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The West and the Middle East Author(s): Bernard Lewis Reviewed work(s): Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol.

76, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1997), pp. 114-130 Published by: Council on Foreign Relations Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/04/2012 02:34
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and East

the Middle

Bernard Lewis

IS MODERNITY In 1593 an Ottoman the arrival in Istanbul


Selaniki Mustafa recorded historian, Efendi, an was not of ambassador. He very in English was in terested much struck by the English the ambassador, but he as strange as this has in which the "A ambassador traveled. ship ship never entered the port of Istanbul," he wrote. "It crossed 3,700 miles ... It was awonder of sea and carried 83 guns besides other weapons of the age the like of which has not been seen or recorded." so interested in a Istanbul historian this sophisticated a atwhat was then the wrong barely heard of island ship coming from is not that end of Europe? Efendi's wonderment Selaniki Mustafa at the time. if one recalls what was happening difficult to understand Why was to be followed not long after by the Dutch one of the smallest and least and the English. Portugal, populous of was able to establish amaritime and the nations ofWestern Europe, in South Asia which three great Muslim commercial paramountcy in the Persian, and the Mogul Ottoman, Empire empires?the India?were unable to prevent or reverse. active in Eastern waters, A close, hundred years later, as the seventeenth the rulers of the Ottoman Empire?the century drew to a dominant power in

The Portuguese had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope andwere

Bernard Eastern

Lewis Studies

is Cleveland at Princeton

E. Dodge

Professor His books

Emeritus include

of Near Cultures

in University. most and Jews in theAge ofDiscovery and, Conflict: Christians, Muslims, Years. Middle East: A Last the The 2,000 recently, of Brief History



West ruled thewaves: H.M.S. Trusty, ij8j When the

Europe?were west frontier barism

East, the shield and sword of Islam pointing toward

aware of the countries becoming beyond the north as other than an outer darkness of bar something and unbelief. For a century and a half, the Ottomans and

their Christian enemies had been locked in bloody stalemate in Central Europe. This was broken by the second Turkish siege of
in 1683, which ended in failure and retreat. During that forces for the first time suffered major reverses on war, Ottoman the field of battle; the peace treaty of 1699 was the first a victorious enemy imposed on the Ottomans. a source of The West was now seen in a new light?as danger and commanders therefore, possibly, of inspiration. Ottoman military soon realized that there were some to things they had adopt, adapt, Vienna FOREIGN AFFAIRS 1997 January/February [115]

Bernard Lewis copy, borrow, beg, buy, or steal in order to keep up with Western some other devices. The first armies; weapons, certainly, and perhaps are most lessons of civilizational change effectively and perspicuously on administered the battlefield. The others follow somewhat later, and often What Eastern ments the Middle in amore ambiguous form. were the Ottoman reformers rulers who ofWestern East followed and other Muslim Middle

about this process and the decisions the process requires has been going on for almost three centuries, prob world. ably longer than in any other part of the non-Western In his book Among the Believers, V.S. Naipaul observes that many as a leaders see science and technology Western present-day Muslim kind of celestial supermarket where they can come and buy, for money, the products they find useful, and reject those they do not want. Here, the word "reject," implying that one has a choice in relation to tech It transfers, is, in part at least, a metaphor. nological and sociological mean to that is offered. consider, evaluate, and refuse something may a as in the body's acceptance or rejec It also has sense, physiological tion of an alien transplant. The argument is increasingly heard in the the region's countries need is modernization is to say, accepting, or, rather, acquiring without westernization?that material culture, perhaps also the science and Western the products of that produced them, but without the cultural baggage and technology false values and depraved way of life attached to them. it All scientific method is comparative. To discuss these questions, unac some to is necessary however invidious and make comparisons, in of the last the twentieth that be years may century. We ceptable must compare theWest East as they were on the eve and the Middle of modernity, and theMiddle East before and after the West's impact. we most must in and instructive, many ways compare the Finally, East with other non-Western Middle regions affected by theWest. Middle East that what

modernity the debate

their example looking for?What ele did they accept, and to what extent? In







that arrived long-range

in Istanbul projection

characteristic [ll6]

is an early example of theWest's of power, and, too, of its spirit of Volume76No.1



