Bernard Lewis: Arab Upheaval a Mass Expression of Outrage Against Injustice

(Jerusalem Post) David Horovitz - In an interview, historian Bernard Lewis diagnoses the fundamental cause of the region-wide explosion of protest, and dismisses Western notions of a quick fix. "The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that's...a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world." "We, in the Western world particularly, tend to think of democracy in our own mean periodic elections in our style. But I think it's a great mistake to try and think of the Middle East in those terms and that can only lead to disastrous results, as you've already seen in various places. They are simply not ready for free and fair elections." "In genuinely fair and free elections, [the Muslim parties] are very likely to win and I think that would be a disaster. A much better course would be a gradual development of democracy, not through general elections, but rather through local self-governing institutions. For that, there is a real tradition in the region." "You have this traditional system of consultation with groups....I think we should let them do it their way by consultative groups....It's happening now in Iraq." "I don't think [the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt] is in any sense benign. I think it is a very dangerous, radical Islamic movement. If they obtain power, the consequences would be disastrous for Egypt....I don't know how one could get the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood is relatively benign unless you mean relatively as compared with the Nazi party." Bernard Lewis, a British-American historian, is Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, specializing in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West.

2011-03-02 00:00:00

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