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Reader comment on item: Americans Wake Up to Islamism
in response to reader comment: Question to Mr. Pipes

Submitted by A Peaceful Man (United States), Oct 11, 2010 at 19:38

Very interesting article Dr. Pipes. However, I am still not quite certain the delineation you are espousing is valid, despite the clarification. In the 2000 article you write:

//While Islamism is often seen as a form of traditional Islam, it is something profoundly different. Traditional Islam seeks to teach humans how to live in accord with God's will, whereas Islamism aspires to create a new order. The first is self-confident, the second deeply defensive. The one emphasizes individuals, the latter communities. The former is a personal credo, the latter a political ideology.//

To the extent you define Islamism as seeking to create a "new order" on a political level, it is unclear in what material way this is different from "traditional Islam" - what you define as a "personal credo". Your differentiation seems to focus upon the point of traditionalists fearing and despising the West, whereas Islamists take the next step of action, eager to challenge the West rather than merely railing against it. As your article reveals however, both harbor a fundamental contempt and distrust of non-Muslim societies, and at most, merely disagree as to which methods are optimal to achieve their religious ends - conversion, or violent takeover. That is why I think most view the differentiation to be at best, cosmetic; the underlying system of belief - that Islam is superior, the imperative to spread Islam on a global level is desirable, that all things non - Muslim lead only to disorder - remains relatively unchanged in the both contexts.

There does not seem to be any convincing rationale in that article for insisting that these two methods of achieving Islamic supremacy are distinct facets of a split religious ideology rather than two of the permissible means common to one, unitary faith based order. The Qur'an after all, embraces both forms as permissible means to achieve Islamic supremacy, Da'wah and Jihad. To my knowledge there is nothing within the Qur'an or Hadith indicating that the use of one precludes or obviates the use of the other. Rather, it appears quite clear that both are to be used in accordance to material reality. When the Islamic state is weak it is desirable to spread Islam by word, by preaching, by invitation, by sedition and deception. When the Muslim state is strong, it is desirable to spread Islam by military means, by terror, by conversion, etc .....

I agree with you on the point that Muslims, as people, take different views upon which of these two methods are most desirable for them, but I cannot agree - as there does not seem to be any sufficient evidence for it - that such a dichotomy is present within Islamic doctrine itself. Moreover, simply because a Muslim chooses one path or the other does not necessarily suggest that they reject violence, or reject peaceful preaching. It is quite plausible that a moderate, non-violent Muslim nonetheless condones violent attacks in the name of Islam just as a violent terrorist views Da'wah as an essential component supplementing their violent efforts.

Differentiating people based on their degree of adherence to Islam is not the same as insisting that there are two distinct forms of the religion producing two distinct forms of adherents. A traditionalist may not be any different from an Islamist in principle - only in practice and choice of means. To suggest that the greater threat is the Islamist rather than the traditionalist is akin to insisting that targeted acts of terroristic violence are ultimately more conducive to the spread of Islam than a systematic infiltration on a purely ideological level.

The ultimate issue I think that would clarify this point can be seen in this question:

Would a society, originally non-Muslim in character, under the auspices of full Islamic rule be any different if it was imposed by traditionalists rather than Islamists?

A difficult question with many hypothetical variables for sure, but it does draw attention to the main point that Islamic law, despite a few minor points of divergence, is in large part uniform in the major aspects of persecuting non-Muslims, institutionalizing sexual discrimination, elevating Muslims to superior status, and enforcing that law with harsh punishment.

Thank you Mr. Pipes. Again, I greatly appreciate any feedback.


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