Tribute to Syed Shujaat Bhukaria, journalist killed in his line of work


June 27, 2018

Tribute to Syed Shujaat Bhukaria, journalist  killed in his line  of work

Image result for Syed Shujaat Bukhari

COMMENT | A journalist friend, Syed Shujaat Bhukari, who is also the founding editor of Rising Kashmir, was killed on June 14 by unidentified gunmen outside his office in Srinagar.

I first met Shujaat in 2008 at the Asian Center for Journalism at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. He was then enrolled in a distance-learning subject, International Reporting, in the Master of Journalism programme, which I taught for a semester.

The subject involved weekly online discussions on the challenges that journalists faced in reporting on politically volatile issues.

Shujaat had survived three assassination attempts for his work. He had written about the constant “battle between pens and guns” in Kashmir in a guest editorial for the Paynesville Press in Minnesota.

“It is difficult to exist with recurrent, harassment, and intimidation,” he said. “But amid the daily grind of violence, life goes on (but) with a difference. It is stressful and sleep is difficult. Who knows about tomorrow?”

Replying to one of Shujaat’s queries on managing the risks of reporting in conflict zones in one of the subject’s weekly online forum in March 2008, I wrote:

“Dear Shujaat: I can only imagine reporting in conflict-ridden countries, and the risks you face daily. I believe journalists are as good as where their conscience leads them, and the risks they are able to take to tell their stories and uphold what’s right, fair and just. In reality, a journalist is also a husband, a wife, a parent, a son, a daughter. With the constant threats and risks of investigative journalism – as in the Philippines, Pakistan, Kashmir – you might ask whether the story is worth risking your life.

“I suppose when journalists have invested time, conviction and emotion into researching the story, bullets and death threats would only strengthen their resolve to push on. This professional disposition can only be acquired from field experience.”

Part of the solution

As a tribute to his journalism, here’s an extract from one of his assigned essays on how journalists could do better in reporting on development issues. Shujaat wrote, in part, on March 11, 2008:

“Commercialisation in the media has diminished the role of journalists in covering the issues that matter to the public… autonomy to a journalist in the newsroom is still elusive. The newsrooms are more or less governed or regulated by the interests of the owners.

“Journalists cannot shirk their responsibility towards the profession. Going beyond the routine material for news, which is generally dished out by government sources, journalists have a responsibility to look at the bigger picture and its ramifications on the people.”

Shujaat’s journalism of “reason and dialogue” underlines the risks that investigative journalists in the region take in their stride. Massoud Ansari, a Newsline correspondent in Pakistan, in an interview for my book on ‘Best Practices of Journalism in Asia’, said:

“Whatever benefits journalists enjoy in Pakistan is because of the struggle they had put in over the years. The government is trying its best to gag the media, but… technological development has made it very difficult to control the flow of information.

“Those who work and live in Pakistan do have to live under a lot of pressure. As a journalist, you are a critic of society. And when you criticise, either society or any organisation, or for that matter any individual, you tend to create enemies. The challenge is to stick to your commitment, and keep doing the work that you think will ultimately benefit society in the long run.”

The risks that bold journalists in Kashmir and Pakistan take in their investigative work remind me of the journalist’s moral duty to do the right thing and tenaciously investigate into matters of public interest, to expose social injustices, to unravel the truths behind the cover-ups of poor governance, systemic corruption and falsehoods peddled on social media.

In the Malaysian environment, our journalists should persevere in spite of pressures from special interest groups and politically affiliated editors.

Conscientious journalists should be part of the solution to racial politics in the country, failing which, in spite of a new Pakatan Harapan government, the communal divide wrought by decades of BN rule will just get wider and wider.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer


June 25, 2018

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer

Image result for Charles Krauthammer

A final, personal conversation on the eternity of Israel, with the greatest columnist of this generation, who passed away Thursday night.

By David M. Weinberg
June 21, 2018 21:17

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, perhaps the most luminous and incisive columnist of this generation, announced two weeks ago that he was stricken with terminal cancer and had only weeks to live.

I feel an obligation to pay homage to this incredible man, and to add a Jewish, Zionist and personal angle to the many tributes to him that have rightly poured forth.

For 38 years, Krauthammer’s columns, essays, and lectures have stood as pillars of conservative principle and moral clarity.

 

Image result for Charles Krauthammer and Ronald Reagan

Dr. Charles Krauthammer (in 1984) died on June 21, 2018 at 68.

On foreign policy matters, he was unquestionably the most radiant intellectual hawk in America, and on Middle East affairs he was the most consistent defender of Israel and the US-Israel special relationship. Two examples of his razor-sharp writing regarding Israel and American Mid-East policy will suffice, among hundreds of exhibits.

Krauthammer wrote in 2014 about “Kafkaesque ethical inversions” that make for Western criticism of Israel. “The world’s treatment of Israel is Orwellian, fueled by a mix of classic anti-semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog,” he wrote.

He understood that eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties (such as recent Hamas assaults on the Gaza border) were “depravity.”

“The whole point is to produce dead Palestinians for international television; to deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed; indeed, moral and tactical insanity,” he said. “But it rests on a very rational premise. The whole point is to draw Israeli counter-fire; to produce dead Palestinians for international television, and to ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

In 2015, he repeatedly skewered then President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.”

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To Obama, he wrote accusingly: “You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

The essay conducted a sweeping analysis of Jewish peoplehood, from Temple times and over 2,000 years of Diaspora history to the modern return to Zion.

Krauthammer understood that American Jewry was dying. “Nothing will revive the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and the Islamic world. And nothing will stop the rapid decline by assimilation of Western Jewry.” The dynamics of assimilation were inexorable in America and elsewhere, he wrote.

