Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bernard Lewis: the world view behind disaster

Bernard Lewis

David Seaton's News Links
The Turkish crisis is very complex and reveals as much or more about western contradictions in dealing with Islam as it does the Turkish or Muslim problems in dealing with the west.

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has written a very fine article about the present crisis which I've snipped for News Links. The part of Rachman's piece I most wanted to draw your attention to is Rachman's dissection of Bernard Lewis's view of Islam.

Possibly only Leo Strauss has had anywhere near Lewis's influence on the Neo-cons and probably Lewis has had a much more direct effect on the US Middle East policy disaster and the world view that drives it. This is the thinking behind where we find ourselves today. Understanding Lewis is essential and Rachman has "undressed" him in a half dozen lines. Brilliant. DS

Gideon Rachman: The Turkish paradox and the prophets of Eurabia - Financial Times
Abstract: Some of the same American conservatives who have argued passionately for Turkish membership of the EU are also now openly concerned that the character of western Europe is being changed by Muslim immigration. Europe, they shriek, is turning into "Eurabia". Yet one consequence of Turkish membership of the EU would be to grant 70m-plus Turks the right to emigrate anywhere they want in the EU. If you wanted radically to alter the demography of western Europe, admitting Turkey to the EU would be the best way of going about it. One of the world's leading experts on Turkish history is Bernard Lewis, a 90-year-old historian from Princeton University. But Mr Lewis is also a darling of the American neo-conservatives and perhaps the most eminent convert to the "Eurabia" thesis. Last month at the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute, an influential Washington think-tank, Mr Lewis accepted an award and gave a long, learned and rambling speech about the history of the "Muslim attack on Christendom". This, he argued, has gone through three phases and "the third wave of attack on Europe has clearly begun . . . This time it is taking different forms and two in particular: terror and migration." This is an extraordinary and dangerous argument. Mr Lewis was equating Osama bin Laden and Muslim immigrants. They are all part of the same attack on Europe. This seems a little rough on many of my neighbours in London. My local postman, hairdresser and convenience store owner are all Muslims. So are the schoolgirls who play football at my children's school - incongruously clad in headscarves and shorts. As far as I can tell, none of these people is intent on destroying western civilisation from within. The tell-tale danger sign in Mr Lewis's argument is that he constantly refers to Muslims in Europe as "they" - an undifferentiated mass. Near the end of his speech, he mused: "Is it third time lucky? It is not impossible. They have certain clear advantages. They have fervour and conviction, which in most western countries are either weak or lacking . . . " The problem with Mr Lewis's argument is that it fails to distinguish between a people and an ideology. Once you start thinking of the more than 15m Muslims living in Europe as a single, hostile bloc, you close the door to understanding and open the door to racism. Radical Islamism is a problem. Ordinary Muslims are not. READ IT ALL


kelly said...

A good analysis of the macro-situation.

Germany's reluctance to Turkey's admission to the EU lies partially in its current specific struggles with the unwillingness of a large percentage of Turkish immigrants to integrate. Turkish women who have lived in Germany for 30 years yet refuse to learn the language, both men and women associate little to none outside of their family and social Turkish circles, Turkish children under pressure from their parents to avoid interaction with Germans and forbidden from school trips, swimming class, refusal to be buried here...

It is difficult to imagine, in the land of Beer and Bratwurst, why Germany would be appealing to those who cannot drink or eat either.

Germans cannot help but question why, out of the three most populous groups invited to Germany during its labor shortage of the 60s and 70s, that the Italians and Greeks have integrated well into German society, without losing their identity or ethnic pride, yet Turks remain steadfastly in their parallel universe. Most Germans conclude from this fact that the Islam/Christianity gap is too wide to bridge.

Germans hesitate to complicate the situation further before they feel they understand and can deal with the current Turkish immigrant "problem".

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I find the German's problem with the Turks a perfect illustration of the Karma principal. We have this saying in Spanish that goes more or less, "you don't like soup, drink two bowls".

That would go in the German case, "you don't like Jews and you had the best in the world, (Marx, Einstein, Adorno, Arendt)... Try your luck with the Turks." Exchange the theory of relativity and the Drei Grosshen Oper for Donner Kebab.

The Germans' are giving German passports to Kajaks named Schmidt whose people left Germany even before Germany existed and they can't seem to integrate Turks, who are German born and German speakers... Hey, most immingrants old mothers in the states never learned English either.

My wife was in transit though Frankfurt on her way to India once and since she had left from Madrid, she was travelling on her Spanish passport and when the ticket person saw that she was born in Berlin and had a German surname he said, "you should return, we need all the real Germans we can find."

The Turks were "invited" to Germany to do dirty jobs in the Wirtschaft wunder and short of ethnic cleansing, that where they'll stay and finally Germany will be less "real", which frankly I think most of the world could manage to live with.

The laws of Karma are not only implacable, they have a certain dry humor about them.