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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.


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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review of Fertility and Faith: The Demographic Revolution and the Transformation of World Religions

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Jenkins, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University in both title and in reality, announces at the start an intuitively obvious but powerful generalization: "High-fertility societies ... tend to be fervent, devout, and religiously enthusiastic. Conversely, the lower the fertility rate, and the smaller the family size, the greater the tendency to detach from organized or institutional religion." Or, more succinctly, "fertility and faith travel together."

The bulk of Jenkins' study then works out the sometimes counterintuitive implications of this thesis, for example, "What separates the winners and losers in the religious economy is not the soundness of their theology but their fertility rates." Or this: "religions have to evolve new means of presenting their views" if they wish to survive and succeed. Or "security and stability tend to reduce fertility" (and thereby faith).

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review of The Rise and Fall of Greater Syria

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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On the positive side, Rise and Fall meticulously traces the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), one of the Middle East's most interesting organizations, through the decades, and especially the years 1932-59, documenting its twists and turns as it sought either to overthrow the existing order in Lebanon and Syria or retreated back to a more cautious stance. Yonker, a lecturer in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Tel Aviv University, is true to Israel's Germanic scholarly tradition.

On the negative side, Yonker's disappointing study follows those twists and turns without seeing their larger significance for the two countries most involved or the surrounding region. His book reads like a cross between a medieval chronicle and an overly-long graduate student paper. Lists of facts, members, and other pedestrian data will leave most readers wondering why they should care about the SSNP. A typical sentence informs us that SSNP candidates for the Lebanese parliamentary elections in 1953 "were selected at a joint meeting of the Higher Council and Council of Deputies presided over by 'Abd al-Masih and included Adib Qadurra (Beirut—fourth district), Asad al-Ashqar (Metn), 'Abdallah Sa'adeh (Koura), Ali Halawa (Tyre), and Nadhmi Azkul (Bekaa el-Gharbi)." So engrossed is Yonker in these minutiae, he devotes only a few paragraphs to the larger topic of the SSNP's lasting impact on Levantine politics.

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review of A Prophet Has Appeared: The Rise of Islam through Christian and Jewish Eyes, A Sourcebook

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Shoemaker, a professor of religious studies at the University of Oregon, has written several path-breaking books on early Islam; here, he complements them with a sourcebook collecting and translating twenty contemporaneous texts by non-Muslims (all Christians and Jews) about the first century of Islam. These have exceptional importance because the entire Muslim historical tradition relies on accounts from centuries later which are, as Shoemaker puts it, "notoriously unreliable." In contrast, "all the relevant contemporary witnesses to the rise of Muhammad's new religious community" come from non-Muslims. Better yet, they often confirm each other, for example, about the central importance of Jerusalem among Muhammad's followers. The result is a marvel of concision and originality; best of all, it is readily accessible to the general reader.

Those twenty excerpts tend to be brief; Shoemaker helpfully introduces each one, provides the passages in translation, and then draws conclusions. But the most eye-popping insights come in the course of his substantial introduction to the volume. Some examples:

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The Wreckage of Endowed Chairs

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2021  •  Academic Questions

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For some years, select historians have bemoaned the direction of their discipline. They regret the turn away from war, diplomacy, economics, and ideas in favor of gender, environment, race, and sexuality as they bemoan the decline in student interest. Niall Ferguson titled his critique "The Decline and Fall of History." Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin wrote "The Historical Profession Is Committing Slow-Motion Suicide." The Economist announced "The study of history is in decline in Britain."

While the glittery allure of fashionable topics and social-justice group-hugs drive this trend, a less visible economic factor enables it: many university-based historians have no need to attract students or readers. Assured funding from endowed chairs liberates them from having to address anyone other than fellow professional historians. Deans do not demand they fill classrooms; spouses do not clamor for royalties.

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Atheism among Muslims Is "Spreading Like Wildfire"

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 19, 2021  •  National Interest

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Ex-Muslims are publicly flaunting their rejection of Islam as never before: a steamy tell-all memoir that tops the country's best-seller lists; one video (with 1.5 million views) showing a copy of the Koran ripped into pieces; another video with a woman in a bikini cooking and eating bacon; and blasphemous cartoons of Muhammad.

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Nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq Was Never Going to Work
America cannot repair every enemy

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 19, 2021  •  Washington Times

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As usual, after World War I, victors plundered losers, especially the German one. The victors demanded the payment of huge reparations; under one plan, German payments would have continued until 1988. This scheme turned out catastrophically, partially laying the ground for the yet more horrible carnage of World War II.

Learning from this mistake, American leaders in 1945 did things differently: instead of plunder, they took the radical and unprecedented step of rehabilitating the defeated countries in the image of the United States.

This innovation turned out astonishingly well; as hoped, Germany, Japan, Austria, and Italy became free, democratic, and prosperous. (It also inspired a 1959 Peter Sellers' comedy, The Mouse that Roared, in which an impoverished microstate declares war on the United States to benefit from its largesse.)

