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December 1, Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy

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"Godless Saracens Threatening Destruction":
Premodern Christian Responses to Islam and Muslims

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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In a conversation that apparently took place on July 13, 634, just two years after Muhammad's death, an old man was asked what he made of "the prophet who has appeared among the Saracens?" He replied that Muhammad "is an imposter. Do the prophets come with swords and chariot?" Another person agreed, noting, "There is no truth from the so-called prophet, only bloodshed." Several months later, in a sermon on Christmas Eve in 634, the patriarch of Jerusalem referred to the Muslims as "the slime of the godless Saracens [that] threatens slaughter and destruction."[1]

Thus, the Christian reaction to Muslims inauspiciously began at a moment when religious passions ran highest and receptivity to new influences lowest. This hostile response then stayed largely static over the next millennium, 634-1700. Only in the past three centuries did attitudes evolve, mixing that old hostility with something startlingly different.

The following pages sketch the Christian responses to Islam and Muslims over the millennium. Why did Europe[2] for so long view Muslims negatively? Part II will ask why this partially changed and what the current situation is.

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The IDF Opts for Victory

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 25, 2020  •  Jerusalem Post

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There's been much talk over the past two years of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and victory. What does it mean in practice?

In August 2018, then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that the IDF's next chief of staff will be someone who talks "in terms of decisiveness and victory." That turned out to be Aviv Kochavi. He, indeed, affirmed at his January 2019 swearing-in ceremony that the army "is all about victory." Also speaking at that ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concurred; all recent efforts, he added, focused on making the army "ready for a single goal – victory in war."

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The Need to Concede
Contesting the fundamentals of democracy takes all Americans down a dark, perilous spiral

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 10, 2020  •  Spectator

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The political and emotional climax of U.S. presidential elections comes when the losing candidate, accompanied by a teary spouse, tersely but gamely concedes defeat and wishes the victor well. I worry what might happen if this little-noted but critical ritual fails to take place in 2020.

No law requires a concession speech, no agreement demands it; but this informal ceremony has an essential role in confirming the paramount rule of democracy, that the losing candidate has heard and accepted the voters' verdict. After a hard-fought, even vicious, campaign, the vanquished assures the victor he accepts the results, permitting the country to move forward. Sure, political wrangling will immediately resume, but once the key step of accepting the voters' will has been established, the country is whole, the body politic healthy, and the next round can begin.

The alternative has dire consequences, as Víctor Hernández-Huerta of the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico City shows. His study of 178 presidential elections in democracies in the period 1974-2012 found that in 38 of them, or 21 percent, when the runner-up candidates or their parties disputed the results, this "set off violent unrest, constitutional crises, and even civil wars." Hernández pointedly notes that the United States is "not immune" to this danger.

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The Fatal Fear of Being Accused of Racism

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 3, 2020  •  Critic (UK)

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Recent evidence suggests that a major act of violence could have been averted had a security guard not feared being called a "racist." This incident raises questions about the West's ability to protect itself from jihadi attacks.

That act of violence was the bombing of a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande at England's Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, killing 22 and wounding over 800. The bomber, Salman Ramadan Abedi, 22, was born in Manchester to refugee Islamist parents just arrived from Libya. Those who knew him described him as being very religious and none too bright.

An Al-Qaeda sympathizer, Abedi constructed a home-made bomb with thousands of nuts and bolts, placed it in a large rucksack, and made his roundabout way by foot to the arena. There he awaited the conclusion of Grande's "Dangerous Woman" performance while sitting on steps in the public foyer. At 10:31 p.m., he stood up, crossed the foyer toward the audience exiting the hall, and detonated his device.

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Why I'm Voting for Trump
We Elect a Team, Not a Person

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 20, 2020  •  Boston Globe

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Faced with the choice between voting for Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Gallup finds that one-quarter of Americans say "neither would be a good president." Unsurprisingly, some are inclined to vote for a third-party candidate. I understand that urge, having voted for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson in 2016. But the vast policy differences in 2020 make it imperative to vote for a major-party candidate.

When electing a president – our four-year demi-king – Americans tend to focus primarily on the candidate. Personal appearance, health, self-presentation, stamina, priorities, common sense, articulation, personality, accomplishments, credentials, family, policies – every element is scrutinized and assayed. And rightly so, for even minor details about the person at the top can have vast ramifications, directly affecting the destiny of 330 million people and indirectly the whole globe.

It makes sense to focus intensely on those issues in the primary, when one has a choice among two or more candidates with a roughly similar outlook. In the general election, however, the candidate's superficial qualities matter much less in deciding whom to vote for.

