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January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Islamism’

Obama’s Policies Bring the Golan to a Boil

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
The attack in the Golan this week, on a convoy of

Hezbollah operatives and Iranian military officials, is a sign that things are going to get worse in the volatile area that encompasses southern Lebanon, Syria, northern Jordan, and northern Israel.  (See also here and here.)

Among those killed were high-ranking Iranian officials connected with Hezbollah’s use of Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles, and with Iranian Special Forces units that focus on raids and small-unit tactics.  In the words of a retired Israeli general (see first link, and below), this was a very high-level convoy, clearly preparing for serious incursions against northern Israel.

Meanwhile, we’ve reached the point in the post-Arab Spring Middle East at which many of the spin-off developments – perhaps most of them – are a consequence of the policies followed by the Obama administration.  Although there have been long-term policy failures, it’s a specific, proximate policy failure that opened the door to the current result in the Golan Heights.

Because of the strategic importance of the terrain, Iran and Hezbollah have been building infrastructure there for some time.  But their interest in the Golan skyrocketed in December.

A door opened by the Obama administration

The reason: ISIS gained a foothold there when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade of the Free Syrian Army “defected” from the de facto alliance with the U.S.-Arab coalition against Assad, and declared its allegiance to ISIS.  The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had been one of the most active rebel factions holding territory directly adjacent to the “area of separation” between Syria and Israel administered (in theory) by the UN.  In particular, it has held the southern line of confrontation with Syrian regime forces, in the transit corridor leading to the Quneitra border crossing.

That defection didn’t happen in a vacuum.  It happened because in early December, the Obama administration disclosed (through the back door), after more than two years of cooperation with the FSA, that it would not be working with them to build a defense force in Syria.

Situation in the Golan and southwestern Syria. (Map source: Wikimedia Commons; author annotation)

Situation in the Golan and southwestern Syria. (Map source: Wikimedia Commons; author annotation)

The point here is not that Obama should have stayed with the wrong allies.  The point is that passivity, lack of leadership, and ally-hopping have consequences.  Part of picking allies is shaping who they are and what expectations they have.  It starts with having common and enduring goals with those allies, which keep both sides committed.  These things matter to a responsible power, at any rate.  The Obama administration has consistently failed to exhibit signs of being one.

The failure has had a game-changing result in the Golan.  Now ISIS is there, with an entrenched infrastructure handed to it by FSA factions, and Iran can’t afford to ignore that.  Iran isn’t going to let ISIS build up a stronghold of its own on the Syrian border with Israel.

But don’t imagine that that means Iran and ISIS will be having at it.  Think Persian.  Certainly, the Iranians and Hezbollah want to be able to operate in the Golan, and attack Israel from it.  But Iran and Hezbollah don’t want to invite retaliation from Israel on southern Lebanon, where it’s important to them to protect their own stronghold.  Iran would like to get Israel shooting into Syria.

Israel has so far managed to keep that necessity limited.  Until very recently, the impression of the situation in the Golan has been that it is relatively stable: worrisome, but not unstable to the point of being an exploitable opportunity for one or more bad guys.  Iran would like to change that, in part because preoccupying the Israelis with self-defense is the key to limiting Israel’s strategic reach against Iran.  The objects of that reach include, but are not limited to, the nuclear and missile programs inside Iran.

Daniel Pipes is Blocked by the British Library

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Editor’s note: The British Library has sent out the following tweet, in response to this article:
BL Press Office
@JewishPress @DanielPipes these sites were blocked in error by our wifi filter and were unblocked yesterday – apologies for the mistake.

Prominent counter-jihadis like Geert Wilders, Michael Savage, and Robert Spencer have the distinction of being banned from entry into the United Kingdom – and, now, Her Majesty’s Government, in its wisdom, has also banned two websites connected to me. It’s not quite the same, admittedly, and I am working to get this ban removed, but I also wear it as a perverse badge of honor given that government’s shameful record vis-à-vis Islamism.