Israel, Krauthammer understood, was different. “Exceptional,” he called it – because Israel was about “reattachment of Russian and Romanian, Uzbeki and Iraqi, Algerian and Argentinean Jews to a distinctively Hebraic culture,” and this gave it civilizational and societal staying power for the long term.

Israel “is now the principal drama of Jewish history,” he wrote. “What began as an experiment has become the very heart of the Jewish people – its cultural, spiritual, and psychological center, soon to become its demographic center as well. Israel is the hinge. Upon it rest the hopes – the only hope – for Jewish continuity and survival.”

However, because the “cosmology of the Jewish people has been transformed into a single-star system with a dwindling Diaspora orbiting around,” Krauthammer was apprehensive. It frightened him that “Jews have put all their eggs in one basket, a small basket hard by the waters of the Mediterranean. And on its fate hinges everything Jewish.”

Israel’s centrality, he feared, was a “bold and dangerous new strategy for Jewish survival” because of the many security threats posed to the country, chiefly among them the specter of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Indeed, Krauthammer’s essay “thinks the unthinkable” and “contemplates Israel’s disappearance.” And while Jewish political independence has been extinguished twice before and bounced back following centuries of dispersion, Krauthammer doubted that the Jewish People could pull the trick again. “Twice Jews defied the norm [and survived Diaspora]. But never, I fear, again.”

I challenged Krauthammer about his pessimistic perspective on the survival of Israel and the Jewish People at a Tikvah Fund seminar in 2016, where he engaged the Fund’s erudite chairman, Roger Hertog, in the deepest of conversations on strategy and identity.

In this lengthy conversation (which you can watch and read online; search Charles Krauthammer At Last Zion Tikvah), Krauthammer admitted to “trembling doubt” about God alongside belief in some transcendence in the universe, and then he repeated his sobering solicitudes about Israel’s precariousness. He spoke of the impossibility of a fourth Jewish commonwealth – were Israel, transcendence forbid, to be crushed.

I gently reproached Krauthammer on theological terms, by saying that “those of us who moved to Israel out of a grand meta-historic sense of drama believe that our third Jewish commonwealth won’t fail. Whatever it takes, we’ll make it work.”

I sensed that Krauthammer was glad for my emotive intervention, since he immediately and poignantly responded (in Hebrew): “Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker [The eternity of Israel will not lie, or fail].”

Krauthammer: “That’s what my father used to say when he talked about Israel. I too feel as an obligation to make sure of that throughout my life. I have done what I could, because that prospect [Israel’s disappearance] would make everything I’ve done lose its value. There’s nothing more important than that.”

And then referencing my aliyah, Krauthammer said, “I honor your choice… I commend you for that.” (He went on to describe how he too considered moving to Israel after college, at the urging of his then-philosophy professor David Hartman).

And then Krauthammer asked me: “I wonder what it’s like, and maybe you could tell me, to be an Israeli putting your kids on a school bus, raising them while knowing that one day Iran could have the bomb? Once the nuclear bomb is in the hands of genocidists – then what does that feel like? Do you think there might be emigration as a result? Do you have a feeling about that?” I answered: “My personal sense is that Israeli society is becoming more traditional, more deeply rooted, more ideological than before. I’m talking even about secular Israeli society. So we’re digging- in for the long term, and not being frightened away despite the shadow that you’re talking about.”

And Krauthammer responded to me, again in Hebrew: “As you people say, ‘kol ha-kavod [Well done].’”

So now it’s time for me to return the compliment, and say to Dr. Charles Krauthammer in his dying days: kol ha-kavod to you! On behalf of so many Jews, Americans and Israelis alike, thank you for your resilience, brilliance and steadfast support. We miss you already.

The author is Vice Ppresident of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.

Remembering Robert Francis Kennedy (RFK)


June 6, 2018

Remembering Robert Francis Kennedy (RFK)

RFK’s speech in apartheid South Africa remains relevant 50 years after his assassination

Image result for Robert F. Kennedy at Los Angeles Hotel

 

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) waves goodbye to supporters after his victory speech in a ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968. He had just won the California primary. Moments later, he would be shot while exiting through a kitchen backstage. (Dick Strobel/AP)

By James Hohmann
with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

http://www.washingtonpost.com

THE BIG IDEA: Fifty years ago tonight, Robert F. Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles after winning the Democratic primary for president in California. The 42-year-old died of his wounds the next day. Two years to the day before his assassination, on June 6, 1966, the senator delivered the greatest speech of his life at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

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A young student leader named Ian Robertson, who ran the National Union of South African Students, invited Kennedy to come for their Day of Affirmation, when members of the multiracial group, which resisted the apartheid regime, rededicated themselves to the ideals of freedom. The tradition started after the government banned nonwhite students from universities in 1959.

South Africa reluctantly agreed to grant Kennedy a visa to the country, and authorities only relented because they were worried about the optics of turning him away. The government, which had just expelled a New York Times reporter for critical coverage, denied entry to 40 print and television journalists who wanted to cover Kennedy’s trip.

Two weeks before Kennedy’s arrival, the government banned Robertson, 21, from participating in public life for five years because of his activism. The student who had invited Kennedy to speak was forbidden to be in a room with more than one other person at a time. An empty chair was left on stage as a symbol of his absence. “It’s too bad he can’t be with us today,” said Kennedy.

Before an audience that was all white – the government wouldn’t have it any other way – Kennedy delivered a paean to the freedom of speech, protest and the press. “The enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society,” he said. “The essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people.”

The speech captured the revolutionary zeitgeist of the 1960s as well as any other. It’s worth revisiting not just for historical purposes, though, but because of the timelessness and universality of its message. Fifty-two years later, Kennedy’s words feel relevant as President Trump attacks NFL players for nonviolently protesting police brutality and racial injustice. They feel important on the morning after the Supreme Court upheld a baker’s refusal to make a cake for a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. They seem vital as the United States deemphasizes democracy promotion as an aim of foreign policy. Each day’s newspaper brings fresh reminders that, as Ted Kennedy put it 12 years after losing his third and final brother, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

“The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans,” RFK said in Cape Town. “It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress.”

