Bernard Lewis Applauds the Crusades

Famed Princeton Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis drew a standing ovation from a packed house of conservative luminaries Wednesday night in a lecture that described Muslim migration to Europe as an Islamic attack on the West and defended the Crusades as a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad that spread Islam across much of the globe. Lewis gave the nearly hour-long speech at the annual black-tie dinner of the American Enterprise Institute after receiving the group’s Irving Kristol Award. Among the attendees were Vice President Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and ex-Pentagon official Richard Perle. Notably absent was I. Lewis Scooter Libby, convicted this week of perjury and obstruction of justice. At last year’s event, Libby, then under indictment, received considerable support from attendees. The 90-year-old Lewis, seen by some as the intellectual godfather behind the administration’s decision to invade Iraq, warned in his lecture that the West – particularly Europe – was losing its fervor and conviction in the face of an epochal challenge from the Islamic world. The Islamic world, he said, was now attacking the West using two tactics: terrorism and migration. He listed ideological fervor and demography as two of the chief strengths that the Muslim world had in its favor in its face off against the West, but fell short of offering any prescriptions for what Europe should do to stem the flow of immigrants from North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Lewis, author of The Arabs in History and Islam and the West, among many other books, also gave a ringing endorsement for the ill-fated Crusades, which spanned two centuries starting in 1095, when various European armies tried to regain the Holy Land for Christendom. -Neil King Jr. CORRECTION: Bernard Lewis called the Crusades a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad, not a successful imitation as incorrectly described in the original post. In the AEI speech, he made the point that the Crusades, as atrocious as they were, were nonetheless an understandable response to the Islamic onslaught of the preceding centuries, and that it was ridiculous to apologize for them. The more central point to his speech was that Europe in particular is now losing its conviction in facing off against Islamic extremism and migration.

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