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My reply to Daniel Pipes's reply

Reader comment on item: [The Search for Moderate Islam:] A Reply to Lawrence Auster

Submitted by Lawrence Auster (United States), Jan 31, 2005 at 21:49

One of Daniel Pipes's methods of argumentation is to ignore my substantive criticisms and numerous quotes of his statements about Islam and simply reiterate how he "sees" Islam. Thus he writes:

"The religion has changed momentously in the past and surely will continue to do so. Most of us can agree that the Muslim world is in the throes of terrible crisis now, but Auster sees this as a permanent condition, I see it as temporary, comparable, perhaps, to Germany's in the interwar period."

So, Pipes "sees" Islam as being like Germany between the wars, and that makes it so. The Koran, the Traditions, and 14 centuries of Islamic jihad and dhimmitude don't count. Just what Pipes chooses to "see."

Also, if the fanaticism and aggression of Islam are only a temporary and recent phenomenon, then why, elsewhere in his reply to me, does he insist that he has written extensively about historical dhimmitude, slavery, sharia and all the rest? If historical Islam is characterized by dhimmitude, slavery, and sharia, then obviously the contemporary pathologies of Islam are not merely recent and temporary, but are consistent with 1,400 years of Islamic history. In contradicting himself like this, Pipes repeats the pattern of contradictory statements that I analyzed at length in my article.

He also mentions the times when he has criticized traditional Islam, by way of refuting my assertion that he is wholly positive toward traditional Islam in some of his writings, But, of course, I also mentioned the many times he has criticized traditional Islam. That was one of my major points, that Pipes veers back and forth between apologizing for Islam, and making (rather superficial) criticisms of Islam.

Instrinsic to Pipes's selective "seeing" is his habit of pointing to some apparently tolerant form of Islam that has existed here or there, or some isolated Muslim scholar who has taken a moderate approach, and then claiming that this adds up to a "moderate Islam" that can take the place of the actual Islam that has existed for 1,400 years.

He describes my position, that Islam cannot be something other than Islam, as "essentialist," while he believes that Islam can be whatever Muslims want it to be. But as a commenter at FrontPage said:

"Pipes is correct that Auster thinks in essentials (it's called conceptual reasoning, Dan). Pipes is obviously a nominalist: words can mean anything we want them to."

Pipes finds my comparison of Islam with Soviet communism "offensive." But the comparison is apt. The essence of Islam is that it is a totalitarian system insisting on global dominance, in which anyone outside the system must be reduced to subhumanity and ultimately exterminated. Like Communism, wherever Islam takes over a society, it crushes whatever culture, freedom and intellectual life existed there. I recommend the first chapter of André Servier's 1922 work, Islam and the Psychology of the Musulman, where he writes: "After a century of Arab domination [over a society] there is a complete annihilation of all intellectual culture."

Pipes continues:

"He wonders that I do not judge Islam, to which I say that a person's faith is not within my purview, only the person's politics and actions. I suggest it is generally a good idea not to mix scholarship with matters of faith."

As Pipes must be aware, this discussion has not been about Islam as a private faith. It's been about the public character of Islam on the stage of history as it impacts upon non-Muslims. And that was the Islam he was declining to judge, though, of course, as I pointed out over and over, Pipes keeps going back and forth between criticizing Islam and presenting the conventional glowing picture of it.

He continues:

"The Auster view of premodern Islam ('the glories of medieval Islam are largely a myth. It was a parasite civilization whose achievements were mainly the work of its subject peoples such as Byzantines, Jews, and Indians, and it declined when it eventually killed off its host') is a superficial projection backwards of today's problems. Indeed, its very premise ('a parasite civilization') is oxymoronic. There was a true and vital civilization of Islam and (to take a convenient date) in 1005 it represented THE BEST THAT HUMANS HAD ATTAINED AT THAT TIME IN TERMS OF LEARNING, GOVERNANCE, AND GENERAL ADVANCEMENT. [emphasis added.] I suggest that Auster ground himself more in this civilization before dismissing it."

Here Pipes is subscribing to the conventional philo-Islamic myth. In fact, the myth of great "learning" in the medieval Muslim world was exploded as far back as the Renaissance, when Europe discovered the original Greek scientific works that had previously been known only through highly distorted Arabic translations. Believing those translations to be original Arab works, and knowing nothing of the Greek works on which they were based, medieval European scholars falsely concluded that Islam had made staggering, unheard-of advances in science. This was the genesis of the belief in great Arab learning, which has persisted right up to the present moment. Not only does Pipes not seem to know this, he subscribes to that belief himself. By way of corrective, I recommend chapter 13 of Servier's book, where he catalog's one medieval "Arab" work after another which was believed at the time to be an original work of science and turned out to be an Islamized Arab translation of a Syriac translation of an ancient Greek work.