Robert F. Kennedy – Day of Affirmation Speech [A Tiny Ripple of Hope]

Kennedy opened with some mischievous misdirection. “I came here,” he said, “because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.”

He noted that more progress had been made to give rights to African Americans during the previous five years than in the century before. But he emphasized how much more remained to be done. “We have passed laws prohibiting discrimination in education, in employment, in housing, but these laws alone cannot overcome the heritage of centuries – of broken families and stunted children and poverty and degradation and pain,” Kennedy said, making an observation that, sadly, is still very true today.

Then RFK, a devout Catholic, noted that his own Irish ancestors had faced discrimination only a generation before. “For two centuries, my own country has struggled to overcome the self-imposed handicap of prejudice and discrimination based on nationality, social class or race – discrimination profoundly repugnant to the theory and command of our Constitution,” he said. “Even as my father grew up in Boston, signs told him that ‘No Irish Need Apply.’ Two generations later President Kennedy became the first Catholic to head the nation. But how many men of ability had, before 1961, been denied the opportunity to contribute to the nation’s progress because they were Catholic or of Irish extraction? How many sons of Italian or Jewish or Polish parents slumbered in slums untaught (and) unlearned, their potential lost forever to the nation and human race? Even today, what price will we pay before we have assured full opportunity to millions of Negro Americans?”

Kennedy’s willingness to acknowledge America’s flaws, and her ongoing struggle to live up to her ideals, added credence to his message. “Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers, and the precise solutions of the United States can neither be dictated nor transplanted to others,” he said. “What is important is that all nations must march toward increasing freedom; toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough to meet the demands of all its own people, and a world of immense and dizzying change.”

RFK prepares to speak in the wee hours of June 6, 1968. (Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank)

RFK prepares to speak in the wee hours of June 6, 1968. (Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank)

The remarks were intended to give hope to political prisoners and young people who dreamed of a brighter future. Kennedy met with Robertson, the student organizer, in his apartment one-on-one, the only arrangement allowed. Kennedy noted that his apartment was probably bugged and told him to stomp on the floor and turn on the faucet to interfere with listening devices placed by the government. When Robertson asked how he knew that, Kennedy replied: “I used to be attorney general.”

Kennedy warned the thousands of young people who could come see him speak that the road ahead would be strewn with dangers. He identified four:

First, is the danger of futility: the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. …

“The second danger is that of expediency; of those who say that hopes and beliefs must bend before immediate necessities. …

A third danger is timidity. Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.

“For the fortunate among us, the fourth danger is comfort, the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of education.”

The senator, carrying his brother’s torch, concluded with a testament to the power of the individual to make a difference. He noted many of the world’s greatest movements have flowed from the work of a single man. He cited Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson. Kennedy also invoked Martin Luther King Jr., who had recently won the Nobel Prize and would be assassinated a few months before him in 1968. King had been invited by the same student group, but the government denied his visa because he was black.

But he said most change comes from people who are part of mass movements, like those who resisted Nazism in Europe during World War II or Peace Corps volunteers. “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation,” he said. “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

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Those words are etched in stone at his grave in Arlington National Cemetery. When I visited yesterday morning, there were 150 students gathered by the eternal flame at John F. Kennedy’s tomb. But despite the impending anniversary, no one stood at his brother’s final resting place nearby. At the bottom of a grassy knoll, placed next to his modest tombstone, there was just one white rose – dotted with raindrops and wrapped in the colors of the Irish flag.

A Tribute to Krishen Jit–The Doyen of Malaysian Theater


June 1, 2018

A Tribute to Krishen Jit–The Doyen of Malaysian Theater

by Johan Jaafar

Image result for Krishen Jit

“Krishen was the best drama critic the country has ever known. To label him just a “critic” is almost a misdemeanour. He was in fact a keen observer, a chronicler and a commentator.”–Dato’ Johan Jaafar

Marion D’Cruz was among friends last Saturday. They came from all over to celebrate the publication of a book on the late Krishen Jit. That morning, Five Arts Centre was the venue where friends of Krishen and Marion converged reminiscing about the man they knew well.

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The book Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit & Contemporary Malaysian Theatre is one of a kind. It is basically a compilation of essays by 14 writers of different backgrounds and disciplines on the life and works of Krishen.

It stems from a conference held in January 2015. With an illuminating introduction by the editors (Charlene Rajendran, Ken Takiguchi and Carmen Nge), the collection unveils the various layers of Krishen’s works and his personality.

It is like peeling the layers one by one, “excavating” if you like, and with lots of critical studies and analysis (thus the “interrogations”), Krishen surfaces but not all. There are many more layers to be uncovered for Krishen was no ordinary bloke, nor his works easy to be “appropriated.”

For many of us who have known Krishen, he was simple and forthright as a person. But the complexity lies in his works and especially his writings.

I have edited some of his essays in Bahasa Malaysia in Dewan Sastera, the literary journal published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). I have collaborated with him in a few essays.

I have been following his columns in the New Straits Times for years. He has written about me and my works, some I liked, others I didn’t and I told him so.

Krishen was the best drama critic the country has ever known. To label him just a “critic” is almost a misdemeanour. He was in fact a keen observer, a chronicler and a commentator.

To many who have acted under his direction or listened to his talks, he was a guru and mentor. He can be exceptionally harsh, even brutally critical in his writings.

But theatre activists of his generation took note and paid attention. Being reviewed by Krishen was in itself an honour.

For 22 years (1972 to 1994) his nom de guerre, “Utih”, was writing for the New Straits Times. When he started the column in 1972, a lot of things were happening on the Malaysian stage.

