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Missing a Bigger Opportunity than in Iran in 2009?

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?

Submitted by Ron Thompson (United States), Jul 3, 2013 at 17:55

This comment is also in response to Dr Pipes immediately preceding message discussing his mystifying conclusion that Islam can be reformed, a position which seems to have generated almost unanimous disagreement by more than 40 responders.

There is fairly wide agreement that President Obama flubbed a huge opportunity to undermine and perhaps overthrow the theological autocracy in Iran when he refused to express support for the massive street demonstrations against the regime in June, 2009. In looking back, I am surprised that the issue was not framed by any prominent figure supporting the demonstrators as opposition to Islam itself, or to Political Islam in general, but only to Khomeni's particular theocracy.

Perhaps that means, one can hope, that the next round of opposition to Islamic rule in Iran will be more broadly based.

Now Obama, and the rest of active Public Opinion have an equally fundamental opportunity to express opposition to Political Islam by supporting the even more massive protests in Egypt calling for the removal of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. (As I write, I hear the Egyptian military has just accomplished that!)

I refer to Political Islam rather than "Islamism" for the reason that I believe if it is discredited, then Islam itself must take a huge and perhaps fatal blow. In other words, one doesn't have to get into this arcane and distracting argument of whether, as Dr Pipes suggests, 'Islamism' is not inherent in Islam and therefore needs to be distinguished from it (even if there is not now anywhere, socially or politically, any Muslim society based on an explicitly 'moderate' Islam)

If one makes the judgment that if Political Islam in all its forms - hostility to democracy, to women's rights, to free speech, to freedom of religious allegiance, to 'man-made' law, etc - is defeated, then one doesn't have to attack the religion directly. Because one may conclude that Islam itself will be formidably weakened, perhaps fatally, by its political defeat as a credible form of government or, through Sharia, as a constitution for any viable Muslim society.

I don't understand why we would shrink from contemplating what a titanic event in World History it would be if this 1,400 year old creed of hatred and intolerance should follow the defeat and discrediting of the 74 year old creed of Soviet Marxism and just ….. collapse. Is it something about the age of the creed, or the apparent number of its adherents that somehow immunizes it from contemplation and open discussion by non-Muslims that it might be on the brink of systemic collapse?

Wouldn't this be a world-liberating event every bit as profound and welcome as the political collapse of Communism?

I say apparent number of adherents because, with the death penalty for leaving the creed in majority-Muslim societies – apostasy - who can know the number of true adherents? Especially when the leaders of all non-Muslim societies, despite being hated in principle by devout Muslims, rigidly - I am tempted to say pathologically - censor themselves from criticizing the belief system itself.

Everybody was surprised when Soviet Communism, after Gorbachev instituted Perestroika and Glasnost, reforms intended to reinvigorate Communism, instead within half a decade experienced a total and irreversible collapse of credibility (even if skeleton institutions of repression have remained)

Could that follow the defeat off Political Islam in Turkey or Egypt? (which, again, appears to have just happened in Egypt!)

History saw the collapse of the classical ancient world's Polytheism.

The Western world saw the rather violent collapse of the 'Medieval Synthesis', the authoritarian unity of One Church and religious belief system allied to States supposedly subservient to it, called the Middle Ages.

A century or two later the Divine Right of kings, the principle of legitimacy of all European States at one time or another, and totally alien to any belief in Democracy, began its long drawn out collapse, from 1689 to 1918.

Successive waves of technological change and industrialism have wrought additional revolutions, even if they don't always have clear-cut names and dates.

Why should we now hold ourselves back from calling, loudly and clearly, for the downfall of Political Islam - a virulent totalitarian creed which has successfully resisted decisive change for over 1200 years - and for letting Islam take its chances at being a power in Muslim countries in some other way, while simply refraining from any support for the creed itself.

I will confess that I was completely, and most pleasantly, taken by surprise at the strength of the opposition to Political Islam in Turkey and Egypt. I underestimated the desire for Freedom in these populations, dispiritedly thinking they were terminally docile and likely to accept the chains of an ever more politicized Islam fastened onto their bodies and minds.

It is therefore an ironic spectacle that even as Political Islam in European States gets much more aggressive and closer to political violence, the leadership and elites of these formerly great States are showing the docility and passivity I previously expected in the Muslim populations (although, ominously, there is no detectable rebellion against Political Islam among the Muslim communities in Europe)

Indeed, as the shameful Appeasement toward numerous and accelerating Muslim demands has gone on apace in European Capitals and in Washington, even as the indigenous publics of Europe get more and more restless at the encroachments of Political Islam, this rebellion of Muslim populations in the Middle Eastern heartland of Islam is the most hopeful sign I've seen since 9/11, when those vivid and painful events largely failed to educate the West, or at least its leaders, about its new mortal enemy.

And so I would ask Dr Pipes, entirely apart from any side discussion about a "moderate" Islam, are you opposed to Political Islam?

Ron Thompson


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Daniel Pipes replies:

I am unalterably opposed to political Islam.

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