Surely the main thing about Dinesh D’Souza is that he is:
1) a careerist with his eye on the main chance. He was among the first of those Bright Young Conservative Things — think of William Kristol — who have managed to make lavish livings for themselves, with those lecture fees, those quasi-instant books on matters of perceived moment, and for a few, a little aupres-de-ma-blonde stuff to make the whole thing more entertaining and endurable.
2) unused to having to meet standards of research or study that might, in other contexts, naturally be asked of him. D”Souza is surprised and chagrined: he asked quite a few people to blurb the book, and was disturbed to discover that some, who had made it a point to find out much more about Islam, were horrified by his thesis and refused.
D’Souza tells us that he “read Bernard Lewis.” That’s it? That’s all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know, about Islam? Apparently he felt no need to read widely. But there are so many others, many dozens of others, he ought to have read, re-read, assimilated, made his own. There is Joseph Schacht. There is David Margoliouth. There is Snouck Hurgronje. There is Ignaz Goldziher. There is Theodor Noldeke. There is Samuel Zwemer. There is St. Clair Tisdall. There is Armand Abel. There is K. S. Lal. There is Georges Vajda (whom Lewis consulted, but apparently not enough, for his book on Jews in Islam). There is S. D. Goitein. There is Bat Ye’or, the great pioneer in scholarship devoted expressly to the fate of non-Muslims under Muslim rule — the dhimmi — a subject Lewis hardly touches, for in the 400 pages of his book for a mass audience (“The Middle East — a History of the Last 2000 Years”) he mentions the dhimmi in three paragraphs, two of them slyly exculpatory. Many have rightly been outraged that Le Pen called the murder of the Jews “a mere detail of World War II.” For Lewis, it would seem from that book that the fate of hundreds of millions of non-Muslims, who over the past 1350 years had to endure Muslim rule, is merely a “detail” in the history of Islam and Islamic conquest. Oh no it isn’t.
The Romans worried about The Man of One Book: homo unius libri. D’Souza appears, by his own admission, to be someone who has written a book about a subject he admittedly knew nothing about at the time of 9/11/2001, but has been “studying it for four years” largely by consulting, it seems, not One Book but close to that: One
But even that One Selected Authority, Lewis, would be horrified by how D’Souza understood him and what D’Souza took away from his reading of Lewis. For Bernard Lewis does not share a bit of D’Souza’s interest in minimizing the menace of Islam and promoting this truly insane idea of a natural commonality of interest between “traditional Muslims” and “conservatives.” Does D’Souza know what “traditional Muslims” think of Infidels? Does he know what they think of the Amish? Does he know what they think of him, Dinesh D’Souza? “Conservatives” in D”Souza’s view are, of course, those who are willing to overlook the Muslim view of the world in which there is a state of permanent war, not necessarily fighting but permanent war, between Believer and Infidel, all in order to get “traditional Muslims” to be for the same “family values.” And how can D. D’S. conceivably think that Muslim “family values” — beginning with the treatment and status of women in “traditional Islam,” or the hostility toward freedom of conscience and freedom of speech — could possibly allow for such a naive and dangerous alliance? It would be naive and dangerous, of course, for Infidels, and perfectly swell for Muslims, who are always seeking out those upon whose naivete and ignorance of Islam and goodwill they can take advantage of. Just go to one of those phony “Muslim-Christian” or “Muslim-Jewish” Groups for “Understanding,” especially if it is Open House Night for Infidels at the mosque. There you will be treated to a smooth-tongued liquid-brown-eyed orator, well-practiced in taqiyya-and-tu-quoque, who will however become quickly alarmed, even confused, even discombobulated, if you begin to talk during the question period about the Hadith and the Sira, and if you are to mention the Banu Qurayza, the Khaybar Oasis attack, the murders of Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak, or a few dozen other atrocities. And let’s not forget little Aisha. Well, a good time will not be had by all, and you will, singlehandedly, have destroyed the evening’s propagandistic (as in propaganda fide) purpose.
Unlike Dinesh D’Souza, Bernard Lewis himself has for the past year or two been going around warning about the islamization of Europe and the horror that would be. Apparently Lewis’s study of Islam did not lead him, Lewis, to the conclusions reached by his great admirer and self-directed student, Dinesh D’Souza. For Lewis does not see any great alliance, any alliance at all, between Muslims and non-Muslims. But then, perhaps he’s been studying Islam a bit longer than Dinesh D’Souza, and knows the real meaning, sometimes expressed in language sibylline or even Aesopic, of his words. Lewis has for too long tried to write for two distinct audiences: Muslims, including those Turks who so admire him (and he tends to admire those who admire him back) and Infidels. In pulling his punches, or perhaps not quite seeing or allowing himself to see the full danger of Islam and of Muslims other than those suave, plausible, highly unrepresentative figures he meets, he knows, he receives hospitality from, in Amman or Istanbul, Lewis has ill-served his mostly non-Muslim readership. For it is they who are being menaced, and they who need to be enlightened.
It would be wonderful if, at this stage, Lewis were to write something akin to Goitein’s expression, in the introduction to his article on the Poll Tax, or Jizyah, inflicted on non-Muslims (see pp. 29-30 of “The Legacy of Jihad”) of his change of opinion about the treatment of non-Muslims, once he came to realize, through his study of the material found in the Cairo Geniza, of how burdensome and grueling it really was. At the end of his life Goitein was preparing an enthusiastic review of Bat Ye’or’s The Dhimmi. Lewis owes his readers and his acolyte-graduate students, and those to whom he so enthusiastically endorsed the Oslo Accords and then the fiasco of Iraq, the same kind of self-reckoning. He’s always being fooled, Lewis, for all of his book-learning. He’s always, when it comes to policy, underestimating the impossibility of expecting anything good — rational negotiations, treaties signed that will be honored, or for that matter the ability of different sectarian and ethnic groups to get along in societies suffused with Islam.
But Lewis would never endorse D’Souza. If he finds out about this book, written by someone who, explaining the extent of his preparation for this jejune book, proudly notes that he “read Bernard Lewis,” it would certainly appall him. And Lewis would be right to be disturbed. It would force him to recognize that not only has he helped to undo the damage of the espositos and armstrongs and MESA Nostra, in setting people straight on many things, but that he has also helped, especially in his treatment of non-Muslims under Muslim rule, where the strategies of elision and allusion and sheer misstatement (the notion that the “antisemitism” of Muslims is merely a Europpean import) have set many people astray. And some think that he has led more astray, in minimizing unpleasant and permanent features of Muslim teachings and attitudes and behavior, than he has managed to set straight.