Addendum: This very detailed WSJ analysis–a Bernard Lewis pom-pom section if there ever was one— by Peter Waldman, circa February, 2004 (“A Historian’s Take on Islam Steers U.S. in Terrorism Fight Bernard Lewis’s Blueprint — Sowing Arab Democracy — Is Facing a Test in Iraq Peter Waldman /Wall Street Journal, Feb 3, 2004) merits re-reading. It stands as confirmation of Lewis’s profound influence in shaping the “Islamic democracy agenda,” no matter what Lewis has done to disingenuously reinvent his role in the Iraq invasion and larger “Islamic democratization” efforts (as in this April, 2012 interview).
From Waldman’s 2/3/2004 WSJ piece:
Call it the Lewis Doctrine. [emphasis added] Though never debated in Congress or sanctified by presidential decree, Mr. Lewis’s diagnosis of the Muslim world’s malaise, and his call for a U.S. military invasion to seed democracy in the Mideast… As mentor and informal adviser to some top U.S. officials, Mr. Lewis has helped coax the White House to shed decades of thinking about Arab regimes and the use of military power. Gone is the notion that U.S. policy in the oil-rich region should promote stability above all, even if it means taking tyrants as friends. Also gone is the corollary notion that fostering democratic values in these lands risks destabilizing them. Instead, the Lewis Doctrine says fostering Mideast democracy is not only wise but imperative. [emphasis added]
Eight days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with the Pentagon still smoldering, Mr. Lewis addressed the U.S. Defense Policy Board. Mr. Lewis and a friend, Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi — now a member of the interim Iraqi Governing Council — argued for a military takeover of Iraq to avert still-worse terrorism in the future, says Mr. Perle, who then headed the policy board. [emphases added]
A few months later, in a private dinner with Dick Cheney at the vice president’s residence, Mr. Lewis explained why he was cautiously optimistic the U.S. could gradually build democracy in Iraq, say others who attended. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” just before the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Cheney said: “I firmly believe, along with men like Bernard Lewis, who is one of the great students of that part of the world, that strong, firm U.S. response to terror and to threats to the United States would go a long way, frankly, toward calming things in that part of the world.”
…When told his political influence was a focus of this article, he turned down an interview request. “It’s still too early,” he said. “Let’s see how things turn out” in Iraq. In speeches and articles, Mr. Lewis continues to advocate assertive U.S. actions in the Mideast, but his long-term influence is likely to turn on whether his neoconservative acolytes retain their power in Washington in years to come. [emphases added]
I spent an hour with my colleague, the prolific author Robert Spencer, discussing Bernard Lewis, nonagenarian doyen of Islamic Studies. The entire interview, conducted as a segment for Robert’s outstanding weekly series of Jihad Watch programs on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network, is embedded above. Please read the summary assessment of my concerns before watching the interview. A more detailed analysis of Lewis’s analytic pitfalls can be read here.
Accrued over a distinguished career of more than six decades of serious scholarship, Bernard Lewis clearly possesses an enormous fund of knowledge regarding certain aspects of classical Islamic civilization, as well as valuable insights on the early evolution of modern Turkey from the dismantled Ottoman Empire. A gifted linguist, non-fiction prose writer, and teacher, Lewis shares his understanding of Muslim societies in both written and oral presentations, with singular economy, eloquence, and wit. Now 96 years old and still active, these are extraordinary attributes for which Lewis richly deserves the accolades lavished upon him.
I began expressing my concerns with the less salutary aspects of Lewis’ scholarship in a lengthy review–essay (for Frontpage) on Bat Ye’or’s seminal book Eurabia—The Euro-Arab Axis, published December 31, 2004. Over the intervening years—in the wake of profound US policy failures vis a vis Islamdom at that time, and subsequently, till now—this disquietude has increased considerably. As I demonstrate in my recent book, Sharia Versus Freedom, Lewis’s legacy of intellectual and moral confusion has greatly hindered the ability of sincere American policymakers to think clearly about Islam’s living imperial legacy, driven by unreformed and unrepentant mainstream Islamic doctrine. Ongoing highly selective and celebratory presentations of Lewis’s understandings—(see this for example) —are pathognomonic of the dangerous influence Lewis continues to wield over his uncritical acolytes and supporters.
