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The Crisis of Islam, Part II, 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. 83-158.

• Another example of the influence of Islamic fundamentalists in global politics is the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. During the country’s revolution, fifty-two American hostages were held for over a year, not released until January of 1981. Although at the time this incident was viewed as a sign of deteriorating relations between Iran and the U.S., Lewis points out that in fact, the hostages were taken and held because relations were improving between the Arabs and the West. Fear, and perceived dangers by the radicals of what could come from positive relations between Iran and the U.S. (moral decay and negative, modern influences) spawned the hostage crisis.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 83 – 34.

• The Ayatollah Khoemini of Iran fueled and supported fundamentalist ideals and judgments of the United States, using the term the “Great Satan” for America. He also spoke out against Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Sadam Hussein of Iraq, as he saw them as supporters of the West; Egypt, because they had made peace with Israel, and Iraq because they had waged war against Iran. In fact, Israel was soon deemed the “Little Satan”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 86.

• In the mid-1950s, Russia began to establish herself in the Middle East, as well, with an arms agreement with Egypt. Having only had imperialist interactions with Western countries in the past, the Arabs were likely hopeful for a different type of relationship with the Soviet Union; initially, it looked the same. Russia built up military bases in the region, brought in weapons and intervened economically and socially, as well, but did very little to protect their “allies” and their interests when, in both 1967 and 1973, the Arab nations attacked Israel. Although wars of aggression, the Arab states were defeated and it is likely that intervention or support from Russia at that time could have turned the outcome of the war(s).

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 89.

• The Soviets’ intentions for the Middle East were not altruistic; Lewis states that,
“There can be little doubt that, had it not been for American opposition, the Cold War and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arab would at best have shared the fate of Poland and Hungary, more probably that of Uzbekistan.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 89.

• By the 1970s, Egypt had had enough of the Soviet military presence with no real benefits for the host country. President Anwar Sadat, after being pressured into signing an unfair treaty with Russia in 1971, turned around in July of 1972 and ordered the USSR our of Egypt. In and unprecedented move for the time, Sadat turned to the United States for improved relations and sought peace with Israel.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 90.

• Of interest is the fact that during this period of allegiance between the majority of Arab nations and the Soviets, the Russians imposed multiple types of suppression and blatant disregard for Muslims. In Central Asia and the Transcaucasion republics, with a Muslim population of nearly two million, the Soviets would authorize only two hundred mosques to server the religious needs of them all. Russia never experienced any backlash or condemnation from the Arabs for these transgressions.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 90.

• Conflict between Muslim Arabs and Jews in the Israel-Palestine conflict has received more attention than any of the other conflicts within the Arab world. There are three important considerations as to why-

  • Israel, as a democracy and open society, is more “visible” to the world, via free press and other civil liberties. As a result, events are more widely reported, with a wider range of opinions, and even susceptible to “misreporting”, far more than in any of the Arab countries.
  • The fact that Israel is a Jewish state garners continual, rapt attention from around the world, both from Jews and Jewish supporters, as well as those who oppose them. (Lewis makes an example of the Iran-Iraq war which lasted for eight years, killed more people and caused more destruction than all the Arab-Israeli wars combined, and never received the media coverage that we see in Israel)
  • And perhaps most important is the notion of the “licensed grievance”, the one topic of complaint and animosity that can be freely discussed in all Muslim countries, including those where media sources are owned or controlled by the government. Anger about economic and political repression can be diverted into anger at Israel and the Palestinian conflict, and in some cases may even be blamed for such conditions.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 92-93.

• As the influence of European imperialism dissolved, more specific anti-American feelings began to grow in the Middle East. Lewis describes them as-

  • Economic exploitation (referred to by many Arabs as the pillaging of Islamic land’s resources.)
  • “The support of corrupt local tyrants who serve America’s purposes by oppressing and robbing their own people.”
  • American support for Israel, both through the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs as well as the ensuing conflict with other Arab nations.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 93-94.

• An interesting historical irony can be found in the immigration policies and procedures of European Jews to Israel during the 1930s and 1940s. With anti-Semitism and the Nazi regime in Germany, Jews fled to Palestine. This migration was supported by the British Mandate and even by the Nazis until the outbreak of the war, but was then reversed, as Great Britain sought to maintain Arab “goodwill”, by limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine. Throughout World War II, the Arab countries chose to support Germany and the Axis powers, even though Britain was the country most forcibly restricting the arrival of Jews in the area.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 94.

