A famed professor and scholar on the Middle East passed away on Sunday at the age of 101.
Middle East historian and Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis died over the weekend and his life and body of work are being remembered by supporters and opponents across the ideological, religious and political spectrum.
According to the Washington Examiner, Lewis was perhaps best known for his scholarly and interpretive work on the history of the Islamic faith and Middle East.
He also sparked controversy and gained fame by popularizing the phrase “clash of civilizations” to describe the relationship between the Muslim World and the West, as well as for his hawkish support for interventionist foreign policies on the part of the United States government following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Lewis certainly had his detractors among Muslims and the ideological left, but he also had plenty of allies and supporters on the right as well.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “Bernard Lewis was one of the great scholars of Islam and the Middle East in our time. We will be forever grateful for his robust defense of Israel.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Bernard Lewis was a true scholar & great man. I owe a great deal of my understanding of the Middle East to his work. He was a man who believed, as I do, that Americans must be more confident in the greatness of our country, not less.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who appreciated Lewis’ support for the Iraq War, said in 2006, “No one offered sounder analysis or better insight than Bernard Lewis.”
National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger explained how Lewis was actually misunderstood by both his fans and detractors, and described Lewis as “a great friend of the Arabs” whose view that Arabs should live free of dictatorships was mischaracterized as anti-Arab or pro-Western Imperialism.
The president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, wrote of Lewis, “A giant, if not the giant in the West of the study and scholarship of Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Islamic history has passed. … We all learned from his work and those who rejected it did so from fear rather than rational argument.”
Lewis studied and wrote about both current events in the Middle East as well as the rich history of the region, and though his work was widely heralded, some of his views were controversial, such as his characterization of the post WWI mass murder of Armenians by Turks as a “nationalist struggle” instead of blatant genocide.
Whether he was loved or hated for his scholarly work, that work nevertheless had a significant impact on countless lives all around the globe.