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Some encouraging perspectives that the battle has begun

Reader comment on item: "The Battle against Islamism Has Not Yet Started"

Submitted by Dr. David Cashin (United States), Aug 1, 2016 at 14:34

Dear Dr. Pipes,

Great article as always. I particularly enjoyed your definition of Islamophobia. I would like, however, to inject a little hope into your narrative. Your final statement that "there is very little evidence of this happening" I think could be modified.

I'm a Christian missionary who has worked with Muslims for 45 years. Things are happening today that I could not have dreamed of 30 years ago. If you are a secularist, then there is even more to be encouraged about.

Take Iranians for example. They were the leading edge of the Islamic revolution. Today in Sweden about 10% of them (about 10,000 people) are baptized members of Christian Churches. If one looks for secularists, virtually all of the remaining 90,000 Iranians in Sweden have abandoned Islam. You would be hard pressed to find a religious Muslim Iranian in Sweden today. As witness? As far as I know there are no Shia mosques in Sweden.

If you are looking for a movement to occur within Islam you will have cause to be disappointed. The problem is that liberalism and "liberal" religion comes from critique. The "liberal" denominations of Christianity and Judaism "converted" through 18th-20th century historical-critical methods, where questioning of scripture and reaction against old norms and views became normal. The western world provided a scope for this. Today, "mainline" denominations support abortion and homosexual marriage. Fundamentalist denominations are increasingly marginalized and their institutions are being de-funded.

The Islamic clergy have the benefit of watching this process. They know where critique of Islam would lead and it would involve their dis-empowerment. Over the last 50 years Islam has experienced the greatest religious revival in world history. I have watched it occur during my watch. Bangladesh was a place where no women were veiled 40 years ago. Today, nearly a majority are veiled. You can see this process happening across the globe. And the clergy have been immensely empowered. Muslim governments kowtow to the clergy when it comes to Islamic social teaching. The radical clergy want more and that is where the fight has been happening. Saddam, Qaddhafi, Assad, Sisi, they are all secularists who draw the line at the political power of the clergy. That line is gone now, even in Turkey. The clergy smells theocracy and that puts them in the driver's seat.

The wonderful truth that the Muslim world is in the process of learning is that theocracy doesn't work. It becomes the power of the clergy who use Allah as their puppet to shriek their empowerment. The Iranians understand this. Now the Afghans are learning it after 40 years of war, and the Arabs, according to my friends in Flen, Sweden, are not far behind. Dr. Pipes, look across the Muslim world today and what do you see? What are the fruits of 50 years of Islamic clergy empowerment? Algeria is a failed state, Libya is a failed state, Somalia is a failed state, Syria is a failed state, Iraq is a failed state, Yemen is a failed state, Afghanistan is a failed state, Pakistan is a failed state. The more religious they get, the more their nations disintegrate. Ataturk understood this in 1918 but his secular revolution is forgotten. As Turkey degenerates into chaos they will relearn the lesson.

What will change this? The same thing that has changed the Catholic Church. As clergy abuse becomes well-known, the young people abandon the Church. The Church has to change because it is losing its very foundations. I believe that Islam will only change once it loses its demographic base in the youth. For the time being reform from within is impossible. Have a look at some of the websites on "Muslims leaving Islam". There young Muslims are abandoning the faith and providing the historical-critical foundation for the rejection of Islam. It remains to be seen if some kind of liberal Islam will emerge, or whether atheism will win. Either way I think you have much to be hopeful about.

I am also encouraged. The fruits of my labors are much smaller than yours, but they are far beyond what I might have imagined 30 years ago.

Dave Cashin


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Daniel Pipes replies:

I appreciate this first-hand information.

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