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What to Make of Éric Zemmour?

by Daniel Pipes  •  December 2, 2021

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What to make of Éric Zemmour, the just-declared candidate for president in France in 2022?

His last name in Arabic means, perhaps suitably for an intellectual, honking, as what geese and car horns do.* His parents fled Algeria and he openly identifies as a Jew but presents himself as the representative of traditional Catholic Deep France and the scourge of immigrants and Islam. He adopts positions on Jewish issues so extreme that France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia called him an antisemite. He's been twice found guilty of hate speech and wears these condemnations proudly. His anti-feminist positions are antediluvian. He's pro-Russian and anti-American.

I experienced this last first-hand in Budapest in March 2019, when he and I attended the same conference. Seeing him a couple tables away at the breakfast room, I approached him and introduced myself in a decent French. With the classic Parisian disdain of a café waiter dealing with a boorish foreign customer, he snubbed me, quickly ending the conversation and leaving me slighted.

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review of Islam, Jews and the Temple Mount

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Reiter and Dimant survey over a millennium's worth of major Muslim sources – histories, geographies, literary works, Islamic texts – on the topic of the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount (Arabic: al-Haram ash-Sharif). Unsurprisingly, they find that Muslims prolifically, consistently, and uncontroversially agreed not only on the validity of that tie but on its foundational importance for the Islamic connection to al-Haram ash-Sharif. "Islam sanctifies Jerusalem and the Temple Mount Compound ... primarily because they were originally sacred to Jews and later to Christians." Accordingly, "contemporary Muslims who engage in the discourse that denies any Jewish bond to the Temple Mount or to Jerusalem are ignoring and deliberately overlooking, at times even rejecting, fundamental sources of Muslim culture."

Then they contrast that with the prevalent arguments since 1967, when Israeli troops took control of that sanctuary. Only after that date, it turns out, did the Palestinian priority to delegitimate Jewish control trump the Islamic need for legitimation. Only then did a vast heritage get dumped for the sake of tactical convenience. Only then did the Big Lie find an international audience as, for example, governments of Muslim-majority countries pressured UNESCO and other international organizations to adopt the Palestinian narrative.

Finally, Reiter and Dimant document the few recent authors who have stayed true to the Islamic truths.

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Islam's Surprising Impact on Daily Life

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Islam's "flavor is unmistakable on whatever it touched."
Gustave von Grunebaum

The Qur'an forbids Muslims to eat, drink, smoke, or engage in sexual relations during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan. But the Qur'an says nothing about aspects of twenty-first century Ramadan: shortened office hours, parties through the night, holiday pastries, special television programs, vacations in countries with less-strict regimens, or escapes to cooler climes with shorter daylight. The Qur'an knows even less about "the Ramadan effect on retail" on health. Fasting, notes the head of the Emirates Diabetes Society, causes observant Muslims to exercise less, and festive nights mean they "tend to overeat upon breaking their fast," usually consuming "heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories." Sixty-percent of respondents in a Saudi survey reported excessive weight gain after Ramadan.

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review of Tolerance and Risk: How U.S. Liberalism Racializes Muslims

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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If the subtitle, "How U.S. Liberalism Racializes Muslims," confuses, that is because it originates in an unfamiliar far-left academic outlook. Here is the clearest explanation of Rastegar's muddy thesis: "Whereas empathy and identification operate to mark some Muslims as civilized 'like us,' others are pushed further into the categories of not simply uncivilized but also incomprehensible, inhuman, and monstrous." In other words, by praising some Muslims, liberals are in effect condemning others. This, in turn, racializes Muslims.

The author, a "clinical associate professor of liberal studies" at New York University, makes her point through "an analysis of broadly circulating media discourses about tolerating and sympathizing with Muslims." She finds that "articulations of liberal values create lines of distinction ... as they put forth only some Muslims as worthy of tolerance or sympathy." Indeed, worse than that, "They more broadly function as a policing and disciplining discourse that casts Muslims as tolerable only if they exhibit particular characteristics."

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review of Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Sahner, associate professor of Islamic history at Oxford University, makes innovative use of a familiar but usually ignored source of information on early Islamic history: the hagiographies of around 270 Christians who lost their lives due to their opposition to Islam in the two-century period 660-860 c.e. These "new martyrs" divide into three main categories: born Christians who converted to Islam and then reverted to Christianity; born Muslims who converted to Christianity; and Christians who slandered the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Sahner devotes much attention to the tricky process of interpreting sacred writings to elicit information about history. He argues convincingly that this is possible and that it helps elucidate the process "whereby the predominantly Christian Middle East of late antiquity became the predominantly Islamic region of today."

He concludes from his research that the rate of conversion of Christians to Islam was distinctly slower and more convoluted than sources written by Muslims suggest; "if the great Muslim annalist al-Tabari were all we relied upon to understand the shape of Middle Eastern society in the post-conquest period, we would come to the erroneous conclusion that nearly everyone in this world had already converted [by 923 CE]. Yet this was not the case." Nor was the conversion of Christians to Islam inevitable; rather, it was "a fragile, contested process."

