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Islam is still the problem

Reader comment on item: Identifying Moderate Muslims

Submitted by John Murdock (United States), Jan 1, 2005 at 17:23

At a recent lecture given by Dr Pipes, I asked the question why you take pains to tread so lightly on Islam and distinguish between it and "Islamism", and you answered that Islam is in fact an ancient religion with a rich cultural heritage, which you have studied in depth and have come to appreciate. I also read the bio-piece in the Harvard alumni magazine you recently forwarded, which I enjoyed reading. I am still perplexed, however, and unclear on your interpretation of the basic tenets and ultimate goal of the Koran, which tenets are outlined in the article below and in writings by ex-Muslims such as Ibn Warraq. I understood your position, perhaps incorrectly, to be that the "Islamists", i.e., the jihadist killers, are in the minority, and that the dogma found in the Koran will eventually be "liberalized" in the same way that the West, America in particular, has succeeded in moderating the extreme or fundamentalist aspects of Judaism and Christianity (query, have we really succeeded in the latter?).

If I could follow up on this, I'd like to know if there is any evidence that the clerics and the schools in the Muslim world support your hopeful prediction? Is Prof. Sharon (see article forwarded below) wrong in his interpretation of Arafat's remarks about "peace" as merely a dishonest tactical retreat, in the tradition of the prophet, until greater force can be brought to bear on the enemy in the relentless pursuit of Muslim world conquest? How can we expect a moderation of Islam when the central core teachings are accepted as the literal word of Allah through Mohammed, and these words command the killing of non-believers? From your years of study, do you accept the teachings of Mohammed as being consistent with a tolerant nation where non-Muslims could ever have the kind of equality we hold as inalienable in the West? I cannot for the life of me understand your assertion that there is a "moderate" or benign form of Islam, when your Harvard biopiece quotes your understanding of "jihad"--refuting the apologists-- as follows:

"But of course," Pipes erupted in his article, "it is precisely bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and
the jihadists worldwide who define the term, not a covey of academic apologists. More
importantly, the way the jihadists understand the term is in keeping with its usage through
fourteen centuries of Islamic history."

And that definition, he continued, to the majority of Muslims meant, and means, "the
legal, compulsory, communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims (known in
Arabic as dar al-Islam) at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims (dar al-harb)."
Khaleel Mohammed agrees. "The normative meaning has become war—whether
expansionist or defensive," he writes. (emph added).

I can understand your Islam/Islamist distinction if you believe you must appeal to non-militant Muslims and politically correct Americans who know nothing about the Koran in order to prevent the further marginalization of your views. I can understand the need to be taken seriously in the academic and political worlds, and that attacking the Koran itself is not going to get you a widespread audience. Nevertheless, is this not an act of appeasement that gives continuing cover to the Koran as a legitimate source of divine inspiration, whereas in fact it is the source of mayhem and will continue to be used by fanatics as the tool of recruitment? Are we just resigned to the fact that so many millions of people follow the Koran as their holy book that we can never expose it as a dangerous, misguided source of world instability that is in need of serious and scholarly refutation? Isn't your acceptance of the Koran and Islam exactly the same apologetic approach as the acceptance by others of the notion of a "higher jihad", which you forthrightly reject in the following quote (Harvard):

Pipes does acknowledge the concept of greater or higher jihad, which he says is usually
associated with Sufism and with the reformist approach to Islam that "reinterpret[s]
Islam to make it compatible with Western ways." But he calls this approach "wholly
apologetic," owing "far more to Western than to Islamic thinking."

If you believe there really is no such thing as "higher jihad", and if you believe jihad is the same as it has been practiced for 14 centuries, again I am perplexed at your acceptance of Islam as a benign philosophy.

In view of the prominence you have attained as an expert on this subject, and with great deference to your years of study, I am hoping that you will shrug off criticisms from those who are the true apologists for this poisonous philosophy, and take on the far more onerous task of openly dissecting the bona fides of the underlying tenets of the religion qua religion. As long as scholars of prominence such as yourself refuse to tackle the larger subject, we will have Presidents like Bush fighting small wars indefinitely while continuing to assure the American public they have nothing to fear from the majority of Muslims all around them. There has to be a way to address the philosophy itself, not just the personalities of bin Laden, et al.,as the "enemies".
Submitting....

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