Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East

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Pgw, 1993 - History - 487 pages
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Recent events have made an understanding of the turmoil in the Middle East more important than ever. In these essays, Bernard Lewis, a leading expert on Islam, gives essential background on Middle Eastern conflicts with the West and shows how Islam ? from its first expansion to its interpretation by Saddam Hussein and other extremists ? has always been inextricably linked to the Western world.

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This is an updated and augmented edition written by the eminent orientalist Bernard Lewis. The original book was published in 1973 and several chapters were added to the current edition as to reflect important developments over the last few decades. As usual, professor Lewis scientific method is impeccable and his research is meticulous and that applies to both the old and new chapters.
I would comment on 2 new chapters. The first is entitled "The Egyptian Murder Case" and relates the story of the assasination of president Sadat viewed from different perspectives. In this chapter professor Lewis brilliantly places those perscpectives under a microscope and dissects the way Sadat's legacy was attacked, quite often unfairly, by his detractors (namely Mr. Heikal).
The second chapter is entitled "Palestine on the history and Geography of a name" is perhaps the weakest in this collection not because of what it states (which is correct) but because of what is left unstated therefore compromising the whole article.
Professor Lewis essentially argues that there was no such entity as Palestine prior to the twentieth century. That much is, of course, very true. Same argument applies, however, to most if not all political entities of the modern Middle East but that does not make the land AND ITS INHABITANTS "non-existant". Call it Palestine, Sanjak of Jerusalem, Southern Syria, Judea & Samaria, etc.. It always existed and has been inhabited from time immemorial. Inhabited by whom? one might ask. Well, call them Syrians, Palestinians, Natives, or what have you. Ethnically? they probably were a mixture of ancient Semites (Jews & Gentiles), conquerors (Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Turks), and immigrant traders. As to those peoples relationship with the ancient Hebrews it's quite likely (and regardless of their faith in our day) that they had some ancestors amongst them. In fact, I would think a Christian or a Muslim "Palestinian" is more likekly to be descended from the ancient "Israelites" than a European or an American Jew. As for the ancient Jewish Community of the Middle East (sadly all but dissapeared except in modern Israel), only a small minority of it inhabited "Palestine" at the begining of the Twentieth Century, the bulk were concentrated in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, etc.
 

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About the author (1993)

Born in London, Bernard Lewis grew up in England. In 1974 he immigrated to the United States and eight years later became a U.S. citizen. A distinguished scholar of Middle Eastern history and a prolific writer, his education includes a diplome des etudes semitiques from the University of Paris and a Ph.D. from the University of London, where he taught for 25 years before coming to Princeton in 1974. Most recently he has served as professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. As a visiting professor, he lectured at a number of notable universities in Europe and the United States.

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