Pipes finally admits the problem is Islam, not “radical” Islam

In his article Tuesday at FrontPage Magazine, “Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism,” Daniel Pipes has given up the ghost of his long-held fantasy that the “real” Islam is “moderate” Islam and that the bad Islam that we see all over the world today is an extraneous offshoot of the real Islam, produced by modern ideological movements rather than by Islam itself. In this new article, in stunning contrast to his usual way of writing, he repeatedly and without cavil describes our Islamic adversary, not as “radical” Islam, but as Islam, not as “Islamists,” but as Muslims. Here are excerpts from the article (I’ve added italics):

The key issue at stake in the battle over the twelve Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad is this: will the West stand up for its customs and mores, including freedom of speech, or will Muslims impose their way of life on the West? …

More specifically, will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy an immunity from insults? Muslims routinely publish cartoons far more offensive than the Danish ones; are they entitled to dish it out while being insulated from similar indignities?…

The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism. The Danish editor who published the cartoons, Flemming Rose, explained that if Muslims insist “that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos … they’re asking for my submission.”…

… Western governments should take a crash course on Islamic law and the historically-abiding Muslim imperative to subjugate non-Muslim peoples.They might start by reading the forthcoming book by Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale).

Of course, Pipes, as he always does, will soon contradict himself and go back to saying that Islam is historically a peaceful, non-coercive, spiritual religion and that only modern “Islamism” is a danger. But he can no longer take back what he’s said so plainly here.

Also, while it’s great that Pipes has at long last unambiguously stated the truth about Islam, we must sadly note the pettiness in the way he has done so. This is not a mere personal criticism, but goes to the heart of the substantive issue. Let me explain. Though known as an Islam scholar, Pipes in his myriad articles has never written about the Koran and Islamic law in any serious way. He’s avoided those areas, for two reasons. First, the Koran and Islamic law have never been his specialty (his doctoral thesis was on Islamic slave-soldiers), and, second, Pipes has a romantic attachment to Islam (which I discuss at length here), and even a superficial knowledge of Islamic law shows that historical Islam is in fact that selfsame “radical” and “militant” Islam that Pipes insists only began in the twentieth century. Thus he has virtually ignored the work of writers like Bat Ye’or and Andrew Bostom who have focused on historical Islamic doctrine and practice, though he has occasionally complimented Bat Ye’or’s work. And now, when he is finally ready to acknowledge the importance of Islamic law and the historically-abiding Muslim imperative to subjugate non-Muslim peoples, what does Pipes do? Instead of recommending Bostom’s extraordinary book The Legacy of Jihad, which just happens to be the most complete critical compilation ever published of Islamic law and the historically-abiding Muslim imperative to subjugate non-Muslim peoples, he recommends a book that hasn’t even been published yet, and may not be published for months. It is as though Pipes doesn’t want people to read a work that too directly challenges the very position that Pipes himself now seems to be abandoning. (His downplaying of an important text that may throw his own positions into question reminds me of how Pipes a few years ago advised his readers not to read the Koran, since it is too hard for the uninitiated to understand, but to rely on experts’ interpretations of it. The problem with this approach is that the experts will never tell you what you can only find out by reading the Koran yourself: that it is an almost continuous call, full of sadism and vindictiveness, for the violent death and eternal torture of everyone who declines to acknowledge Muhammad as the prophet of God.)

In the initial draft of this blog entry which I wrote this morning (see above), I said: “Of course, Pipes, as he always does, will soon contradict himself and go back to saying that Islam is historically a peaceful, non-coercive, spiritual religion and that only modern Islamism is a danger.” When I said, “soon,” I was thinking, maybe later this week or next week. In fact, Pipes has outdone his own Whitmanesque record: he’s contradicted himself in a different article on the same day. In an NRO symposium today on Islam, he writes:

It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succor and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world.

