I have just finished reading a deeply disheartening book by my friend Professor Akbar Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain and member of the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, current chair of Islamic Studies at American University -- and is in the front ranks of what we Westerners call the moderate Muslims, who we are counting on to win the hearts and minds of the others.
I first met Professor Ahmed shortly after Sept. 11. He, his friends and I broke bread several times and discussed the condition of Islam and the West. He graciously agreed to share a stage with me at the National Press Club to debate with me the merits of my book, "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilization?" As my book was very harshly received by many Muslims around the world, I don't doubt that Dr. Ahmed shared that stage with me at some risk at least to his reputation -- if not more.
We even considered doing a weekly cable TV show on the clash of civilization from our different (but respectful) points of view -- although nothing came of it. Dr. Ahmed is a worldly man of letters who profoundly believes that collective good can be accomplished by individual acts of good conscience -- that each of us (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu) must connect with others and live out our convictions for our common humanity in the face of tribalism, religion and other dividing forces. Thus, his reach out to me, a fiery American nationalist TV commentator and editor to find if not complete common ground, at least common friendship.
His new book, "Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization," is thus particularly heartbreaking for me. As a trained anthropologist, he took three of his students on a six-month journey around the Muslim world to investigate what Muslims are thinking.
His conclusion: Due to both misjudgments by the United States and regrettable developments in Muslim attitudes, "The poisons are spreading so rapidly that without immediate remedial action, no antidote may ever be found." And Dr. Ahmed has always been an optimist.
He divides Muslim attitudes into three categories named after Indian Muslim cities that have historically championed them: Ajmer, Aligarh and Deoband.
Ajmer represents peaceful Sufi mysticism, Aligarth represents the instinct to modernize without corrupting Islam, Deoband represents non-fatalistic, practical, action-oriented orthodox Islam. It traces to Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th-Century thinker who lived when Islam was reeling from the Mongol invasions. He rejected Islam's prior easy, open acceptance of non-Muslims.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.