Daniel Pipes’s mental fun house

Daniel Pipes’s propensity for flat-out contradiction, not only between one article and the next, but even between adjoining paragraphs of the same article (a propensity I examined at length at FrontPage Magazine two years ago), has, sadly, not diminished. It is getting worse. In his recent article at FrontPage, entitled “How to End Terrorism,” he starts by repeating his old saw that radical, terrorist Islam is not part of the historic religion of Islam, but is a modern political movement akin to Fascism and Communism. The real Islam, he tells us, is moderate—or, at least, capable of being made moderate. However, as so often in the past, Pipes is incapable of holding to these ideas for more than a few sentences before saying just the opposite.

Let’s start at the beginning. Pipes writes:

This aggression [terrorism] results not from some perverse impulse to inflict damage for its own sake, nor does it flow from the religion of Islam, which just a generation ago did not inspire such murderousness. Rather, it results from political ideas. [Italics added.]

… Unlike the rest of us, who generally accept life as it is, utopians insist on building a new and better order. To achieve this, they demand all powers for themselves, display a chilling contempt for human life, and harbor ambitions to spread their vision globally. Several utopian schemas exist, with fascism and communism historically the most consequential—each of them claimed tens of millions of casualties.

When the utopian political creeds of Fascism and Communism were vanquished, Pipes continues, they were replaced by the utopian political creed of Islamism:

… Islamism, most briefly defined as the belief that whatever the question, from child-rearing to war-making, “Islam is the solution.”

Islamists have come to dominate the ideological discourse of Muslims interested in their Islamic identity or faith. As a result, Islamic law, in retreat over the previous two centuries, came roaring back, and with it jihad, or sacred war. The caliphate, defunct in real terms for more than a millennium, became a vibrant dream.

So, along with the rise of Islamism, which Pipes says is a political ideology not a religion, Islamic law and jihad came roaring back? Whence did they come roaring back? From the past, where they had been the dominant form of Islam. What, then, is the difference between Islamism and Islam?

Let’s go over this again more slowly. Pipes starts by saying that Islamism, along with the terrorism that results from it, is not part of the historic religion of Islam, which, like other non-utopian, normative belief systems, accepts life as it is. Instead, like Communism and Fascism, Islamism is a totalitarian political creed aimed at the total transformation and control of the world. Then he says that as this Islamism has come to dominate the discourse of serious Muslims in recent decades, there has been a return, after a two century abeyance, of Islamic law, jihad, and the hope for a global caliphate. But, of course, this Islamic law, jihad, and the hope for a global caliphate are not the beliefs of a 20th century political ideology, they are the beliefs of the historic religion of Islam. Since Pipes says that this historical Islam has re-appeared simultaneously with the rise of Islamism, he seems to be saying that Islamism and historical Islam are the same thing.

Further, Pipes describes the historic religion of Islam, which has now returned, as a movement aimed at instituting a global Caliphate enforcing Islamic law on the whole human race, i.e., as a movement seeking the conquest and transformation of the whole world. But that is his definition of a utopian political movement as distinct from a religion. So Islamism, which Pipes initially portrays as something distinct from Islam, is in fact identical with Islam: Islam itself is a utopian political movement as distinct from a religion.

I didn’t say it. Pipes said it.

So inattentive or lazy is Pipes’s thought process, that sometimes he doesn’t even wait for a subsequent paragraph to contradict himself. Thus in the final paragraph of the article, he returns to his favorite theme that moderate Islam can defeat radical Islam:

Although theoretically possible, the weakness of its advocates at present makes moderate Islam appear impossibly remote. But however dim its current prospects, the success of moderate Islam ultimately represents the only effective form of counterterrorism. Terrorism, begun by bad ideas, can only be ended by good ones.

According to Pipes, the advocates of moderate Islam have no power. Indeed, moderate Islam does not actually exist. Indeed, moderate Islam is only theoretically possible, and the prospects of its actually existing at some point are very dim, impossibly remote. Yet, Pipes tells us with a straight face, this theoretical, non-existent, and impossibly remote thing is the only effective form of counterterrorism. How would you like to bet the safety and freedom of your society on that? It would be like placing all your hopes of saving the West from Islam on the attainment of white Western birthrates equal to Muslim birthrates, even as you refuse to do anything to reduce or stop Muslim immigration.

Pipes is America’s most prominent commentator on Islam. By continuing to let him publish the kind of arrant nonsense that is contained in this article, his editors are not doing him—or America—any favors.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 06, 2006 11:36 AM | Send

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