• An additional discrepancy in loyalties may be seen in the years immediately prior to Israel’s statehood. The Soviet Union voted with the majority in favor of the Jewish state at the United Nations meeting, and bestowed immediate “de jure” recognition of Israel. And although America had instated a partial arms embargo on Israel, Russia, via Czechoslovakia, sent a large supply of arms to the Jews in Palestine, allowing them to defend themselves and survive, as they became a new nation. (Soviet support came from a desire to defeat the West, i.e. Britain at the time, and Britain was certainly at odds with the Jewish state by the late 1940s.) The Russians received no “backlash” from the Arabs for this immense support of Israel.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 94-95.

• Western opinions of Arabs and the Islamic culture present themselves throughout international policy, not just that of the United States. It may be supposed that Westerners perceive the people of Islam as in some way inferior, not just different. Around the world, violations of human rights, civil rights, political freedoms, etc, are overlooked or disregarded when taking place in Muslim countries. And Islamic regimes responsible for crimes against humanity, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and Libya are not only supported, but also hold positions in the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 104-105.

• International policies of complacency towards internal activities in the Islamic world have allowed hatred and anger to fester for years. States Lewis,

“Arab rulers are thus able to slaughter tens of thousands of their people, as in Syria and Algeria, or hundreds of thousands, as in Iraq and Sudan, to indoctrinate children in their schools with bigotry and hatred against others, without incurring significant protest from liberal media and institutions in the West, still less any hint of punishments such as boycotts, divestment, or indictment in Brussels.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 106.

• Another contradictory example of practice and policy in the Arab world is as follows-
In 1982, in Hama, Syria, the Muslim Brothers had organized an uprising against the government. In response, the Syrian government attacked the entire city, leveling it with tanks, aircraft bombs, artillery and bulldozers. There was no discrepancy between civilian and rebel, supporters or other. No water canons, no rubber bullets, no house-to-house searches, just complete and total destruction of the city. Amnesty International has estimated the number of dead to be between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand. Little was done or said on the international level in reaction to this event. Only a few months later, a Lebanese Christian militia murdered between seven and eight hundred Palestinians. Because of the militia’s ties to Israel, Israel was held accountable for the massacre, which received international coverage and condemnation.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 108-109.

• Globalization, although perhaps an accepted reality and result of Western development, is viewed as the reason for the massive poverty experienced in so many of the Arab countries. With high birth rates and low means of per capita productivity, the Middle East is seeing a fast growing population of unemployed and uneducated young people. In addition, countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, countries only recently to have adopted Western “modernity” have now surpassed the Arab nations in areas of job development, education, productivity and technology. With access to media and communications, these poorest and even most ignorant are made aware of the chasm between themselves and “others”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 113-117.

• The most well known and well recognized of the Islamic movements is Wahhabism, founded by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab in the late 18th century. The major theme, or principle of this movement is the rejection of modernity and a return to the ways of ancient Islam, and has been since its inception. As has been mentioned, the “worst” enemy in the mind of the Wahhabis is that of the internal traitor, those who “betray” Islam from within. This includes any Muslim(s) who works towards modernizing reform, any teaching of any school of thought other than Wahhabism (including, Sunni, Shi’ite and Sufism).

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 121-122.

• Wahhabism was also the first Muslim movement to condemn, ban and burn books. This practice is in line with opposing anything that is contrary to the Wahhabi school of thought, or doctrine. In the past, individuals who wrote or taught any such writings were executed.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 122-123.

• Wahhabism is the official state doctrine, enforced by the government, of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not only one of the wealthiest Arab countries today, they also possess and control the two holiest sites for Muslims, making them extremely influential both within the Arab world and to the West (for oil purposes).

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 128.

• The word madrasa has, like many words in Arabic, has taken on a different meaning from its original translation. Traditionally, madrasa referred to a place of education, higher learning, teaching, etc… Today, it is understood to mean a place purely for the purpose of instilling hatred, violence and complete indoctrination. Many madrasas are found in countries throughout the world, where Muslims may be living, including the West. The combination of wealth and resources available from the source, Saudi Arabia, combined with religious freedom and free speech allowances make for excellent opportunities for Wahhabism to be spread outside of Saudi Arabia.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 128-129.