In Sharia Versus Freedom, I review Lewis’s troubling intellectual legacy regarding four critical subject areas: the institution of jihad, the chronic impact of the Sharia on non-Muslims vanquished by jihad, sacralized Islamic Jew-hatred, and perhaps most importantly, his inexplicable 180-degree reversal on the notion of “Islamic democracy.” Lewis’ rather bowdlerized analyses are compared to the actual doctrinal formulations of Muslim legists, triumphal Muslim chroniclers celebrating the implementation of these doctrines, and independent Western assessments by Islamologists (several of whom worked with Lewis, directly, as academic colleagues; discussed at length here) which refute his sanitized claims.
Journalist David Warren, writing in March 2006, questioned the advice given President Bush “on the nature of Islam” at that crucial time by not only “the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong,” but most significantly, one eminence grise, in particular: “the profoundly learned” Bernard Lewis. All these advisers, despite their otherwise divergent viewpoints, as Warren noted, “assured him (President Bush) that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.” None more vehemently—or with such authority—than the so-called “Last Orientalist,” nonagenarian professor Bernard Lewis. Arguably the most striking example of Lewis’s fervor was a lecture he delivered July 16, 2006 (on board the ship Crystal Serenity during a Hillsdale College cruise in the British Isles) about the transferability of Western democracy to despotic Muslim societies, such as Iraq. He concluded with the statement, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.” This stunning claim was published with that concluding remark as the title, “Bring Them Freedom Or They Destroy Us,” and disseminated widely.
While Lewis put forth rather non sequitur, apologetic examples in support of his concluding formulation, he never elucidated the yawning gap between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom—hurriyya in Arabic. This latter omission was particularly striking given Professor Lewis’s contribution to the official (Brill) Encyclopedia of Islam entry on hurriyya. Lewis egregiously omitted not only his earlier writings on hurriyya but what he had also termed the “authoritarian or even totalitarian” essence of Islamic societies.
Hurriyya, “freedom,” is—as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master,” expressed it—“perfect slavery.” And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis’ perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.” Following Islamic law slavishly throughout one’s life was paramount to hurriyya, “freedom.” This earlier more concrete characterization of hurriyya’s metaphysical meaning, whose essence Ibn Arabi reiterated, was pronounced by the Sufi scholar al-Qushayri (d. 1072/74).
Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery. If the slavery of a human being in relation to God is a true one, his freedom is relieved from the yoke of changes. Anyone who imagines that it may be granted to a human being to give up his slavery for a moment and disregard the commands and prohibitions of the religious law while possessing discretion and responsibility, has divested himself of Islam. God said to his Prophet: “Worship until certainty comes to you.” (Koran 15:99). As agreed upon by the [Koranic] commentators, “certainty” here means the end (of life).
Bernard Lewis, in his Encyclopedia of Islam analysis of hurriyya, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire, through the contemporary era. After highlighting a few “cautious” or “conservative” (Lewis’s characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains,
there is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government—to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary.
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism ameliorated this chronic situation:
During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after.
And Lewis concludes his entry by observing that Islamic societies forsook even their inchoate democratic experiments,
In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.
Writing contemporaneously elsewhere, Lewis concedes that (with the possible exception of Turkey), following the era of the French Revolution, 150 years of prior experimentation with Western secular sovereignty and laws in many Islamic countries, notably Egypt, had not fared well.
[T]he imported political machinery failed to work, and in its breakdown led to the violent death or sudden displacement by other means of ministers and monarchs, all of whom had failed to replace even the vanished Sultanate in the respect and loyalties of the people. In Egypt a republic was proclaimed which in some respects seems to be a return to one of the older political traditions of Islam—paternal, authoritarian Government, resting on military force, with the support of some of the religious leaders and teachers, and apparently, general acceptance. Perhaps that is an Islamic Republic of a sort.
Moreover, Lewis viewed the immediate post–World War II era of democratic experimentation by Muslim societies as an objective failure (again, with the possible exception of developments, at that time, in Turkey), rooted in Islamic totalitarianism, which he compared directly (and unabashedly) to Communist totalitarianism, noting their “uncomfortable resemblances” with some apprehension.
I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition. . . . Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical—attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the up- rooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, re-state, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam that is a recognized phase in the reaction of Muslim thought to the impact of the West…[T]he political history of Islam is one of almost unrelieved autocracy. . . . [I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law…Quite obviously, the Ulama [religious leaders] of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which—the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. 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. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith—a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy—might well strike a responsive note.