Say you’re in the British Library, the national depository library and a government institution, roughly equivalent to the Library of Congress in the United States or the Bibliothèque nationale in France. Say you want to read what David Brog writes about declining Evangelical support for Israel in the latest Middle East Quarterly. You type in MEForum.org and get the following result:

Notice that pops up if you enter "MEForum.org" in the British Library catalogue system.

Notice that pops up if you enter “MEForum.org” in the British Library catalogue system.

Or perhaps you wish to learn why I  distinguish between Islam and Islamism, or why I worry about Islamist aggression in Britain, so you type in DanielPipes.org only to find this:

Notice that pops up if you enter DanielPipes.org in the British Library catalogue system.

Notice that pops up if you enter DanielPipes.org in the British Library catalogue system.

The distinction between the two sites particularly charms me. The British Library categorizes MEForum.org as “Religion, Intolerance” and DanielPipes.org as “Religion, Adult Sites, Intolerance, Blogs.” (It’s probably titles like “Arabian Sex Tourism” that won me the X-rating.) Oddly, both sites are blocked for the same reason: “Intolerance.”

Should you, however, be in the British Library and wish to develop hatred toward Jews, no problem! Here are some antisemitic sites, all accessed in the past few days:

• Exposing the Holocaust Hoax Archive: the name tells it all • Gilad Atzmon: the personal website of a toxically antisemitic Jew • Jew Knowledge: contains learned inquiries into Jewish control of Hollywood, Jewish connections to 9/11, and the like • Muslim Public Affairs Committee, UK: an antisemitic jihadi group • The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion: the “warrant for genocide” is available in multiple versions Then, if you need firing up to go murder people on jihad, the British Library makes rich pickings available to you:

• Al Muntada: runs some of the worst hate preachers in Europe and stands accused in Nigeria of funding Boko Haram • Anjem Choudary: possibly the most extreme of British Islamists, he praised the perpetrators of the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks • FiSyria: promotes the Sunni jihad against the Assad regime in Syria • Friends of Al-Aqsa: a pro-Hamas British group • Hizb ut-Tahrir: an international movement seeking to replace existing countries with a global caliphate • Islamic Education and Research Academy: a Qatari-funded Salafi group that includes a number of openly pro-terror. Its trustees openly incite hatred against Jews, women, et al. • Muslimah’s Renaissanceanti-Semitic, anti-Shia group • Al-Qassam: the military wing of Hamas, widely categorized as a terrorist organization • Palestinian Forum of Britain: a Hamas front • Palestine Return Centre: another Hamas front • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: deemed a terrorist group by both the European Union and the U.S. government. And then, perhaps the worst of all:

• Tawhed: al-Qaeda’s Arabic-language ideological website which promotes writings by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri There could be a technical explanation for this bizarre situation. The British Library issued a press release in December 2013, “Web filtering on the British Library’s WiFi service,” explaining that

in our public areas where there are regular visits by school children, we filter certain online content, such as pornography and gambling websites. We have recently introduced a new WiFi service. It’s early days in the implementation of this service and we are aware that the new filter has been blocking certain sites erroneously. We are actively working to resolve this issue. Might this be the problem? I have written the library and requested that it unblock the sites. Now, let’s see if the censorship was “erroneous” or intentional.

French City Closes Street to Traffic through Yom Kippur

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

The city of Metz in eastern France has closed one of its streets to vehicular traffic for the High Holiday season through the end of Yom Kippur.

The closure of Rabbin Bloch Street was announced by TCRM, the public transport company of the Messine region, approximately 40 miles northwest of Strasbourg, citing “the Jewish holidays.” The closure began on the afternoon of Sept. 6 and will continue until the end of Yom Kippur, the night of Sept. 14, its website said.

The announcement of the closure provoked angry reactions by some Muslims, who said it reflected a double standard in French authorities’ attitude to Jewish and Muslim sensibilities in applying separation of church and state.

