Professor Bernard Lewis discourse in orientalism

In The Name of God the munificent and the merciful

Professor Bernard Lewis had an Interview on 30th December, 2001 just few months after terrorist attack to New York City (US). In this interview he obviously declares that dualism and confrontation between Middle East (Islam) and “Christian Europe” were very old and it started long time ago and this attack also is the continuous of that battlefield!

 Maybe base on the mutual influence of Mr. Lewis on neo - conservative government (Bush administrator), this misunderstanding is repeated by President Bush when he mistakenly speaks about “Crusades war” when he wants to start his war against Taliban and Iraq.

 In Mr. Lewis opinion “Ottoman empire” is as whole of Islam and it’s defeating as defeating of Islam against Christianity but everybody knows that the world of Islam is vaster than Ottoman Empire ‘s territory and Muslim who ruled under Ottoman Empire are not whole of Muslim. So Ottoman Empire although was base on Islamic system, but it is not equal with Islam, and Islam is as religion not the Ottoman Empire.

 Mr. Lewis based on his Orientalism approach toward Middle East; see the two sides as monolithic entities. And he recognizes Middle East as every time defeated during the last 3 century toward European Christianity. When Mr. Lewis want to describe the Middle East, he use “they” repeatedly toward them and put this “they” against West as One another side and always “victorious” and one side as “defeated” again and again.

 He sees all the political and social phenomenon in a chain (as historian) and he try to join them together, Then he forgets himself as scientist who should scientifically analyse the political or historical events and he replaces “Christian Europe” by the “we” or “us” in his statements. So when you read his writing or listen to his speaks you will find him as representative of one side not as expert who expects to scientifically analyse the phenomenon.

So As the Islamic world define, the USA current war in Middle East see as religion war against Islam (the things That formally rejected by US administrator even president Obama again and again) Mr Lewis forget US and Russia rivalry or long enmity among and put Russia also in the same front with the west (as he name “us” or “we”) against “They” and obviously characterize it with religion ‘s aspects, But if it is a accepted fact that “al-Qaida” done this terrorist attack also, this military group is not the representative of Islam or symbol of it, and Muslim world and majority the people who Mr. Lewis name them “they” are moderate and  against fundamentalism of “al-Qaida” which every regional country know that “al-Qaida” is made in USA, against “USSR” and before Nato or US start their fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Muslim people had long tough and hard war against them, there because They don’t accept their philosophy and their approach toward Islam. But I don’t know how Mr. Lewis put “Ben Laden” as representative of Islam.

 Mr. Lewis named a vast area like Middle East as “dangerous and unstable region” but he (as historian or expert of the region) should know that instability start when the “we” decide to destroyed Ottoman empire system and then they decide to put their agent in the heart of Middle East land and now a day they make instability in the region because of just “oil” and “Israel”.

In this interview Mr. Lewis show his “black and white” looking way in the way of interact with The “we”‘s enemy or rival, when he want to show the way to his political wing to act against them, he speak about “Get tough or get out” so he does not see any gray space in between. He suggests them to be “tough” because he cannot imagine anything else in between two sides, from being tough till getting out. He never can imagine any compromise or negotiation and middle way between to side. He see an old and endless war that have no solution for it and you should just fight and there is no escape of it and just victory by the “us” can solve it or defeat and got out.

His solution is just “continue the good work that was started in Afghanistan and deal with some of the other countries or groups, terrorists-terrorist groups and countries that help them”.

 so you can feel deep hate toward Middle Eastern in Mr. Lewis when he describe the region and when he give solution to this mater. In his view there is no space for living together between the “they” and the “we” in equal atmosphere. Superiority of the “we” as is always victorious, should recognize by the “they”. In this atmosphere the best or acceptable “they” or the symbol of this acceptable “they” is just Mr. Mustafa Kamal Ataturk that decide to be exactly westernize and but as result you can see this admired system of Ataturk after long time trying to westernize, is not accepted in western club also.

