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Almost getting there, and then the familiar U-turn

Reader comment on item: Islam vs. Islamism (article)

Submitted by Ron Thompson (United States), May 13, 2013 at 16:43

Perhaps never before has Dr Pipes come closer to arguing (implicitly if not explicitly) that the doctrines, beliefs, and practices of Islam and Islamism are indistinguishable - even if they are not shared by all Muslims - and then at the last minute, in the last paragraph, executed a sudden U-turn and backed off from a conclusion seemingly obvious from facts and logic he has himself just expressed.

How does this happen?

It may be because of his 'Killer question', "how do you propose to defeat Islamism?" (this actually re-phrases the issue, as I think he means to ask those of us who have no belief in the reformability of Islam, how do you propose to defeat Islam?")

At least three main responses might be made. A threshold answer might be to express the desire not so much to "defeat Islam' as to simply confront it ….. and then see what happens. For ever since the resurgence of the world-disturbing violence of Islam, which might be dated from the founding of Israel in 1948 amidst the rubble of the Islamic multi-country attempt to annihilate it at birth, or the events of 1979 in Iran and Afghanistan, or the unanswered terrorist killing of 240 US Marines in Beirut in 1983, or the successful and spectacular 9/11 attacks, or, my favorite, the craven refusal in 2004 to respond to the Danish cartoon riots, in which the world's "free" press failed to respond by simultaneously emblazening those cartoons on Front Pages around the planet, we've seen no intellectual response or philosophical response to the world-wide bullying of Islam, except an almost universal jump to the pusillanimous conclusion that this unremitting intimidation is merely a "perversion" of "one of the world's great religions".

In other words, we have no idea, except perhaps an inordinate Fear, of what would happen if a sufficient number of people, including one or two of national 'Leaders', and a handful of Public Intellectuals just said, "We don't think the religion of Islam, inextricably entwined with a doctrine of political and military supremacy through Sharia law and the moral right to pursue that supremacy by means of indiscriminate violence, is any more worthy of respect than were Nazism or Soviet Communism in their day. If this is not true, then the Burden of Proof is on those Muslims who claim Islam is a religion of Peace, or that the vague thing called Moderate Islam actually exists, NOT on us. Let the debate be fairly and fully joined.

Because of this failure to confront, which might be our only alternative to certain military confrontation down the road, we have NO IDEA how much dissent there may to Islam in the Muslim world. Who knows, maybe the continuing protests against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or the surprising (to me) insistence of the people of Pakistan on exercising their right to vote despite vicious attacks never seen in Western voting, are hints of that many people – especially women, and young people – may want to leave Islam and embrace principles of peaceful co-existence with non-Muslims.

But how would we know if the only response of our squirrelly leaders is to constantly assure all these would-be or potential dissidents that we will endlessly appease the violent, Good Muslims by forever assuring them that under no circumstance would we ever, ever criticize or frontally challenge the moral legitimacy of their religion.Why would they express that dissent when we keep assuring them, in effect, that we don't want to hear it!?

Second, I'm struck by a matter of History that Pipes himself brings up, or at least half of the History. He's probably right to note that the modern era of Muslim "humiliation" began around 1800 with Napoleon's 1798 victory and associated events (although some might place it a hundred years earlier with Prince Eugene of Savoy's great victory over the Ottoman Empire at Zenta, near Belgrade in 1697).

But taking Pipes' choice I would compare this 'pivot' in Muslim history with what happened in Jewish history just a few years earlier. European Jews, in far more immediate contact with surging European energies, were being increasingly attacked intellectually, for their insularity and seeming backwardness as perhaps symbolized by Voltaire, chief public figure of the Enlightenment, with his hostility toward the Jews.

The Jewish response was, in a word, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), a German Jew of Orthodox background who yet argued that Jews had to cast off at least some aspects of their exclusiveness and cultural insularity – even at the dread risk of that awful thing, assimilation – and embrace the basic tenets of the European Enlightenment, especially its openness to science and Freedom of thought. Of course it soon became clear that Jews were fully capable of not only maintaining a Jewish identity, but fully participating in all aspects of Modernity and often enough, leaping to the forefront of the various fields of new knowledge.

And what were the Muslims doing at this time? Doubling down on the very worst aspects of Islam, in the person of Mohammed el-Wahhab (1703-92), who successfully argued that all Islam had to do was go back exclusively to its "pure" 7th century origins. It is his legacy, entirely in line with the thought and behavior of that earlier Mohammed, which is arguably and by a wide margin, the dominant aspect of Islam today.

If this is true, how can we go on insulting ourselves and behaving in ways that Good Muslims can only, and reasonably, define as proper Dhimmi behavior, i.e. agreeing to indicate submission to Islam, and to Muslim and Sharia definitions of Free Speech, which means to obey the first Commandment, and opening wedge to Muslim supremacy 'Thou shalt not criticize Islam, or do anything that might be perceived as a criticism of Islam, or Mohammed by any individual Muslim".

Therefore, and third, It is hard to see a belief in 'Moderate' Islam as anything but an indirect expression, however unintended, of this submission. And what on earth is 'Moderate' Islam anyway? Is it anything other than a succession of negatives? Such as,

Moderate Muslims do not believe in the supremacy of Sharia Law over Western, man-made laws.

Moderate Muslims do not believe in killing all non-Muslims who neither convert nor submit to Islam?

Moderate Muslims do not believe in 'beheading those who insult the Prophet'?

Moderate Muslims do not believe women are inherently inferior to men?

Moderate Muslims do not believe Israel should "be wipe off the face of the earth"?

When you get rid of all these negatives, what is left that 'moderate' Muslims do believe? Is there anything that confronts, in Dr Pipes own words, "the centrality of Muslim supremacism, jihad, and misogyny .. in Islamic scriptures"?

Ron Thompson

Submitting....

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