Six decades after Lewis made these candid observations, there is a historical record to judge—a clear, irrefragable legacy of failed secularization efforts, accompanied by steady grassroots and institutional re-Islamization across the Muslim world, epitomized, at present, by the Orwellian-named, “Arab Spring.” The late P. J. Vatikiotis (d. 1997), Emeritus Professor of Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), was a respected scholar of the Middle East, who, contemporaneous with Lewis (a SOAS colleague), wrote extensively about Islamic reformism throughout the twentieth century, particularly in Egypt. Focusing outside Turkey and Pakistan on the Arab Middle East (i.e., Egypt, the Sudan, Syria, and Iraq), Vatikiotis wrote candidly in 1981 of how authoritarian Islam doomed inchoate efforts at creating political systems which upheld individual freedom in the region:
What is significant is that after a tolerably less autocratic/authoritarian political experience during their apprenticeship for independent statehood under foreign power tutelage, during the inter-war period, most of these states once completely free or independent of foreign control, very quickly moved towards highly autocratic-authoritarian patterns of rule. . . . One could suggest a hiatus of roughly three years between the departure or removal of European influence and power and overthrow of the rickety plural political systems they left behind in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and the Sudan by military coups d’etat.
Authoritarianism and autocracy in the Middle East may be unstable in the sense that autocracies follow one another in frequent succession. Yet the ethos of authoritarianism may be lasting, even permanent. . . . One could venture into a more ambitious philosophical etiology by pointing out the absence of a concept of ‘natural law’ or ‘law of reason’ in the intellectual-cultural heritage of Middle Eastern societies. After all, everything before Islam, before God revealed his message to Muhammad, constitutes jahiliyya, or the dark age of ignorance. Similarly, anything that deviates from the eternal truth or verities of Islamic teaching is equally degenerative, and therefore unacceptable. That is why, by definition, any Islamic movement which seeks to make Islam the basic principle of the polity does not aim at innovation but at the restoration of the ideal that has been abandoned or lost. The missing of an experience similar, or parallel, to the Renaissance, freeing the Muslim individual from external constraints of, say, religious authority in order to engage in a creative course measured and judged by rational and existential human standards, may also be a relevant consideration. The individual in the Middle East has yet to attain his independence from the wider collectivity, or to accept the proposition that he can create a political order.
Unlike Vatikiotis, Bernard Lewis has ignored these obvious setbacks. Remarkably, Lewis, as evidenced by his current volte-face on the merits of experiments in “Islamic democracy” has become a far more dogmatic evangelist for so-called Islamic democratization, despite such failures!
Consistent with Lewis’ admonition, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us,” the US military, at an enormous cost of blood and treasure, liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from despotic regimes. However, as facilitated by the Sharia-based Afghan and Iraqi constitutions the US military occupation helped midwife—which have negated freedom of conscience and promoted the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities—“they,” that is, the Muslim denizens of Afghanistan and Iraq, have chosen to reject the opportunity for Western freedom “we” provided them, and transmogrified it into “hurriyya.” Far more important than mere hypocrisy—a widely prevalent human trait—is the deleterious legacy of his own Islamic confusion Bernard Lewis has bequeathed to Western policymaking elites, both academic and nonacademic.
Blithely ignoring the deleterious effects of the advice he has proffered, Lewis plods on, without seeming acknowledgment of that failing, let alone remorse. When asked by interviewer Peter Robinson during a question and answer session filmed at the November, 2012 National Review cruise, “What can we [i.e., the US] do to nurture those elements?,” [i.e., referring to a Lewis quote which introduced the segment that claimed there were indigenous “elements” in the Middle East which promote consensual government], Lewis replied “We can refrain from supporting tyrants.” Lewis added that the US erred in applying the simple standard, “Are they with us or against us.”
Lewis’s incoherent hypocrisy becomes simply unbearable when this champion of the misbegotten Middle East “democracy project,” also states (in the 11/12 interview) the Middle East is “insignificant,” because the US has its own vast fossil fuel resources (which can be harvested via fracking), so we won’t need Middle Eastern fossil fuels any longer. Lewis further has the temerity to jest, when the question is raised as to where all the Middle Eastern Muslim liberals we’ve been told about are hiding, quipping, “in California.” This supposedly humorous quip came from the architect of a delusive policy which sacrificed over 4000 US lives in Iraq, grievously maimed some ten times as many, and expended more than a trillion dollars of US taxpayer moneys, after the US had quickly toppled Saddam, and found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, because, as per Lewis (in June, 2006, three years after the invasion of Iraq), we needed to midwive an Iraqi democracy, lest “They Destroy Us.”