Middle East The West and the

not the the latest phase of which?surely inquiry and exploration, last?is aman on the moon and space probes beyond the solar system. the Dutch, for the ability of the British, Practical explanations to establish naval?and therefore and the Portuguese imperial? are over not too to lands difficult find. distant supremacy They of the Atlantic, and of their European rivals. faced the challenge of the Atlantic, also faced the challenge but they (The Moroccans to The English, had their part of it themselves.) Dutch, French, on each other, sharpened their naval skills Spanish, and Portuguese and maneuverability weaponry toMuslim powers. vastly were built for the Mediter of Eastern the The empires ships Red the Persian the Indian Ocean. No one the ranean, Sea, Gulf, more than makes things stronger, bigger, and therefore expensive were small, frail, and necessary, and Muslim clumsy compared ships northern seas and Atlantic with vessels built towithstand gales. A rel and they ships with developed to those available superior

atively flimsy, simply rigged, lightly armed, sparselymanned ship of

was no match for a carrack, which Portuguese empires could carry much heavier armament. was also com The important for ships superiority of European more maneuverable merce. vessels could carry bigger cargoes, Larger, same to at lower prices. And faster, they could offer the advantages the Eastern passengers; by the eighteenth century, many Muslim pilgrims from India and Southeast Asia traveling to the holy places inwestern Ara bia booked passage on European ships. The peoples of the Middle the Turks, who East, and particularly aware ofWestern were in the forefront, became increasingly superi on the battlefield in and the After demonstrated ority marketplace. one inflict defeat after armies, previously despised, seeing Western on Eastern another the hitherto invincible soldiers of Islam, Middle ers watched Western had dominated. suc In search of the reasons for theWest's growing commercial I's cess, let us return to Selaniki's ship, which brought Elizabeth sultan. Although the envoy was accredited envoy to the Ottoman was and paid, and the embassy main by the queen, he appointed a tained, not by the Crown but by the Levant Company, joint stock
FOREIGN AFFAIRS -January/February 1997 [117]

traders move


into markets



Bernard Lewis in England established for the purpose of trading in the company Levant. An English monarch of the late sixteenth century would to go to the trouble and expense of an have been unlikely installing in Istanbul. But the Levant wanted one, and embassy Company to arrange for this aid to its business. stepped in Though nominally the English, later British, it in remained effect the embassy, _ until the embassy of the Levant Company Napoleonic Wars, when the Crown deemed Middle East has it time to take over. great European trading corporations the harnessing of economic exemplified in power, in their relations with government, their structuring and managing of complex over vast areas, and, in operations extending The


been debating
Western modernity for almost 300 years.

of credit, all on a scale undreamed of particular, in their mobilization in earlier economies. The impact of this mercantilist marriage of gov ernment and business was not unlike what Far Eastern present-day consternation. powers have achieved, to theWest's The Levant Company, association? moreover, was a voluntary a group of people who had banded together because of shared be in such as liefs, purposes, interests, or projects. Relations policies, are different sociations from both the compulsory the allegiance owe the ruled owe the ruler and the involuntary members loyalty Eastern and clan, the family, the sect, or the tribe. In most Middle other non-Western societies this intermediate level did not exist; its and for awhile almost an exclu emergence was a characteristically, associations sively, Western phenomenon. Voluntary including as as diverse business trade unions, groups corporations, political unestablished and churches, clubs, parties, independent colleges, some teams formed networks that developed into what is sports as times known civil society. The Levant Company ship illustrates yet another important fea an on ture of the Western world, energy. In harnessing emphasis traditional Eastern and other, the only source of societies, Middle energy besides human and animal muscle was the mill, using the are a power of water and, later, of wind. Mills tax-gatherer's delight; are immovable, to so as and, they impossible disguise, long they
[ll8] FOREIGN AFFAIRS -Volume 76No. 1

