Newly “optimistic” Pipes sees “transformed” Muslim world that is no longer extreme and is capable of democracy

In a piece that is as much about his feelings and intuitions about the Muslim world as it is about the Muslim world itself, entitled, “My Optimism about the New Arab Revolt,” Daniel Pipes writes:

The revolts over the past two months have been largely constructive, patriotic, and open in spirit. Political extremism of any sort, leftist or Islamist, has been largely absent from the streets. Conspiracy theories have been the refuge of decayed rulers, not exuberant crowds. The United States, Great Britain, and Israel have been conspicuously absent from the sloganeering. (Libyan strongman Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi blamed unrest in his country on Al-Qaeda spreading hallucinogenic drugs.)

One has the sense that the past century’s extremism—tied to such figures at Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasir Arafat, and Saddam Hussein—has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness.

Pessimism serves as a career enhancer in Middle East studies and I am known for doom-and-gloom. But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic-speakers mature into adults. One rubs one’s eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held.

Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.

While cautious about premising foreign policies on this abrupt improvement, it would also be a mistake to reject it. The rebel movements need an opportunity to find themselves and to act as adults. Time has come to discard the soft bigotry of low expectations; speaking Arabic or Persian does not make one incapable of building democratic means to attain free ends.

Yes, it’s true, as Pipes suggests, that the “Arab street” seems somewhat different right now. But the fact is that the world, including the Arab street, is always different. Sometimes it is sunny; sometimes it is cloudy. Sometimes Muslims are calm; sometimes they are excited. Sometimes Muslims are hunkered down; sometimes they wage jihad. Sometimes Daniel Pipes feels pessimistic; sometimes he feels optimistic. The world, including the Muslim world, is always changing. But there are some things that don’t change. The nature of Islam itself—founded in the Koran, the hadiths, the exemplary life of Muhammad, and the Islamic law—doesn’t change. But Daniel Pipes doesn’t know this, because, as I’ve demonstrated in numerous articles, he doesn’t know about the nature of Islam. More precisely, he doesn’t know that Islam has a nature. For him, Islam is an ever shifting mix of “moderateness” and “extremism,” of moods and feelings that vary from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance, just as he himself is an ever shifting mix of moods and feelings that vary from day to day and from column to column, in each one of which he portentously informs us whether he feels” optimistic” or “pessimistic” about Islam on that particular day.

In any case, I must say that I do not share Pipes’s optimism of today. I do not see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized neocons mature into adults.

- end of initial entry -

March 2

LA writes:

When I posted this entry, I forgot to mention the fact that Pipes just three weeks ago wrote a sternly worded column in which, with logical ruthlessness, he put down the notion that Egypt is going to become a democracy in the foreseeable future. He said that Egypt will still be an autocracy a year from now—and, by implication, for much longer. Yet now, on the basis of nothing other than some peaceful street demonstrations and a change of personal mood, Pipes has reversed himself entirely, declaring that it is time to “discard the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and writing expectantly of a coming era of democracy in the Muslim world.

This is an old story, at least for VFR readers. Since my two part article, “The Search for Moderate Islam” at FrontPage Magazine in January 2005, I have shown how Pipes continually reverses his position on Islam from one article to the next, and even within the same article. I remain the only writer who has pointed this out. Pipes remains protected by the fact that conservatives don’t want to criticize a fellow conservative, and liberals don’t care about these issues.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 01, 2011 09:50 AM | Send

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