One of France’s leading Muslim news sites, islametinfo.fr, published an editorial on Friday stating that although “it is normal for residents to respect the wishes of others in special moments,” the hitherto uncontested closure at Metz “begs comparison” with a ban imposed in 2011 on street prayers by Muslims in Paris.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultranationalist Front National, compared the prayers to “the occupation” — a reference to the Nazi occupation of France. The street prayers at Barbes were the result of overcrowded conditions at the local mosque.

“Strangely, extremist politicians have not found it important to intervene at Metz,” the editorial read. “The double standard that has been applied on secularism has been allowed to endure for too long.”

Metz’s Jewish community, which first established itself in the city in the 16th century, had approximately 4,000 members in 1987, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica. Several Jewish institutions are located on Rabbin Bloch Street.

Rabbi Elie Bloch, head of the Metz community during the Holocaust, saved the lives of 15 Jewish children whom he helped hide from the Nazi occupation. He died at the age of 34 with his family after the Nazis arrested them and sent them to their deaths in a concentration camp in Poland.

Why US Policy Betrayed the Moderates

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

In 1848, the new Communist movement issued a manifesto. It began with the opening line:

“A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of Communism.”

For our purposes today, this threat might be reworded as:

“A specter is haunting the Middle East—the specter of America.”

For example, about a year ago Dubai’s police chief addressed a major international Gulf Arab security conference. He said that there were about three dozen security threats to the Gulf Arab countries. But this well-respected security expert said the number-one threat was the United States.

Since that time, this American specter has become vivid. For instance, The New York Times had a recent editorial which stated that the only protection for Egypt’s democracy–meaning Muslim Brotherhood participation in the next Egyptian government–was the United States and Europe. The Egyptian regime, Israel, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states were bad for wanting to protect their societies from Islamic ideology, revolution, and anti-Western Sharia states!

Might the United States and its allies rather be expected to battle Turkey, Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Hamas or otherwise might it support Islamists while Saudi Arabia fought Europe’s and America’s response as too soft on Hizballah?

But what if a crazy notion seizes policymakers, blessed with the mush of ignorance about the Middle East, that they can take control of the troublemakers? Perhaps Germany (World War One and Two jihads), or the Soviet control of radical nationalist regimes in the 1950s and 1960, or the French rescue of the Palestinian leadership in the late 1940s, or Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran during the 1970s, or America in the 1950s (Arab nationalism), or the 2010 Muslim Brotherhood would turn nominal extremists into friends?

Imagine, dunderheads in Washington, London, Paris, and so on thinking they are masterfully preserving stability, making peace, and harnessing Sharia in the cause of boosting democracy!

How smug would be the smiles when those who perpetrated September 11, 2001, were supposedly defeated by those mentored into power a decade later by the West in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, or in the Arab Spring or the Syrian revolution!

Look at it through the eyes of the Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, and Israelis who think they will try to impose a new order the region?

Consider a famous speech by Winston Churchill at Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946. In contrast to the Communist Manifesto,100 years later, Churchill began, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain is descended across the continent.” It might be strange that these two statements are compared to the current situation in the Middle East. But actually, they make a lot of sense.

The intention of great powers seemed to impose one (European) system on the region. In the first case, it was Communism. In Churchill’s case, it was anti-Communism he advocated, which in parallel would be Anti-Islamism.

But today, what is the system that Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and Israelis think they will try to impose on the region? The answer for those who have been watching in recent years is revolutionary Islamism.

It might seem strange that this is the thinking, but it isn’t. The question is whether there is a system that Western Europeans want to impose. And the answer is that to the Arabs and others in the region–although this does not mean it has to be true–since the 1979 Iranian revolution, they have supported radical Islamism. In fact, it should be understood that after the Arab Spring, Arabs did not generally identify Western interests with support for moderate democracy, but with support for Islamism.

Incidentally, Churchill’s title was the Sinews of Strength, and he favored policy leading a coalition of the Free world which would be welcome today.