Middle East The West and the

are also, for the same revenue, ripe for the taxing. They generate the archives on reasons, a historian's delight. Those who compile so we in money, which historians must rely are primarily interested on mills. documentation The researches of have pretty good reveal that eleventh-cen Issawi of Princeton Charles University not had more tury England, long after the Norman Conquest, mills per capita than the central Ottoman lands at the height of the empire's power and glory. The ambassador's conveyance was a sailing ship, but its rigging, of a far greater complexity than that of a typical Mediterranean to es coastal trader, enabled it to make better time in a fair wind, cape a foul, and to find a breeze in a calm; it had to do all these to sail the Atlantic. The West other sources of energy, par developed coal, and, later, oil, whose ticularly wood, its wood East consumed power. The Middle provided in antiquity and had immense of oil, but it did not little coal. It possessed quantities know how to extract or exploit that fuel until others came and showed it. Oil, I would say in passing, has proved at best a mixed even say a curse?for countries where it is might blessing?some served as a buttress to tyranny and found, in that it has sometimes a barrier to social modernization. It has freed oppressive govern to taxes ments raise and thereby expose themselves from the need one to those pressures even that raising taxes engenders; might an American Eastern purposes and say, no slogan for Middle adapt to come. Western taxation. There isworse without representation science and technology, which made oil first useful and then nec and those who depend essary, will sooner or later make it obsolete, on oil revenues will confront a new reality. are some other to note in this by now There points perhaps was not It manned but overloaded slaves ship. by galley by free the ship, unlike the fought and worked of the Spanish Armada, for example, where sailors great galleons were not worked the ship and gentlemen gen fought. The sailors were not sailors, which tlemen and the gentlemen them both put a sea battle. But even a at a was in disadvantage Spanish galleon far better placed than a galley with banks of oars manned by tiers crew of free sailors made a of slaves. The English ship's striking
FOREIGN AFFAIRS January/February 1997 [119]


sailors. These

sailors both

Bernard Lewis armed forces relied heav on Mamelukes and janissaries and other more or less slave ele ily or sexual?has ments. economic, domestic, Slavery?military, to known been part of virtually every civilization history. Its abo a was lition The effects initially, and for while uniquely, Western. on of that change the family, the economy, the society, and the were immense. polity surely most of all, and contemporary Turkish Perhaps astonishing on it, is that the monarch sent the em writers commented who a to the sultan was awoman, strange and bassy reigning queen?a was in the West innovation. The position of women disturbing _ very far from was equality with men, but it to the of position superior incomparably Eastern
women in most non-Western societies.


at a time when Middle

The first lessons of

civilizational change
are often administered


on the battlefield.

traveler to Europe every Muslim era noted what was for before the modern even defer them the astonishing freedom, ence, accorded women. The nuclear family
based on monogamous marriage was an

ofWestern and, individualism, important factor in the emergence in rise and of the Western civilization. The therefore, spread norm and the harem difference for society between the Western was well understood the first president of the by Kemal Atat?rk, to talk in the mid-i920s who in speeches Turkish Republic, began about rights for women. With characteristic clarity and brevity now is to catch up with the modern Atat?rk "Our task declared, not world. We will the modern world if we only catch up with half the population." a queen; she was a queen with a was not Elizabeth only parlia new and strange. It does not was ment. This, again, something seem to have been noted at the time in and Parliament Turkey, under Elizabeth did not have much power. But its power was in modernize not very creasing, and long afterward the elected that supremacy lay with the Crown. and the Levant It was

it established representatives


and for all and not with

This ship's place of origin was the England of Queen Elizabeth


also the country

-Volume 76No. 1

of Shakespeare


Middle East TheWest and the

and Bacon of the Renaissance and, a little later, of Isaac Newton; revolu and the Reformation and, a little later, the parliamentary is specifically West tion. All these, too, are surely central to what ern about theWest.


is to




are there are two ques things going wrong, we tions they can ask. One is, "What did do wrong?" and the other to to us?" The latter leads is, "Who did this conspiracy theories and to leads another line of thinking: "How paranoia. The first question is a very extensive literature in theMiddle do we put it right?" There East from the early eighteenth century on how to put it right, how to save this state, how to protect this community against the waxing in power of the infidel. All kinds of solutions were offered, most some imitation or at least the volving adoption of military methods of the enemy?that is, of the modern West. From quite an early date, Ottomans and other Middle Eastern rulers took up a conscious policy of reform. They didn't call itwest ernization, of course. They rejected that idea, and a number of terms were used to or denigrate the very notion: the Arabic Tafarnuj, "aping the ways of the Franks," the Persian which has been Gharbzadagi, as more translated "Westoxication." More and imaginatively people, a awareness were evinced that extensive however, growing changes people realize
needed over an ever wider range.

