There is a crisis of understanding between the Muslim East and the Christian West.
The East has its own languages, history, culture and identity, and the same is true of the West.
The East is characterized by its current wounds and former glories, while the West is enjoying current glories while its failures are all in the past.
There has always been overlap and intersection between the East and West, from the conquests of Alexander the Great to the Muslim conquests of Andalusia and the Islamic invasion of Gaul—not to mention the Ottoman conquests of the Balkans, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and British military and naval domination.
We are at the heart of their thoughts and feelings, and vice versa.
Mr. Amir Taheri wrote a review of a book about British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli that touched on this issue. Taheri’s review of Disraeli: or, The Two Lives by former British foreign secretary Lord Douglass Hurd and Edward Young discusses the “myth of the oriental sage.”
The book reveals that Disraeli—the man who can be regarded as the effective founder of the British Conservative Party and a symbol of British colonialism—was enchanted by the East. This Victorian-era leader had traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world, and was even influenced by the culture and sayings of Muslims. Indeed, how can this not be the case, when Disraeli was the scion of a Jewish family that had emigrated from Palestine to Britain via Morocco and Italy?
In the book, Hurd and Young opine that Disraeli’s travels in the East had a significant effect on the man, while in his review Taheri asserts that Disraeli “saw Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as versions of the same Abrahamic religion and assumed the freedom to move across their boundaries as he wished.” Taheri adds that toward the end of his life, Disraeli utilized the Muslim expression “Allah Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest) to conclude discussions and arguments.
This is the same expression that US Republican senator John McCain defended last week in response to a US Fox News anchor’s criticism of its use in war-zones, particularly the Syrian crisis.
Fox News’ Brian Kimeade had initially said: “I have a problem helping those people screaming that after a hit.” However, the US senator subsequently came out to ask: “Would you have a problem with an American person saying ‘Thank God? Thank God?’”
Returning to Benjamin Disraeli, Taheri concluded his book review with a quote from the former prime minister: “Don’t act under the pressure of public opinion or you shall become its slave.”
And so I take this opportunity to salute the spiritual successors of Disraeli in London and Washington.