To summarize, in the 1930s, Churchill favored anti-fascism and advocated a united front against Nazi Germany. After World War Two, he supported an alliance of the Free World against the Iron Curtain.

Where is the Churchill of today?

Well, directly his bust was quickly chucked from the White House because he was the symbol for Obama of Western colonialism.

Who was the genuine symbol of anti-colonialism for Obama? The left wing anti-Western revolutionary ideological movement represented by the Muslim Brotherhood or Chavez, and other demagogues.

Egypt: This Is Big

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

One way to gauge the import of the conflict erupting in Egypt is by looking at the character of media coverage in America.  Both sides of the political spectrum have been slow to advance narratives of blame.  What’s going on in Egypt doesn’t fit into any pat, off-the-shelf narratives.

There has been a curious absence of “themage” on the left: no unified narrative about this all being the fault of Bush-era failures of good fellowship, or of the plight of the Palestinians, or (my personal favorite) of warmongering arms dealers, oil mavens, or ([insert ROTFLOL here]) international banks.

Meanwhile, blame-fixing criticisms of President Obama are getting little traction on the right.  (I even saw Sean Hannity shouted down by other conservatives the other day, when he was advancing an Obama’s-to-blame theory.)  I have the sense that most on the right see – accurately – that what’s going on is bigger than either Obama’s shortcomings or America’s predicament under his leadership.  While the Arab Spring might well have never happened if the United States had had a different president in January 2011, it is more than overstating the case to say that it happened because of Obama.

It happened because of deep rifts and discontents in the Arab world.  Its progress since the initial trigger event has been shaped to some degree by the defensively triangulating inaction (mainly) of Obama’s America.  But there’s real there there, in terms of political divisions and conflict in the nations of the Middle East.

This is a genuine fight, not a series of mass protests out of which nothing will really change.  If we understand anything, it must be that.  The Western media have been reflexively – if perfunctorily – reporting the bloodshed in Egypt as a “military crack-down” on protesters.  But the truth is that, where military action is concerned, it is a strategy to get out ahead of civil war.  The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it intends to make a fight of this.  Its “protest camps” are not a stupid, time-on-their-hands Occupy Cairo escapade; they are bases from which to keep an armed fight going.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not care what happens to the people of Egypt: whether their streets become safe for daily life and commerce again.  It is willing to keep chaos and misery going for as long as necessary to topple the military’s interim government.  That is its present purpose.  The Muslim Brotherhood strategy is to make it impossible for the military to restore enough order and public confidence to move ahead with new democratic arrangements.  The strategy is pure Bolshevism, and we’ve seen it before, dozens of times over the last several centuries.

Reports from Friday’s fighting indicate that plenty of Egyptians are aware of this.  Citizens around the capital set up checkpoints to prevent the movement of Muslim Brotherhood formations:

Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.

And much of the fighting was between pro-Morsi supporters and other civilians:

Friday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches.

Few police in uniform were seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.

In keeping with the astonishing mass scale of the national revulsion against Morsi’s rule in June and July, the current fight is developing as a popular one.  The anti-Morsi citizens have no intention of waiting around to see their government fall back into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.  They are taking to the streets themselves.

This will have to be remembered in the coming days, when poorly armed civilians inevitably begin dropping out of the fight.  The civil population does care, and care enough to fight with sticks, stones, and fists, if necessary, even though It will take the military to put down the Muslim Brotherhood decisively – if, indeed, the outcome ends up being defined in that manner.

It may not be.  A key organizing factor in the June and July civil protests against Morsi was the “Tamarod” movement, a pastiche of anti-Morsi forces with little to unify them other than their objection to Morsi’s rule.  Some throwing in with Tamarod are Salafists themselves (including a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad); others bring some element of liberalization or secularism.  They made common cause with the military during the coup in July, but they are hardly a moderate, liberal, pro-Western force; in the days since, they have called for expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, and for Egypt to withdraw from the 1979 treaty with Israel.

