey, I'm told, but he knows nothing about the Arab world."

Edward Said considered that Lewis treats Islam as a monolithic entity without the nuance of its plurality, internal dynamics, and historical complexities, and accused him of "demagogy and downright ignorance."

Rejecting the view that western scholarship was biased against the Middle East, Lewis responded that Orientalism developed as a facet of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, independently of the past European imperial expansion. He noted the French and English pursued the study of Islam in the 16th and 17th centuries, yet not in an organized way, but long before they had any control or hope of control in the Middle East; and that much of Orientalist study did nothing to advance the cause of imperialism. "What imperial purpose was served by deciphering the ancient Egyptian language, for example, and then restoring to the Egyptians knowledge of and pride in their forgotten, ancient past?"

Debates with Noam Chomsky


In a 2002 interview with the CBC
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

's "Hot Type" program, linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 detailed a series of comments from a declassified Eisenhower Administration memo:

Chomsky claimed that Bernard Lewis omitted evidence of Western culpability for failures in the region.

Lewis responded:

Books

  • The Origins of Ismailism (1940)
  • A Handbook of Diplomatic and Political Arabic (1947)
  • The Arabs in History
    The Arabs in History
    The Arabs in History is a book authored by Middle-east historian Bernard Lewis, published in 1950. The book was well-received by the general public owing in part to its accessibility to non-historians. Lewis takes a comprehensive look at the history of the Arab peoples, from pre-Islamic times to...

    (1950)
  • The Emergence of Modern Turkey
    The Emergence of Modern Turkey
    The Emergence of Modern Turkey is a 1961 book written by historian Bernard Lewis, and expert in the history of Middle East and Islam.The book covers the history of modern Turkey, from the decline and collapse of the Ottoman Empire up to the present days.-Contents:*Chapter I Introduction: the...

    (1961)
  • Istanbul and the Civilizations of the Ottoman Empire (1963)
  • The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam
    The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam
    The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam is a book written by Middle-East historian Bernard Lewis.-Description:Lewis, a British-American professor of history at Princeton University, traces the history of the secret Islamic sect known as the Assassins that used assassinations throughout the Middle...

    (1967)
  • The Cambridge History of Islam (2 vols. 1970, revised 4 vols. 1978, editor with Peter Malcolm Holt and Ann K.S. Lambton)
  • Islam: From the Prophet Muhammad to the capture of Constantinople (1974, editor)
  • History — Remembered, Recovered, Invented (1975)
  • Race and Color in Islam (1979)
  • Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society (1982, editor with Benjamin Braude)
  • The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982)
  • The Jews of Islam
    The Jews of Islam
    The Jews of Islam is a book written by Middle-East historian and scholar Bernard Lewis.The book provides a comprehensive overview of the history and the state of the Jews living in the Islamic world, The first chapter, Islam and Other Religions, however, is broader in scope, and explains how...

    (1984)
  • Semites and Anti-Semites (1986)
  • Islam from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople (1987)
  • The Political Language of Islam (1988)
  • Race and Slavery in the Middle East: an Historical Enquiry
    Race and Slavery in the Middle East
    Race and Slavery in the Middle East: an Historical Enquiry is a 1990 book written by the British historian Bernard Lewis. The book details the Islamic history of slavery in the Middle East from its earliest incarnations until its abolition in the various countries of the region.Though the book ...

    (1990)
  • Islam and the West
    Islam and the West
    Islam and the West is a 1993 book written by Middle-East historian and scholar Bernard Lewis.The book deals with the relations between Islam and western civilization. It is divided into 3 sections....

    (1993)
  • Islam in History
    Islam in History
    Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East is a book by Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis....

    (1993)
  • The Shaping of the Modern Middle East (1994)
  • Cultures in Conflict (1994)
  • The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years (published in U.K. as The Middle East: 2,000 Years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day) (1995)
  • The Future of the Middle East (1997)
  • The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (1998)
  • A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History (2000)
  • Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew Poems (2001)
  • The Muslim Discovery of Europe (2001)
  • What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East
    What Went Wrong
    What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response is a book by Bernard Lewis released in January 2002, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attack, but written shortly before...

    (2002)
  • The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (2003)
  • From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East
    From Babel to Dragomans
    From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East is a 2004 book written by Middle-East historian Bernard Lewis.-Description:The book comprises a series of scholarly essays and speeches given over the past 4 decades on the topic of the Middle East and the Islamic world.-Quotes from the author...

    (2004)
  • Islam: The Religion and the People (2008, with Buntzie Ellis Churchill)
  • Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East (2010) Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195144215
  • The End of Modern History in the Middle East (2011) Hoover Institution Press.

External links