Theatre in Bahasa Malaysia was alighted with new works by the likes of Syed Alwi, Nordin Hassan and Dinsman. Theatre in English, once the flagbearer of excellence suffered because many of its stalwarts were migrating to theatre in Bahasa Malaysia.

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Datuk Baha Zain joined The University of Malaya in 1960 and was my Second Residential College (Kolej Tuanku Bahiyah) mate. –Din Merican

In fact Krishen was the bridge between the two, as argued by Literary Laureate, Datuk Baharuddin Zainal, another of his close friend.

Two years later, I joined the University of Malaya and was part of the vibrant student and theatre activism in the campus. Hatta Azad Khan was at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Mana Sikana was at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

All three of us were, together with Nordin and Dinsman according to Krishen and other critics, the pioneers of the “absurd theatre” in the country.

I knew Krishen through his writings as a student. He was a lecturer at the History Department when I joined the UM.

When I joined DBP in 1977, I had already befriended Krishen. In 1979, he was entrusted to organise a theatre festival for the Malay Studies Department of the UM.

It was to be called “Festival Teater Jabatan Pengajian Melayu” in conjuction with the 25th year of the department’s existence.

He selected seven plays to represent the various stages of contemporary Malay theatre. My play, “Angin Kering” was chosen to represent the experimental era of the 1970s.

I was to direct the “oldest” play, a transitional play (sandiwara) entitled “Si Bongkok Tanjung Puteri” written by Shaharom Husain. It was a tough assignment for Krishen.

I was given the task to assist him by my employer DBP. For many months we worked on the project. We even collaborated in an essay on Shaharom Hussain for the March issue of Dewan Sastera in 1979.

On his own he wrote a two-part essay as a retrospective of Malay theatre in the same edition and in the following month.

I got to know Krishen up, close and personal. He was a voracious eater, I can vouch that. He enjoyed being in my car, for I drove fast and perhaps a little reckless back then.

“I feel safe in a fast but cheap car!” he told everyone who cared to listen to his agony. He was combing details of the works of Shaharom relentlessly.

We met Shaharom a few times and marvelled at his collection of books and newspaper cuttings. As a historian Krishen probed the history of the genre, sandiwara.

As a theatre enthusiast he engrossed himself with the workings of the already dying genre. We met actors and stage hands who were involved in the first production of “Si Bongkok Tanjung Puteri.”

It was an enlightening experience working with Krishen. In 1992, I joined the Utusan Melayu Group as the Chief Editor.

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Datin Marion D’Cruz, a Theater Icon in her own right, was a tower of strength behind my University of Malaya contemporary, Krishen Jit. I remember Krishen as an intellectual.–Din Merican

 

I became a restless spectator for years, for I was busy as a journalist and later in the corporate world. I heard Krishen started Five Arts Centre with his wife Marion in 1984. We met occasionally over teh tarik when time permitted. I was abroad when I heard of his demise.

This book is written with passion and understanding in trying to excavate and interrogate his body of works, his disciples, his work ethics and more so his contribution to the world of theatre.

He was a perfectionist, no doubt. And he was a man driven by his obsession to raise the bar of Malaysian theatre. He was never selfish, but uncompromising yes, and he was perfecting his art all the time.

Many who have worked with him understand his demanding pace and exactitude. He expected the best. He was lucky to have Marion and some of the best and dedicated stage people at Five Arts Centre.

This publication is a fitting tribute to Krishen Jit.

 

 Johan Jaaffar has just published a book, Jejak Seni, about his 50-year incredible journey as an actor, playwright, director and later chairman of the country’s largest media company. He was a journalist and a former chairman of DBP.

https://www.thestar.com.my

Factfulness : The Miracle of Human Progress


May 30, 2018

BOOK REVIEW

Factfulness : The Miracle of Human Progress: Hans Rosling’s Legacy

 by  Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta
http://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/factfulness-review-the-miracle-of-human-progress/article23783050.ece

 

Is a tendency towards negativity, fear and blame preventing us from seeing all the good in the world?

Factfulness review: The miracle of human progress

As district medical officer in Mozambique, Hans Rosling discovered a previously unknown paralytic disease. Later, he became a professor of international health, co-founded Médecins Sans Frontières in Sweden, and a renowned public educator. His TED talks have been viewed over 35 million times.

Rosling was also a sword swallower, having learned the skill from a patient. Often, he would do a small show at the end of a lecture: “to demonstrate in a practical way that the seemingly impossible is possible,” he notes in his book Factfulness.

It’s human tendency to be bored with stories of everyday incremental progress, and to focus on the negative — for which the state of the world in the 21st century provides much material. So much is in fact terrible and heartbreaking: the refugee crisis, melting glaciers, plastic in the ocean. From pandemic breakout to climate change, there are real dangers to be concerned about.

Why the bleak view?

But so much more seems to be wrong, and not getting better. This has made cynics of most of us. In Factfulness, Rosling suggests 10 instincts that prevent us from seeing real progress in the world. These include the tendency to negativity, fear, and blame. He also describes the ‘straight line’ instinct, by which he means the tendency to view trends as unchanging. But as he shows, not all changes in the world happen in this way.

The most dramatic chart in the book shows the average number of babies per woman from 1800 to today. It is not a straight line: more like a slide in a playground. Over the last 50 years this number has dropped from five children per woman to below 2.5. As child mortality reduced, as families came out of extreme poverty, as women and men got more years of education, as access to contraception increased, people were able to feed their children better and send them to school — and thus had fewer children.

When things get better, Rosling notes, such as the decrease in child mortality across the world, it is not just because of heroic individuals, but systems. Lots of people working together at the frontlines in a sustained way, every day, over the long term, to bring the incremental changes that, together, constitute progress.

