Islam, 'Mindslaughter,' and the Catastrophic 'Lewis Doctrine'
I contend, after careful review, that the miserably failed “Lewis Doctrine” was a sham castle of dangerous, MINDSLAUGHTERED misrepresentations built upon four pillars: dhimmitude denial; Islamic Jew-hatred denial; Sharia obfuscation; and Lewis’s own inexplicable volte face on his gimlet-eyed 1950s assessments of Islamic totalitarianism, and “hurriyya,” the Islamic antithesis of Western freedom.
Regarding the imposition of the dhimma, Islam’s humiliating pact of submission for non-Muslims, per Koran 9:29, and the alleged absence of theological Jew-hatred in Islam, Lewis made these oracular, if vacuous and counterfactual, summary pronouncements, across three decades:
 The dhimma on the whole worked well. The non-Muslims managed to thrive under Muslim rule, and even to make significant contributions to Islamic civilization. The restrictions were not onerous, and were usually less severe in practice than in theory. As long as the non-Muslim communities accepted and conformed to the status of tolerated subordination assigned to them, they were not troubled.
 In Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic history. For Muslims it is not part of the birth-pangs of their religion, as it is for Christians.
 “dhimmi”-tude [derisively hyphenated] subservience and persecution and ill treatment of Jews… [is a] myth.
Shlomo Dov [S. D.] Goitein (d. 1985), unlike Lewis, was a historian, who specialized in the study of Muslim, non-Muslim relations. Goitein, whose seminal research findings were widely published, most notably in the monumental five-volume work A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (1967–1993), was Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University, and a Lewis colleague while at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. The New York Times obituary for Professor Goitein (published on February 10, 1985) noted, correctly, that his prolific writings on Islamic culture, and Muslim-non-Muslim relations, were “standard works for scholars in both fields.” Contra Lewis’s uninformed, whitewashed drivel, here is what Goitein wrote on the subject of non-Muslim dhimmis under Muslim rule, that is, “the dhimma covenant,” circa 1970:
[T]he Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals propagated by…the principles embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was mal al-muslumin, the money of the Muslims. Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws. . . . As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence. . . . In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities
“The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism,” my own exhaustive treatise, included voluminous materials Lewis never bothered to compile, let alone analyze with comparable intellectual honesty. My careful analyses demonstrated, irrefragably, that the Koran, its classical and modern exegeses by Islam’s greatest commentators, and the traditions of Muhammad, and the nascent Muslim community, are rife with virulent, conspiratorial Jew-hating motifs that have been acted upon by Muslims, vis-à-vis Jews, across space and time, from the advent of Islam, till now.
The Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. Presently, Al Azhar Koranic litanies of 20 to 25 verses describing fixed negative traits of the Jews are popular, widely disseminated, and endorsed in the writings and public statements of this Vatican of Sunni Islam’s last two Papal equivalents, the late Grand Imam Tantawi, and current Grand Imam al-Tayeb. Such Jew-hating Koranic “highlights” include: Jews as prophet killers, updated in the hadith to include Muhammad himself—allegedly poisoned to death by a Jewess, in a Jewish conspiracy, while the Shiite hadith further hold the Jews responsible for the deaths of Ali, and his son Hussein—meriting permanent debasement and humiliation (Koran 2:61/3:112); Jews as apes, or apes and pigs (Koran 2:65; 5:60, 7:166)—a Koranic epithet Muhammad personally directed at the Jews according to the sira before the Muslims subdued, and he personally slaughtered, by beheading, all the post-pubescent males, some 700-900, of the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza; Jews as inveterate conspirators against Islam (the ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Koran 5:64), who harbor the greatest enmity towards the Muslim creed (Koran 5:82). The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear in the Koran: they are the devil’s minions (4:51/60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and pigs (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).
