Pipes’s absurd speech in London

When it was reported that Daniel Pipes’s debate in London against London’s far-left mayor Ken Livingstone had won over many of the leftists in the audience, I praised Pipes for his effectiveness in such a hostile setting. Unfortunately the speech itself, published at FrontPage Magazine yesterday, is a total embarrassment, a compendium of every false and contradictory Pipes statement about Islam that I have critiqued and exposed so many times I’ve lost count.

Pipes reasons like a child unacquainted with basic logic. Thus he says that the civilizational differences between Islam and the West posited by Samuel Huntington don’t exist, and the “evidence” he gives for this is that a British politician once condemned Salman Rushdie’s anti-Islam book The Satanic Verses while an Egyptian leader praised it. Voilà! No clash of civilizations! This is as logical as saying that since some women are stronger than some men, there is no difference between the sexes. For Pipes the liberal nominalist (and he calls himself a “classical liberal” in this speech), any individual exception to a general rule cancels out the general rule.

Another example: he says that Huntington’s theory is wrong because it cannot account for differences within a civilization. Amazing. Huntington of course did not deny that there have been serious differences and wars between nations that are members of the same civilization; World War I and World War II were conflicts within Western civilization. Huntington’s topic was different, the more profound differences between different civilizations.

Or this:

Now, I believe the mayor and I agree on the need to withstand this menace, but we disagree on the means of how to do it. He looks to multiculturalism, and I to winning the war. He wants everyone to get along; I want to defeat a terrible enemy.

But how can we win this war (which Pipes, by the way, doesn’t define or describe), if at the same time we regard the great mass of Muslims as moderates who are not our enemies but our co-mates and brothers in a single global civilization? How do we fight a war against “radical” Muslims without also fighting “moderate” Muslims? Especially since the “radicals” and the “moderates” are in solidarity with each other, and, as even Dinesh D’Souza acknowledges, the moderates get very angry at us and are likely to turn to jihadism whenever we point out the elements in Islam that lead to jihadism?

Then there’s this:

This is the problem, the problem is radical Islam, also known as fundamentalist Islam, political Islam, Islamism. It is not, again, Islam the religion, it is radical Islam, the ideology.

Let us focus on three aspects of it. The essence of radical Islam is the complete adherence to the Shari’a, to the law of Islam.

So, Pipes says that Islamism is not Islam, then he says that the essence of this Islamism is complete adherence to … the law of Islam. And this doesn’t bring him up short, or anyone up short (except me). Reading this, and reading how Pipes’s speech has been praised to the skies by “conservatives,” I realize that we live in a culture that has become incapable of noticing and objecting to even the most blatantly contradictory statements. To this moment, I am still the only bylined writer who has written about Pipes’s staggering illogic.

Here are further blatantly false statements Pipes makes about Islam:

The third feature is that this is totalitarian in nature. It turns Islam from a personal faith into an ideology, into an ism. It is the transformation of a personal faith into a system for ordering power and wealth. Radical Islam derives from Islam but is an anti-modern, millenarian, misanthropic, misogynist, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, triumphalist, jihadistic, terroristic, and suicidal version of it. It is Islamic-flavored totalitarianism. [Emphasis added.]

But of course Islam is from the beginning a collective faith, a single nation, a single umma, commanded by God to dominate the world. To say that Islam is nothing but a personal faith would be like saying that Communism is nothing but a personal faith.

Then there’s this:

Like fascism and communism, radical Islam [as distinct from Islam] is a compelling way of seeing the world in a way that can absorb an intelligent person—to show him or her a whole new way of seeing life. It is radically utopian and takes the mundane qualities of everyday life and turns them into something grand and glistening.

But of course everything he says about “radical Islam” is true of Islam itself.

And now here is his goal:

I would argue to you, ladies and gentlemen, it must be fought and must be defeated as in 1945 and 1991, [applause] as the German and the Soviet threats were defeated. Our goal must be, in this case, the emergence of Islam that is modern, moderate, democratic, humane, liberal, and good neighborly and that it is respectful of women, homosexuals, atheists, whoever else—one that grants non-Muslims equal rights with Muslims.

Now tell me again, how is his “war” going to bring about this fantasy state that he describes?

The only good thing I can say about this speech is that it may have led some British leftists into recognizing that there is “something” about Islam (not Islam itself, of course, but “something” about Islam, namely “Islamism”) that is very dangerous, more dangerous even than George W. Bush. But that’s it. Pipes’s argument is pabulum designed to pacify leftists into something less poisonous than their current beliefs.

And that’s our sad situation. We live in such a distorted, leftist climate of opinion, that the only way in which the negative truth about Islam can get into the mainstream is in the form of Pipes’s ridiculous lie about a bad, “radical” Islamism that is somehow utterly different from the good, “real” Islam. I guess some would call it a noble lie. But to me, frankly, it’s a Big Lie.

- end of initial entry -

David H. writes:

There is really nothing of note that I can add to your excellent and urgently needed critique of Pipes’s lecture. Across the blogosphere, conservatives sing his praise, thereby granting him a legitimacy that is both ill-deserved and dangerous. You truly are the lone voice of reason opposing the “right-liberal” assessment of our mortal enemies; hopefully others will hear you above the inane applause.

Also accurate is your assessment that his lies are part of the “Big Lie.” Others may call them noble, but any lie that threatens our very existence—and those most assuredly do—is anything buy noble. The noble man is the one who speaks the truth, in spite of the oppressive (and, tragically, omnipresent) leftist climate. The truth is that Islam, not some “Islamofascism” bogeyman, is the enemy of Western civilization.

Carl Simpson writes:

Like David H., there is little I can add to your devastating critique of Pipes. The one irony that really struck me was that Pipes is every bit the blind utopian he claims that the “Islamists” are. Pipes is incoherent.

Stephen F. writes:

I am sad to say you are right about Pipes. I saw him speak once and asked him how one can tell the difference between a radical and a moderate Muslim.

His answer was that it is very difficult and that you have to do detective work, Internet seaches, careful analysis of public statements, etc…and that if you did so you might be able to uncover a link to … terrorism! So for non-Muslims and even experts like himself, it’s almost impossible to prove someone is an “Islamist,” and in the end it’s only an actual connection with terrorism that will prove it. The cognitive dissonance is amazing, and his position has not shifted a bit in the five years I’ve been following his work. Is it a conscious strategy? Or is he too attached emotionally to the secular Muslim friends he made when he was romping around the Middle East in his formative years?

He was one of the people that led me in the right direction and I’ll forever be grateful for it, but this ridiculous formulation of his has got to be left behind.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 02, 2007 11:50 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):