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Is Israel Victory Still Needed?
Yes, it offers the only path to end Palestinian rejectionism

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 7, 2020  •  Jerusalem Post

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Where does Israel Victory stand in this era of Arab-Israeli peacemaking? Slightly diminished, but not by much. To understand why requires starting with a step back in time.

The 1993 Oslo Accords sidelined the Arab states and focused on Palestinian-Israeli relations, expecting that this exclusivity would ease a compromise to bring each side what it most sought: security for Israelis and political fulfilment ("Palestine") for Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership turned this hopeful "peace process" into a "war process," exploiting the opportunities it provided to attack the Jewish state in new ways, thereby undermining diplomacy and fostering greater violence.

In response to Oslo's failure, I developed the Israel Victory concept in early 2001. It accepted the sidelining of Arab states (even though I preferred to include them) and focused on Palestinian-Israeli relations. It rejected the peace-process absurdity of Israel making concessions even as the Palestinians sought its elimination. Instead, it called for Israel to take advantage of its overwhelming economic and military superiority to compel the Palestinians to accept defeat, setting the stage for their eventual acceptance of Israel.

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review of The Princess and The Prophet: The Secret History of Magic, Race, and Moorish Muslims in America

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 29, 2020  •  Wall Street Journal

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Thanks to Iran's Islamic revolution, 9/11, large-scale immigration, and much else, Americans have learned a great deal about the Islam of Muhammad and the Qur'an over recent decades. Terms such as Ramadan, shariah, and jihad, for example, have become widely familiar.

Fewer, however, know about an indigenous American form of Islam, the black folk religion that began about a century ago in cities like Newark, Chicago and Detroit, and the inspiration behind Louis Farrakhan and the Million Man March.

America's indigenous version of Islam contains key tenets that deeply contradict those of normative Islam, most prominently by adding prophets after Muhammad, viewing whites as evil and restricting membership to persons of African heritage. Noble Drew Ali's Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America (1927) contains no overlap with the normative Qur'an but derives from such books of "esoteric wisdom" as The Aquarian Gospel of the Christ (Los Angeles, 1908). For these reasons, Muslims generally reject MSTA's claims to be Islamic.

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Nasser Died Fifty Years Ago: He Lives on in Egypt

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 28, 2020  •  Washington Times

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Gamal Abdel Nasser, the charismatic ruler of Egypt, died 50 years ago today. During his eighteen years in power, 1952-70, he dominated the Middle East and, even now, he remains an intense topic of interest.

According to Google's Ngram, the word "Nasserist" has steadily appeared more often in English-language books since 1970. A Lebanese newspaper article announced last week that "Nasser is the future," called him the "immortal leader," and proclaimed that he remains "a necessity to face current challenges even as his ideas and choices provide a solid bridge to deal with the future."

Reporting on Nasser's death, headlines in the New York Times succinctly conveyed both the benign, positive coverage he enjoyed among Westerners and their belief in his universal popularity among Arabs: "Blow to peace efforts seen," "U.S. officials see period of instability in Mideast," "The Arab world is grief-stricken." The real story, however, was quite different, with Nasser's rule bringing disaster to Egypt in the form of political, economic, and cultural decline.

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How Fares Western Civ?

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2020  •  Academic Questions

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Eliminating courses on Western civilization ranks as one of the many radical changes in the American university over the last few decades. Symbolically, the shift began in January 1987, when Jesse Jackson led Stanford University students who, in a farcical demonstration with deep implications, shouted "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Western culture's got to go."

And go it did. Those students, writes Stanley Kurtz in The Lost History of Western Civilization, not only succeeded "to dismantle Stanford's required course on the history and great works of Western Civilization ... but [they] helped set off a 'multiculturalist' movement that swept away Western Civilization courses at most American colleges and set the terms of our cultural battles for decades to come."

Western civ courses matter because they help the intelligent citizen and voter understand three topics: how things came to be; what works and what does not; and where one fits into the world. Their abandonment leaves tomorrow's leaders less capable.

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Will Turkey and Greece Clash over a Tiny Island?
Kastelorizo lies a mile from the Turkish mainland

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 16, 2020  •  The Spectator

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An obscure Mediterranean flashpoint may soon come to a crisis; that would be the minuscule and remote Greek island of Kastelorizo (or Megisti; Meis in Turkish). Like many other Greek islands, it lies much closer to the Turkish than the Greek mainland (1 mile vs. 357 miles). Unlike other small Greek islands, its location between Rhodes and Cyprus bestows outsized military and economic importance on it.

