By Lawrence Auster
FrontPageMagazine.com January 28, 2005
The Search for Moderate Islam: Part I
Does it Exist?
A leading intellectual figure and stalwart fighter in America's confrontation with radical Islam, Daniel Pipes is perhaps best known for his idea that "radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution." As Pipes argues, radical Islam, though currently the dominant political force in the Muslim world, is supported by only 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide, while moderate Islam represents the great, though so far mostly silent, majority of Muslims. He further points out that radical Islam, also known as militant Islam or Islamism, is a very recent phenomenon, having more in common with modern totalitarian ideologies than with true, historic Islam. While he warns that militant Islam aims to overthrow the West and regain lost Islamic glory, he insists with equal conviction that traditional, moderate Islam is fully capable of living at peace with the rest of the world.
Pipes's dual perspective on Islam leads him to advocate a dual-track strategy toward it. We must, he says, use all necessary political and military means to defeat the Islamists and secure our own safety, even as we seek out moderates and help them in the vital work of reforming Islamic beliefs and practices, isolating the extremists, and building an Islamic community that can be a normal and productive member of a democratic world community.
In contrast to the view of Islam advanced by Pipes, which we might call "ecumenist" because it looks forward to an ultimate harmony and even union between Islam and the West, there is a perspective that we might call "civilizationist," because it insists that there are essential incompatibilities between the two civilizations. These different understandings of Islam imply diverging strategic concepts. For the ecumenist school, the only aspect of Islam that represents a danger is the radical, false Islam. We must therefore empower the true, moderate Islam, so that under its guidance the Islamic countries will re-make themselves into decent and free societies. But for the civilizationist school, the problem is not "radical" Islam but Islam itself, from which it follows that we must seek to weaken and contain Islam, rather than try to create some new, nicer Islam.
The issue is momentous. If we subscribe to the promise of a moderate Islam, we will make its cultivation the central focus and goal in the war against militant Islam. If this moderate Islam in fact exists, our efforts may help Muslims transform their civilization for the better and relieve the world of the curse of Muslim extremism. But if moderate Islam does not exist, yet we delude ourselves into thinking that it exists, we would inevitably find ourselves trapped in a cultural equivalent of the Oslo "peace process," forever negotiating with and empowering our mortal enemies in the pathetic hope that they will turn out to be friends. Alternatively, if we understand that there is no such thing and can be no such thing as moderate Islam, that would obviously result in very different policies. In the remainder of this article, I will endeavor to show that the latter view is correct, a task made easier by the fact that Pipes, the principal advocate of the moderate Islam thesis, has provided numerous statements that contradict it. As a result, virtually my sole authority in the ensuing critical discussion of Daniel Pipes's ideas will be Pipes himself.
There is no intention here to undermine Dr. Pipes, a man who has bravely spoken the truth about the terror-supporting organizations in our midst and exposed himself to their vicious attacks in the process. I've had numerous e-mail exchanges with Dr. Pipes in recent years and I respect him for the important contributions he has made to this fight. But when there are such radically divergent views regarding the nature of our enemy, which would lead us to radically divergent ways of dealing with the enemy, the respective positions must be aired in full. All that should matter to us is getting at the truth.
It should also be understood that our subject is not the thought processes and attitudes of one individual, but, in effect, of our whole society in its attempt to grapple with the incredibly difficult challenge of Islam. As one who stringently opposes the bad Islam and devoutly dreams of a good Islam, Pipes is emblematic of the rational fears and the delusive hopes that have been at the core of this debate.
Is it true?
So let us start again with Pipes's basic view of the subject, which happened to be used as the epigraph of a recent complimentary profile of Pipes in Harvard Magazine:
It's a mistake to blame Islam, a religion fourteen centuries old, for the evil that should be ascribed to militant Islam, a totalitarian ideology less than a century old. Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution.
To say that moderate Islam is the solution to radical Islam implies several things: that moderate Islam exists; that it represents the true (though perhaps currently disregarded) norm of Islam; and that radical Islam is a departure from that norm. Yet in the same Harvard Magazine article, several other quotes are given from Pipes's work that suggest the very opposite of these ideas. Here, for example, he is discussing a Muslim student speaker at the Harvard Commencement a couple of years ago, who, along with some of his professors, sought to portray "jihad" in benign terms, as indicating only an interior spiritual struggle rather than military conquest:
"But of course," Pipes erupted in his article, "it is precisely bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and the jihadists worldwide who define the term [jihad], 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." [emphasis added.]