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review of A Culture of Ambiguity: An Alternative History of Islam

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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By the "history of Islam," Bauer eccentrically means not a chronicle of the religion of Islam nor of its adherents, but a contrast between the outlook of Muslims in two long periods of time, 900-1500 and 1800 to the present. Bauer, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies (not history) at the University of Münster in Germany, has a simple thesis that he grinds away at in myriad ways over hundreds of pages: Pristine Islamic culture celebrated ambiguity in the form of sometimes frivolous amatory poetry or multiple ideas about Qur'anic exegesis. Then along came Western influence to smash that frail and gentle outlook, replacing it with a monomaniacal, persistent, humorless mentality.

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Poland's Border Shapes the Future of Migration

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 24, 2021  •  Newsweek

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The troubling scene along Poland's border with Belarus turned the problem of illegal migrants into political ammunition. It changed attitudes with likely long-term implications for immigration to Europe.

Immigration has become an ever-growing, impassioned issue that divides Europeans. Broadly speaking, the Establishment (what I call the 6Ps: the police, politicians, press, priests, professors and prosecutors) welcome immigration, legal or not, as a source of vitality for an increasingly aging continent, an engine of multicultural diversity and a way for former imperialists to assuage their consciences. In contrast, a growing body of dissidents sees immigration as a source of crime and disease, a challenge to traditions and a civilizational threat.

This debate peaked in 2015-16, when Angela Merkel, the powerful chancellor of Germany, unilaterally opened her country's borders to migrants, dragging much of Europe with her. As illegals became legals, the split in attitudes among Europeans became more intense, with a Willkommenskultur—or welcoming culture—emerging in Germany even as fences went up around Hungary.

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The Liverpool Bomber and Fake Muslim Conversion to Christianity

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 21, 2021

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The case of Emad Jamil Al Swealmeen, 32, highlights the danger of Muslims fraudulently converting to Christianity.

Swealmeen came to public attention on Nov. 14, when he (probably inadvertently) detonated an improvised explosive device outside Liverpool Women's Hospital at 10:59a.m. as he rode in a taxi, just seconds before the national two minutes' silence for Remembrance Sunday at 11a.m., killing himself and wounding the taxi driver. The police believe he was an Islamist and a jihadi. His biography is worth noting:

After arriving legally in Britain from Iraq in 2014, Swealmeen, in the words of the Times of London, "was taken under the wing of a retired senior British army officer after visiting Liverpool's Anglican cathedral and expressing an interest in converting from Islam to Christianity." That officer, Lt. Colonel Malcolm Hitchcott, 77, recalled (again, in the words of the Times) "how Al Swealmeen arrived at the cathedral in August 2015 saying he wanted to convert. Hitchcott, who was helping to hold Bible classes for asylum seekers, said the visitor took an Alpha course to teach him about Christianity. He was confirmed as a Christian in March 2017" at Liverpool's Anglican cathedral. At that time, he changed his name to the more European sounding Enzo Almeni.

The Times continues:

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Will Islam Survive Islamism?
More Muslims fear and reject a radical version of Islam

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 15, 2021  •  Washington Times

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The Islamist movement, which seeks to apply medieval Islamic laws and build a worldwide caliphate, has expanded massively in the past half-century. But it now faces a significant and growing counter-movement, especially in Muslim-majority countries. Growing numbers of Muslims, spurred by shocks like the fall of Kabul, fear and reject this radical version of Islam. Awareness of the anti-Islamist surge has been largely limited to those directly involved but it deserves to be much better known.

Anti-Islamism comprises four complementary trends. Going from quietest to most radical, they are: moderate Islam, irreligiosity, apostasy, and conversion to other religions. All have an international presence but, for illustrative purposes, I shall focus in each case on a key Middle Eastern country: moderate Islam in Egypt, irreligiosity in Turkey, atheism in Saudi Arabia, and conversion in Iran.

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How to Live as Long as Methuselah
Sample the Nation of Islam diet, as prescribed by Elijah Muhammad

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 27, 2021  •  American Spectator

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The Nation of Islam (NoI) has great importance as the bridge for many black Americans to move from Christianity to normative Islam (i.e., the global religion dating to the 7th century.) Despite its name, NoI has only slight overlap with normative Islam, especially as practiced under its long-time leader, Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). He developed some creative concepts almost completely unrelated to those of normative Islam, such as "black gods," "blue-eyed devils," and an extraordinary set of rules about proper diet.

Those rules apparently originated in vague form with the NoI's founder, the mysterious W.D. Fard (c.1877–c.1934), who banned eating pig and other "poison animals": duck, goose, opossum, and catfish. In a two-volume book titled From God in Person. Master Fard Muhammad. How to Eat to Live (1967-72), Elijah Muhammad then expanded on these basics, adding many more rules, discouraging or prohibiting a vast array of foods, while ascribing all these regulations to Fard, whom he called "Allah."

