Lewis pins hopes on empowering women

Lewis pins hopes on empowering women

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Lewis pins hopes on empowering women

American historian Lewis underlines importance of women progress.

Turkey’s historical progress is linked with its “practice of self-critique” and to “the choice of women’s empowerment,” according to American historian Bernard Lewis, who spoke to the Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ) in an exclusive interview to be published on March 5 of its Winter 2011 issue. 

The Princeton University professor voiced both skepticism and hope regarding Turkey’s increasingly pronounced role in its region. Regarding women’s rights, Lewis quoted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, who said: “Our task is to modernize the Turkish nation, we will not modernize the Turkish nation if we only modernize half of them.”

Turkey’s strength was that it “has never lost its independence,” according to Lewis, speaking to the TPQ, which marks its 10th anniversary this year. “Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan were really the only Muslim countries that retained full independence,” Lewis said. “All the rest of them passed under one form of European imperial rule.” 

The deeply-rooted tradition of discussing frankly why “this society went forward and that society fell back,” as opposed to asking “Who did this to us?” like the rest of the Muslim world, is what makes Turkey important, according to the historian: “This is the difference between taking responsibility versus shirking responsibility,” he said. 

Center power shifts eastwards

However, he expressed skepticism as to the idea of Turkey following a “neo-Ottoman” route: “If Turkey is leading the Middle East back to an Ottoman caliphate then I do not think that is a very bright future,” he said, responding to a question on whether Turkey can be a leader in the Middle East. 

He also argued that when oil and gas are either exhausted or superseded, the Middle East will “sink into insignificance.” “The center power shift is eastwards […] The superpowers of the 21st century will be India and China. And that will be the center of world power, of competition or cooperation. The Middle East will be only of interest as an area where the two might compete or cooperate, depending on how things work out.” According to Lewis, the Turkish people can “innovate […] without sacrificing their devoutness or Islamic culture.” 

You can read the full interview here.