Tamarod movements are busting out all over the Arab world (e.g., in Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain), portending many more months of instability and a long fight for the futures of these and other nations.  A movement with this much internal division to it will begin to splinter in Egypt: some of its members will want to take the lead in forging a new ruling consensus – specifically, in preempting the people to do so – and my bet for this is on the Salafists.

So there are more than two factions in the overall fight; this won’t come down to just the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whoever plays the spoiler role could put together some kind of modus vivendi linking the opposing factions.  A little bit of gesturing toward civil protections for the people; a little bit of door left open to shari’a.  It wouldn’t last long, if history is any kind of guide.  But Western observers are likely to put stock in it (and even be hoodwinked by it).

Today’s fight may not go the full fifteen rounds, but if it doesn’t, it will have to be fought again down the road.  Because there is no coexistence for soft despotism – or democracy-lite – and Islamism; there is no coexistence for anything else and Islamism.  And Islamism won’t stop fighting until it is put down decisively.

It is not actually unusual for the governments and media of the West to misread developments like these (or at least to have the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces as they witness them).  The last time there was comparative unity and accuracy of understanding about a Bolshevik moment was – well, the actual Bolshevik moment, in late 1917 and the few years following it, when Western governments sought briefly to support the White anti-Bolshevists.  Whatever the merits of that policy, the understanding on which it was based was perfectly accurate.  Bolshevism was an uncontainable threat.

Within a very few years after that, Western governments, and many in our media, had become invested in misreading or ignoring manifestations from the sanguinary arena of collectivist statism.  We were quite tolerant of Mussolini and Hitler until they declared war on Stalin, and to this day, tendentious narratives of popular support are adduced in our academies to explain the advance of Marxist totalitarianism across the map of the globe through the late 1970s.  There were major movements in the free world to define away the threat of communism incident not only to Stalin’s excesses but to Maoism in China, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the encroachments of Marxism on Latin America and Africa, and the standoff between East and West in Europe.

Throughout the 20th century, the bloody adventures of collectivism forced Westerners, and Americans in particular, to inspect and crystallize our view of who and what we were.  Through the “progressive,” statist movements in our own nations, we ended up being transformed away from the character we had once sought to honor and cultivate.  Yet for a time, in the late 1970s (with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK) and 1980s, we achieved a meaningful consensus that our liberal values had not been extinguished yet.  Acting on that consensus turned out to be enough, in that time and place, to overwhelm the failed ideology of Marxist socialism, in its totalitarian-state manifestation.

State-Islamism is doomed to inflict self-destruction and despair on its victims.  But what will we in the still-not-Islamist West do while it is organizing itself and launching its career?  We can’t go out and try to run everyone else’s county for him, after all.  And that said, we need not actively support the infliction of despotic Islamism on foreign populations.

How will we define ourselves during this process?  Will it be Islamism that has the momentum, with us defining ourselves as what we are not, in relation to it?  Or will we retake the public dialogue with our own propositions and language about liberty and limited government?  Our success in that endeavor was intermittent and incomplete, to say the least, during the Cold War.  Will we learn from that era and do better today?

Will we retain the capacity – always under attack, always fighting for its life – to define a totalitarian ideology truthfully, and let that truth be a guide to our policies?  These are questions to which we simply don’t know the answer.  There were days during the Cold War when even the most optimistic political observers would have answered them for us in the negative.

One thing we can be sure of, however – a thing we may see more clearly, I think, because we have the president we have today, and not a president who will act in a more traditional manner, according to the conventions of American statecraft.  The developments in Egypt have importance for the entire world.  They are about an ideological, Bolshevik-style assault on conventional, non-radicalized government.  That is the dynamic in play.  And, as much as they are about Egypt, the Egyptian people, and the fact that they do not want ideological “shari’a” rule, they are also, in an existential way, about us.  They are about who we are, and who we intend to be.  None of us will be the same when this is all over.