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)."
If bin Laden's and other jihadists' understanding of jihad "is in keeping with its usage through 14 centuries of Islamic history," as Pipes indicates, then jihadism, i.e., militant Islam, has in fact been a normative component of Islam for 1,400 years. Therefore it cannot be true that militant Islam is a very recent, minority movement.
In another quote in the Harvard magazine article, Pipes again asserts the supposed atypicality of militant Islam:
Militant Islam derives from Islam but is a misanthropic, misogynist, triumphalist, millenarian, anti-modern, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, terroristic, jihadistic, and suicidal version of it. Fortunately, it appeals to only about 10 percent to 15 percent of Muslims, meaning that a substantial majority would prefer a more moderate version.
The obvious point to make here is that the characteristics Pipes attributes exclusively to militant Islam—misogynist, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, jihadistic and all the rest—can be just as easily attributed to mainstream traditional Islam. But there is a less obvious point here as well. By his use of the subjunctive mood in the phrase, "a substantial majority would prefer a more moderate version [of Islam]," Pipes is suggesting, not that the "moderate" majority actually prefer a more moderate version of Islam, but only that they may prefer it in the future, under conditions which do not now exist. Thus the supposed vast moderate majority, making up 85 percent of all Muslims, seem to accept the actually existing, non-moderate Islam. How, then, could we expect them to become the leaders of Islam and remake it in a moderate direction? We might also point out that what 85 percent of the Muslim population believes is irrelevant in any case. What matters is what a majority of the political class in the Muslim lands believe.
Does moderate Islam exist?
As we continue to read Pipes's writings on the subject, a deeper problem in his concept of moderate Islam becomes evident. It's not just that the supposed moderate majority is really an indifferent or weak voice within Islam. It's that moderate Islam may not even exist in any meaningful sense.
There are several facets to this issue. In an article touting the progress of moderate Islam, Pipes balances the good news with an honest accounting of the serious difficulties that have been encountered in the effort to find and identify moderate Muslims:
—Islamists note the urge to find moderate Muslims and are learning how to fake moderation. Over time, their camouflage will undoubtedly further improve.
—Figuring out who's who is a high priority. It may be obvious that Osama bin Laden is Islamist and Irshad Manji anti-Islamist, but plenty of Muslims are in the murky middle. An unresolved debate has raged for years in Turkey whether the current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is an Islamist or not.
—The task of identifying true moderates cannot be done through guesswork and intuition; for proof, note the American government's persistent record of supporting Islamists by providing them with legitimacy, education, and (perhaps even) money. I too have made my share of mistakes. What's needed is serious, sustained research.
Having told us that moderate Islam is the solution to radical Islam, Pipes now tells us that we can't even tell who is a genuine moderate Muslim. It's as though on America's entry into World War II Franklin Roosevelt assured the nation that with the help of our allies we would be able to defeat Nazi Germany—and then added that he had no idea if we actually had any allies or how he would identify them if he thought he had found some.
Similarly, Pipes writes:
If militant Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution, as I often argue, how does one differentiate between these two forms of Islam?
It's a tough question, especially as concerns Muslims who live in Western countries.
If it is so hard to tell a moderate from a radical, how is it possible to base anything that we do on the moderates? To continue my World War II analogy, it is as if President Roosevelt had said, "How do we differentiate between the Axis Powers and our allies? It's a tough question ...” and then assured us that our allies stood firmly at our shoulder in the war against fascism.
Not only is it hard to find moderate Muslims, and not only is it hard to differentiate moderate Muslims from radical Muslims, but when you do find them, they are in a disorganized state:
Moderate Muslims who wish to live modern lives, unencumbered by burqas, fatwas, and violent visions of jihad, are on the defensive and atomized. They must be helped: celebrated by governments, publicized in the media, given grants by foundations.
Pipes further expands on the isolation, weakness, and fearful circumstances of anti-Islamist Muslims—not just in the Muslim countries, but in the free countries of the West:
The weak standing of anti-Islamist Muslims has two major implications.
For them to be heard over the Islamist din requires help from the outside—celebration by governments, grants from foundations, recognition by the media, and attention from the academy.
Those same institutions must shun the now-dominant militant Islamic establishment. Moderates have a chance to be heard when Islamists are repudiated.
