Today is Bernard Lewis’ 100th birthday, quite a milestone for anyone. Lewis is a long-time (and I mean that literally) of Middle Eastern Islam and history and has gained a new hearing since 9/11 with his prescient work. He is currently Emeritus Professor at Princeton. His works are legion but many easily accessible to the layperson. He is also somewhat controversial, being accused by the Left of being too harsh on the Islamic religion’s perverse influence on Middle East politics and by the Right too, for seeming too naive (at least before 9/11) and for focusing too much on Middle Eastern or Arabic Islam.
But he has weathered those criticisms to produce some really important work that has helped us understand what we face. Lewis has been a kind, witty and irenic scholar, but his writings are pretty hard-hitting. They deserve to be read. Of course he is not perfect, and for any scholar, some criticism is deserved. But despite quibbles, he has been a crucial and fearless voice in an age of terrorism.
Happy Birthday Bernard Lewis!