Bernard Lewis Looks at the Arab World

(Financial Times - UK)Michael Steinberger - Historian Bernard Lewis, 86, is the author of the international bestseller What Went Wrong? The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. On Sept. 11: "I was surprised that they were able to do something on such a scale, and with such meaningless ferocity. I was also enormously impressed with the civilized response of the American public in general, the concern not to condemn Islam as a whole. I obviously didn't predict an atrocity like this, but I had been saying for a long time that something had gone radically wrong in the Arab world and that there was a growing hostility to the West that was likely to express itself violently." The Saudis: "Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity. This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism. The oil money has enabled them to spread this fanatical, destructive form of Islam all over the Muslim world and among Muslims in the West. Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country." The subjugation of women is probably the single biggest cause of the problems besetting the Arabs. "You suppress one half of the population and you bring up the other half in this autocratic, hierarchical household. It is a culture of command and obedience." Lewis supports an American attack on Iraq: "Of all the oil-producing countries, pre-Saddam Iraq made the best use of its oil revenues. It built a fine infrastructure, an excellent educational system. And I do believe that among the other Iraqi people there are those who are willing and able to initiate the development of democratic institutions."

2002-08-19 00:00:00

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