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The Crisis of Islam, Part I, Important Points from Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of IslamFrom Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. xviii-69.

Holy War and Unholy Terror

• Caliph is a term from Arabic meaning both “successor” and “deputy”. These definitions refer to a position of both political authority in the Islamic community as well as a spiritual authority, connected to God, here on earth.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. xviii.

• Muslim history begins with the start of Islam. Followers believe the writings and teachings of the Qur’an to be not only religiously significant, but historically accurate as well. Lewis makes the point that very little emphasis is placed on anything that happened before the advent of Islam (for Muslims), and that non-Muslim (non-believer) history is more or less irrelevant for them.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. xix.

• Historically, Muslims have viewed groupings of human societies in terms of religion, not in nationhood or national identity. For example, up until the modern period of reign by western countries, Islamic historians, military officials, etc., would refer to their enemies simply as kafir, or infidels, with no reference to their national allegiance or territory.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. xxii.

• Far prior to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, in February of 1998 an Arabic newspaper (published in London) printed a full text version of the “Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders”. It was signed by Usama bin Ladin, as well as leaders from Jihad groups in Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan. In its text, the declaration states,

“Since God laid down the Arabian peninsula, created its desert, and surrounded it with its seas, no calamity has ever befallen it like these Crusader hosts that have spread in it like locusts, crowding its soil, eating its fruits, and destroying its verdure; and this at a time when the nations contend against the Muslims like diners jostling around a bowl of food.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. xxiv – xxv.

• The declaration goes on to discuss the need for the bad situation to be made good. It claims there are “facts” known to everyone, and list them as follows-

1. That since the first Gulf War the U.S. has been occupying holy territories of Islam, plundering and humiliating its people and utilizing the region to wage war against other Muslim countries.

2. That the Iraqi people have experienced great destruction “at the hands of the Crusader Jewish alliance”, with the number of dead totaling over one million and that the Americans seek only to continue the “dreadful slaughter”.

3. And finally, “While the purposes of the Americans in these wars are religious and economic, they also serve the petty state of the Jews, to divert attention from their occupation of Jerusalem and their killing of Muslims in it.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp.xxv – xxvi.

• Arabs consider Arabia to be the most important of their lands, with Iraq a close second. The two regions were the primary locations for development of the people and the religion, with Mecca (where the Prophet Muhammad was born) and Medina (where the first Muslim state was established) both located there. Cultural developments and Islamic achievements were centered in or around Baghdad, which was also the home of the caliphate for half a millennium.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. xxviii – xxix.

• In 641 C.E., which is the Muslim year 20, the Calif ‘Umar stated that all Jews and Christians should be moved to the southern and eastern most regions of Arabia, in order to fulfill the wish of the Prophet Muhammad spoken just before he died. “Let there not be two religions in Arabia”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. xxix.

• Lewis makes a clear point that the Muslims did in fact relocate the Jews and Christians in the land, as opposed to expelling them as was the method of the Christians towards Jews and Muslims. Specific accommodations were made, resettling the Jews in Syria and Palestine as assigned to them, and Christians into Iraq. Since then and thru current day, the Holy Land of the Hijaz and its sites are completely forbidden to non-Muslims.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. xxx.

• During what is often considered a “dark state” by western or European historians, Islam was contributing greatly to civilization from the Middle East. Between the fall of Greece and Rome (ancient civilization) and the rise of European nations (western civilization), Islamic societies were rich in commerce and trade, developing sciences and letters. The past three centuries have not seen such developments in the Arab world, to the extent that many view the countries as having “fallen behind” the western world.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 4.

• Although the Muslim faith is more similar to Judaism and Christianity than it is to other leading world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), there are critical differences that separate it from both. This is particularly evident in the divide between views on the relationship between government, faith and society. While both Judaism and Christianity developed under (often hostile) governments, ruled by politics and morals other than their own, Muhammad spread Islam as both a religious figure and a political one simultaneously. During the first generation of Muslims, there was no resistance from a state power; the state power was Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad governed the people, collected taxes, made judicial decisions and acted as Commander in Chief, waging war and declaring peace.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 6.