Funding defeated enemies also became assumed, even routine American policy, and came to be known as the Pottery Barn rule: "You break it, you own it." In 2001-03, when U.S.-led coalitions overthrew two hostile governments, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Americans as a matter of course occupied these two countries, re-wrote their constitutions, armed and trained their forces, nurtured new leaders, and showered them with money.

But 2001-03 fundamentally differed from 1945 in deeply important ways.

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Germany's Jewish Leadership vs. Israel

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 12, 2021  •  Israel Hayom

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Germany's political parties have their differences, to be sure. But they can all agree on one thing: that the upstart civilizationist party called the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) should not have any representation in the Bundestag (parliament).

It's not hard to see why, as AfD's brazen outspokenness in favor of Western civilization, the United States, and Israel intensely annoys them. So, as elections loom, the other parties are ganging together to discredit the AfD. Given that this is Germany, the single most potent method is to tar it with antisemitism. And to do that most effectively, Jews must lead the charge.

That explains why Germany's Central Council of Jews (Zentralrat der Juden, ZdJ) initiated a document that no fewer than 68 other Jewish organizations endorsed. Titled "Jews against the AfD," it calls on Germans to vote for any party other than the AfD. Its message is not subtle: "Vote for an unquestionably democratic party [zweifelsfrei demokratische Partei] on September 26, 2021 and help banish the AfD from the German Bundestag."

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Twenty Years After 9/11

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 11, 2021  •  Albawaba

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DC Insider: What were the perpetrators' goals for 9/11?

Daniel Pipes: It is widely believed that Islamists saw the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan as key to the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and they decided, "Okay, one down, one to go. ... Let's bring down the United States." Obviously, 9/11 did not come anywhere close to achieving that.

DC Insider: What is the key lesson of 9/11?

Pipes: That you can kill thousands of people, cause vast global economic damage, create great political turmoil – and still not achieve your goals. For all the turmoil, from the Islamist – or the jihadist – point of view it achieved almost nothing. Indeed, one could argue that it was counterproductive by bringing global attention to Islamist aggression.

The Islamist movement somewhat learned that violence is not effective. Far better to work through institutions – educational, legal, political, media, and so forth – within the system. For example, take the Southern Poverty Law Center – a major organization once focused on civil rights for Blacks which has now become an Islamist ally.

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Israeli Victory, Palestinian Prosperity
Letter to the Editor

by Daniel Pipes  •  July 21, 2021  •  Wall Street Journal

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Who can resist the optimism of Micah Goodman's op-ed "Israel's Surprising Consensus on the Palestinian Issue" (July 15)? Sadly, the fine print reveals that the supposed consensus rests on Mr. Goodman's proposal "to create territorial contiguity between Palestinian autonomous islands in the West Bank, connect this Palestinian autonomy to the wider world, and promote Palestinian economic prosperity and independence."

Haven't we seen this movie before? Mr. Goodman's program closely replicates Shimon Peres's "New Middle East" and the Oslo Accords of 1993, when Israelis made major concessions in the innocent hope that Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and their henchmen would respond with goodwill. We know now how that turned out.

As a historian, I regret to report that conflicts typically end not with goodwill gestures but with one side giving up on its war goals. Think: 1865, 1945, 1975 and 1991. Handsome apartments and late-model cars will not spur Palestinians to accept Israel; this will happen only after they recognize the futility of their dream to eliminate the Jewish state. Israeli victory, not Palestinian prosperity, leads to peace.

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Is Western Europe Turning to the Right?

by Daniel Pipes  •  July 19, 2021  •  Gatestone Institute

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A large-scale and widely-noted survey, "The Conversion of Europeans to the Values of the Right," suggests that Western Europe is trending conservative. But a close look at the survey data finds that not to be the case.

La Fondation pour l'innovation politique (or the Fondapol Foundation), which calls itself a "liberal, progressive, and European think tank," surveyed 7,603 respondents in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy between Jan. 20 and Feb. 10, 2021. In striking contrast to historic trends, it found the young to be more conservative than the old, suggesting the move toward conservativism signaled in the title.

To be precise, 41 percent of the young (defined as ages 18-34) associate with the Right as well as 38 percent of the elderly (age 50 and above). Likewise, 24 percent of the young associate with the Left, while 30 percent of the elderly do. It bears noting that the pollsters do not define these terms but allow respondents to do so. The statistical differences are not large; but given that the young usually grow more conservative with age and, presuming that these four countries are typical of Western Europe as a whole, this data suggests the Right in Western Europe will likely further build its lead over the Left.

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The Perilous Path from Muslim to Christian

by Daniel Pipes  •  July 12, 2021  •  National Interest

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"More Muslims have come to faith in Jesus Christ over the last thirty years—and specifically over the last seven to ten years—than at any other time in human history" wrote Joel Rosenberg in 2008, and the pace has intensified since then. Uwe Siemon-Netto confirmed in 2016 that "a global phenomenon is underway: Muslims are converting to various Christian denominations in droves in every part of the world." Indeed, Christian missionaries have even coined a name and an abbreviation for them: Muslim-background believers, or MBBs.

Why is this trend taking place, what are the numbers involved, and what are the consequences?

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