• OTHER \ Aug 22, 2006
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    Bernard Lewis: Aug 22, 2006 - appropriate date for apocalyptic ending of Israel
Bernard Lewis: Aug 22, 2006 - appropriate date for apocalyptic ending of Israel It's the day that Muslims believe Muhammad ascended from Mecca to Jerusalem, and then to heaven. It's the day that Allah handed down his revelation to the very same prophet. It's the 27th of Rajab, according to the Muslim lunar calendar, and this year, for those on the Roman calendar, it falls on Aug. 22. And more than a handful of people are fretting over the date. Bernard Lewis, a professor emeritus at Princeton, called attention to Aug. 22 in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. In it, Lewis warned that, because of the date's historic significance to Muslims and because Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has referred to it within the context of nuclear development, Aug. 22 could be a time for more terrorist attacks against the West. "This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world," he wrote. "It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind." Other scholars of Islam have scoffed at the idea. Mahmoud Ayoub teaches Islamic studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and said Bernard Lewis is a friend. Still, he described Lewis' theory as alarmist and irresponsible, especially during such tense times in the Middle East. And also when published in such an influential newspaper. "There is nothing apocalyptic about the 22nd," Ayoub contended. "This only creates public hatred of Arabs and Muslims." Liyakat Takim also teaches Islamic studies. He is based at the University of Denver and said no religious or scholarly evidence supports what Lewis wrote. "I don't see how Lewis can draw such a drastic conclusion," he said. "Had Ahmadinejad used September 9, then we could draw such conclusions, but it would still be pure speculation." This year, Sept. 9 corresponds to the 15th of Shaban on the Muslim calendar. For Shiite Muslims, the date is significant because it's believed to be the day the 12th Shiite Imam was born. That Imam, Muhammad al-Mahd<0x012B>, is believed by many Shia to be a messiah figure. Ahmadinejad is widely known for his belief in the 12th Shia Imam, Takim said. Whether Lewis is aware of this is unclear. Reached twice by phone, he declined an interview both times, citing poor health. Scholars are not the only ones Lewis has upset. Some lay Muslims in the Lowcountry view his article as the mainstream media's way of purposely dispensing misinformation about Islam. Ebrahim Haji, 21, is the son of an Iranian man and an American woman. He lives in the Lowcountry and said that Lewis has taken Islam out of context. "As far as the Armageddon thing, I haven't heard anything about it," he said. "It's baloney."