A brilliant, scrupulously documented 72pp/202 ref 1937 essay in French by rabbi, and Islamic scholar Georges Vajda on the hadith (which Lewis never analyzed, but I felt privileged to have fully translated into English for the first time, and included in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism), demonstrated that stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic in these traditions. Rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “…sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.” Vajda’s research on the hadith further illustrates how Sunni Muslim eschatology emphasizes the Jews supreme hostility toward Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Antichrist— and, per other traditions, the Dajjâl is in fact Jewish. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered—everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. Thus, according to several canonical hadith, Muhammad himself reportedly declared if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Vajda also emphasizes how the notion of jihad war “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology:
Not only are the Jews vanquished in the eschatological war, but they will serve as ransom for the Muslims in the fires of hell. The sins of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews.
Lastly, a profound anti-Jewish, and racist motif, put forth in early Muslim Sunni historiography, as well as the Shiite hadith literature, is most assuredly, contra Lewis, a part of “the birth pangs” of Islam: the story of Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and, per Sunnis founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. Sunnis held him responsible—identified as a black (i.e., a racist motif, as well!) Jew—for promoting the Shi’ite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife. Authoritative Shiite authors claimed this identifiably black Jew was guilty of perverting and warping the message of Caliph Ali’s true (Shiite) followers. Mainstream Shiites thus designated Abdullah Ibn Saba an avatar of extreme, heretical beliefs, for which Caliph Ali purportedly had Ibn Saba burned alive, as described in Shiite hadith.
The entirety of this ugly Islamic doctrine—shared, with minimal variation, by Sunni and Shiite Islam alike—begot chronic, grinding oppression, interspersed with paroxysms of violence, including sporadic, mass murderous pogroms, which affected Jewish communities in Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and even mythically tolerant Muslim Spain, to the west, as well as Turkey, to the north, and Iraq and Iran, to the east. Modern Zionism, culminating in the re-establishment of Israel, governed by Jews fully liberated from 13 centuries of jihad-imposed dhimmitude in their ancestral homeland, has re-invigorated Islam’s annihilationist strains of Jew-hatred.
During a Pew Forum interview April 27, 2006 Bernard Lewis opined rather defensively about Islam’s religio-political “law,” the Sharia:
“[W]hen we talk of Muslim law, I would remind you that we are talking about law. Sharia is a system of law and adjudication, not of lynching and terror. It is a law that lays down rules, rules for evidence, for indictment, for defense and the rest of it, quite a different matter from what has been happening recently.”
But Lewis doesn’t elaborate on those “rules,” or any of the elements of Sharia which make it so noxious!. I will. Briefly.
The Sharia, Islam’s canon law is traceable to Koranic verses and edicts (45:18, 42:13, 42:21, 5:48; 4:34, 5:33-34, 5:38, 8:12-14; 9:5, 9:29, 24:2-4), as further elaborated in the “hadith,” or traditions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and the earliest Muslim community, and codified into formal “legal” rulings by Islam’s greatest classical legists. Sharia is a retrogressive development compared with the evolution of clear distinctions between “ritual, the law, moral doctrine, good customs in society, etc.,” within Western European Christendom, and it is utterly incompatible with the conceptions of human rights enshrined in the US Bill of Rights. Liberty-crushing, and dehumanizing, Sharia sanctions: open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic order; rejection of bedrock Western liberties — including freedom of conscience and speech — enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and even Muslim women to subservient chattel; and barbaric punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning to death for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption. Compounding these fundamental freedom and dignity-abrogating iniquities, “matters of procedure” under Islamic law are antithetical to Western conceptions of the rule of law: “evidentiary proof,” is non-existent by Western legal standards, and the Sharia doctrine of siyasa (“government” or “administration”), grants wide latitude to the ruling elites, rendering permissible arbitrary threats, beatings, and imprisonments of defendants to extract “confessions,” particularly from “dubious” suspects. Clearly, Sharia “standards,” which do not even seek evidentiary legal truth, and allow threats, imprisonment, and beatings of defendants to obtain “confessions,” while sanctioning explicit, blatant legal discrimination against women and non-Muslims, are intellectually and morally inferior to the antithetical concepts which underpin Western law.
