The Centrality of Islam in Muslim Political Identity

(Mosaic) Martin Kramer - In 1976, Bernard Lewis, the eminent British historian of the Middle East, warned the West in an essay titled: "The Return of Islam" that a new era was beginning in the region - one that would produce a tide of revolution, assassination, and terrorism, conceived and executed explicitly in the name of Islam. Lewis, the author of some 30 books and 200 articles, who just celebrated his 100th birthday, was not only the first to alert the world to the possibility of Islamic upheavals; he demonstrated that they were not deviations at all, but a resumption of Islam's ancient feud with the West. "The Return of Islam" began with a full-scale critique of the way Westerners had failed, time and again, to account for Islam as a political factor. From medieval times to the present day, he wrote, the West had shown a "recurring unwillingness to recognize the nature of Islam or even the fact of Islam as an independent, different, and autonomous religious phenomenon." He noted in a follow-up article, "If, then, we are to understand anything at all about what is happening in the Muslim world at the present time and what has happened in the past, there are two essential points which need to be grasped. One is the universality of religion as a factor in the lives of the Muslim peoples, and the other is its centrality." Islam manifested this universality and centrality not just in daily life, but in identity and loyalty, the fundamental building blocks of political community. In this light, the future trend was absolutely clear. The imported ideas of nationhood, taken for granted as destined to prevail over time, were beating a retreat. The writer is president of Shalem College in Jerusalem.

2016-06-02 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive