Thought your readers might be interested in some other works by Flemming Rose—the man who commissioned the Mohammad cartoons—in the name of free speech, of course
The Threat from Islamism
by Flemming Rose
October 29, 2004
(translated from Danish)
According to Daniel Pipes, the Muslim world is, at the moment, going about its third attempt at defining itself in relation to the West. The first two attempts were concerned with imitating different aspects of the West. The third represents a totalitarian ideology in line with fascism and communism.
There is no name-plate on the door, and it's locked. The visitor has to make a quick visit to the neighbor's to find if the address is correct. Yes, indeed it is: The Middle East Forum and Daniel Pipes are found on the tenth story in an anonymous skyscraper a stone's throw from the building where the nation's fathers collected in 1787 to write the country's constitution. Somewhere down on the street below amble along a couple of middle-aged women with election-posters supporting John Kerry who are in the city to
get their final punches in. Pennsylvania is one of the so-called "swing-states," which can decide the presidential election on Tuesday.
Even Daniel Pipes doesn't have any doubts where his sympathy lies. He votes for George W. Bush and describes himself as conservative. The 54-year-old historian with expertise in the Middle East and the Middle Ages has since 1994 stood at the top of the think-tank "The Middle East Forum," which sees it as its task to "define and promote American interests in the Middle East." Pipes spoke on and wrote about the threat from Islamicists long before September 11. As early as 1995, he stated that they had started an undeclared war against the USA and Europe. Pipes' voice is so low that he has found it difficult to make himself heard over the buzzing noise from the modest office's air-conditionerm, but nevertheless has this rasping voice caused furor in academic, Western-oriented and certain Muslim circles. When Pipes speaks on militant Islam at universities, he threatens his critics with "trouble" and boycotts. When he was appointed by president Bush to the board of directors at the government's think-tank "US Institute for Peace" last year, he set off outrage, and it's not an accident that there isn't a name-plate on the think-tank's front door.
A totalitarian ideology
Pipes has through 20 years wrote about and spoke of militant Islam as a totalitarian ideology in line with fascism and communism. He hasn't since promoted this perspective on ideals, history and politics. Daniel Pipes' father is named Richard Pipes, one af the 20 leading experts of this century in Russian and Soviet history, who, in conflict with the zeitgeist of the 1960's and the 1970's, insisted on both the Soviet regime's totalitarian nature and hostile focus on the West's liberal democracies. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. "The Islamicists' agenda is very different than the communists' and fascists'. It's about belief, and, unlike communism and fascism, they don't have large states like the Soviet Union and Germany behind them, but if one looks at methods and goals, the similarity is striking," says Daniel Pipes. "All three ideologies are radical utopias, which basically have a theory for how the human race can be improved. Not more or less. All three are dominated by a small appointed elite which will realize this grandiose ideal. They're prepared to use all conceivable means and are true believers, fanatics, and they don't hesitate to resort to force and brutality to carry out their project. They don't admit other perspectives and wish to control all aspects of life. Whenever it's succeeded in a country, the ambition has been to develop its control over others, he adds. "The two earlier confrontations with communism and fascism shed light on the current conflict between the civilized world and militant Islam.
We defeated the first in a total war over a relatively short period, while the second conflict, the Cold War, lasted decades. In the third, militant Islam is the challenge. The kernel of militant Islam's ideology is hidden in the expression 'el Islam wul hal', which means: Islam is the solution. Despite what the question revolves around, education, upbringing, romance, public or private affairs, Islam has the answer. That's the recipe for a totalitarian ideology."
Other than terror
Daniel Pipes' fascination with Islam and the Middle East began, when he, in the beginning of the 1970's, lived in Egypt. At that time, he didn't perceive Islamism as a threat. It happened first with the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the assassination of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat two years later, and a wave of assaults on American interests in the region. Pipes believes that it's misleading to talk about the current conflict with the Islamicists as a war against terror. He points out that mistaken definitions and concepts lead to mistaken proposals for solutions.
When president Bush goes from stating the figure of killed leaders of Al Qaida to explaining how the war against terror is going, he misses his mark. "That says nothing or very little. It's a euphemism, a circumlocution, to talk about a terror-threat or a war against terror. Terror is a tactic, not an enemy. Nor do we say, here in the USA, that the Second World War was about blitzkrieg. That was a war against fascism," declares Daniel Pipe.