• During his time on earth, Muhammad, as a prophet of God, was considered to be both a teacher and a ruler, on God’s behalf. When he passed away, he had completed the task of bringing the spiritual and prophetic teachings of the Qur’an (seen as the book itself) to his people. The next task for Islam would be to spread these religious revelations until all the world’s people had/have accepted it.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 7.

• The institution of the caliphate developed after Muhammad’s passing, as a means of extending authority to an individual to continue with God’s work. This was also seen as a reflection of the devotion of the community from which the Khalifa was chosen. As the first to hold this title, Muhammad’s father in law, Abu Bakr took this position, from his community of Medina, already an Islamic post due to Muhammad’s work. Lewis notes that historical records from the time indicate that, “…religious truth and political power were indissolubly associated- the first sanctified the second, the second sustained the first.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 7.

• To understand the transition from a period of great knowledge and productivity in the Islamic world, through the extensive imperialist period of the 19th and early 20th centuries (wherein some Arab lands were ruled by outsiders, but many also remained sovereign), into the seemingly angry and revolutionary stance of many Muslims today, Bernard Lewis shadows four developments which gave this movement strength and momentum.

1. As the infidels exploited the Muslims, infidels the Muslims had been commanded to bring the words of God’s truth to, a great feeling of humiliation arose.

2. Frustration came from humiliation as many western and other infidel views and ways are brought into Islamic culture, and even adopted by some Muslims.

3. But confidence was born during the oil crisis in 1973, when Arab nations learned just how effective their control over gasoline production could be. Not only did they gain power through the distribution and costs of oil, they began to make far more money from their resources.

4. With greater affluence came the ability to travel and examine western countries, and in contrast to the teachings of the Qur’an, Muslims saw what they viewed as “moral degeneracy and consequent weakness” of the West. This, for many, bred contempt.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 21 –22.

• By focusing on the west as a source of evil or wrongdoing, Islamic communities that may have differed on other issues were able to come together and unify. Within the movement individuals found a familiar group identity, solidarity amongst them and by default, exclusion of those who were against them. They developed an accepted format for authority of the movement and legitimacy for its existence, and were thus able to concomitantly present a critique of the current situation as well as develop a plan for the future.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 22.

• Radical Islam is a term that encompasses several different types of movements. Various forms of Islamic fundamentalism exist in different countries, and there may even be different movements within one country. Some are state-sponsored; others form as popular movements of the people. The most important, in Lewis’s opinion, are those formed in the latter realm. The first of these to emerge was the Islamic revolution, in Iran. As in Iran, radical Islamic movements threaten existing order in the nation of origin, as well as neighboring countries.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 23 –24.

• Bernard Lewis states that, “Fundamentalists are anti-Western in the sense that they regard the West as the source of evil that is corroding Muslim society, but their primary attack is directed against their own rulers and leaders.” He points to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and the assassination of Egyptian President Sadat in 1981. The West may be the source of corruption, but as Muslims who embrace or adapt foreign customs, such leaders are considered far worse enemies.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 24.

• Islamic religious logic follows the idea that because Western civilization practices and values things considered evil by Muslims, those who support and perpetuate such values are themselves evil, making them “enemies of God”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 26.

• Within Islam, the battle between good and evil has historically been both a political and military action. Lewis points out that Muhammad was a prophet and a teacher, but also a ruler and a soldier. Like Muhammad, fighting a war for Islam is fighting a war for, and on behalf of, God; if you are an opponent, then you are fighting against God. Thus, logic follows that an Islamic army is God’s army, and a member of God’s army is God’s soldier. These soldiers of God see their task as “dispatch[ing] God’s enemies as quickly as possible”, so that they move on to the afterlife and may be dealt with by God.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 26-27.

• One of the commandments left to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad was that of jihad. The root of the word, in Arabic, means “striving” or “effort”. It is also used in the context of struggle, and/or fight, interpreted for the Qur’an to mean “moral striving” and “armed struggle.”
Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 30.