An Apology Posing as Bibliography

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

At this moment of sequester and belt-tightening, the U.S. government has delivered a reading list on Islam.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has joined with two private foundations, Carnegie and Duke, to fund “Muslim Journeys,” a project that aims to present “new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, practices, and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world.” Its main component is the “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf,” a selection of 25 books and 3 films on Islam sent to nearly 1,000 libraries as well as a website and some other activities. Marvin Olasky, who brought this project to public attention, estimates the whole project cost about US$1 million.

As one of the taxpayers who unwittingly contributed to this project as well as the compiler of my own bibliography on Islam and the Middle East, I take interest in the 25 books NEH selected for glory, spreading them around the country.

Softness characterizes its list: the 25 books quietly ignore current headlines so as to accentuate the attractive side of Islamic civilization, especially its medieval expression, and gently promote the Islam religion. It’s not so exuberant an exercise as the British 1976 World of Islam Festival, described at the time as “a unique cultural event that … was no less than an attempt to present one civilization—in all its depth and variety—to another.” But then, how can one aspire to such grandeur with all that’s happened in the intervening years?

NEH’s list and mine do share minor commonalities: for example, one author (the Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi) and one series (the Very Short Introductions series issued by Oxford University Press).

But our purposes could not be more different: whereas I help readers understand why Muslims fill 30 out of 32 slots on the most wanted terrorists listand how Islamism came to be the main vehicle of barbarism in the world today, the endowment’s list shields the reader’s eyes from all this unpleasantness. Where I provide background to the headlines, NEH ignores them and pretends all is well with Islam, as is the federal government’s wont.

I seek to answer burning questions: Who was Muhammad? What is the historical impact of Islam? When is warfare jihad? Why did Islamism arise? How does tribal culture influence political life? Where can one locate signs of hope for Islam to moderate? In contrast, the NEH list offers a smattering of this and that – poetry, personal accounts, antiquities, architecture, religion and history, original texts, and a smidgeon of current events, preferably presented fictionally. For example, In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, tells about a boy growing up in Qaddafi’s Libya).

I suggest Marshall G. S. Hodgson’s 3-volume scholarly masterpiece, The Venture of Islam, while NEH proffers Jim Al-Khalili’s derivative House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance. I offer up books by sturdy anti-Islamist Muslims such as Khalid Durán’s introduction to Islam or Bassam Tibi’sChallenge of Fundamentalism. The endowment, of course – for what else does a government agency do? – promotes Islamists, including the Canadian phony moderate Ingrid Mattson and the Obama administration’s favorite Eboo Patel.

My books are personal selections based on decades in the field; theirs is a mish-mash brokered by acommittee of four standard-issue academics (Leila Golestaneh Austin, Giancarlo Casale, Frederick Denny, and Kambiz GhaneaBassiri) and one don’t-rock-the-boat journalist (Deborah Amos).

The NEH bibliography reminds one of the Middle East Studies Association’s annual meetings, which often avoid interesting or important topics in favor of such obscure feminist issues as “Problematizing ‘Women’s Place’ in the Multiple Borderzones of Gender and Ethnic Politics in Turkey” and “The Turkish Women’s Union and the Politics of Women’s Rights in Turkey, 1929-1935.”

As these titles suggest, today’s scholars have a strange tendency to focus in on questions no one is asking, as do many of the NEH books. Anthony Shadid recounts in House of Stone: a Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East his efforts to restore an ancestral home in Lebanon; Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses: a Novel tells the story of a television journalist in Karachi.

As taxpayer and as specialist, I condemn the NEH list. Far from presenting “new and diverse perspectives,” it offers the usual academic obfuscation mixed with Islamist triumphalism. It reminds us that of the many things governments should not do, one of them is to compile bibliographies.

Daniel Pipes and Islamic ‘Essentialism’

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Has there been an unexpected “harmonic convergence” regarding Islam between Daniel Pipes, the historian, and unabashed Zionist, and Edward Said, anti-Israeli, Arab polemicist?

Daniel Pipes’ recent essay in The Jewish Press (originally published in the Washington Post) derides “those who focus on Islam itself as the problem”—identifying Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders by name.