One additional example of Lewis’s apologetics on Islam which I do not discuss in Sharia Versus Freedom (or the interview) merits detailed consideration, given the intensifying global campaign to impose Islamic blasphemy law on non-Muslims, including those living outside Islamdom, in non-Muslim societies.
Arthur Tritton’s pioneering 1930 study of the fate of non-Muslim “dhimmis” vanquished by jihad (as per Koran 9:29; see pp. 217-35), and living under the Sharia, included this brief overview of how blasphemy law was applied to them:
[F]our things put a dhimmi outside the pale of the law; blasphemy of God, His book, His religion, or His Prophet…Shafii [d. 820, founder of the Shafiite school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence] said that one who repented of having insulted the Prophet might be pardoned and restored to his privileges. Ibn Taimiya [d. 1328, a jurist of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence] taught that the death penalty could not be evaded.
Nearly three decades later (circa 1958), Antoine Fattal (d. 1987), an esteemed Lebanese Law Professor, and Islamic scholar, wrote Le Statut legal des non-Musulmans en pays d’Islam. Fattal’s treatise remains one of the seminal works characterizing what Bat Ye’or subsequently termed, “dhimmitude,” the restrictive, deliberately humiliating socio-political conditions imposed upon non-Muslims within Islamic societies. Extracts from Fattal’s meticulous study (translation by Nidra Poller and Ibn Warraq) of the relevant foundational Islamic texts, and jurisprudence, summarize these classical formulations of the treatment of “blasphemers,” according to the Sharia, confirming Tritton’s 1930 observations.
The Malikites, Shafiites and Hanbalites [three of the 4 main schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence] punished blasphemy against Allah, the Prophets and Angels by death. If the crime is committed by a Muslim, it is equivalent to apostasy; by a dhimmi it is a violation of the dhimma contract [of submission]. According to the Hanafites [the fourth major school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence], the punishment of a dhimmi guilty of blasphemy is left to the discretion of the judge. In cases of extreme gravity, the sentence might be capital punishment. In fact it is the latter punishment that was most often applied. [emphasis added]
Fattal then provides prototypical examples of how Islamic blasphemy law affected non-Muslims in practice, consistent with the oppressive doctrine:
A Jewish man, passing near a muezzin who was chanting the call to prayer, cried out: “You have lied.” He was condemned to death… An Egyptian Christian cursed the Prophet; the cadi [Muslim judge] al Muffaddal b. Fudala (in office from 168 to 170 A.H. = 784 to 786 C.E.) consulted Malik b. Anas [founder of the Malikite school] to ask what punishment should be meted out. The latter declared the death penalty, and the Christian was executed. Under the reign of [al-] Ma’mun (198/218 A.H.= 813/833 C.E.), a Jew was put to death for having called the Prophet an imposter… In 335 A.H.=946 C.E., insulting inscriptions against the Prophet were discovered in a Cairo synagogue. The Hanafite cadi had several Jews arrested and tortured until they confessed. They died by hanging except for one who converted to Islam.
Two contemporary studies, a collaborative work, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy, and Islam, written by Abdullah and Hassan Saeed, and Muhammad Hashim Kamali’s Freedom of Expression in Islam, provide independent confirmation of the earlier findings of Tritton and Fattal, from the perspective of “modernist” Sunni Muslim scholars. Kamali acknowledges the draconian, if concordant views of the two most comprehensive Islamic legal analyses of blasphemy by Qadi Iyad al-Yahsabi (d. 1149, a Maliki jurist), and Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328). He also discusses the classical Muslim legists opinions on “repentance” of the blasphemer, and the notion that a “blasphemer” was consigned to the status of those at war with the Muslims. In a case study Appendix entitled, “The Salman Rushdie Affair,” Kamali recounts how on February 19, 1989 Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa condemning author Salman Rushdie to death (along with those involved in the publication of Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses), while promising eternal salvation to any Muslim “martyred” in this cause:
…[T]he author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses, which abuses Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death. I ask the Muslims of the world at large to swiftly execute the writers and the publishers, wherever they find them, so that no one in the future will dare to abuse Islam. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing.