Pipes then makes this staggering statement:

"Further, I subscribe to the wide scholarly consensus that during the first half of Islam's history, its adherents were less 'aggressive, collectivist, genocidal, and tyrannical' than their Christian counterparts in Europe. The consistent pattern of Jews fleeing Christendom for Islamdom provides one indication of this reality."

This of course is the standard view of superiority of good, tolerant Islam over a cruel and oppressive Europe. It is, once again, a myth, formed by comparing the parts of Europe where Jews were treated the worst, with the parts of Islam (mostly in the former Eastern Orthodox lands) where Jews were treated better, while ignoring the parts of Europe where Jews were treated better, and ignoring the parts of Islam where Jews were treated worse. Also, by mentioning only the Jews, it ignores the Muslim treatment of Christians, Zoroastrians, and Hindus, the systematic destruction of one subject people after another through invasion, conquest, dispossession, slavery, dhimmitude, crushing taxes, and systemized degrading treatment which resembles, not Communism, but Nazism. Historians estimate that Muslims massacred around 100 million Hindus in India over a period of five centuries. Is there any European Christian behavior that is remotely equivalent to that? The repeated Judeo-centric focus in this discussion has the effect of making people fail to see the total picture of Islam's treatment of non-Muslim peoples.

Also, if Pipes is going to use the fact that some Jews fled Christendom at some points in the Middle Ages for Islamdom, then he also has to account for the fact that the movement was reversed after about the 12th century. In the High Middle Ages, 90 percent of Jews lived in Islamdom, and 10 percent in Christendom. By the 20th century, those numbers had been reversed. You can't give Islam credit for its supposedly wonderful treatment of the Jews in the early Middle Ages, while ignoring its horrible treatment of the Jews in the later Middle Ages and afterward.

For more details on the comparative cruelty of Europe and Islam, please see the amazon.com reader's review by FrontPage contributor Andrew Bostom (identified as "Andrew") of Mark R. Cohen's book, Under Crescent and Cross. Below Bostom's review is a review by Daniel Pipes in which he approves of Cohen's book.

Pipes then says:

"As for my hope that Muslims and non-Muslims can live in complete harmony, it is a hope. But who in 1940 could imagine living in complete harmony with Germany, Italy, and Japan? Such hope is functional. That we have for many decades now suggests that change is possible through victory in war and wise guidance of the defeated to understand their own traditions in a moderate, modern, and good-neighborly way."

In fact, Pipes is only confirming what I said in my article: that (by his own admission) his moderate Islam doesn't exist, that it can only be brought into being by a global military defeat of the whole Muslim world by the U.S. Which brings us back to my question: How can he go on calling moderate Islam the "solution" when it DOESN'T EVEN EXIST, and only the most radical changes in the world (an American military defeat of, Pipes, implies, all Muslim countries) can have some slight theoretical hope of bringing it into existence?

Finally, Pipes, having side-stepped my actual criticisms of him, acts as if my own program is the same as his, thus creating the impression that I am not saying anything new in my article:

"As for the second part of Auster's analysis, his policy recommendations; they differ surprisingly little from my own, as presented three years ago in 'Who Is the Enemy?' Auster asserts 'that the West must confront Islam as Islam and so reduce its power to the point where Muslims have no opportunity to wage jihad campaigns against us. Under such circumstances a more decent type of Islam may arise.' This two-stage approach resembles or perhaps even derives from my program of defeating radical Islam, then promoting moderate Islam in its place. Auster and I agree that, in the end, 'a more decent type of Islam' is the only answer.

"I'll leave it to Auster to explain how his 'decent' Islam differs from my 'moderate' Islam (which he insists 'does not exist, and cannot exist'). And why, if Islam cannot change, he pins his hopes, with me, on a changed Islam."

Pipes fundamentally misrepresents what I said. I said that we cannot change Islam, and therefore we must simply drive it back, weaken it, and contain it. I then added that, once Islam has been weakened and isolated, it's possible that a more decent Islam might evolve. I'm not saying that we should be dependent on a more decent Islam evolving. I'm simply saying that the appearance on the scene of a more decent Islam would be nice, if it happened. Pipes, by contrast, bases his program on the transformation of Islam into moderate Islam. So our respective approaches are radically different from each other, as I discussed at length in my article.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".


