In the normal course of things, America is not a country given to excessive deference to historians and to the claims of history, for the past is truly a foreign country here. But the past quarter century was no normal time, and Mr. Lewis no typical historian. He knew and worked the archives, it is true; and he mastered the languages of "the East," standing at the peak of his academic guild. But there is more to him than that: He is, through and through, a man of public affairs. He saw the coming of a war, a great civilizational struggle, and was to show no timidity about the facts of this war. "I'll teach you differences," Kent says to Lear. And Mr. Lewis has been teaching us differences. He knew Islam's splendor and its periods of enlightenment; he had celebrated the "dignity and meaning" it gave to "drab impoverished lives." He would not hesitate, then, to look into--and to name--the darkness and the rage that have overcome so many of its adherents in recent times.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
A Sage in Christendom
Fouad Ajami's tribute to Bernard Lewis is first-rate:
Posted by Tom at 12:42 PM