The Imperialism of Western Guilt

Bernard Lewis is the rare Western intellectual who doesn’t view non-Western peoples as too inept to make their own mistakes, let alone pay for them.

Bernard Lewis in 2006. Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

Bernard Lewis in 2006. Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

Response
June 20 2016
About the author

Amir Taheri, formerly the executive editor (1972-79) of Iran’s main daily newspaper, is the author of twelve books and a columnist for the Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.


Mention the word “Orientalist” almost anywhere, and you’re likely to hear the name of Bernard Lewis, who has just marked his one-hundredth birthday, as the quintessential embodiment of that distinction. In one sense, the designation is only apt: from the 18th century onward, the greater Middle East, Lewis’s major area of scholarship, has been equated with the concept of “the Orient.” But ever since that scholarly pursuit, and Lewis himself, began to come under attack, most vituperatively by Edward Said in his 1978 screed “exposing” Orientalism as a supposed cat’s paw of Western imperialism, the distinction has become invidious—as Martin Kramer explains in “The Return of Bernard Lewis,” his fine survey and tribute to Lewis in Mosaic.

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More about: Bernard Lewis, History & Ideas, Middle East