 The Atlantic Monthly | May 2003 published an article by Mr. Bernard Lewis “"I'm Right, You're Wrong, Go to Hell" religions and the meeting of civilization Lewis.
in this article Mr. Bernard Lewis speaks of The “us” that he name it as “the modern Western world” against “others” with non- stop confrontation toward  backwardness, long time defeated Middle East.

 surprisingly he defines themselves primarily by “nationality” I don’t know how he can give Nationality aspect to a vast front that even Russia and Germany are include and he forget the “we” that make 20th century bloodbath with the World War Second (1939-45) that take life or fifty million and approximately thirty-five million people were either badly injured or injured. How these nation who have such as this bloodbath among them can make a one nation that Mr. Lewis can use nationality word here. The question is this how can see them as nation.

 Mr. Bernard Lewis obviously put “the modern Western world” with confrontation with a force that “defines itself as Islam has given a new relevance—indeed, urgency—to the theme of the "clash of civilizations."

Mr. Lewis know clash between civilization as necessity of modern international relation as he say “clash of civilizations is an important aspect of modern international relations, though probably not many of us would go so far as to imply, as some have done, that civilizations have foreign policies and form alliances.”

In this article Mr. Lewis with retelling Mustafa Kemal Ataturk speech “only one civilization was alive and well and advancing, and it is modernity, the civilization "of our time." All the others were dying or dead. Turkey's choice was to join this civilization or be part of a dying world. The one civilization was, of course, the West.” Say that the only alive civilization is the west civilization.

He recognize two kind of civilization first one is civilization which define itself with exact religion like Islam and Christianity and the other one is define itself base on region and ethnic. He tries to separate religion aspects of civilization and so in the case of Christianity he speak of Christendom and he wish to also separate Islam also from Islamic civilization world, and he speak of creating Islam Dom.

He rightly put his finger on Islamic country weakness in studding foreign language. But his mistake again is that he see Islamic ruler as exact Islam but Mr. Lewis as expert should know that Prophet Mohammad in ruling and, … is completely different with an Ottoman king or a Islamic ruler in Spanish land. And if you compere between sultan Salim‘s aim, way of ruling, morality, policy,… with Prophet Mohammad you can see they are totally different.

 The other thing is that, Mr. Lewis should know that historic reason is not good excuse to capture other nation’s land by the others. Because if it became a ongoing policy in international interaction (in any era of time), so many land in the world in future should be hand over to their historical owner of them. With this unreasonable reason For example U.S resident should be wait to see the powerfulness of local American (Indian) in future to, give America up to them. In the case of Australia, Canada … is also the same. so speaking of power in the hand of Jewish is not good reason to occupy Palestinian land and see it as chain of “conquest and Reconquest” and in the case of Palestine see it as “the great European counterattack into the lands of Islam” it will lead humanity to the endless conflict that power will determine which resident in which land should be stay at a exact time.

It is the fact that US is alive with its enemy, without enemy their outdoor and international policy will be hesitated so they need to have an enemy and in the case of collapsing USSR they were looking for new one and it seem that Islam is chosen in this manner and also some scientist Like Mr. Bernard Lewis or Samuel Huntington … theorized this adopting enemy scientifically. Mr. Lewis with long time study on Middle East with a Jewish background and conservative attitude (all is necessary for coming to political stage in USA), make him famous and player in US Republican time to choose new enemy.

Westerner like Mr. Lewis when they want to analysis the “other” they look to himself and then the deference between The “us” and “others” and they say that everything that “we” have is factors of our succeed and if “others” want to be succeed they should adopt them to be victorious as us. One of them is the separation between church and governing or religion and politics. That is their suggestion to others to separate social ruling from religion. But they don’t have any attention to difference between Islam and Christianity or role of church in medieval period and clergy role in Islam. About the woman is also the same if you see to the picture that belong to 19th ,18th century in Europe woman wearing is very different  and they were very covered but by the now they are going to be naked. And this something that is going to be dominates there.

 Also some westerner like Mr. Lewis suggests the others to do the same and they did not have any attention to different culture and the necessity of it. Just they say you have to be same as us if you want to be succeeded.       

Seyed Mostafa Mostafavi

  27th October – 2012 - Tehran


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