Muslims “lagging behind,” says Pipes. That’s a problem?
In a blog entry entitled “Muslims ‘Lagging Behind,’” Daniel Pipes writes:
The book that most shaped my understanding of modern Muslim life was Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s Islam in Modern History (Princeton, 1957). To reduce Smith’s nuanced thesis to a few sentences, he argues that Muslim military, economic, and cultural success in the premodern period created an expectation that God’s people would be rewarded for their faith in mundane ways. That expectation left Muslims incapable of explaining what happened when, in modern times, they fell behind in those same arenas.Pipes quotes Smith:
The fundamental malaise of modern Islam is a sense that something has gone wrong with Islamic history. The fundamental problem of modern Muslims is how to rehabilitate that history: to set it going again in full vigour, so that Islamic society may once again flourish as a divinely guided society should and must.Pipes comments:
The trauma of modern Islam has already lasted over two centuries, with no end in sight.Let’s get this straight. Pipes is telling us that when Islam was enjoying “military, economic, and cultural success in the premodern period,” that was good. But when Islam fell behind the rest of the world and remained that way,—externally powerless, beset by internal ills, unsure of its spiritual vocation, and emotionally traumatized by its multitudinous failures—that was bad.
Yes, that’s what Pipes is telling us. Therefore he is looking for ways to help Islam overcome its trauma. How? Well, since the trauma was caused by Islam’s becoming a military, economic, and cultural failure, evidently Islam can only heal the trauma by once again becoming a military, economic, and cultural success. Following his mentor Wildred Smith, Pipes wants Muslims to rehabilitate their history, to set it going again in full vigour, so that Islamic society may once again flourish as a divinely guided society.
In brief, Pipes, who imagines that historical Islam was benign and peaceful, wants Islam to return to the condition it was in when it was conquering and had conquered half the world and was incessantly raiding and threatening the other half. In his concern for Islam’s success, he doesn’t understand that the indispensable condition for the success of our own modern Western society, not to mention for its very existence, was that Islam had ceased to be a success.
Pipes has thus become like Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, so caught up in the challenging and absorbing task of building the enemies’ bridge—or, in this case, building up their economic performance and their spiritual morale—that he’s forgotten that any increase of competence and power on their side will inevitably be used against our side.
In conclusion, Pipes remains, as I described him two years ago, a liberal ameliorationist, devoted to the vision of a single humanity where everyone is helping everyone—or rather where we are helping those poor Muslims overcome their spiritual trauma by making them strong again … so that they can wage jihad on us again. There is no escaping the sad fact that I’ve pointed to so many times: America’s most influential commentator on Islam is too wedded to the fatal illusion of a benign Islam ever to go beyond it.
Mark S. writes:
Thank you! I think your analogy between Pipes and Col. Nicholson is a wonderful way to sum up Pipes’s (and so many other folks’) approach to Islam.LA replies:
Pipes’s position is quintessential liberalism. Liberalism says that all people are basically good and basically like us, and if they’re not good and not like us right now, it’s because of “problems”—problems that in many cases are our fault and that in every case we can fix. If we show good will toward people and help them with their problems, they will like us and they will become like us.LA continues:
To those who feel that I’m too harsh in my comments about Daniel Pipes, I will say this. Pipes, as I have been documenting for years, routinely says contradictory, careless and indefensible things Islam. Yet no mainstream commentators—certainly none on the “respectable” right—ever reprimand him. So he’s never made to feel the slightest need to pull back and think critically about his own statements. He just sails on as before. That leaves virtually all the criticisms coming from just one person, me, which leaves me sounding nasty, hyper-critical, relentless, and so on.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 26, 2006 12:06 AM | Send