The India connection

Rosling’s life has a special India connection: he studied public health at St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru, and qualified as a doctor in 1976. He describes his first lesson there as a fourth-year medical student: “How could they know much more than me? Over the next few days I learned that they had a textbook three times as thick as mine, and they had read it three times as many times. I suddenly had to change my worldview: my assumption that I was superior because of where I came from, the idea that the West was the best and the rest would never catch up.”

Family stories are also a part of the book, contributing to its personal tone. As a child, he remembers his father taking him every Saturday, by bicycle, to hospital to visit his mother who had tuberculosis. “Daddy would explain that if we went in we could get sick too. I would wave to her and she would wave back…”

But the story didn’t end sadly. “A treatment against tuberculosis was invented and my mother got well. She read books to me that she borrowed from the public library. For free. I became the first in my family to get more than six years of education, and I went to university for free. I got a doctor’s degree, for free. Of course nothing is free: the taxpayers paid.”

Life-changing tales

Another story describes how a washing machine changed their lives. “My parents had been saving money for years to be able to buy that machine. Grandma, who had been invited to the inauguration ceremony, was even more excited. She had been heating water with firewood and hand-washing laundry her whole life.”

Family, education, advances in health care, tax-funded social security, labour-saving devices, functioning democracies: these are all things to be grateful for. And a way of showing appreciation would be to read the data, because otherwise we would be missing the entire picture.

The book is the product of enormous research, but the tone is light rather than ponderous. It makes a complicated world appear simple, without foolish optimism, stereotypes or cliché.

Factfulness is densely illustrated with charts and pictures, including the inside covers, but at the heart of the book is Rosling’s ability to listen, discuss and learn from other people everywhere.

Published after Rosling’s death, the book was written while he was under palliative care for pancreatic cancer. It is a book about his life and ideas, but it is also about how to pay attention to the world.

 

Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101


May 20, 2018

Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101

https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2018/05/20/prominent-historian-bernard-lewis-dies-at-101

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Note: Prominent British-American historian Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies, died Sunday at the age of 101, twelve days before his 102nd birthday.

Born to a Jewish family in London in 1916, Lewis completed his studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1936. Three years later, he earned his PhD on History of Islam. He served in different agencies of the British military, intelligence and foreign office during World War II, and returned to SOAS. He was appointed Near and Middle Eastern History department chair in 1949. Between 1974 and 1986, he taught at Princeton University in New Jersey, a period that included some of his most famous works. He continued teaching at the Cornell University until 1990.

Known as one of the leading names in Oriental studies in the Western hemisphere, Lewis is widely recognized as the first foreign academic to deeply study Ottoman archives.

His works on the Islamic world were important at a time when terrorism and extremism were at the rise in the Middle East, and cited as the first academic to use the term “clash of civilizations,” which was later made famous by his Harvard colleague Samuel Huntington in 1993.

However, Lewis also faced criticism for ignoring colonialism or external effects as the source of problems and conflicts in the region. At a time when the U.S. and other partners invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in early 2000’s, he was one of the top-sought names for policymakers, including neo-conservatives of the U.S., and media.

During his career, he wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of articles. He was also competent in at least a dozen languages, the Post wrote. Speaking Sunday at an event in Istanbul, Professor Ilber Ortaylı, considered the most popular and influential Turkish historian alive, said that Lewis was very fluent in a number of languages, including Turkish, Persian, Arabic and classical Latin.

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Lewis is also known in Turkey for his stance on the Armenian issue. He argued that the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and afterwards cannot be defined as genocide and should be linked to World War I and other atrocities surrounding it.

Bernard Lewis at 100: An Appreciation

National Review asked friends and admirers of Bernard Lewis to say some words about the man and his achievements to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday today.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Bernard Lewis once asked me, Is there anyone who as a leader has really impressed you? And I said, well, you do. He smiled and said he was flattered, but asked about a political leader. And I had to think about it. He said the fact that you have to think about it so long is a mark of our time.

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From left: U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zukerman, Prof. Bernard Lewis, former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and AFTAU National Chairman Jon Gurkoff

Bernard Lewis was born in 1916, into a world writhing with conflict from all corners. A world poised for a century of war, of revolt, of treaties, of fighting for and against modern values. He watched as, from the ashes of destruction, there rose a world transformed: a world embarking farther down the path for freedom, equality, and prosperity than was previously thought possible. Bernard Lewis watched the birth of the modern world.

Having lived through the good times and the hard times, Bernard has truly become a leader whom I admire greatly. An unparalleled mind, a prescient adviser to many, he stands out for his humility, his warmth, and his honesty. There are few who are as respected by their foes as they are by their friends. An ardent historian of the Middle East, Bernard published his book The Middle East and the West in 1964. It was translated into Arabic by the Muslim Brotherhood. The translator wrote in the preface: “I don’t know who this person is but one thing is clear. He is, from our point of view, either a candid friend or an honest enemy and in any case one who disdains to distort the truth.”

I want to thank Bernard for his dedication, for his courage, and for his vast legacy. For this is what truly makes a leader and his work timeless. There is so much to celebrate in the life of Bernard Lewis. Happy birthday to a dear friend.

— Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Founder of the AHA Foundation, a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the best selling author of Infidel (2007) and Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (2015).  

Claire Berlinksi 

I met Bernard Lewis only once, in 2010. I had been living in Istanbul for nearly six years and so had special reason to be awed by his reputation as the Heimdall of Ottomanist Valhalla.

He had been the first Westerner to examine the Turkish government archives, in 1950. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, published in 1961, revolutionized the study of the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. It consigned his successors to writing footnotes.

The Turkish proverb “Türk’ün Türk’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk — is true and self-fulfilling. Turkey inspires in Arab and European countries suspicion and rancor. The sentiment is reciprocated. Fears of foreign conspiracies endlessly poison Turkish political debate; Turks believe they are under siege, and sometimes they are even right. Lewis had paid Turkey the compliment of curiosity and deep, honest study. In doing so, he had loved the country as no other Westerner had. The proverb is sometimes amended in Turkey:“Türk’ün Türk’ten ve Bernard Lewis’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk and Bernard Lewis.