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Reader comments (103) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
On Mr. Pipes reply to Mr. Auster [431 words]John NosserFeb 24, 2010 10:29169350
1Lawrence Auster's analysis is right on the mark!! [139 words]JaladhiMar 31, 2010 14:33169350
Is islamism really different from islam? [178 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
François Eiffel/FFLNov 1, 2007 07:41112819
1The Muslims Need a Scapegoat [878 words]Ibrahim Abdul Mu'minMay 25, 2005 11:2122409
1Ibrahim Abdul Mumin [34 words]P.O.D.Dec 10, 2005 12:0222409
Moderate Islam? [77 words]Clifford IshiiMay 19, 2005 00:2622170
Islam: "Religion of Peace" [28 words]Avraham DavidJan 20, 2006 14:4522170
moderate islam [128 words]satish k kapoorMar 28, 2010 00:1722170
fundamentalism [220 words]Dr Satish K KapoorMar 28, 2010 01:0222170
1There is no moderate Islam or moderate Muslim!!! [260 words]JaladhiMar 29, 2010 10:0922170
Religion of the Book and Culture of the Heart [356 words]Dr Satish K KapoorMar 30, 2010 01:4522170
1Religion of heart is conscience of a human being - and Islam kills it off !!! [228 words]JaladhiApr 5, 2010 10:5022170
May they hear the Inner Voice [277 words]Dr Satish K KapoorApr 5, 2010 21:1822170
1Naive Hope of Satish!!! [592 words]JaladhiApr 8, 2010 17:1522170
slam - when politics enter ... [264 words]Muhammad ArshadMay 3, 2005 06:0721951
1I need more convincing [460 words]Kevin GrahamMar 31, 2005 07:5521263
Moderate Islam: A Pipe Dream! [3744 words]A (Keen) Student of IslamFeb 26, 2005 00:0120530
Moderate Islam: A Pipe Dream! [1235 words]A (Keen) Student of IslamMar 1, 2005 03:3220530
Kudos to comment by "A ( Keen) Student of Islam" [132 words]JaladhiMar 1, 2005 10:2820530
Response to commenter "A (keen) Student of Islam" [147 words]BobMar 26, 2005 17:0320530
Response to Bob's Comment [526 words]A (Keen) Student of IslamApr 3, 2005 15:5020530
A little proselytising for (keen) [118 words]Vic CoffeyMay 18, 2005 10:2220530
A little proselytising for (keen) [287 words]A (Keen) Student of IslamJun 2, 2005 05:0820530
studied in the desert: moderate Islam is Islam [201 words]studied in the middle of the Arabian desertMar 26, 2007 13:0220530
A Reply to Auster [166 words]Lowell ByrdFeb 18, 2005 05:1620423
I have weighed in favor of Lawrence Auster [219 words]David S. JacobFeb 11, 2005 19:3720278
1a thorn in the side of humanity [314 words]richardFeb 4, 2006 23:4020278
moderate submission to Satan? [293 words]Bob BoyntonFeb 9, 2005 17:0020224
Mr. Auster is right [138 words]JaladhiFeb 8, 2005 15:3620185
The nature of Islam [59 words]Gloria StewartFeb 7, 2005 15:2520148
It's not the religion, it's the people who embrace it [130 words]S MacMay 8, 2010 13:3520148
Moderate Islam v Political Islam [264 words]Karim MansoorFeb 7, 2005 10:3820145
Response to commenter Karim Mansoor [86 words]Peter J. HerzFeb 10, 2005 14:4920145
A take at Mr. Auster's response [328 words]Alain Jean-MairetFeb 4, 2005 00:4620099
1Commenter Alain Jean-Mairet is not a civilizationalist [468 words]AndrewFeb 5, 2005 02:0220099
Response to Alain Jean-Mairet [339 words]Lawrence AusterFeb 5, 2005 20:0820099
I do not want to appease. [292 words]Alain Jean-MairetFeb 6, 2005 02:5220099
Alain Jean-Mairet's self-defeating reasoning [191 words]Lawrence AusterFeb 9, 2005 11:4620099
Auster's only half smart reasoning [154 words]Alain Jean-MairetFeb 10, 2005 14:4820099
Prediction = January 2006 [229 words]JAMES A HAUERJan 22, 2006 05:5720099
you will know a tree (pearl) by it's fruits. [26 words]RichardFeb 4, 2006 22:2220099
Well, I'll tellya... [92 words]Stanley LevinFeb 3, 2005 14:5020093
Obscurantist Islam cannot change [229 words]R.K. OhriFeb 3, 2005 11:3720090
Reply to L. Auster strikes me as utterly inconsistent with his usual manner [300 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Phil StanFeb 3, 2005 09:1220084
A most helpful clarification [166 words]Roger WT WilkinsonFeb 2, 2005 23:3620081
False Hope [309 words]JaladhiFeb 1, 2005 11:0520034
I'm not so confident, sorry [303 words]Olivia M.Feb 1, 2005 01:4620024
My reply to Daniel Pipes's reply [1727 words]Lawrence AusterJan 31, 2005 21:4920022
