At 96, Bernard Lewis Reflects On 'A Century'

Historians in the News

Over his long academic career, Bernard Lewis has arguably become the world's greatest historian of the Middle East. Now, at 96, Lewis turns his attention inward in a memoir that looks back on his life, work and legacy.

The linguist and scholar's career began before World War II, and in a new memoir he covers more than a few sensitive areas, from race and slavery in Islam, to the clash of civilizations and his long argument with scholar Edward Said, to his role as an adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

NPR's Neal Conan talks with Lewis about his new book, Notes on a Century. [CLICK ON LINK FOR FULL INTERVIEW]

Interview Highlights

On religious tolerance under Islamic rule

"It is required by Islam. Part of the basic rules of Islam as laid down in the Quran require a measure of tolerance. But one has to be careful in how one understands that term.

"In the first place, it doesn't apply to everybody. It only applies to monotheists. In the second place, it does not grant them equal status. It grants them an inferior status, with some, though not all, of the rights of the dominant group. But it does allow them to practice their own religions and follow their own laws, and in one respect it is more tolerant than our present Western system, and, that is, they were allowed to live under their own laws and follow their own religions and even enforce their own laws in such matters as marriage and inheritance and so on."...

comments powered by Disqus