• During the first chapters of the Qur’an, when Muhammad and his followers were a minority competing against a pagan majority in Mecca, the word jihad is generally translated with the “moral striving” implication. Later, during the chapters that tell of the time in Medina when Muhammad was head of the state and commanding its army, the translations take on more of a military meaning.

Lewis offers the following quote from the Qur’an as an example-

“Those of the believers who stay at home, other than the disabled, are not equal to those who strive in the path of God with their goods and their persons. God has placed those who struggle with their goods and their persons on a higher level than those who stay at home. God has promised reward to all who believe but He distinguishes those who fight, above those who stay at home, with a mighty reward.”
Qur’an, IV, 95

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 30.

• Lewis acknowledges that, contemporary, modern Muslims interpret jihad in context to the outside world as spiritual and moral. However, “The overwhelming majority of early authorities, citing the relevant passages in the Qur’an, the commentaries, and the traditions of the Prophet, discuss jihad in military terms.” In Islamic law, there are four types of enemies against whom it is legitimate and lawful to wage war against- infidels, apostates, rebels and bandits. The first two, as religious types, are the only ones that count as jihad, thus making jihad a “religious obligation”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 31.

• Muslim “jurists” differentiate between two types of obligatory holy war (jihad); offensive and defensive. During an offensive jihad, the onus lies within the Muslim community as a whole, and can be carried out or the responsibility of volunteers and/or professionals. In a defensive jihad, it is the obligation of every capable person to participate.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 31.

• For the majority of recorded Muslim history, jihad has most often been understood as “armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power.” Seeing the world as being divided into two realms, the House of Islam (Muslim government and religious rule is dominant) and the House of War (everyone else, the rest of the infidel world). The idea is that jihad will continue until all those in the latter have either converted to the Muslim faith, or accepted submission to Muslim rule.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 31 – 32.

• Bernard Lewis identifies several quotes from the Qur’an that reinforce the notion of importance of jihad for the individual, as relevant to life and in death. A few included are-

  • “A day and night of fighting on the frontier is better than a month of fasting and praying.”
  • “The nip of an ant hurts a martyr more than the thrust of a weapon, for these are more welcome to him than sweet, cold water on a hot, summer day.”
  • “Paradise is in the shadow of the swords.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 32.

• The first jihad was waged by the Prophet Muhammad, against the governing politic of Medina, his birth town. It moved on to Mecca, where the city fell to Muslim rule very quickly (circa 630 of the Christian calendar). Those who then came under the rule of the Prophet were allowed to live and maintain their property, as long as they conducted themselves under the arrangements made when Mecca was surrendered.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 33 – 34.

• In today’s current world, both the military and moral meaning of the word jihad are used and understood differently by different groups of Muslims. Lewis makes the distinction that violent groups who have taken on the name of Jihad (such as in Palestine, Kashmir, etc…) clearly have assumed the militant meaning, and not that of moral striving.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 37.

• It is important to understand the concept and definition of “martyrdom” as it applies to jihad. In English, martyr refers to someone who will accept suffering, torture, even death, before giving up their beliefs. Such an act is considered a “testimony or witness” to the dedication to one’s beliefs. In Arabic, the word used is shahīd. In addition to meaning witness, and used as English might be to refer to the act of jihad, shahīd translates to mean a martyrdom specifically as death from jihad and the reward that is eternal bliss. Interestingly, Lewis points out “…suicide, by contrast, is a mortal sin and earns eternal damnation, even for those who would otherwise have earned a place in paradise.” This would seem, by definition, to place the spiritual future of suicide bombers in a precarious position and questionable as to such acts as relevant to the faith.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 38 – 39.

