I had a very interesting chat yesterday with Daniel Pipes, who is considered one of the most senior scholars who focus on radical Islam.
While Pipes is certainly considered hostile to Islam by many Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans, he pointed out to me that until 2000, he would get called out very publicly several times a month by watchdog groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for things he said or wrote. Now, he said, he's fallen off the radar because of "anti-Islam" bloggers and activists.
"This anti-Islamic agitation has been growing over time. It's much stronger than in 2001," he said. "The two sides are shooting at each other and don't notice me anymore."
Pipes says while he shares a concern about radical Islam with today's crop of bloggers, he considers them "anti-Islam" because in his view they see the faith and it scripture as fundamentally problematic for a pluralistic, democratic society like the United States and unchangeable.
Pipes said the bloggers have brought an unsophisticated tone to the debate, "which I think is unfortunate."
That said, Pipes was clear that he shares some goals with even people he calls the most "anti-Islam" - such as far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has advocated banning Muslim immigration to his country and the Quran. Pipes said he's raising money for the defense of Wilders, who faces trial for inciting hate and discrimination against Muslims. The issue, says Pipes, is one of protecting free speech.
Pipes says he shares "the same enemies" with people like Wilders and the new crop of bloggers.
"We're in the same trench but we have different views of what the problem is. We both see an attempt to impose Islamic law, sharia, in the West. We are both against it, and want to maintain Western civilization. But we understand the nature of the problem differently."
Important distinction, in your eyes?