This position is what we might call the Pipes Islam Thesis Number Two. In order to understand it, we first need to discuss Pipes Islam Thesis Number One. Pipes Islam Thesis Number One says that Islam has always been moderate and enlightened and never coercive; has always been culturally rich and pluralistic; has always been kinder to Jews than that nasty Christendom; and that Islam only went off the tracks in modern times because of various social pathologies and the rise of totalitarian ideologies, which were combined with Islam to create Islamism. Accordingly, all that’s needed to make things right is to restore the true Islam that has existed for 1,300 years. By contrast, Pipes Islam Thesis Number Two says that Islam has always been warlike, and that there has never been a moderate Islam, but that there are a tiny number of powerless, harassed, moderate Muslims who, if America wages war against and defeats the dominant radical Islam, can be nurtured into the leadership of a new, moderate Islam. In the past, Pipes has always made his proposal to transform Islam seem less implausible by shading his descriptions of the actual, historical Islam, not describing it so categorically as I have done in this paragraph. For example, he has discussed Islamic law and doctrine (the very thing that makes Islam eternally what it is) extremely rarely and briefly, if at all, as I noted above.

But in his FrontPage article today, he has, for the first time that I’m aware of, laid out in categorical terms the real nature of historical and actually existing Islam:

The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism…. Western governments should take a crash course on Islamic law and the historically-abiding Muslim imperative to subjugate non-Muslim peoples. [Italics added.]

Unfortunately for Pipes, this beefed-up version of his Thesis Number One has contradictions that even the most enthusiastic of his fans could not fail to notice. If Islam has a historically abiding imperative, based in Islamic law (which under its own terms is sacred and unchangeable), to subjugate non-Muslim peoples, how can we Americans imagine that we have the ability to change Islam into a peaceful, liberal, tolerant civilization, the opposite of what it’s always been? The heart of the confusion, which allows Pipes to get away with this contradiction (and I’m not saying it’s conscious on his part), is the confusion between the phrase “moderate Muslims,” which carries the sense of an obligation to help the moderate Muslims as individuals, and the phrase “moderate Islam,” which carries the sense of an obligation to transform Islam as whole. There is a great difference between saying, “Let’s welcome into the West those individual moderate Muslims and apostates whose spirits long for release from the oppressions of Islam,” and saying, “Let us reform the entire Islamic world into a liberal society, which we can only do by militarily defeating and then remaking the Muslim world.” Pipes, probably without even realizing it, allows the plausible idea, of helping individual Muslims to escape from Islam, to be conflated with the utopian and insane idea, of transforming Islam itself. But now that Pipes has for the first time categorically described the sacred imperative of historical Islam to subdue the world, the impossibility of the latter scenario, in which a 1,400-year-old warlike totalitarian religion is turned into something amenable to liberal democracy, becomes too evident to ignore.

Here’s the bottom line: With the open declaration of civilizational war by the Muslims in the Cartoon Jihad, and Pipes’s honest response to it, the internal contradictions of Danielpipesism have reached the breaking point.

* * *

Note to the reader: I’ve made this point before, but feel I ought to make it again. Some readers may feel it is wrong or unseemly of me to criticize Pipes so relentlessly, especially as he is (or at least is thought to be) on our side. My answer is that Pipes’s significance, as America’s best known and most influential opinion maker on the Islam question, is not that of a mere individual. Rather, in his constant twists and turns, in his steps toward the hard truth about Islam followed by his retreats into escapist apologetics for Islam, he encapsulates the tortuous ambivalence and inner conflict of our society on this issue, its paralyzing reluctance to face a truth upon which our very survival depends. The conflict results from the fact that to recognize the truth about Islam means abandoning the sacred core of the modern American ideology, and thus of our very identity as “good people”: the belief that all people in the world are or can become like us.

As I wrote at the beginning of my article “The Search for Moderate Islam, Part I”:

It should also be understood that our subject is not the thought processes and attitudes of one individual, but, in effect, of our whole society in its attempt to grapple with the incredibly difficult challenge of Islam. As one who stringently opposes the bad Islam and devoutly dreams of a good Islam, Pipes is emblematic of the rational fears and the delusive hopes that have been at the core of this debate.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 07, 2006 08:03 PM | Send

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