• Why does religious fundamentalism find such popularity today, particularly in Islam? Bernard Lewis offers the following-

  • It is easily understandable to both educated and uneducated people.
  • It uses themes and sayings that are familiar and profound, making it easy to “latch” on to.
  • No matter how restrictive the government, throughout the Middle East and Africa, public worship is never prohibited, so congregating is never a problem.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 133.

• The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964. They gained prominence and recognition in 1967, when Israel defeated its Arab enemies in the Six Day War (a war of aggression waged by the Arabs). With traditional warfare not bringing the results the Arabs had hoped for, the PLO turned to “terrorist” methods, targeting civilians in public areas rather than government or military affiliates. They have attacked schools, airplanes, shopping malls and restaurants, and the strategy has been incredibly effective, grabbing international headlines and drawing attention to their “cause”.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 147 –148.

• With the rise of current-day terrorism, fueled by the success of the PLO, it is interesting to note that the causes are those in support of an Arab or Palestinian national cause or purpose, not an Islamic one. Lewis notes that many of the PLO leaders, supporters and activists have been Christian.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 148.

• With all the success in the acquisition of media attention, what the PLO failed to attain was the “liberation” of Palestine. As even more fundamentalist groups gain popularity in the region, peace with Israel is clearly less of an option. The fundamentalist view is that Israel must be defeated, dismantled and done away with, the land “returned” to the Palestinians, in full. It must be anticipated, however, that if such “independence” ever did occur, political and religious views would have to be in direct accordance with the fundamentalist view (rejection of modernity, etc…) or Palestine, too, would be subject to war.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 150.

• Suicide bombers are a relatively new addition to the terror format, beginning in or around 1982 with Hamas and Hezbullah attacks in Lebanon and Israel, although throughout the 80s, in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran used young boys to move through mine fields in front of the troops, to detonate the mines (and themselves) making the way safe for the soldiers. Suicide bombers are generally “chosen”, generally young, male and poor, often living in refugee camps. They are paid a large sum for their parents and family, and they assume they will receive paradise and eternal happiness in the afterlife.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 152.

• A paradox exists, however, between the mission of the suicide bomber and the true teachings of the Qu’ran, regarding suicide. In no uncertain terms, Islamic law books view suicide as a “major sin”, punishable by “eternal damnation”. The following quotes from the traditions of the Prophet-

“The Prophet said- Whoever kills himself with a blade will be tormented with that blade in the fires of Hell… Whoever kills himself in any way will be tormented in that way in Hell… Whoever kills himself in any way in this world will be tormented with it on the day of resurrection.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 153, citing Franz Rosenthal, “On Suicide in Islam,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 66 (1946), pp. 239-259.

• Responses in the Arab world to the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, were mixed. Lewis states that they are not unlike the Arab response to the Holocaust, which tends to be one of three beliefs; that the Holocaust never happened, that it happened, but was greatly exaggerated, and/or that the Jews deserved it. Regarding the attacks of September 11, Muslim commentators have been heard to argue that there is no way that Arabs or Muslims could have been responsible. They suggest other radical notions, other groups that may have had grievances with America and her government. And they also suggest that Israel conducted the attacks, in order to blame the Arabs and make them look bad.

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, p. 156.

• In his “Letter to America” published in November of 2002 (with authorship attributed to bin Ladin), seven points were made which the United States must adhere to, if peace is to be made. They fall under the following subjects-

1. America must embrace Islam

2. Immediately halt all “oppressions, lies, immorality and debauchery.”

3. Acknowledge that America is a “nation without principles or manners.”

4. Stop supporting Israel in Palestine, the Indians in Kashmir, Russians in Chechnya, and the Manila government against Muslims in the Philippines.

5. To “pack your luggage and get out of our lands.”

6. “End support of the corrupt leaders in our countries. Do not interfere in our politics and method of education. Leave us alone, or else expect us in New York and Washington.

7. Interact with Muslims in arenas other than those surrounding policy of “subjugation, theft and occupation.”

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 157-158.

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