a new of the began phase. Recognition states was of the Western fol military superiority immediately con to "modernize." lowed by plans and attempts Early reformers ceived of that process as the adoption of European weaponry and as teachers of foreign mercenaries warfare, through the employment even and sometimes field commanders, and through the purchase The defeat in Vienna to of European had long been willing weapons. Europe provide In the time of the Crusades, such services. Christian European arms to the Saracens merchants did a flourishing business selling for use against the Crusaders. the Ottoman advance into During in the sixteenth in century, there was an English Europe gunshop Istanbul where military supplies could be bought. Other European
FOREIGN AFFAIRS January/February 1997 [l2l]

Bernard Lewis states in this traffic, and European eagerly joined to finance Ottoman "Constructive purchases. bankers were

realized that all governments eventually a not the weaponry modern they could afford still did give them on a own terms. Western its The army capable of meeting army Ottoman reformers and others after them drew the necessary in ferences. They needed new weapons of the Frankish kind, and it was not safe to on amod imports. Therefore depend they required ern armaments needed officers to lead these new industry. They armies and could not rely indefinitely on adventurers and mercenaries. to reform the educational Therefore system so that it could they had com turn out suitably trained officers. They needed roads and other to move their armies, so to munications with they had build?usually is nowadays called infrastructure. Western help?what ofWestern century the recognition military to westernize and of the need the armed forces superiority acquired a cultural aspect. What war is weaponry matters in and primarily By the nineteenth The changes of the eighteenth century prov organization. military we com in nineteenth find the Middle Eastern ing insufficient, their armies in European-style manders uniforms with dressing tunics and trousers and Sam Browne belts, and organizing them in battalions, companies, formations?platoons, European-style means and divisions?themselves ordered of the Eu by brigades, to field marshal. of ranks from private These ropean hierarchy were cultural more than clearly practical choices, and they continue to this Eastern anti armies, even those of the most day. Middle wear still uniforms.1 Western states, European-style The military reforms may have delayed but they did not prevent Even after the departure ofWestern domination. the establishment to restore of the Western they have not sufficed imperial powers, use of even a semblance of parity in the effective military power. The
1 civilians, among Similarly not for men, although outside the Arabian (Men, Peninsula Western of dress course, remains make the these

willing has a long history. But Middle Eastern



for women.

not women,

choices.) Even the diplomatic representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iranwear suits like the Europeans. Only the missing necktie symbolizes their rejection of the trammels
ofWestern civilization.




-Volume 76No.

Middle East The West and the

of mass destruction? acquire weapons inventions all?are Western attempts to remedy this disparity. Such not achieve vic attempts may achieve mutual destruction; they will tory or even parity. efforts of some states to




were There many who tried to find the secret talisman ofWest ern power. Some located it not in the realm specifically but military more gen economic and in the Industrial Revolution, development some in the science and that powered them. Some erally; technology saw it as enshrined in that most extraordinary and exotic ofWestern and representative constitutional institutions, government. school of thought that This last has given rise to awhole modern individual freedom, associates the nature ofWestern society with human a word, the limited government?in rights, citizenship, to in the formation, conduct, and, if right of the citizen participate some form of con of government. necessary, dismissal Nowadays is usually taken to be an stitutional and representative government essential

way of life and, therefore, of western part of theWestern It has not always been so, and the recent history izing modernity. demonstrates that of, for example, much of the European mainland a state can be both Western a at and modern, least for time, under an autocratic to and repressive regime. Surely it is unreasonable to install thisWestern to in Western expect newcomers modernity nations. stitution faster or operate it better than some major Western At the same time, the success of some of the "Asian tigers" shows that a country can modernize and effectively without democracy to action. While it may not be pos human rights as impediments it is certainly sible to have democracy today without modernity, to have modernity without possible democracy. of is inherent and essen In contrast, the idea limited government tial in Islam. The principle that the ruler is not above the law, but sub no less than the humblest of his is central ject to the law underlings, on the state. The unbridled to classical Islamic autocracy teaching a that prevails inmuch of the Islamic world today is in large measure which has often abrogated intermediate byproduct of modernization,
FOREIGN AFFAIRS -January/February 1997 [123]

