Middle East

Bostom Corrects Lewis…….

I have a lot of respect for Islamic scholar, Bernard Lewis, but when he gets it wrong, and he does, his errant claims and contadictions must be both addressed and refuted with the facts. Dr. Andrew Bostom, with whom the Tundra Tabloids maintains good relations, sent me this article in which he does just that.

Another “Just So” Story? Andrew Bostom

Speaking at a December 10-11, 2007 Rome Conference entitled, “Fighting for Democracy in the Islamic World,” renowned historian Bernard Lewis intoned,

The authoritarianism present in the Middle East region is not part of the Arab
and Muslim tradition, but it has been imported from Europe

Lewis, according to the account of his lecture in Adnkronos International, then offered as putatively convincing support for his thesis the non-sequitur observation that during the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan (presumably, in the course of making decisions) consulted all the dignitaries, and when he ascended the throne he would greet the crowds, uttering “Allah is greater than you are.”

This ahistorical contention, accompanied by an equally vacuous example of Ottoman era “proof,” seems like a desynchronized “Spy Versus Spy” Mad Magazine segment with Lewis playing the role of both “Department of Joke and Dagger” agents, simultaneously, when juxtaposed to Lewis’ own entry on hurriyya—Arabic for freedom—which appears in the venerable Encyclopedia of Islam.

Hurriyya and the uniquely Western concept of freedom are completely at odds. Hurriyya “freedom” — as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master”, expressed it — “being perfect slavery.” And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis’ perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.”

The late American scholar of Islam, Franz Rosenthal (d. 2003), who wrote the first part of the Encyclopedia of Islam entry on hurriyya, analyzed its larger context in Muslim society. He notes the historical absence of hurriyya as “…a fundamental political concept that could have served as a rallying cry for great causes.”

Totalitarianism is the golden thread that is intwined within the structure of the Islamic system, it behooves me to think why Bernard Lewis could come to the conclusion that totalitarianism within the Islamic world is a “western implant”.

But then again, as A.Bostom shows, Lewis eventually contradicts himself by showing that totalitarianism has its roots within the Islamic system itself. The only worry is, though Lewis eventually admits the obvious, many will concentrate on the former while overlooking the latter. Thank you Andy. *L* KGS

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