Were Kastelorizo, with a population of under 500, to enjoy the full rights bestowed on it by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Greece can claim a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that leaves Turkey with a cramped EEZ along its shores; take away Kastelorizo and the Turkish EEZ more than doubles in size. The discovery of large gas and oil deposits in the Mediterranean Sea makes that of especially great potential significance.

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Convincing Anti-Zionists that the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Is Over

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 7, 2020  •  Washington Times

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In the wake of the exhilarating joint UAE-Israel statement, that old sourpuss, Hanan Ashrawi, emerged from her hole to pronounce that "There is an erroneous assumption that the Palestinians are defeated, and they have to accept the fact of their defeat." No, she insisted, "The Palestinians are willing, generation after generation, to continue their struggle."

There you go, an unambiguous statement of intent from my old adversary, mirroring the views of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: No matter what anyone else does, she says, we Palestinians will battle unto the end of time to eliminate the Jewish state and subjugate the Jews.

Now, some may wonder: Didn't Yasir Arafat long ago accept Israel, was that not the gist of the 1993 Oslo accords, when he recognized "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security"? No, he only pretended to accept Israel.

Let me explain.

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Disquiet about Philadelphia Airport's "Quiet Room"
Taxpayer money should not be used to favor one religion over others in government facilities such as PHL

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 17, 2020  •  Washington Times

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Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) opened a heavily promoted "Quiet Room" in August 2018. Accessible 365/24/7, it's an excellent addition to a frenetic travel hub. But it also presents a disquieting problem.

The 315-square-foot space with two chambers is located after security controls, between the D and E terminals. A PHL press release touts the room as "a place of silence which all passengers may use regardless of their worldview, culture and religious affiliation," an area suitable for "those who desire a place for solitude or prayer." What could be wrong with that?

Well, it's the same problem that has turned up in schools, hospitals, at airport security, and more broadly: Islam enjoys a favored status. The Quiet Room privileges it in four ways:

First, the room's name, announced in five languages, presents a problem:

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Feeling Optimistic about Israel and the Emirates

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 14, 2020  •  National Interest

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I was skeptical about Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, 1983 agreement with Lebanon, 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and 1994 peace treaty with Jordan. But the joint statement by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States on Aug. 13 breaks new ground and, as it itself claims, deserves to be called "historic."

The statement boils down to Israel's commitment to "suspend declaring sovereignty over [parts of the West Bank] and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world." In return, the UAE "agreed to the full normalization of relations" with Israel. This exchange of promises in three ways improves on previous Israeli agreements with Arabs.

First, the Egyptian, Lebanese, and Jordanian agreements basically ignored the Palestinians, but UAE leaders can point to wringing a commitment from Jerusalem to suspend its West Bank annexation plans. (Perhaps that was what Benjamin Netanyahu all along had in mind; my colleague Matt Mainen presciently outlined two months ago the Israeli prime minister's "brilliant bluff" of sacrificing annexation for diplomatic recognition by Gulf Arabs.)

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The Folly of the Intellectuals
How common sense evades the smartest of us

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 14, 2020  •  The Spectator

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A sixteenth-century expression holds that "there's no fool like an old fool." But the emergence of totalitarian ideologies like fascism, communism, and Islamism around World War I means this saying needs be amended to "there's no fool like an intellectual fool."

An intellectual is someone engaged in the world of ideas; who reads and writes for a living; who turns facts into theories. Jean-Paul Sartre defined him as "someone who interferes in what does not concern him." Cute that, but intellectuals overwhelmingly criticize their own societies, something that provides a useful function in autocracies but has an insidious impact in democracies; just note our educational system.

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When Muslims Leave the Faith

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 6, 2020  •  Wall Street Journal

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In the West, conversions involving Islam appear to be a one-way street in its favor. Famed new believers include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Keith Ellison, and Sinéad O'Connor, as well as flamboyant flirts like Prince Charles, Michael Jackson and Lindsay Lohan. Also, there are about 700,000 African-American converts and their descendants.

But, in fact, it's a two-way street. Indeed, born Muslims who leave Islam have a far greater impact than do converts to Islam.

To begin with, some numbers: In France, around 15,000 Muslims convert annually to Christianity, according to a 2007 estimate. About 100,000 American Muslims abandon Islam each year, reports a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. This amounts to 24 percent of all Muslims in the United States, with Iranians disproportionately represented. These numbers roughly counterbalance those of non-Muslims converting to Islam.

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For a listing of original stories concerning non-Muslim women with Muslim men, starting in September 2019, please click here.

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