Akbar S. Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies & a professor of international relations at the American University in Washington, D.C., wrote an article about me earlier this month ("Scholarship about Islam in America") that concludes thus:
One of the challenges facing America after Sept. 11 is how to deal with Islam. There is a need to understand the Muslim community, its history and its traditions. Who is better placed to act as a bridge than the scholar of Islam? What better challenge for Daniel Pipes than to assist in creating genuine dialogue with the Muslim community?
I endorse this appeal for discussion and debate.
Indeed, I participated in a most interesting evening along these lines back on Feb. 3, 1999, when the United Association for Studies and Research hosted me for a long evening's seminar titled "Islamism: a Critique," that included some of the most prominent Islamists in the United States. This followed on mutual interviews by UASR's head, Ahmad Yusuf and myself: he appeared in the Middle East Quarterly ("Hamas Is a Charitable Organization") and I appeared in the Middle East Affairs Journal ("Zionism, Islamism, and Jewish Politics in America") Not only do these make for quite interesting reading (Yusuf asked me many questions that I don't often get asked), but I found it a constructive effort.
It's worth noting that this sort of debate has a long history in classical Islamic culture, though in olden days the subject was religious disputation, not political outlook. From the time of St. John of Damascus in the eighth century on, Middle Eastern capitals hosted vigorous debates.
Prof. Ahmed has in effect proposed that these be re-starated and I concur: let's start talking. (July 17, 2003)