Bernard Lewis powers and reinforced the sovereign power a wields despotic so that the most in

the tinpot dictator significant authority beyond wildest imaginings of the caliphs and sultans of the past. More but still not entirely convincing is the attribu persuasive success to the tion ofWestern modernity's separation of church and state. in the two senses, between political and ecclesias Separation and between tical institutions scientific and religious is thought, now as an essential part ofWestern commonly accepted modernity. some of the most successful modern Western states have Certainly as in achieved such separation either by constitutional enactment, on both sides, the United States and France, or by tacit agreement as in the United and the Scandinavian monarchies. But Kingdom came late in the devel in the latter group this de facto separation in other success while and modernity, opment of both democracy even states religion and fulWestern religious-based parties still play a a role. The of Israel, modern democratic experience significant to state with an important its very identity, is religious component same too new and brief to serve as a basis of argument. Perhaps the estab may be said of the religious-based parties in the democracies is lished after World War n in former Axis countries. This much to both in relation certain: the role of religion and democracy to from religion and may vary considerably modernity religion roles of Protestant, and Catholic, country to country. The historical are very different, and all of them differ from Orthodox Christianity is clearly incompatible with both those of Judaism and Islam. What and its distinctive brand of modernity is the Western civilization state to science of the and of subordination control, religious it be. whichever may religion








dle East, one may examine hundreds of thousands of such inven tribution among heirs. Many rule. A young Turkish tories survive from the centuries of Ottoman had the idea of going through the registers historian, M?ge G?cek, of people who died in eighteenth-century of inventories Istanbul,
[124] FOREIGN AFFAIRSVolume76No. 1

in the Mid ordinary people the inventories of estates before the dis affected

Middle East The West and the

at intervals, among different elements in society, taking soundings she found in artifacts and objects. What and looking forWestern cluded telescopes and eyeglasses, a European import already attested in Iran in the fifteenth century; chairs and other furniture; maps and were muskets, books. The pistols, largest groups of items by far clocks, and watches. of time in theMiddle East goes back to ancient The measurement Babylonia, the clock and the watch?portable, personal time a It became possi precision previously unknown. pieces?introduced ble to have schedules and office hours and to make appointments?a new way of life still imperfecdy assimilated in the region. The calendar is another change of specifically Western origin. All civilizations devise the days, the months, and the years, but their own ways of measuring or calendar and the in our own age theWestern Christian, Gregorian, eras have and pre-Christian division of time into Christian gained al but universal

acceptance. of space. The Eu A parallel innovation was in the measurement ropean practice, inherited from the Greeks, was to divide the eastern continents into three artificially defined the assigned hemisphere names later added Europe, Asia, and Africa; European cartographers had been and pre-Columbian Americans America. Asians, Africans, unaware of these identities which to them, had Europe assigned quite and other Mid but starting in the seventeenth century the Ottomans dle Easterners began to accept these European classifications. was the demarca More important than the naming of continents tion of frontiers. Before, a realm extended as far as its ruler could col notion of a precisely demarcated lect taxes. Now came the European effect border between states, and that, of course, had a considerable on the very notion of the state and on the shared identity and alle its of lived within frontiers. those who giance No less important was the abridgment of both time and space by as the train, the car, the such new devices in communication plane, and printing and then newspapers. is an interesting exam Printing was not a invention, but was introduced ple of rejection. It European to from the Far East. In 1294 the Mongol ruler of Iran Europe paper currency. But the market re printed and issued Chinese-style fused it, the economy ground to a standstill, and after two months
FOREIGN AFFAIRS -January/February 1997 [125]