Analyzing subsequent pronouncements from Al Azhar University’s leading clerics (the Chairman of the Fatwa Committee, the Rector, and the Grand Mufti), as well as Saudi Arabia’s most prominent ulama chairing the 11th session of the Islamic Law Academy of the Muslim World League in Mecca (held February 10-26, 1989), Kamali observes,
[T]hose who were exposed to media coverage of the whole episode would know that no serious Muslim commentator has challenged the basic validity of the Ayatollah’s fatwa. [emphasis added] Adjudication was generally viewed to be necessary if only to find out if Rushdie was willing to repent.
Kamran Hashemi’s 2008 study contains a summary assessment of Shiite jurisprudence on blasphemy, highlighting the concordant views of a much lionized modern Iranian Shiite “reformist.” Hashemi’s analysis of Shiite blasphemy (“sabb’) law offers context to Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and the targeted murders it has wrought (which included a mass killing in Turkey). But perhaps most illuminating is the opinion on blasphemy Hashemi quotes from a supposedly enlightened avatar of Shiite modernism, the late Ayatollah Montazeri (d. 2009), whom some extolled as the “patron saint” of Iran’s 2009 Green Movement.
[A]ccording to the majority of Shiite jurists, in cases of sabb [blasphemy], instant punishment [i.e., killing] of the offender, either Muslim or non-Muslim, is not only permissible, but also a religious obligation for any Muslim who realizes the offense, or any who comes to know about it. In this sense, as soon as the offense takes place, the offender must be killed immediately by any one who does not fear for his own life to be endangered.
There is consensus among contemporary Shiite jurists on the instant punishment of an offender in cases of sabb. For example, in response to a question Ayatollah Montazeri [d. 2009] makes a reference to this issue: “In cases of sabb al-Nabi [Muhammad]…if the witness does not have fear of his or her life and also there is no fear of mischief [mafsadeh] it is obligatory for him or her to kill the insulter.” [emphasis added]
“Rising Restrictions on Religion,” a report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life issued August 9, 2011, examined the issue of “defamation” of religion, tracking countries where various penalties are enforced for apostasy, blasphemy or criticism of religions. “While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical,” the report noted. The Pew report found that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries, twenty-one—Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Western Sahara and Yemen—registering the highest (i.e., worst) persecution scores on their scale. Furthermore, the Pew investigators observed,
Eight-in-ten countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion, the highest share of any region. These penalties are enforced in 60% of the countries in the region.
As a predictable consequence of this Sharia-based application of apostasy and blasphemy laws by Islamic governments, the Pew report also documented that,
…the share of national governments that showed hostility toward minority religions involving physical violence was much higher in countries where laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion are actively enforced than in countries without such laws (55% versus 22%).
Such abundant contemporary evidence demonstrates that Islamic law and mores regarding blasphemy, today, remain distressingly incompatible with modern conceptions of religious freedom, and human rights. Thus writing in the early 1990s, the esteemed Pakistani scholar Muhammad Asrar Madani, whose opinion was accepted by Pakistan’s Sharia Court, defined “blasphemy,” focusing on the Muslim prophet, as:
Reviling or insulting the Prophet (pbuh) in writing or speech; speaking profanely or contemptuously about him or his family; attacking the Prophet’s dignity and honor in an abusive manner; vilifying him or making an ugly face when his named is mentioned; showing enmity or hatred towards him, his family, his companions, and the Muslims; accusing, or slandering the Prophet and his family, including spreading evil reports about him or his family; defaming the Prophet; refusing the Prophet’s jurisdiction or judgment in any manner; rejecting the Sunnah; showing disrespect, contempt for or rejection of the rights of Allah and His Prophet or rebelling against Allah and His Prophet.