In light of the still raging 2006 Danish cartoons controversy, regarding the “crime” of blaspheming Islam’s prophet, specifically, thus spake Lewis, the Islamic Yoda of our generation, circa April, 2006:
“The jurists on the whole tend to take a rather mild view of this offense.”
Really? Carl Brockelmann (d.1956), the renowned scholar of Semitic languages, and arguably the foremost Orientalist of his generation, made these candid observations in 1939 about the Sharia’s injunctions pertaining to penal law in general, and so-called “blasphemy and apostasy,” specifically—Islamic Law being “valid” eternally, and all too widely applied in Brockelmann’s era, through the present.
“The penal code of Islam has remained on a rather primitive level…Blasphemy with respect to Allah, the Prophet, and his predecessors is punished by death, as is defection from Islam, if the culprit persists in his disbelief.”
Consider the modern views on blasphemy articulated by the late Ayatollah Montazeri (d. Dec 2009), gushingly championed by fervent Lewis acolytes Michael Ledeen and Reuel Gerecht, and deemed the enlightened spiritual godfather of the so-called Iranian Green Movement. The good Ayatollah adhered rigorously to the traditionalist Shiite dogma on “sabb,” or blasphemy, i.e., instant, lethal punishment of the offender, declaring,
“In cases of sabb al-Nabi [blasphemy against a prophet, in particular, Muhammad]…if the witness does not have fear of his or her life it is obligatory for him or her to kill the insulter.”
“Rising Restrictions on Religion,” a report by the Pew Research Center 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, consistent with Brockelmann’s assessment from 1939, found that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries, 21—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
Bernard Lewis's April 2006 apologetic on the Sharia was complemented by the stunning claim he made during a lecture delivered July 16, 2006 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," which was published as, "Bring Them Freedom Or They Destroy Us," and disseminated widely. Yet Lewis never elucidated the yawning gap between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom—hurriyya in Arabic. This omission was striking given his contribution to the official 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 following Islamic law slavishly throughout one's life was paramount to hurriyya. 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. Lewis maintained,
…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.
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism transiently 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.
Lewis, viewed the immediate post-World War II era of democratic experimentation by Muslim societies as an objective failure , rooted in Islamic totalitarianism, which he compared directly to Communist totalitarianism, in his 1954 essay, “Communism and Islam,” noting their "uncomfortable resemblances" with some apprehension. Lewis characterized the “political history of Islam,” as “one of almost unrelieved autocracy.” He added,
“[I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind…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”
Directly comparing Islam and Communism, Lewis observed:
“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 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.”
Consistent with Bernard Lewis’s admonition, "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 formally negated freedom of conscience, and promoted the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities—“they,” i.e., the Muslim denizens of Afghanistan and Iraq have chosen to reject the opportunity for Western freedom “we” provided them, and transmogrified it into “hurriyya.” With sad predictability, Lewis, in an April 2, 2011 Wall Street Journal interview, managed to reject his own 1950s characterizations of Islam as authoritarian, even totalitarian, while burbling his subsequent oft repeated pieties about the putative tolerant, anti-authoritarian “tradition” of Islam, to cast a hopeful light on the Arab Spring:
The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule.. We have a much better chance of establishing…some sort of open, tolerant society, if it’s done within their systems, according to their traditions.
Finally, in May, 2012, George W. Bush appeared to have learned nothing from the Iraq democratization debacle, and how it repudiated his blind adherence to the “Lewis Doctrine.” Mr. Bush hectored critics who did not share his ebullient cognitive dissonance about the then unfolding so-called Arab Spring phenomenon, declaring
Some look at the risks inherent in democratic change, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know, in the name of stability.
Far more important than mere hypocrisy—a ubiquitous human trait—is the catastrophic legacy of his own Islamic negationism Bernard Lewis has bequeathed to Western policymaking elites.