Comments on Auster's reply to Pipes's reply to Auster [597 words]bucephalusFeb 10, 2005 00:2320022
Jews Living in Christendom...Why Would They Want To? [91 words]BlissJul 18, 2006 12:0520022
Both Mr. Pipes and Mr. Auster are right to an extent [582 words]Quennel GaleJan 31, 2005 16:5320017
What is moderate Islam? [1149 words]LKJan 31, 2005 03:1520008
Question for LK [130 words]IPHFeb 5, 2005 15:4420008
Comments on Auster and Pipes Debate [466 words]K IbrahimJan 30, 2005 22:4820002
Lawrence Auster: "The Search for Moderate Islam" [140 words]A former muslimJan 30, 2005 22:3320001
Only one solution to a Peaceful Islam [6 words]Paul RinderleJan 30, 2005 19:2220000
Lawrence Auster, Daniel Pipes and Islamophobia [148 words]Octavio JohansonJan 30, 2005 17:3219998
The french psychoanalytical connection [284 words]Peter van SummerenJan 30, 2005 16:0719996
Fish in water [69 words]Gabriel TokingJan 30, 2005 06:3619989
Pipes vs. Auster [322 words]Richard BowersJan 30, 2005 00:1319987
Let's face reality, please. [324 words]Jason PappasJan 29, 2005 21:2319983
Lawrence Auster is right [122 words]F.ShawkiJan 29, 2005 20:2419981
Was Mohammed a Jihadi? [187 words]BenjaminJan 29, 2005 19:4019978
Response to Pipes vs. Auster Commentary [128 words]Shari Seaman GoodmanJan 29, 2005 18:5419977
Lawrence Auster's analysis is superficial [201 words]Octavio JohansonJan 29, 2005 18:0919975
Moderate Islam does exist (there are some moderates) [167 words]Steve KleinJan 29, 2005 14:0219973
RESPECT & FEAR [439 words]Marcos BerensteinJan 29, 2005 09:1619969
The 800 pound Gorillia cannot be contained by "Moderate" Islam [1167 words]AndrewJan 29, 2005 06:5419965
Modern vs. Historical Islam [254 words]John Randall PeacherJan 29, 2005 03:5319961
Auster is right [290 words]Caesar M. ArevaloJan 29, 2005 00:1719960
Arbitration [279 words]Alain Jean-MairetJan 31, 2005 00:5819960
Moderate Islam Does Exist [83 words]Mustafa AkyolJan 28, 2005 23:0819959
Response to Mustafa Akyol [211 words]JohnJan 29, 2005 13:3419959
Agree to Disagree [53 words]JohnJan 28, 2005 22:5119957
Moderate Islam is an oxymoron [137 words]Hari IyerJan 28, 2005 22:4719956
1ISLAMIC DEEDS & RHETORIC [343 words]CITIZENJan 28, 2005 20:3319954
PEACE? [223 words]LES DAVISJan 28, 2005 18:4119952
Pipes vs Auster = Winning vs Losing [119 words]Octavio JohansonJan 28, 2005 18:2419950
What about women in Islam? [287 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Susan ChapmanJan 28, 2005 16:2519948
The Big Question [119 words]Darwin BarrettJan 28, 2005 16:1019947
Parallel with Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" [83 words]Peter ChewJan 28, 2005 14:4119946
The strength of Radical Islam [379 words]Germain LucasJan 28, 2005 13:3919944
Reality [311 words]SJan 28, 2005 13:2319943
Compassion vs Hatred [220 words]JohnJan 28, 2005 12:3919942
Compassion and Hatred? Response to Commenter "John" [233 words]Peter J. HerzJan 31, 2005 21:4319942
Is it feasible? [170 words]JohnFeb 2, 2005 01:2619942
Moderate Islam? [26 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Amy EliezerJan 28, 2005 12:1119939
No such thing as moderate Islam [75 words]Kim SegarJan 28, 2005 11:5219938
Truly Literate Responsive [103 words]Jerrold E. GoldmanJan 28, 2005 11:4419937
Murder is murder [125 words]Paul RindertleJan 28, 2005 11:2619936
Both of You Are Right [210 words]David SmithJan 28, 2005 11:1719935
Keep up the good work, Mr. Pipes [41 words]Harley CahenJan 28, 2005 11:1619934
How about the UN meeting? [150 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Simon CohenJan 28, 2005 10:5819933
A Reply to Lawrence Auster [66 words]MayJan 28, 2005 10:5119931
The Goal [49 words]JosephJan 28, 2005 10:3819930
Deeper knowledge of two "Good Books" leads in different directions [261 words]D PattersonJan 28, 2005 10:3619929
Koranic Basis for Forgiveness? [38 words]Wallace LiechtyJan 30, 2005 23:3719929
D.Patterson's comment & Wallace Liechty's question [729 words]A (Keen) Student of IslamMar 2, 2005 12:1619929
Fecund Islam [211 words]Steven HessJan 28, 2005 10:2219926
Refreshing yes, apologizing for Islam, no! [81 words]Kenneth S. BesigJan 28, 2005 09:4819925

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