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Middle East Experts to Discuss 'A Clash of Civilizations'
Bernard Lewis, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, together with nationally syndicated talk-show host Dennis Prager, will discuss "A Clash of Civilizations: The Final Jihad" on Tuesday, March 18, at 7 p.m., at the Annenberg Center on the University of Pennsylvania Campus, 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
Lewis, who specializes in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West, is frequently called upon as an adviser by Washington policymakers. During the Bush administration, he has been asked for his expertise regarding the war in Iraq.
Prager's strong Jewish values are reflected by the topics he addresses in his lectures and on his radio shows, which include "The Pathology of Anti-Americanism and Anti-Zionism," "A Jewish View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Morality" and "The War in the Gulf." He is also the author of four books, and nearly 1,000 articles on both Jewish and secular themes.
Lewis believes that the power of Islamic extremist groups like Al Qaeda intensified after the defeat of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1989. He maintains that "this was a Muslim victory in a jihad."
Lewis adds that the Taliban and Al Qaeda factions caused the Red Army to flee Afghanistan in defeat.
"They therefore viewed 9/11 as the final phase in the struggle between Islam and the West. This struggle of attack and counterattack, jihad and Crusade, ended, so it seemed, in a final victory of the West with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire -- the last of the great Muslim states -- and the final partition of most of the Muslim world between the Western powers," he explained.
He goes on to say that Osama bin Laden views this conflict in a different way: "In this final phase of the ongoing struggle, the world of the infidels was divided between two superpowers -- the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, we have defeated and destroyed the more difficult and the more dangerous of the two. Dealing with the pampered and effeminate Americans will be easy."
Lewis asserts that bin Laden was surprised by the force of the retaliation it mounted in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. However, Lewis feels that Al Qaeda now views the United States as once again letting down its guard.
He explains, "What we see as free debate in an open society, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus, they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph through the final jihad."
'Protect Our Country'
Gary Erlbaum, chair of the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, one of the event sponsors, believes that "it is incumbent upon each and every American to protect our country from terrorist groups bent on our destruction."
He adds that "America's safety and security is a bipartisan issue and must be the highest priority of the next presidential administration."
Federation is co-sponsoring this community-wide program with Aish Philadelphia, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia, Hillel and the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Israel Bonds, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and other Jewish community groups.
For tickets, call 610-785-6304, or purchase them online at: www.jewishphilly.org.