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Colby College Signals "Conservatives Need Not Apply"

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 26, 2021  •  National Association of Scholars

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Colby College's department of history just routinely announced a position for visiting assistant professor in Middle East/Islamic History for the 2022-23 academic year. Routine, but also notable.

Four decades ago, I might have applied for this post and perhaps even have won the chance to fill it. These days, though, the job description makes clear that I, as a conservative scholar, would have no chance. Note the bolded elements in the announcement screaming out "conservatives need not apply":

  • The Department is a community of engaged teacher-scholars.
  • We are particularly interested in hearing from candidates who will bring to the classroom experiences, identities, ideas, and ways of engaging that will resonate with History's, and Colby's, increasingly diverse student body.
  • We are searching for candidates with great potential to be innovative, effective, and inclusive teachers of history.
  • [The candidate's] statement of teaching philosophy and the statement of research interests should demonstrate commitment to the values of diversity and inclusivity.

While seemingly innocuous, such terms as engaged, identity, diversity, and inclusivity actually exclude anyone not on the Left. Indeed, "diversity, equity and inclusion" (or DEI) is the progressives' main workplace mantra.

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Middle East Migrants: Stay in Your Culture Zone
Middle Easterners need to take responsibility for their brethren

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 3, 2021  •  American Spectator

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As the prospect of great numbers of Afghans fleeing their country – five million have been mentioned – comes into focus, a near-universal assumption exists that the West – meaning here Western and Central Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – should be their ultimate destination. But does this make sense?

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review of Yemen: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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The author, a young scholar at Princeton University, disdains non-specialists on Yemen ("most Westerners," he notes, "can scarcely find [it] on a map"), and he rejects nearly everything that we think we know about the current situation (i.e., who is making war on whom, the nature of the Houthi movement). Orkaby is also fiercely protective of Yemenis, to the point of apologetics:

Rather than be defined by violence and fighting, tribal life is a rich cultural experience. Communal dances, poetry recitations, religious education, and the elaborate celebrations of life milestones and holidays are important parts of idyllic tribal life and manifestations of Yemen's rich cultural and social history.

Idyllic?

Fortunately, Orkaby himself provides the evidence to refute such silliness. For example, he writes,

As late as 2010, the Yemeni government continued to perpetuate the false generalization that their country has no ethnic groups and is en­tirely homogenous, when in fact Yemen has longstanding and in­stitutionalized racism based on loose historical backgrounds and skin color.

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review of The Fight for Iran: Opposition Politics, Protest, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Nation

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Berman, senior vice president at the American Foreign Policy Council, has usefully and briefly compiled information on leading Iranian opposition groups and the challenges facing them in this collection of previously published essays. His interest derives from the possibility that "these in­dividuals and forces could very well end up inheriting the Iranian nation."

Berman begins by summing up key characteristics of four external oppositionists. The last shah's son, Reza Pahlavi, stands out for his vision "of nonviolent resistance to Iran's clerical regime." In contrast, the Mujahideen-e Khalq, the most high profile and controversial of exile groups, "is convinced that the Iranian regime is simply too bru­tal, too entrenched and too invested in maintaining its hold on power to be removed solely by peaceful means. The al­ternative could well be armed resistance, and here the MeK holds a distinct advantage."

Then, there is the Iranian-American activist, Masih Alinejad, who focuses her social media prowess on combating the mandatory women's head-covering in Iran aiming "to harness this discon­tent into a broader, crowdsourced anti-regime movement." Lastly, Mariam Memarsadeghi and her Tavaana initiative hope

to build capacity within Iranian society through civic education and public dialogue on topics like women's rights, Islamic reform and democratic values, issues which remain generally taboo within the Islamic Republic.

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review of Iran Is More than Persia: Ethnic Politics in the Islamic Republic

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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The enigmatic title means that Persian-speakers make up slightly less than half of Iran's population; more bluntly, Iran is not a country but an empire. If the great sea empires (British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish) nearly disappeared sixty years ago, the great land empires (with the exception of the Russian, mostly gone thirty years ago) live on, conveniently hiding under their contiguity: the Chinese, Ethiopian, Burmese, and Persian.

Shaffer provides a much-needed summary of the Persian Empire, laying out how, in all respects but power, Persians are a minority: geography, demographics, linguistics. Because they rule, however, Persian-speakers can discriminate in all the usual ways against the empire's minority peoples, including the Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Arabs, Lurs, Gilaks, Mazanis, Turkmans, and Baluch. They deploy negative stereotypes ("portraying Arabs as primitive and extremist and Azerbaijanis as stupid"), engage in environmental degradation, prohibit instruction in local languages, import allied forces from Lebanon and Iraq to quell disturbances, assassinate anti-regime expatriates, and encourage Persian-speakers to move into majority-minority regions. Just as in China, political activity to promote ethnic minority cultural and language rights is condemned as "separatism." To make matters worse, even the Persian-speaking opposition shares this outlook.

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