Most of his essay re-affirms (without hard doctrinal and historical facts) the arguments Pipes has discussed before: Islam’s prophet Muhammad was not an “Islamist,” and was not responsible for “Islamism,” which is a “modern extremist variant” of Islam; an “unbearable” discordance between “pre-modern accomplishment and modern failure” caused the “psychic trauma” which engendered “Islamism” in the 1920s; and a mere 10-15% of Muslims support “Islamism.”

Pipes concludes his latest iteration of “Islam Versus Islamism” by attacking those (such as Ali, Sultan, and Wilders) who reject its premises for their ostensibly uninformed “succumbing” to what he terms “a simplistic and essentialist illusion” (emphasis added) of the Muslim creed. Ironically, Pipes’ latter claim of “essentialism” re-packages the post-modern incoherence of Edward Said, as demonstrated brilliantly by Philosophy Professor Irfan Khawaja. As Khawaja observed in 2007:

If Said thinks that Islam is different from other abstract nouns, he needs to tell us why… And yet, as we have seen, he often treats abstract nouns in an essentialist fashion. So it should follow that Islam can be treated the same way. And yet that is precisely what he takes to be the cardinal sin.

Adding insult to irony, Said (a Pipes nemesis, as Said’s comments, extracted here, reveal) accused Pipes himself of “essentialism,” largely, one assumes, for frank comments by the latter on Islam—not “Islamism”—as an inherently, even “immutably” political ideology!

Circa 1983, in his In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power, Pipes noted, “[T]he press and scholarship too often…ignore Islam’s role in politics.” He warned:

Approaching Islam in politics with the Christian experience in mind is misleading. Because the community of Christians shares almost no political traits, there is a mistaken predisposition to assume Muslims do not.

Elaborating on this yawning gap between Islam and Christianity, Pipes highlights, appropriately, the unique impact of Islam’s religio-political law, the Sharia:

Islam, unlike Christianity, contains a complete program for ordering society…Islam specifies exact goals for all Muslims to follow as well as the rules by which to enforce them…Along with faith in Allah comes a sacred law to guide Muslims, in all times and places. That law, called the Sharia, establishes the context of Islam as a political force…Adjusting realities to the Sharia is the key to Islam’s role in human relations…Mainstream Muslims (that is, Muslims whose faith is acknowledged as valid by a majority of other Muslims) follow legal tenets so similar to each other that their differences can be ignored.

Never invoking “Islamism,” Pipes concludes, with this lucid assessment of how Islam, since its advent, has been a creed imbued, singularly, with politics:

[I]n Islam, where, in Max Weber’s view, “an essentially political character marked all the chief ordinances,”…[the] connection to politics has been immutably deep from the very inception of the religion

Great Western Orientalist scholarship, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, supports Pipes’ 1983 understandings of Islam as indissolubly linking religion and politics. Moreover, these seminal analyses and contemporary polling data debunk his now oft repeated formulations. As elaborated in detail elsewhere:

–Muhammad really was a jihadist—or in Pipes’ current terminology, an “Islamist,” waging aggressive, proto-jihad campaigns to conquer the Jews, Christians, and pagans of the Arabian peninsula and bring them under nascent Islamic law.

–Great Western Orientalist scholars long ago established the inherently political nature of Islam, and also made plain that the modern era Islamic “revival” was evident at least four decades before “the 1920s” advent claimed by Pipes.

–The religio-political totalitarianism of the Sharia—which includes the eternal institution of jihad war against infidels, as well as dehumanizing laws and punishments for non-Muslims and Muslims alike—is well-characterized.

–Contemporary polling data demonstrate the overwhelming appeal of Sharia states to ordinary Muslims—77% of Muslims from the most populous societies, i.e., Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Nigeria, pooled—debunking Pipes assertion that only “10-15%” of Muslims are Islamists.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/daniel-pipes-and-islamic-essentialism/2013/05/26/

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