Bernard Lewis: Muslims See Collapse of Soviet Union as Muslim Victory

[Philadelphia Inquirer] Jonathan Last - Near East expert Bernard Lewis has noted that, in America, we tend to view the collapse of the Soviet Union as an American, or Western, triumph. Freedom, democracy and capitalism beat repression, oligarchy and communism. The truth of this view seems self-evident. Not, however, to many Middle Eastern Muslims. "According to the point of view of Osama bin Laden and his many, many followers, it was nothing of the kind," Lewis explained. "It was not a Western victory in the Cold War; it was a Muslim victory in a holy war. It was a triumph of Islam in a jihad against the infidels." To radical Muslims, the West and the Soviet Union were not competing powers, but simply two halves of the larger whole with which they were competing. They saw the fall of the Soviet Union as their victory (because, in large part, of Afghanistan). Lewis' other key point applies to the proposition that democracy might be incompatible with the Arab world. "There are people to talk to, there are people we can seek the friendship of in the Islamic world," he insisted. "The dictatorial regimes that we have seen in our time in Iraq, in Syria, and in other places - these have no roots in the Arab or Islamic past. These are an importation from Europe."

2007-11-09 01:00:00

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