• As an obligatory aspect of the Muslim faith, jihad is somewhat rigidly regulated, at least in the shari‘a (Holy Law). Some of the rules of jihad include-

  • In a jihad, fighters are not to kill children, the elderly or women, unless such a person attacks first.
  • Prisoners are not to be mutilated or tortured.
  • If a truce has been called and yet hostilities are about to resume, fair warning must be given.
  • Agreements made with regard to truces or other arrangements are to be honored.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 39.

• Lewis also discusses the appearance in medieval Islamic texts concerning chemical warfare (such as poisoning water supplies or using poison tipped arrows in those days). Although different Muslim law interpreters have given varying degrees of approval or disproval, the question is always with concern to indiscriminate casualties. Says Lewis, “At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point – as far as I am aware – do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 39.

• Rules of jihad against apostates, or renegades (those who did believe but have strayed from the faith) are separate and stricter than for war against nonbelievers. Again, Muslims view he who has abandoned the faith, as much worse than one who did not believe to begin with. Not understanding the “truth” of Islam, having not “seen the light” still provides for the possibility that one will come around to it. To have understood the faith, even for a short amount of time, and then turn away from it – there is no allowance for human forgiveness. Men are to be put to death, women subjected to imprisonment and flogging/beatings. It is up to God to determine any level of forgiveness, in the afterworld. Lewis stresses, “No human has the right to do so.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 41.

• The distinctions between jihad against infidels and that against apostates takes on an interesting role in current day politics – militant leaders have declared a double jihad, against the infidels on the outside as well as the internal apostates, those have befriended or allied themselves with westerners.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 41.

• In between the House of War and the House of Islam exist two more neutral “houses”; the House of Truce and the House of Covenant. These exist when a non-Muslim (generally Christian) country enters into an agreement with Muslim powers to pay a tax, or give other contributions, in exchange for a large amount of autonomy in their political and military interactions.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 42.

• While under Muslim rule, shari‘a (Holy Law) required tolerance of other religions to practice and handle their own cultural affairs, with the caveat that each adult male pay a poll tax, or jizya. Quoting the Qur’an IX, 29-

“Fight against those who do not believe in God or in the last day, who do not forbid what God and His Apostle have declared forbidden, who do not practice the religion of truth, though they be the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians] until they pay the jizya, directly and humbly.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 45 – 46.

• The pact that existed between the Muslim state and the non-Muslim subservient populations was known as a dhimma, and those non-Muslims were called dhimmis. Dhimmis existed as second-class citizens, with particular protections and laws provided for them by shari‘a (Holy Law), providing a better quality of livelihood than non-Christian or deviant Christians in the West.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 46.

• During the medieval period, the Arab caliphate followed by the Persian and Turkish dynasties maintained a powerful and dynamic presence in the world. Even as Christianity spread during the fifteenth century, southeastern Europe remained under Muslim control. This reign began to fall in 1683, with the second Turkish siege of Vienna failing, and the Ottoman army’s retreating, never to truly establish a stronghold again.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 52.

• As western Europe came out of the Middle Ages and began to advance in commerce and transportation, the Muslim world was somewhat left behind. Large ships able to travel the world’s oceans were no match for smaller ships intended for smaller seas, such as the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Eastern exports such as coffee and sugar were now being grown in the west. Imperialist desires developed an eye for the Middle East.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 54- 55.

• The concept of imperialism has a unique meaning in Islam. It is not used to refer to the conquering and/or acquisition of land and people by the Muslim empires. Bringing new land and people into the House of Islam is seen as a privilege for nonbelievers, as it offers them the opportunity to “embrace the true faith”. But for Europeans to conquer Muslims and then govern them, let alone try to convert them, was/is a “crime and a sin”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 55.

• Again, to be clear on the idea of conversion into and out of Islam-

“In the Muslim perception, conversion to Islam is a benefit to the convert and a merit in those who convert him. In Islamic law, conversion from Islam is apostasy – a capital offense for both the one who is misled and the one who misleads him. On this question, the law is clear and unequivocal. If a Muslim renounces Islam, even if a new convert reverts to his previous faith, the penalty is death. In modern times the concept and practice of takfir, recognizing and denouncing apostasy, has been widened. It is not unusual in extremist and fundamentalist circles to decree that some policy, action, or even utterance by a professing Muslim is tantamount to apostasy, and to pronounce a death sentence on the culprit.” This ideology saw the fatwa against Salman Rushdie when he published The Satanic Verses, as well as the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 55 –56.

