Monday, May 21, 2018


Bernard Lewis, an often-controversial Middle East scholar and author of one of the most memorable books I've read, Islam and the West, has died only a few days before his 102nd birthday. I know Lewis best for his work in Islam scholarship, but he was an accomplished and well-rounded expert on Middle Eastern history and affairs in general. I read Lewis's Islam and the West some years after having had to read Edward Said's awful screed Orientalism, which adopts a victimization attitude (the West raped and plundered the Orient) and takes what I consider to be an illogical and hypocritical approach to the question of the West's interaction with the Middle East. Lewis, in Islam and the West, devotes an entire chapter to mowing down the many flaws in Said's monograph; that chapter in particular is a work of art, in my opinion. Lewis's academic trajectory involved many controversies and a general falling-out-of-favor over the past few decades because his right-leaning views caused many to consider his approach to the Middle East to be overly biased. Lewis was sympathetic to neoconservative ideology during the George W. Bush era, and he was one of the supporters of the 2004 invasion of Iraq—an invasion that I vehemently disagreed with. I can't say that I share Lewis's neocon sympathies, but I respect the breadth and depth of his knowledge of the Middle East, and I think his death represents a major loss for that sector of academe.

RIP, Dr. Lewis.

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