Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

For some reason, I think I have something to say to you. You think you have something to say to me? Email me at: gideonsblogger -at- yahoo -dot- com

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Friday, March 22, 2002
Book Review: What Went Wrong, by Bernard Lewis. A disappointment, one that I should have anticipated. What went wrong is that the Muslim world has been trying to catch up with the West for 500 years without success. That's made them angry and frustrated. But why are they having such trouble? Lewis is mostly silent on this. He articulates well the differences between Western and Islamic notions of government, economy, our perceptions of time, our appreciation of music - there's a great deal of interesting stuff here, presented clearly and concisely. But in the end, why has Japan developed a modern economy while Egypt has not? Why does India have a successful democracy and Pakistan does not? And an even tougher question: why did Islam's vibrancy end at around the same time that the West's took off? Why did the civilization that happily and successfully adapted Greek and Indian ideas and inventions fail to adopt "Frankish" ones? Why did the civilization that conquered and colonized as far as Indonesia in the Middle Ages fail to spread to the New World in the modern period? The title of the book tantalizes, suggesting that there is an answer somewhere to what happened to Islamic civilization to turn it from the most advanced in the world to what is possibly the most backward, the likely winners of a race to the bottom. But Lewis provides very little in the way of an answer, and he is skeptical of answers that have been provided by others - for example, those who blame the Mongol conquest. As this is a very important question, it is more than a little disappointing that Lewis has done so little to shed light on it.