• Foreign infiltration of the Arab world began with the imperialistic rule of the French in Algeria in 1830 and continued through the First World War. Other Western colonies in Arab lands included Great Britain in Aden and in Egypt, the French in Tunisia and Morocco, and the British moving into the Persian Gulf, culminating with the division of the Ottoman Arab lands in the Fertile Crescent, predominately between France and Great Britain.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 56 – 57.

• Western presence in the Middle East took on a different role, however, post World War One. France and Great Britain did not simply annex the land, but rather assigned mandatory power to the Western countries, under the watch and administration of the League of Nations (including Syria, Palestine, etc…). These mandates were only in place between the period of the end of WWI and the end of WWII, when the mandated territories became independent. Lewis makes the point that most of the Arabian Peninsula was not, at any point, under imperial control.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 57.

• Whether considered a Western view or not, there were benefits that came to the countries that experienced imperial control; education is perhaps the best example. Saudi Arabia (never under any imperial rule), with a population of 21 million people, to date has only eight universities. Since the Israeli occupation of “the territories” in 1967, the Palestinians have developed seven institutions for higher learning.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 57- 58.

• There were also negative consequences for those Arabs that experienced imperialist rule. As modern technology was introduced, it enabled more intrusive arms of state authority, such as surveillance and indoctrination. Such effects were clearly apparent in Turkey and Iran.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 58.

• Another result of western imperialism was that the subjugated countries learned to play their ruling countries against one another, in an attempt to establish some control. This resulted in an Arab alliance with Germany during the Second World War, and a Soviet alliance during the Cold War.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 59.

• When Germany failed to succeed in their objectives in World War One, Arabs hoped that the Soviet Union would align with them to fight against the West. Cooperation existed through the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, at which point it became clear that the United States was the one remaining “sole world superpower”. And initially, it appeared that the U.S. had no interest in remaining involved with the goings-on of the Arab world. But following the Iranian Revolution and the bloody wars under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, the United States did, in fact, reinstate a role. The Arabs of the Middle East saw the U.S. presence as an extension of imperial control, although this was not a western objective.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 60 –61.

• When the United States defeated Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1991, the blow was exceptionally harsh to secular nationalist movements, particularly the Palestinians. Having supported Hussein, the Palestinians had fallen from favor (and thus financial support) from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Now, more than ever, the Palestinians felt abandoned and debilitated. Lewis postulates that this circumstance pushed the Palestinians to begin negotiating a peace process with Israel, something never before considered an option (for the Palestinians/Arabs). With support from both the U.S. and Israel, the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) entered discussions considered friendly and hopeful by many, but viewed as abhorrent and shameful by the fundamentalists.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 62.

• Curiously, Bernard Lewis states that in the eyes of the fundamentalists (including Usama bin Ladin), the fall of Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was seen as a victory for and by Muslims, not the West, or the U.S. Great emphasis is placed on the Arab struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and the Muslim success in driving them out. Considering Russia to have been the more powerful of the two (infidel) superpowers, Islamic fundamentalists saw the U.S. to be the next, but certainly easier evil to conquer; as morally and religiously corrupt society, it was believed that America would also be politically and militarily weak.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 62 – 63.

• The United States has not always figured so negatively in the minds of Islam. With very little mention of the existence of the country even being recorded in text books through the 19th century, as recently as the end of World War Two Muslims viewed America as a land of opportunity and freedom. Movies, television, free markets and tourism all showed the U.S. to be a land of wealth and success, before such goals were considered sin or criminal.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 68 – 69.

