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Why the spite?

Reader comment on item: Jihad: The Fight Over Meaning

Submitted by Amjad M. Khan (United States), Jun 6, 2002 at 13:00

Dear Mr. Pipes:

I've read with great interest your books and articles for many years now. I've followed carefully your arguments and discussions. While I haven't always agreed with you, I've developed tremendous respect for your intellectual endeavors. But here now, after reading your comments on ABC's Nightline concerning the Harvard commencement address about Jihad, I'm honestly shocked. To claim hegemony over the interpretation and use of the word 'Jihad' just because you've done your Ph.D. in Islamic History at *Harvard* is polemical, not scholarly. To denigrate and mock a cardiologist for not having the same knowledge about word Jihad as you seem to have is careless.

You haven't heard the commencement speech yet! You presume that the student will propagate a misinformed interpretation of Jihad, but how do you know that he won't make the very point you made the other night: that "Jihad" has been commonly invoked by Muslim aggressors since time immemorial--expanding the territories ruled by Muslims through armed warfare? How do you know the student won't distinguish a militant interpretation of Jihad from a moderate one? To assume that Muslims everywhere need to use "Jihad" as the militant Islamists do is to discount one of the theses you have advocated since 9/11: moderate Muslims can offer effective opposition to militant Islam. This thesis presupposes that moderate Muslims can be ideologically opposed to Islamists, does it not? So, what then is the problem of a Harvard student advocating an interpretation of "Jihad" antithetical to Islamists? If anything, if you really believe that moderate Muslims need be empowered to overrun militant Islam, why wouldn't you allow a Muslim student the hard-earned opportunity to proffer a benign interpretation of "Jihad" (which I hope the student does)? Is this truly deceitful given the intense scholarly debate over the Arabic interpretation of the word? Would you really call anyone who identifies "Jihad" as an internal spiritual struggle deceitful?

I'm amazed at your ad hominem comments the other night, Mr. Pipes. They did not seem to be coming from the mouth of the scholar I've known. They seem to be coming from a nervous polemic concerned that moderate Muslim students in America may somehow undermine his tough soon-to-come book-length study of militant Islam coming to America. And for the record, that last comment wasn't intended to attack your credibility. I'll remain an avid reader of yours. It's part of my "jihad" with the pen to engage in humble dialogue with experts.

Amjad M. Khan
Cambridge, Mass.
Submitting....

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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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