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I was introduced to him by one of his disciples, Harold Rhode. Our drive to his home in Princeton had the aspect of a pilgrimage. Rhode carried with him a digital recorder. He followed Lewis around with it, he told me, just in case. There was something a bit ghoulish about this.

I was expecting a terrifying figure. But to my surprise, he was loveable. He was sweet and avuncular with me, and inspired instant affection and the urge to settle in for a good gossip. “His students call him Uncle Bernie,” Rhodes whispered. Uncle Bernie’s manners were exquisite, and while he walked slowly, he was otherwise suffering no obvious infirmity, nor the characteristic self-absorption of the elderly.

We discussed Turkey, of course. For reasons I wish I better understood, it was at the time widely reported and believed in the West that Turkey, under then–Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was “liberalizing.” This was not true. The government had for years been arresting its opponents, staging show trials, and terrifying journalists into cowed compliance.

Lewis likened Erdogan to Adnan Menderes, who was hanged by the military after the 1960 coup. He recounted an anecdote that subsequently made a translated appearance in his Notes on a Century. He’d been sitting in the faculty lounge in Ankara, he told me, several years into the Menderes regime. To everyone’s bewilderment, a professor said suddenly that Menderes was the father of Turkish democracy. What on earth could you mean, asked another. Well, said the first, Demokrasinin anasini s**ti – “he screwed the mother of Turkish democracy.” I had heard exactly the same joke about Erdogan.

Over lunch he said that while his memory for the archives remained unerring, his ability to commit to mind recent events was less reliable. For my part, I’m not sure if my most vivid recollection of him is true (it’s possible I later superimposed it over my real memories). But this is what I seem to remember him saying to me, in a voice low enough to escape Harold Rhode’s recorder: that I was not wrong, that the situation was as bleak as it looked, that the West and the Islamic world would exhaust and destroy each other, leaving the world to China and India.

The remark weighs on my mind. It’s easy to dismiss my own assessment as so much pessimistic self-indulgence. After all, what do I know? But it is not so easy to say, “What does he know?”

— Claire Berlinski is the author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too. She writes for Ricochet.com. 

Victor Davis Hanson 

Bernard Lewis reached a considerable popular audience after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when his earlier assessments of Muslim anger at the West (e.g., “The Roots of Muslim Rage”; What Went Wrong?) proved prescient. From the 1990s onward, Lewis, almost alone among scholars of Islam, had warned that the traditional diagnoses of contemporary Muslim and Arab furor at Europe and the United States, the dysfunction of the Middle East, and the either/or nihilism of Middle Eastern theocracy and autocracy were misguided and politicized. For Lewis, the implosion of the modern Middle East was not attributable to the usual academic bogeymen: imperialism, colonialism, Westernization, exploitation, or Zionism. Rather, he drew on a rich learning of Muslim history and literature, both to pay homage to earlier Islamic cultural achievements and to suggest that the recent spate of Islamic terrorism was largely aberrant and a reflection of late-19th- and 20th-century dysfunctions in Middle Eastern societies, which had mostly failed to adopt constitutional systems, transparency, human rights, free-market capitalism, religious tolerance, and equality of the sexes — at least in comparison with modern Western and Westernized nations that have found such protocols the keys to economic progress and social stability.

Millions in the late-20th-century Middle East, who had not found parity with the West and who lived in poverty and danger, were persuaded by both religious and autocratic authorities to redirect their rage at supposed Western oppressors — and especially at their own modernist detours from religious purity, which had left Islam weak and a shadow of its supposedly glorious past. In other words, if a man in Damascus or Cairo could not get a job, it was the fault of the West — and it was his own lack of religious purity that had permitted such injustice.

Because Lewis, a classical liberal, was not an activist and had enjoyed a half-century-long reputation as a sympathetic student of Islam, critics were at first dumbfounded and unable to deal with his bleak analyses. Detractors on the left charged that he was “blaming the victim”; even as some on the right, although more sympathetic to Lewis’s views, nevertheless objected that he was naïve in that the roots of Muslim rage were hardly new, but discernible throughout East–West tensions since the seventh century, that Islamic culture was fundamentally different from Christian culture (i.e., inherently more violent and intolerant), and that Lewis danced around issues such as the Armenian genocide.

Yet, because of his calm demeanor, engaging prose style, wit, and prolific and long record of scholarship, Lewis usually came out on top in these many disputes that arose in the second half of his career. Such was Lewis’s historical insight that almost alone he fashioned a framework for understanding the modern Middle East in ways that were both empirical and commonsensical — and more or less remain the standard Western understanding of why global terrorism is largely an Islamic phenomenon: Middle Eastern political, social, cultural, and economic failure — widely apparent to the Arab masses in the age of instant global communications — is blamed on the West rather than addressed through reform by the various countries’ autocratic rulers, who in turn buy off internal opposition from Islamic theocrats by subsidizing their extremism and terrorism as long as it is directed westward.

Until there is massive reform inside the Middle East and within Islam, we should expect the post–September 11 world to continue to be a place of instability and violence. In sum, the events of the new century seem to keep proving Lewis right about his diagnoses of the prior one.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

Andrew C. McCarthy

As a federal prosecutor in 1993, I was placed in charge of one of the most important and unusual criminal investigations in the United States.

Its focus was the terrorist cell that had just bombed the World Trade Center and was at that moment engaged in an even more ambitious plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The case was important for obvious reasons. It was unusual because we did not know what we were dealing with.

That’s where Bernard Lewis comes in.