• As the climate of feelings towards the U.S. began to change in the middle of the 20th century, several circumstances were at play. Most interesting perhaps is the influence of German intellectual writers, including Spengler and Jünger, who, as Lewis puts it, viewed America as, “… the ultimate example of civilization without culture; rich and comfortable, materially advanced but soulless and artificial…” This and other German philosophies were quite popular amongst Arab and Muslim intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 70.

• With the surrender of France to Germany in 1940, the Germans gained access to the territories of Syria and Lebanon, which were still under the French mandate. The Germans were successful in establishing a pro-Nazi regime in Iraq, during this period, and the birth of the Ba‛th Party. Although the Nazi regime did not last, the Ba‛th Party exists today.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 70.

• One of the most commonly considered “responsible” events for current anti-American sentiment in the Arab world is the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian Mosaddeq government. The events played out as follows-

  • Mosaddeq, the popular nationalist leader of Iran, decided to nationalize the oil companies, particularly the Anglo-Iranian Company. The current circumstances were unfair to the Arabs whose land produced the oil, with more taxes for the oil being paid to Great Britain than to Iran.
  • The United States chose to get involved at first, to support its ally Great Britain. They remained involved, as they feared the possibility of the Soviets becoming involved in support of Iran and Mosaddeq.
  • The U.S. and Britain then decided to work in cahoots with the Shah of Iran, to execute a coup d’etat and overthrow Mosaddeq. This was not terribly successful; Mosaddeq had the leader of the coup (General Zahedi) arrested, and the Shah fled to Iraq.
  • But soon, the political climate in Tehran changed, and the people came out in support of the Shah. Mosaddeq was eventually overthrown by the people and replaced by General Zahedi, and the Shah returned to his throne. Nonetheless, most now viewed the Shah as a western “puppet”.
  • When the Iranian Revolution happened in 1979, neither Britain nor America did anything to support the Shah; in fact, the U.S. temporarily refused him asylum when he had to flee Tehran.
  • Wishing to establish a good relationship with the new leaders of Iran, the U.S. did not permit the Shah entrance to America until he was on his deathbed.

This series of events left a mighty bitter taste in the minds of many Arabs. The U.S. was seen as a country that would go to great lengths to administer “puppets” in Middle Eastern countries as it suited their purpose, but would also abandon these allies just as quickly. Lewis points out that, “The one evoked hatred, the other contempt – a dangerous combination.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 75 –76.

• One of the most prominent men in the development and propagation of the new Muslim fundamentalist ideology was Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian. Raised in Egypt, he studied in Cairo. As an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Education, he worked for several years in the United States, which apparently fueled his radical opinions of the Islamic world and its relation to the outside world when he returned to Egypt. Qutb compared American churches to operating like businesses, spoke of the vulgar dancing and music that was often facilitated at socials, and quoted from the Kinsey Report on sexual behavior and its deviance. He became so negatively outspoken about the United States and her lifestyle, he was asked to step down from his position in the Ministry of Education, and shortly after joined the fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 77 – 79.

• Much of Sayyid Qutb’s writings spoke of the “internal enemy”, the jahiliyya or period of paganism seen in Arabia before the Prophet Muhammad. Qutb called this modern jahiliyya the “new age of ignorance”. As many Arabs continued to seek out modern lifestyles and the “sins” of the western world, the threat of America loomed larger in the eyes of fundamentalists.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 80.

• In recent years, anti-American propaganda takes the form of speeches, pamphlet distribution, sermons, and the use of the media. The list of humanitarian “offenses” ranges from the treatment of the Native Americans, the enslavement of black Africans, war crimes against Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and Vietnam, Somalia, etc… Similar historical acts committed by Arab countries are ignored. But most powerful in such propaganda, Lewis states, is the hedonism, sin and debauchery evidenced in the American lifestyle and the way in which it threatens Islam.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 80 – 81.

• From the threat of American degeneracy comes the term the Great Satan, as coined by the Ayatollah Khomeini for the U.S. In the Qur’an, Satan does not assume a role of exploiter; he is a seducer, “the insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men” (Qur’an CXIV, 4, 5).

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 81.

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