And in accord with classical Islamic jurisprudence (for example, The Risala of al-Qayrawani [d. 996]), Madani argues that anyone who defames Muhammad—Muslim or non-Muslim—must be put to death. Here is Qayrawani’s classical formulation, representative of the Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence—the same school of Islamic law which prevailed in mythically “tolerant” Muslim Spain:
If someone curses the Rasulullah (i.e., the Muslim prophet Muhammad) he is killed and his repentance is not accepted. If one of the people of dhimma [non-Muslim Christians and Jews etc., subjugated by jihad] abuses him outside of that which constitutes his disbelief or curses Allah other than what constitutes his disbelief, he is killed unless he becomes Muslim. When he says something to deprecate him. His execution is a hadd and hence it is of no use if he repents or denies it when there is clear evidence of it. Repentance does not cancel a hadd. This is why he says that his repentance is not accepted. The same principle applies to someone who curses one of the Prophets or one of the angels or denies one of the Books of Allah. If someone abuses someone whose prophethood is a matter of dispute, like al-Khidr , he is strongly punished but not killed. Statements of dhimmis which constitutes their disbelief would be things like a Jew saying, “He is not a messenger to us, Our Messenger is Musa (Moses).” Abuse beyond their intrinsic disbelief would be criticizing the character of the Holy Prophet An example of that which constitutes his disbelief is saying that God is three or that He has a son.
Consistent with this prevailing code, Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, a pre-eminent scholar of Muslim Spain, observed that one of the more draconian of the myriad religious and legal discriminations suffered by non-Muslim dhimmis included lethal punishments for “blaspheming” the Muslim prophet, or the Koran:
[For] having insulted the Prophet or blasphemed against the Word of God (i.e., The Koran)-dhimmis were executed.
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo has documented how this orthodox Islamic doctrine—incorporated into the “modern” Pakistani legal code (Section 295-C, “defiling the name of Muhammad”)—has wreaked havoc, in our era, particularly among Pakistan’s small Christian minority community:
…the blasphemy law is felt to be a sword of Damocles and has developed a huge symbolic significance which contributes substantially to the atmosphere of intimidation of Christians. The detrimental effect of the law…is most dramatically illustrated by the incident at Shanti Nagar in February 1997 in which tens of thousands of rioting Muslims destroyed hundreds of Christian homes, and other Christian property, following an accusation of blasphemy. Furthermore the blasphemy has engendered a wave of private violence. Equating blasphemy with apostasy and influenced by the tradition of direct violent action and self-help which goes back to the earliest times of Islam, some Muslims feel they are entitled to enforce the death penalty themselves.
Shortly after Bernard Lewis was interviewed during his recent National Review cruise, an Egyptian state security court, on November 28, 2012, issued a verdict, which sentenced to death seven expatriate Coptic Egyptians, as well as American pastor Terry Jones, for “blaspheming” Islam. Egyptian Judge Saif al Nasr Soliman stated plainly when the ruling was issued,
The accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet.
The late November, 2012 Egyptian court verdict re-affirms mainstream, institutional Islam’s Sharia-based lethal punishment for speech critical of the Muslim creed. More disturbing, however, is the abject failure of contemporary Western media, political, and academic elites—notably, Bernard Lewis—to accurately convey that reality: a living, liberty-crushing doctrinal and historical legacy.
Despite this overwhelming doctrinal and historical evidence—past as prologue to the present—Lewis, asserted the following about blasphemy in Islam, during an April, 2006 Pew Forum interview:
If a non-Muslim subject of a Muslim state says or does something offensive to the Prophet, he is to be tried – accused, tried, and if necessary, punished. The jurists on the whole tend to take a rather mild view of this offense. [emphasis added] They say, well, he is not a Muslim; he doesn’t accept Mohammed as the Prophet; we know that. So saying that Mohammed is no prophet does not constitute this offense. It has to be more specifically insulting than that.
Lewis apparently believes decreeing, and enforcing, lethal punishment for the “crime” of insulting Islam’s prophet—as outlined by Muslim jurists, ancient or modern, and reproduced herein—constitutes a “mild view of this offense.”
Let me conclude by noting that Lewis’s apologetic tendencies must have been attractive to the Muslim Brotherhood/Saudi Wahhabi front Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, and its pseudo-academic Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs(JMMA), which has been an Abedin family enterprise since 1979. Regardless of whether Lewis was a willing dupe, or not, he served on the editorial board of the JMMA for some 14-years, from 1996 to 2010, despite the fact this “academic” journal was, and remains, a thinly veiled mouthpiece for Sharia supremacism. These critical limitations of his scholarship and judgment have implications which must also be recognized by all those for whom Lewis remains an iconic source of information, and advice, especially policy advice.