Bernard Lewis the paper was withdrawn and hard money?i.e., coins?returned. was The printing of books known and rejected. When the Spanish came to in 1492 after their expulsion from Jews Turkey Spain, they set up to to requested permission printing presses produce books for own use. was on their Permission condition that they did not granted or Arabic, or inArabic characters. The usual expla print inTurkish nation is that this was seen as a desecration of the Holy Script; per to do and scribes also had something haps the guilds of calligraphers was not it. Printing inMuslim with until the languages permitted a to seminarist converted century, when eighteenth Hungarian it. The experiment was of brief duration and lim Islam introduced

ited effect. And for awhile, printing in theMiddle


East continued

Jews, later various Chris religious minorities?first tian denominations. At the end of the eighteenth century and more was reintroduced, actively during the nineteenth, printing initially the of and Christian missions. agency through foreign governments was it the mid-i8oos used for texts in Turkish, Ara By extensively Eastern bic, and other Middle languages. more The other, perhaps change in communications important, was in their was speed, beginning with the telegraph. That invention in 1855 during like so many other introduced the Crimean War, war and the needs of war. The first major changes due to telegram an East was a military transmitted from the Middle communiqu? "Allied troops have entered Sevastopol." A combination nouncing, and the presence of foreign correspondents of the war, telegraphy, the Middle East with another potent vehicle for western endowed before daily newspaper?where some and rather official gazettes only sporadic pri news vate of and its the The advent paper daily fix of publications. view of the Easterners' and comment radically transformed Middle there had been world and of themselves. ization and modernization?the

to be limited

WHO DECIDES MODERNITY Three have emerged among Middle Easterners faced in is expressed from the West. One with the alien civilization we take what we can image of the supermarket: adapt and Naipaul's [126] FOREIGN AFFAIRS Volume76No.1 attitudes

Middle East The West and the

to be infected a use, without allowing ourselves by superseded reli an inferior civilization. This view comes in an extreme form gion and in the writings and utterances of the so-called Islamic fun nowadays who seeWestern and particularly Ameri damentalists, civilization, can as immoral and In this popular culture, dangerously corrupting. strain is the Ayatollah Khomeini's taken up by his suc denunciation, cessors in Iran, of the United States as the Great Satan.2 talked hopefully of amarriage of the best elements of both civilizations. When civilizations meet and clash, however, what a too not all often results is of the best but a promiscuous marriage cohabitation of the worst. Others have

The third attitude could be summed up in this way: The world

has seen many civilizations. Each has grown and flourished in its in history only one is still day, then passed away. At this moment or be uncivilized. alive. We must This was the line that join it pursued. The modern process

Kemal Atat?rk and his ideological predecessors in theYoung Turk

Movement of change was undoubtedly initiated by the


but is it Western

in its origins? The West was not born like

from the seafoam, and much of it is of non-Western ori Aphrodite roots of and Judaeo-Christian gin, distinct from the Greco-Roman Western civilization. It is the habit in theWestern in many other world, now followed to divide regions, history into thfee main periods: ancient, medieval, In this system, medieval and modern. Europe marks the transition and the ancient civiliza antiquity, that is, Greece, Rome, tions of theMiddle that is, ourselves. But there East, and modernity, were three routes from thus defined, of which antiquity to modernity was one. The other two were medieval Western Christendom only Greek Orthodox Christendom far the most and?by important of the three?the of Islam. The world Islamic world, like the two between


as "the

2No intelligence service is needed to interpret this epithet?just a copy of the Koran. last verses, the best known along with the first, talk about Satan, describing him
insidious imperialist, an tempter who whispers not a not capitalist, in the hearts an exploiter. of men." He Satan is not He a is a seducer. conqueror, comes with

Barbie dolls and cocktails and provocative TV programs and movies

emancipated women.

and, worst of all,


AFFAIRS-January/February 1997


Bernard Lewis and it made far Christendoms, accepted the heritage of antiquity, better use ofthat heritage than either of them. Greek philosophy and awide range of Greek sciences were translated, and stud preserved, ied in the Islamic world long before they became known in Europe. not And that is all. The ancient civilizations of theMediterranean East, of Europe, India, and China were all local, at best regional. Christendom and Islam both claimed a universal mis over sion, but the Islamic oecumene extending large parts of Asia, and Europe was the first to create a civilization that was mul Africa, in a sense intercontinental. Islamic civilization tiracial, multicultural, extended far beyond the uttermost limits of Roman and Hellenistic and was thus able to borrow, culture, adapt, and incorporate of Asia.3 To these, significant elements from the remoter civilizations Middle Easterners added their own rich contribution, which helped to form the nascent civilization of theWest. A late medieval Indian, and the Middle or Islamic? African, European might well have asked?is modernity A few examples may suffice to show they would have asked with reason. like to persuade them science, Westerners good Experimental In fact, itwas developed selves, is peculiarly and exclusively Western. in medieval Islam much more than in the ancient world. The Greek