We were straining against the Nineties manifestations of what today is rampant political correctness. Our suspects were all Muslims and proclaimed Islam as their motivation for war against the United States. Yet the official position of our government — then as now — was that Islam had nothing to do with their atrocities.

Having had little intersection with the faith that boasted over a billion adherents worldwide, I badly wanted our official position to be true. But doubts gnawed. Khomeini’s 1979 revolution, a self-proclaimed jihadist upheaval, was still fairly fresh history. So was Hezbollah’s mass murder of our marines in Lebanon, the emergence of Hamas, and the mujahideen triumph in Afghanistan, which seemed a pivotal domino in the Soviet Union’s collapse. Plus, my top suspect, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was a blind man unfit to perform any acts useful to a terrorist organization, yet he was its unquestioned leader — a fact that obviously owed to his status as a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. Why, I wondered, would anyone figure that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno knew more about “true” Islam than the Blind Sheikh did?

Prosecutors can’t prove cases unless they can demonstrate what motivated the defendants to act. Political correctness is for the press room, not the courtroom. I needed to get a grip on what we were dealing with — fast.

So I made my best professional decision ever: I bought a copy of Islam and the West by Bernard Lewis.

What the West’s preeminent scholar of Islam taught this grateful student was that it was possible to acknowledge the richness of Muslim history yet still see Islam plain. One could appreciate the diversity and accomplishments in Islamic traditions and still see as sheer nonsense the notions that Islam was monolithically peaceful and tolerant, that its legal and political systems were seamlessly compatible with Western democracy, and that jihad was merely, as modern Western apologists insisted, an internal struggle for personal betterment. To the contrary, Lewis explained, “the overwhelming majority of early authorities . . . citing relevant passages in the Koran and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.”

Professor Lewis made me realize that Islam was not one thing but several, many of them internally contradictory, often to the point of bloody conflict. Perhaps none of them have a monopoly on authenticity. The Blind Sheikh was an Islamic scholar and a dyed-in-the-wool terrorist. Emad Salem, my main informant witness who infiltrated the Blind Sheikh’s cell and almost single-handedly thwarted the New York City landmarks plot, was Egyptian-educated and patriotically drawn to America and the West. They are both devout Muslims.

Lewis is also an observer of incomparable insight. Over a half-century ago he foresaw the difficulty of democratizing Islamic societies, noting that attempts “to show that Islam and democracy are identical” were “usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both.” Islam, in fact, traditionally had a tyrannical streak, a culture of obedience to authority that was depressingly reminiscent of Communist societies, including in its antipathy to the West. Lewis ruefully wrote, “The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as ‘There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet’ was laying his finger on a real affinity.”

In 2004, Professor Lewis told Die Welt that “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.” A dozen years later, London has just elected its first Muslim mayor, an Islamist. I wouldn’t bet against Bernard Lewis.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review

Douglas Murray 

After the very few occasions I have been invited to speak at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London my feeling has tended to be that the place should be knocked down and the earth salted over. The memory of a single person reminds me to refrain from such uncharitable thoughts. For though it may now be unpleasantly radical, this part of the University of London once helped produce the young Bernard Lewis. For this, almost any subsequent sin ought to be forgiven.

But the truth is that scholars and writers of Lewis’s stature do not appear anywhere very often, not even in the course of a lifespan as considerable as the one he has lived. There have been few enough experts in any discipline of such depth, range, and influence. I doubt that there is any scholar — professional or amateur — of the Middle East or Islam who does not have a shelf dedicated to the works of Bernard Lewis. From The Arabs in History to Notes on a Century, his output is striking for its depth and broad accessibility as well as its extraordinary span. His works have long been the indispensable resource of academics, journalists, and policy makers alike.

If few people have matched Lewis’s depth of research, even fewer have returned to tell the tale without falling through the looking glass. Lewis came back time and again to tell the world what he found, in works filled with respect not only for his subject but also for his readers.

In recent decades the world has come to have special need of that learning. Always appreciated by the best among his peers, Lewis has also become the possession of the widest — and most grateful — possible public. Our public discussions on Islam and the West are always in need of improvement, but if they are more informed than they once were (and, despite some evidence to the contrary among a certain subset of elites, I sense that they are), it is in no small part because a young British scholar immersed himself in his subject, went to America, and helped influence the course not only of scholarship but of ideas. His mother country, as well as his alma mater, should feel enormous pride at the centennial of this son’s birth.

–Douglas Murray is the author of a number of books, including Bloody Sunday and is working on an expanded version of his earlier work Islamophilia

Jay Nordlinger

I first heard about Bernard Lewis in the 1980s, when I was in college. I took some courses in Middle East studies. My professors (leftists) mentioned him, as a Big Bad Conservative. But they couldn’t help speaking of him with respect. I was intrigued.

Flash forward to National Review after 9/11. We prevailed on Lewis to write a piece for us on the general situation. I say “we”: It was really our senior editor David Pryce-Jones, an old friend of Bernard’s. When people at other magazines saw Lewis in our pages — they might have been a touch envious. One couldn’t blame them.

In later years, I asked Bernard, “Did you ever think your expertise would turn out to be so useful to the world, and craved by it?” No, he said, absolutely not.

He has been a frequent guest on NR cruises: a sparkling guest, as well as a learned one, of course. I can see him holding court in a lounge, wearing a tuxedo, delighting his listeners, especially the women. But the woman he cares most for is Buntzie.

I have prized every meal, every conversation, with Bernard Lewis. One always learns things, and expands one’s repertoire of stories. I expect to be drawing on what Lewis has taught me for a lifetime. His teaching includes not a few jokes (from assorted countries).

In 2011, I filmed an interview with him, for a series called “The Human Parade.” In his home, two chairs had been set up: a big, comfortable armchair and a quite modest, uncomfortable-looking one. Bernard insisted he would be more comfortable in the second chair — leaving me in the grand one, and feeling sheepish.