Moderates should be suppported
He lays great importance on the fact that the conflict doesn't concern Islam as a private belief, but rather militant Islam, an aggressive, political ideology which works for the establishment of Islamic law, Sharia, everywhere in the world. This difference implies the germ of the conflict's solution. "If militant Islam is the problem, then the opposite, moderate Islam, must be the solution," concludes Daniel Pipes. "I don't believe that Islam once and for all is doomed to be on a collision-course with the modern world. The majority of Muslims don't want to live under the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are millions of Muslims on our side. The current conflict at the most basic level is a conflict which will be fought and won in the Muslim world." According to Daniel Pipes, it's about finding alternative leaders and ideas, which can take up the fight with militant Islam. "We
prevailed in the confrontations with fascism and communism, because we succeeded in marginalizing the enemy's ideology, made it repulsive in the eyes of the majority. In 1991, the Soviet leadership didn't believe in the system any longer. We're also obligated to persuade the Islamicists that they're wrong. We must find alternative leaders in the Islamic world, in the same way as Konrad Adenauer appeared in Germany and Boris Yeltsin in Russia. There are two steps: on one side we'll defeat the ideology by means of military power, education, media and ideals, and on the other we'll support anti-Islamicist Muslims, who want to preserve their believes, but don't want to live under Islamic law. In the same way that we supported anti-communists and anti-Nazis in the Soviety Union and Germany. Finally, this is a struggle between two notions of the Muslims' position in the world.
Not the nature of Islam
Daniel Pipes acknowledges that the current situation doesn't exactly give reason for optimism, but he is nevertheless convinced that the Muslim world sooner or later will define itself positively in relation to the modern world. "The current situation isn't due to the nature of Islam. Judaism is in principle also a statuatory religion like Islam, but in this case, it's been successful in finding peaceful coexistence with the modern world. The current situation is the result of a historic development. If you and I had carried on this conversation in the 1930's, I would have pointed at Germany's and Japan's problems with modernization, but that was transient. We possibly would also have noticed the Turkish leader Kemal Atatürks' attempt to build an alternate, secular model for the Islamic world. For the moment, this idea is unfortunately not especially attractive in the Middle East. The Islamicists' ideas seem more modern and attractive," explains Daniel Pipes.
He then gives a crash-course in the history of the Islamic world. "The first 600 years of Islam's history was that to be Muslim was as playing on a sport's team. (This sentence puzzles me; can't translate "vinderhold".) There was an advanced society, which managed well materially and spiritually. It was a rich, powerful and healthy world. In the following 600 years, the Islamic world closed itself in and lost connections to what happened in other places, not least of which what happened in Europe. When the Muslims in the 19th Century discovered the West's wealth and power, they asked themselves amazed and shocked, 'What went wrong, and how do we fix it?' The first 120-130 years, that is, to the 1930's, they attempted to imitate the liberal West, first and foremost France and Great Britain. During the following 60 years, they endeavored the other way around to imitate the non-liberal West, that is, fascist and communist currents. Now they're attempting for the third time to answer to the challenge from the West, and, this time, they've turned against the original, non-liberal Islam. It will again fail, and so they'll try something else. I believe that the next attempt will come more to resemble the first imitation of the liberal West than the following two ," rings out contained optimism from Pipes.
But despite this, he doesn't believe that there is reason to lean back and wait for things to happen by themselves. Pipes is surprised that there isn't greater alarm in Europe over the challenge that Islam represents thanks to falling rates of fertility and a weakened sense for its own history and culture. "It's one of the greatest stories of our time. The response is amazingly relaxed in Europe. There's great denial. It's paradoxical, that the Muslims come from countries that stand weaker economically and politically, while those in rich and strong Europe show greater cultural ambition than the Europeans. It amazes me as an American. Europe has been history's driving-force for the last 500 years, but now it looks to be going the other way. Here in the USA, the situation is far less dramatic." According to Daniel Pipes, the Muslims don't make up more than about 1 percent of the population, 3-4 million people, and their social status is different than in Europe. "There are groups which speak for Islam in the schools and intimidate politicians and Muslims who insist on their right to speak freely. Militant Islam has a comprehensive non-violent agenda. Muslims in the USA are composed of two groups, immigrants and Americans who have converted to Islam. Muslim immigrants have a higher social and economic status than in Europe. They're doctors, engineers and others with a professional education who earn money."