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Intervista a Bernard Lewis

Intervista a Bernard Lewis





C’è una bella intervista a Bernard Lewis, il grande islamista, su The Atlantic Monthly. L’occasione è l’uscita di un libro, From Babel to Dragomans, che ripropone una serie di saggi usciti dagli anni ‘50 in avanti e che può considerarsi una vera e propria guida al suo pensiero.





L’intervista è preceduta da un’introduzione di Elizabeth Wasserman che è altrettanto interessante.Lewis—ricorda la Wassernann—è considerato il decano degli studiosi del Medio Oriente, ma i giudizi su di lui, soprattutto a livello accademico,variano parecchio. Si va da chi lo considera una “gemma” inestimabile—the only scholar both erudite and honest enough to tell us the inflammatory truth about the condition of modern Islam—a chi lo liquida come un “servo dell’imperialismo”, il che va sicuramente messo in relazione con l’influenza che egli ha esercitato su Paul Wolfowitz, l’architetto delle politiche americane per il Medio Oriente. E tuttavia:



There is no doubt that Lewis’s harsh critique of modern Islam stems from a deep affection for the civilization that it once was. As a student visiting Turkey in 1938, by a stroke of luck he became the first Westerner permitted to enter the Imperial Ottoman Archives. His recollection of the experience says much about his sentiments toward his field: “Feeling like a child turned loose in a toy shop, or like an intruder in Ali Baba’s cave, I hardly knew where to turn first.”


Seguono altri preziosi chiarimenti, quali l’estrema importanza attribuita da Lewis alla storiografia e alla linguistica, vale a dire alle sottigliezze del linguaggio. Ad esempio:



In an essay on Islamic revolution, he points out the absurdity of referring to Islamists as “fundamentalists.” “Fundamentalist” is an American expression denoting belief in the literal divine origin of scripture–something that all Muslims, militant or otherwise, believe about the Koran. Lewis is not just being picky; language is a crucial issue in Islam. Analyzing Osama bin Laden’s appeal, Lewis explains: “The first and most obvious reason for his popularity is his eloquence, a skill much admired and appreciated in the Arab world since ancient times.”


Nell’intervista Lewis fornisce non solo utili informazioni sull’Islam, ma anche numerosi spunti di riflessione riguardo a questioni storiografiche e culturali che sono tutt’altro che trascurabili anche in ordine alle problematiche di maggiore attualità. Ad esempio: Islam e democrazia, c’è compatibilità?Ecco la risposta:

Well, there are certain elements in Islamic law and tradition which I think are conducive to democracy. The idea that government is contractual and consensual, for one thing. According to the Islamic Treatise on Holy Law, the ruler comes to power by an agreement between the ruler and his subjects. This is bilateral. Both sides have obligations. It is also limited. The ruler rules under the Holy Law, which he cannot change and which he must obey. So these two elements, I think, of consent and contract, also have the element of limitation, and can be very conducive to the development of democratic institutions. There is also a deeply rooted rejection in traditional Islamic writing of despotism or dictatorship, of the capricious rule of


the ruler without due regard to the law and to the opinion of the various groups in society.






Ed ecco una ricostruzione storica che fa giustizia di più di un luogo comune:





In the old order, the traditional Islamic Middle Eastern society was certainly authoritarian, but it was not despotic or dictatorial. It was a limited autocracy in which the power of the ruler, the Sultan or the Shah or the Pasha, whoever he might be, was limited both in theory and in practice. It was limited in theory by the Holy Law—the Divine Law to which the ruler was subject no less than the meanest of his slaves. It was also limited in practice by the existence of strong entrenched interests in society. You had the merchants of the bazaar, powerful guilds. You had the country gentry. You have the bureaucratic establishment, the military establishment, and the religious establishment. Each of these groups produced their own leaders—leaders who were not appointed by the State, who were not paid by the State, and who were not answerable to the State. These, therefore, formed a very important constraint on the autocracy of government.


Then came the process of modernization or Westernization, which for practical purposes are the same thing. It enormously increased the power of the central government by placing at its disposal the whole modern apparatus of surveillance and control: first the telegraph, later the telephone; the possibility of moving troops quickly, first by train then by truck or by plane. So the central government was able to assert itself and enforce its will even in remote provinces in a way that was inconceivable in earlier times. The effect of this was to weaken or even eliminate those intermediate powers that limited the autocracy of government.

When people look at the kind of regime that was operated by Saddam Hussein and say, “Well, that’s how they are, that’s their way of doing things,” it is simply not true. I mean, that kind of dictatorship has no roots in either the Arab or the Islamic past. It, unfortunately, is the consequence of Westernization or modernization in the Middle East.





Un altro errore è stabilire una stretta relazione tra Islamismo militante e fascismo: attenti—ammonisce Lewis citando un detto islamico—”The first to reason by analogy was the devil.” E in ogni caso, per capirsi:





Certainly there is a Fascist element in the Islamic world, but it’s not in the religious fundamentalists. It’s rather in people like Saddam Hussein and his regime and the Syrian regime.






Altro tema, strettamente connesso al precedente: qualcuno pensa che modernità, riforme, tolleranza, umanesimo, vale a dire ciò che noi chiamiamo Illuminismo, sono una bestemmia per l’Islam. Hanno ragione?





They are not anathema to Islam—on the contrary, Islam has its own humanistic traditions— but they are certainly anathema to those whom we have gotten into the habit of calling the Islamists. I don’t like the term; I think it’s misleading. I prefer to use “Islamic fundamentalists,” though that’s also a loose analogy.






Alla fine dell’intervista, una domanda: ottimista? Sì, con cautela, è la risposta. E comunque ciò che preoccupa Lewis non è tanto ciò che sta accadendo in Iraq, ma quello che si agita negli Stati Uniti, le pressioni per tirarsi fuori,




because the message that this is sending to people in that region is that the Americans are frightened, they want to get out. They’ll abandon us the same as they did in ’91. And you know what happened in ’91.





[leggi tutta l’intervista]



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