Have you read his memoirs, Notes on a Century? When you do, you will know Bernard, pretty well.

In 1966, he was a founding member of MESA, the Middle East Studies Association. Forty years later, he was a founding member of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). This had been created as an escape from MESA. The older organization had been taken over by radicals and ideologues, just as the Maoists had taken over Chinese studies.

That’s the way Bernard put it. He was genuinely hurt, I sensed, at what had happened to his field.

In his address inaugurating ASMEA, he quoted Dr. Johnson: “A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than by an eminent degree of curiosity. Nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.” That is Bernard.

He is obviously one of the greatest historians of the Middle East we have ever had. He is a great historian, period, and a great scholar.

One year, a book of his was published in Hebrew translation — by the Israeli Defense Ministry. That same book was published in Arabic — by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his preface, the translator of the Arabic version said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”

Some former students of Bernard’s refer to him as “the Imam.” I know just what they mean. Happy birthday, great one.

— Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor at National Review.

Daniel Pipes

Three quotes establish Bernard Lewis’s career. Martin Kramer, a former student of Lewis, sums up his teacher’s accomplishments:

Bernard Lewis emerged as the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East. His elegant syntheses made Islamic history accessible to a broad public in Europe and America. In his more specialized studies, he pioneered social and economic history and the use of the vast Ottoman archives. His work on the premodern Muslim world conveyed both its splendid richness and its smug self-satisfaction. His studies in modern history rendered intelligible the inner dialogues of Muslim peoples in their encounter with the values and power of the West.

The University of California’s R. Stephen Humphreys notes “the extraordinary range of his scholarship [and] his capacity to command the totality of Islamic and Middle Eastern history from Muhammad down to the present day.” And, as the late Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put it on Lewis’s 90th birthday, he is “the oracle of this new age of the Americans in the lands of the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

Lewis’s career spanned a monumental 75 years, from his first article (“The Islamic Guilds”) in 1937 to his autobiography in 2012. Midway, in 1969, he entered my life. In Israel the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, with my aspirations to become a mathematician in doubt, I thought of switching to Middle East studies. To sample this new field, I visited Ludwig Mayer’s renowned bookstore in Jerusalem and purchased The Arabs in History, Lewis’s 1950 book.

It launched my career. Over the next 47 years, Lewis continued to exert a profound influence on my studies. Although never his formal student, I absorbed his views, reading nearly all his writings and favorably reviewing seven of his books, far more than those of any other author. His name appears on 508 pages of my website. Beyond numbers, he more than anyone else has influenced my understanding of the Middle East and Islam.

That said, Lewis and I argued strenuously during the George W. Bush years, narrowly on Iraq policy (I was more skeptical of U.S. efforts) and broadly on the matter of bringing freedom to the Middle East (ditto).

I first met Professor Lewis in 1973 in London, when he generously invited me to his house and offered advice on my Ph.D. studies. I saw him recently at his small apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs. He’s impressively fit in body and mind, spending time on the computer, ever the raconteur (“What’s a Jewish joke? One which non-Jews can’t understand and Jews have heard a better version of”), and conjuring up anecdotes from a time before the rest of us were born (such as his 1946 discussion with Abba Eban about the latter’s career choices). It’s wonderful to see him doing well even if it’s sadly understandable that he no longer engages in scholarship nor opines on current events.

Lewis was born a mere 15 days after the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the modern Middle East, and their common May centennial finds Syria and Iraq in shreds. And yet Bernard Lewis more than ever is an inspiration to his many self-identified disciples, including this one.

–Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. He tweets @DanielPipes.

David Pryce-Jones 

Bernard Lewis knows more than anyone else about the world of Islam. That world is beyond the experience of most of us. Specialists, or “Orientalists” in the academic jargon, have familiarized the unfamiliar. Nowadays, pretty well all such specialists are either narrow-minded partisans in one or another of the causes that have turned the Middle East into an extensive battlefield, or else immersed in trivia of interest only to professors. Bernard is different; he’s the last in the Orientalist tradition of interpretation based on careful scholarship. There’s no one like him, and probably never will be.

Already as a teenager, he showed himself to be a born linguist, and it’s impossible to be interested in languages without also being interested in the people who speak them. I once heard him wonder if his Italian were good enough to give a lecture in it in Siena. He’s published authoritative studies illuminating some aspect of Turkish, Persian, or Arab society and culture, studies on faith and ethnicity, or race and slavery and Jews, war and politics and modernity. Brilliantly original books like The Muslim Discovery of Europe and What Went Wrong? are based on a lifetime’s research, reaching the painful conclusion that Muslims have believed in their superiority so uncritically and for so long that they lost contact with reality. However bad things may be, though, he never quite rejects hope for a better life.

Objective analysis of the sort was too much for Edward Said, a Christian who became the foremost apologist for the Arabs of his day. In his view, there was no such thing as Western scholarship about the world of Islam: Each and every Orientalist was an aggressor, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, and in any case disqualified from any comment about the Middle East, especially where Israel was concerned. In the polemic that ensued, Said attempted to fit Bernard into this fanciful conspiracy. Bernard got the better of it by insisting on the universality of knowledge and reason.

A day came when I received a letter from Bernard approving of a book I had written. Since then, it has been my privilege to discover that friendship is as much part of his personality as scholarship. I see the humor in his face when he told me that the United States ought to deal with Iran and Iraq in alphabetical order. I see it again when he described the first Gulf war as “Kuwaitus interruptus.”

Among his wonderful stories is one about training Cypriot waiters as possible intelligence agents in 1940. I can recall almost word for word his warning that a clash of civilizations was now upon us. Sometimes I am asked if I have met any great men — Bernard is certainly one. In the words of the Jewish blessing, may he live to be 120.

–David Pryce-Jones is a senior editor at National Review and the author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.