Promoting anti-Islamists and weakening Islamists is crucial if a moderate and modern form of Islam is to emerge in the West.
The suggestion is that moderate Islam presently exists only in the form of individuals who lack any organized existence as moderates. Nor do they have the political capacity and support to become leaders within the Islamic community. So we must help them organize. We must help them become leaders. And what shall this help consist of? Media recognition, foundation grants, government celebrations. This raises an unavoidable question: if a national or religious movement needs to be nursed into life by people from outside that culture or religion, can it be considered a viable movement? France gave us crucial military assistance during the War of Independence; but we didn't depend on the French to help us create our own government and celebrate our national identity.
Obviously, far more than foundation grants will be needed to make the moderates a meaningful factor in Muslim politics. Writing in the New York Post on December 31, 2002, Pipes gave this prognosis:
[V]iolent jihad will probably continue until it is crushed by a superior military force.... Only when jihad is defeated will moderate Muslims finally find their voice and truly begin the hard work of modernizing Islam.
Moderate Islam is so weak, fearful, and undeveloped that it can't even find its voice until the dominant militant Islam is militarily destroyed—by us. Like the interim Iraqi government, moderate Islam can only exist—in a vulnerable, tenuous state—so long as we are there to protect it. Furthermore, as appears from the endless terror war in Iraq, we lack the means to crush militant Islam in a Muslim country. At best we can fend it off, not defeat it. This means that the ability of moderate Muslims to find and keep their voice would depend on continued U.S. military presence throughout the Muslim region. We would have to maintain Mideast-wide counterinsurgency operations until the end of time. And that's just so that the moderates can find their voice.
Yet, having pointed to the weakness and dependency of the moderate Muslims, Pipes, when asked in a FrontPage Magazine interview what steps he would advise Bush to take in the war on terror, replied as follows:
I would advise him to surround himself with leading moderate, anti-Islamist Muslims and announce that the "War on Terror" has been redefined as the "War on Militant Islam." That would have many and profound implications, such as ... (3) pointing out the key role of moderate Muslims, and (4) specifying that the immediate war goal must be to destroy militant Islam and the ultimate war goal the modernization of Islam. [Emphasis added.]
But what "key role" could there be for the moderates in this struggle, given the fact that they will not even be able to find their voice, let alone be able to lead and govern, until after we have destroyed militant Islam over the whole globe?
Is a moderate Muslim—a Muslim?
There is yet a deeper perplexity that confronts us in the search for moderate Islam. It's not just that the moderates are, for all practical purposes, a minority in the Muslim world. It's not just that they are a politically weak and terrorized minority. It's not just that they won't be able to find their voice until the U.S. wins a permanent world-wide military victory over militant Islam. It's not just that they are atomized individuals rather than an organized group. And it's not just that moderate Islam does not presently exist in any meaningful form. It's that moderate Islam cannot exist. Consider this questionnaire that Pipes designed to find out whether a person is a moderate Muslim:
Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims? May Muslims convert to other religions? May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men? Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Muslim government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to that government? Should the state impose religious observance, such as banning food service during Ramadan? When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g., covering the face for drivers' license pictures), which should give way?
While the questionnaire would help identify as a radical anyone who answered no to most of the questions, it has one notable flaw: anyone who answered yes to most of the questions would no longer be a Muslim. As long as Muslims follow the Koranic law that defines Islam, they could not accept the legitimacy of conversion out of the faith (banned by the Prophet on pain of death), nor could they accept, in any permanent sense, the laws of a majority non-Muslim government, since they are commanded by the Prophet to wage Holy War until the entire world has been subjugated to Islam. Therefore, by Pipes's own definition of what constitutes moderate Islam, it is a contradiction in terms. So let's be clear about the meaning of this. Religiously indifferent Muslim individuals exist. Formerly Muslim individuals who have left the faith exist. Formerly Muslim states that have de-Islamicized themselves exist (or at least one such state, Turkey, has existed). But moderate Islam does not exist, and cannot exist.
Pipes tacitly indicates the same in his book, The Path of God, where he criticizes the so-called reformist Muslims who have adopted more "spiritual" understandings of jihad. These reformists' ideas actually come from the West, Pipes continues, but by claiming an Islamic source, they maintain the illusion that Islam has always been humane and liberal. As a result, they avoid the hard work of facing the truth about Islam and changing it.
