The Middle East is often looked at as a sort of pit of failure. It seems the Islamic world is leagues behind the rest of the world. Many assume it has always been this way-Western nations leading the world, Eastern Asian nations following with Middle East and Africa lagging behind. This is simply not the case; Islam was once a thriving intellectual hub for renowned scholars. The Muslim world accomplished great scientific developments right alongside Europe and East Asia, but what changed?
Bernard Lewis seeks to answer this fundamental question in his book, “What Went Wrong? The Clash between Modernity and the Middle East. Mr. Lewis dissects Muslim philosophy, actions, and the actions of those around and relating to the Middle East to discover what is the true source of the Islamic World’s failure. His conclusion though, varies greatly from the reasons most Muslims claim.
Mr. Lewis presents several popular opinions that have been presented throughout the centuries for the Muslim worlds continued decline. First, most people, nations, governments, societies, and religions tend to blame other people, nations, governments, societies, and religions for their problems. Islam is no exception. Different groups have been the subject of blame from century to century; the Mongols for one, were blamed for the utter destruction of the Islamic government and principles, but in reality they only took over a already crumbling nation. Other people groups such as Jews, Christians, and even individual sects of Islam have also been blamed. Then Western Imperialism and influence became and is still commonly the subject of blame. Still others blame the weakening or diluting of “true” Muslim religion for Middle Eastern downfalls. But does the "blame game" really solve anything?
Bernard Lewis answers no to this question; he has a different solution. Mr. Lewis claims that the real problem with the Middle East is the constant grievances between individuals and sects of Islam. The victim mentality, which leads one to believe that everything is someone else’s fault, also leads one to the desire to be avenged on that person or group who has done the “wrong”. In a sense what the Muslim world needs is a paradigm switch; that is, they need to stop looking at what they’ve lost and look at what the could be accomplishing-what they have accomplished in their past. Ultimately Mr. Lewis explains that the Islamic worlds thriving or failing is ultimately their choice.
While Bernard Lewis makes excellent points, he leaves out one fundamental principle; a house not founded on The Rock, cannot stand. Without God, his just laws, his definition of morality, and his grace no nation can ever be expected to stand for long. Biblical principles are the only principles that will truly last. In a way, this is tied into Mr. Lewis’ recognition that with constant violence, differing moralities, and corrupt rulers and followers the Middle East will not stand.