genius lay in theory and philosophy. The Muslims developed experi

science and bequeathed of theWest. modernization mental a rich legacy which helped to start the

In the economic in commerce and banking, realm, too, notably there is a considerable heritage from the Islamic world and beyond. traders learned from their more ad The extent to which European is attested by the many Middle Eastern vanced Muslim colleagues comes in from Persian, tariff loanwords Western languages. Check names a of variety of sophisticated foodstuffs and the from Arabic,
we Westerners as a characteristic merit of our Western




societies. This is a fairly recent development, as Western societies for most of their his were societies of theMiddle East, on the The Islamic intolerant of tory diversity. totally
other hand, were enormously diverse, and people of different religions, races, and ways

of life developed the capacity to live side by side, Iwill not say in full equality, but in rea sonable, mutual tolerance. That has changed for the worse in theMiddle East, as the strains grew greater and the opportunities fewer. It ismuch more difficult to be tolerant
when you are under threat than when you feel yourself to be on top of the world. Mean


in the Western world,

tolerance of diversity has increased markedly.





Middle East The West and the

reveal and commodities are Persian, while orange their Middle damask Eastern origin: caviar and the names

and muslin preserve a and as of Arab cities. On another level, range of mathematical terms from algebra to zenith document the Islamic tronomical to mathematics and astronomy. Double-entry book contribution was a great invention, but itwould hardly have European keeping the zero and positional which been possible without numbering,

the Muslims
India, or paper


to Europe


and papermaking,

they brought from China.

Western influences in art and architecture

The standards of the dominant civilization

appeared very early and spread very fast. The always define modernity. westernization of literature came later, but was also of the literary output in rapid. Much Arabic, Persian, and Turkish today is in form and, to a significant ex tent, in content no more alien than any other regional variant of the common Western culture. In music, however, there seems to be a hia tus?one of the more striking cultural differences between theMiddle art East and other parts of the non-Western world. Western-style music is appreciated and performed in Japan, in China, to some extent in India, while it remains alien inmost of the Islamic world. The same must be said of science. Scientists in the Far East and and South Asia are actively participating in what is no Southeast a but aworldwide scientific enterprise. Indeed, the longer Western communications science and technology of modern would be far less advanced East's without the Far Eastern contribution. compares and, even more contemporaries should lead Middle Easterners contribution poorly with But the Twiddle that of its non-Western with its own past. This

dramatically, to ask themselves not why are they different from theWest is to blame for this, but and how theWest so why their societies have fared differently from those of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Far East. This may perhaps help provide a practical, if not theoretical, defini or some tion of modernity. In every era of human history, modernity, the ways, norms, and standards of the term, has meant equivalent dominant and expanding civilization. Every dominant civilization has own in its prime. The Hellenistic imposed its modernity kingdoms, FOREIGN AFFAIRS-January/February 1997 [129]

BernardLewis the Roman Empire, the medieval Christendoms, and Islam, as well as the ancient civilizations of India and China, all imposed their norms over a wide area and radiated their influence over a much broader one still, far beyond their imperial frontiers. Islam was the first to make significant progress toward what it perceived as its uni is the first to embrace but modern Western civilization versal mission, the whole planet. Today, for the time being, as Atat?rk recognized and as Indian computer scientists and Japanese high-tech companies stan is the dominant civilization andWestern Western, appreciate, dards, therefore, define modernity. in the past; there civilizations There have been other dominant will no doubt be others in the future. Western civilization incorpo to say, it is enriched rates many is modernities?that by the previous it in and influences of other cultures which contributions preceded

Western leadership. Itwill itself bequeath a

cultural legacy to other

cultures yet to come.?