Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bring Them Freedom, Or They Destroy Us

Worth the read

Bring Them Freedom, Or They Destroy Us

By Bernard Lewis

By common consent among historians, the modern history of the Middle
East begins in the year 1798, when the French Revolution arrived in
Egypt in the form of a small expeditionary force led by a young general
called Napoleon Bonaparte--who conquered and then ruled it for a while
with appalling ease. General Bonaparte--he wasn't yet
Emperor--proclaimed to the Egyptians that he had come to them on behalf
of a French Republic built on the principles of liberty and equality.
We know something about the reactions to this proclamation from the
extensive literature of the Middle Eastern Arab world. The idea of
equality posed no great problem. Equality is very basic in Islamic
belief: All true believers are equal. Of course, that still leaves
three "inferior" categories of people--slaves, unbelievers and women.
But in general, the concept of equality was understood. Islam never
developed anything like the caste system of India to the east or the
privileged aristocracies of Christian Europe to the west. Equality was
something they knew, respected, and in large measure practiced. But
liberty was something else.

More at the link. Via.
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