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Reader comment on item: How to End Terrorism:

Submitted by Dave (United States), Dec 6, 2006 at 16:53

Dr. Pipes,

I am a long standing admirer of you and your work, and consider voices such as yours critical in these war-torn times we unfortunately find ourselves in. I would like to ask you why it is that you do not consider the possibility that Islam itself is the problem and further what is driving you to defend it?

If some one were to found a cult and preach the ideas and ideals of Islam, but with only a few 100 or 1000 practitioners I doubt you would try very hard to see what the "true" cult really maintained as opposed to the "hijacked version" of the cult presenting the world with problems such as mass terror. I do not mean to pick on Islam, I think any rational person would agree that the number of adherents or age of an ideology are rather poor determinants as to the value let alone higher truth that a given ideology may posses. Therefore it seems clear that it is on the basis of the ideas and teachings of an ideology that its case must be considered, whether simply for further investigation let alone for an evaluation of the truth or value it contains.

I will quote only from your article so as to only cite features of Islam that at least you would agree are Islamic as you have identified them yourself as being representative of Islam. "Islamic law, in retreat over the previous two centuries, came roaring back, and with it jihad, or sacred war. The caliphate, defunct in real terms for over a millennium, became a vibrant dream." It appears to me that if these ideals are themselves Islamic (as you yourself label them), then with all due respect who are you (as I assume you do not claim to be a Muslim religious authority) to determine what is or is not "real" Islam.

Further, the version of Islam you reference far predates any of the "traditional, modernist, and centrist approaches to Islam" that you feel should be viewed as the "real" Islam. I would add that logic alone would dictate that the ideas and behaviors of Mohamed would provide the best indication for the definition of "real" Islam, however as I am not a Muslim religious authority I am open to instruction from said authorities as to the proper way to interpret the Qur'an Sharia etc…

As a religious person, I am at a loss to understand how it is that the otherwise incredibly reasonable (though I am extremely skeptical as to its prospects for success) approach you take to the problem Islam today presents the world, namely the reformation of Islam, is not to be taken by a Muslim believing in what you refer to as "radical Islam" as anything other that an attempt to extinguish the expression of God's will on earth as He revealed to the Prophet Mohamed? Granted coming from the perspective that you and I share as nonbelievers of Islam this does not present much of an epistemological crisis, however I cannot see how your proposal could present any more of a threat to the believers of an ideology who believe their ideology to be the word of God. To say as you do that we must influence or otherwise encourage Muslims to bring about the formulation of an "Islam that is modern, moderate, democratic, liberal, good-neighborly, humane, and respectful of women" is to secularize the substance of religion.

To a nonbeliever it is trivial to identify the "essential" elements of religion thereby distilling what is acceptable to the world of the secularly tolerant and removing the "unnecessary" or "unpleasant" features of an otherwise now emasculated belief. I am not attempting to provide any excuse whatsoever for practices such as Islamic Jihad or misogynism (despite CAIR's denial of any Islamic connection with such institutions), rather I am trying to understand how you can still call a spade a spade after you remove from it everything that once made it a spade? Further I cannot see the difference between attempting to reform "radical" or "Islamist" Islam with the Islam of those Muslims who traditionally, on the basis of a legitimate Isnad and not simply due to global assimilation to modernity (as any such interpretation would be total anathema to a religious Muslim) differ from attempting to convert all Sunnis Muslims to Shiite or vice versa.

I would very much appreciate your response to these questions as I am at a total loss to reconcile your views on the matter.

Respectfully yours,



Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

I have discussed this issue in numerous writings and will certainly do so again. For some of them, see "Bibliography – My Writings on Naming Moderate Muslims."

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