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|What if Islam isn't an obstacle to democracy|
|06/21/05 at 23:49:14|
Here is an article which deconstructs Bernard Lewis's views. It is rather large, but definitelt worth a read, although I do not agree with everything in it.:
Sunday, June 19, 2005
[center][size=4]What if Islam isn't an obstacle to democracy[/size][/center]
disclaimer: timbuktu does not agree with everything Michael has to say.
Bernard Lewis Revisited
What if Islam isn't an obstacle to democracy in the Middle East but the secret to achieving it?
By Michael Hirsh
America's misreading of the Arab world and our current misadventure in Iraq may have really begun in 1950. That was the year a young University of London historian named Bernard Lewis visited Turkey for the first time. Lewis, who is today an imposing, white-haired sage known as the doyen of Middle Eastern studies in America (as a New York Times reviewer once called him), was then on a sabbatical. Granted access to the Imperial Ottoman archives the first Westerner allowed in Lewis recalled that he felt rather like a child turned loose in a toy shop, or like an intruder in Ali Baba's cave. But what Lewis saw happening outside his study window was just as exciting, he later wrote. There in Istanbul, in the heart of what once was a Muslim empire, a Western-style democracy was being born.
The hero of this grand transformation was Kemal Ataturk. A generation before Lewis's visit to Turkey, Ataturk (the last name, which he adopted, means father of all Turks ), had seized control of the dying Ottoman Sultanate. Intent on single-handedly shoving his country into the modern West For the people, despite the people, he memorably declared Ataturk imposed a puritanical secularism that abolished the caliphate, shuttered religious schools, and banned fezes, veils, and other icons of Islamic culture, even purging Turkish of its Arabic vocabulary. His People's Party had ruled autocratically since 1923. But in May 1950, after the passage of a new electoral law, it resoundingly lost the national elections to the nascent Democrat Party. The constitutional handover was an event without precedent in the history of the country and the region, as Lewis wrote in The Emergence of Modern Turkey, published in 1961, a year after the Turkish army first seized power. And it was Kemal Ataturk, Lewis noted at another point, who had taken the first decisive steps in the acceptance of Western civilization.
Today, that epiphany Lewis's Kemalist vision of a secularized, Westernized Arab democracy that casts off the medieval shackles of Islam and enters modernity at last remains the core of George W. Bush's faltering vision in Iraq. As his other rationales for war fall away, Bush has only democratic transformation to point to as a casus belli in order to justify one of the costliest foreign adventures in American history. And even now Bush, having handed over faux sovereignty to the Iraqis and while beating a pell-mell retreat under fire, does not want to settle for some watered-down or Islamicized version of democracy. His administration's official goal is still dictated by the Lewis Doctrine, as The Wall Street Journal called it: a Westernized polity, reconstituted and imposed from above like Kemal's Turkey, that is to become a bulwark of security for America and a model for the region.
Iraq, of course, does not seem to be heading in that direction. Quite the contrary: Iraq is passing from a secular to an increasingly radicalized and Islamicized society, and should it actually turn into a functioning polity, it is one for the present defined more by bullets than by ballots. All of which raises some important questions. What if the mistakes made in Iraq were not merely tactical missteps but stem from a fundamental misreading of the Arab mindset? What if, in other words, the doyen of Middle Eastern studies got it all wrong?
A growing number of Middle Eastern scholars who in the past have quietly stewed over Lewis's outsized influence say this is exactly what happened. To them, it is no surprise that Lewis and his acolytes in Washington botched the war on terror. In a new book, provocatively titled The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, one of those critics, Columbia scholar Richard Bulliet, argues that Lewis has been getting his master narrative about the Islamic world wrong since his early epiphanic days in Turkey and he's still getting it wrong today.
In Cheney's bunker
Lewis's basic premise, put forward in a series of articles, talks, and bestselling books, is that the West what used to be known as Christendom is now in the last stages of a centuries-old struggle for dominance and prestige with Islamic civilization. (Lewis coined the term clash of civilizations, using it in a 1990 essay titled The Roots of Muslim Rage, and Samuel Huntington admits he picked it up from him.) Osama bin Laden, Lewis thought, must be viewed in this millennial construct as the last gasp of a losing cause, brazenly mocking the cowardice of the Crusaders. Bin Laden's view of America as a paper tiger reflects a lack of respect for American power throughout the Arab world. And if we Americans, who trace our civilizational lineage back to the Crusaders, flagged now, we would only invite future attacks. Bin Laden was, in this view, less an aberrant extremist than a mainstream expression of Muslim frustration, welling up from the anti-Western nature of Islam. I have no doubt that September 11 was the opening salvo of the final battle, Lewis told me in an interview last spring. Hence the only real answer to 9/11 was a decisive show of American strength in the Arab world; the only way forward, a Kemalist conquest of hearts and minds. And the most obvious place to seize the offensive and end the age-old struggle was in the heart of the Arab world, in Iraq.
For more please see this link.
|06/21/05 at 23:51:35|
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