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Some surprising reasoning by Pipes

Reader comment on item: Muhammad Ali's "Beautiful Soul"

Submitted by John Hadjisky (United States), Dec 1, 2005 at 18:57

I have read enough of Pipes to know he is open to the possibility that people can change. But, his long experience in the ideological trenches teaches him that so many seeming turns of a new leaf are outright lies, or at best, shallow, expedient, and temporary conversions.

However, he must address the contradiction between the first article, in which he implies that Ali's finger twirl when he met the President possibly indicate his true feelings, and this one, in which he explicitly concludes that Ali's laudable statement in support of Daniel Pearle is the result of "handling".

Spontaneous, controlled gestures by Parkinson's sufferers can be excruciatingly difficult; it seems reasonable to speculate that Ali, presumably in consultation with his "handlers", thought long and hard about what he would do when he shared the stage with the President, and practiced ahead of time. Yet Pipes appears to find the gestures sincere, albeit ambiguous, while simultaneously discounting the Pearle statement. It would be far more consistent with Pipes established framework for debunking Islamists to suggest that Ali, or his handlers, were playing both sides. ...

... A moment's research (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_disease) shows, Parkinson's is primarily a motor disease. Only about 20-30% of cases involve significant dementia. ...

Or, is Pipes contending that Ali is suffering not from Parkinson's per se, but rather from Dementia pugilistica, or "punch-drunk syndrome"? If so, he should state that. There, the symptoms mirror Parkinson's, but the incidence of clinical dementia is much higher, although still not 100%. If so, since Ali hasn't been in the ring for quite a while, Pipes should think about at what point in his life Ali might have succumbed to the syndrome and become "handled". How many of his past bad acts were the result of such handling?

Sadly and uncharacteristically, Pipes appears not to have considered these finer points. For someone with a well-deserved reputation for keen insight and vigorous scholarship within his field, it is disappointing to encounter some sloppy work outside of it. At the least, the articles should have taken a more speculative, and humble, tone with regards to Ali's disease.

Pipes and Cashill make a strong case that Ali committed some disgusting acts during the height of his remarkable career. It is unclear to what extent Ali has mellowed since then, and to what extent any mellowing is due to a change of heart or merely a PR stunt. As an aside, with this many unknowns, such a high award is unmerited, or at least, premature.
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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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