Pipes's meaning is undeniable: moderate Islam does not now exist. It must be created. Moreover, it can only be created by means of renouncing that which Islam has always been. But, on those terms, can the result still be Islam? In the culminating passage of his magisterial 1878 biography, The Life of Mahomet, William Muir, after noting the good things about Muhammadanism, speaks of the "radical evils [that] flow from the faith in all ages and in every country, and must continue to flow so long as the Koran is the standard of belief." But the Koran, of course, is the basis of Islam and its highest authority, viewed by Muslims as the eternal, uncreated word of God. Muslims can no more give up the Koran and remain Muslims, than lions can give up their teeth, their claws, and their tawny coats, and still be lions.
The Search for Moderate Islam: Part I Continued
By Lawrence AusterFrontPageMagazine.com January 28, 2005
Pipes defends his thesis
Pipes, of course, is not unaware that his thesis about Islam's underlying or potential goodness is widely doubted, and he has written several articles replying to critics. The arguments he has offered, however, are surprisingly, almost shockingly weak.
For example, in "The Evil Isn't Islam," published in July 2002, he attempts to meet head-on the assertion that Islam is "evil." His entire argument adds up to two factual claims:
- There are a couple of Koran verses that are "moderate"; and
- "There have been occasions of Muslim moderation and tolerance." [Emphasis added.]
From these two insignificant data, Pipes concludes that "Islam's scriptures and history show variation." That's it. That's Pipes's "proof" that Islam isn't evil. This is like saying that Nazi Germany showed some concern for the well-being of the German people, and individual Nazis had their kindly side, and therefore Nazism was not evil.
We should also point out that variance in Koranic verses and in the moral conduct of individual Muslims tells us nothing. The key questions are: What do Muslims usually do—as opposed to what they do in rare circumstances? What does the religion command its followers to do? Christians violate the New Testament all the time, but it's disobedient people who are to blame, not the religion. Islam tells its followers to wage Holy War, to slaughter non-Muslims, to find the Jew behind a tree and kill him, and all the rest of it.
Pipes continues: "Things can get better. But it will not be easy. That requires that Muslims tackle the huge challenge of adapting their faith to the realities of modern life." He then gives examples of how backward Islamic societies really are and of how difficult the task of creating a moderate Islam will really be. Thus his whole case comes down to the wishful hope that if Islam can somehow be totally transformed, a good Islam can emerge. By his own account, he has conceded that his moderate Islam is not a substantial reality. It is a well-meant hope which he has touted, in one article after another, as though it were a reality. But as soon as he gets into specifics, its tenuous quality becomes all too apparent.
In a follow-up column, Pipes quotes the overwhelmingly negative mail he received in response to the earlier column. "Your point of view is for people who believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus," writes one correspondent. "I hope you are not beginning to lose your nerve," says another. "Maybe your hope is overshadowing your understanding of the truth," sniffs a third. The readers' points come down to these: Islam has always been aggressive, militant Islam is Islam, and the "moderate" suras of the Koran that Pipes had referenced were abrogated by Muhammad himself in the later suras.
And what does Pipes have to say to these critics?
My response ... is that no matter what Islam is now or was in the past, it will be something different in the future. The religion must adapt to modern mores. [Emphasis added.]
This can be done. [Emphasis added.]
In support of that possibility, he proceeds to tell about some "moderate" developments in Turkey, such as a greater respect for women, and anticipates that the same might happen in other Muslim countries as well. But—in this article written specifically to answer the attacks on his central thesis—Pipes offers no reply to his critics' claims about the absence of a historically moderate Islam. By saying, "no matter what Islam is now or was in the past," he tacitly concedes that Islam was not moderate in the past and is not moderate now, or at least that he has no proof of the opposite. All that is left is the imperative ("it must adapt") that Islam become moderate in the future. But why must it adapt? Here, finally, Pipes gets down to the motivational core of his position:
[I]f one sees Islam as irredeemably evil, what comes next? This approach turns all Muslims—even moderates fleeing the horrors of militant Islam—into eternal enemies. And it leaves one with zero policy options. My approach has the benefit of offering a realistic policy to deal with a major global problem.
In other words, we are obligated to believe that Islam can change, because disbelief in that possibility would lead to unacceptable results. Pipes is no longer basing his promotion of moderate Islam on any claim of factual or historical truth. He is basing it on hope and fear—the hope that Islam may someday become something inconceivably better than that which it has always been, and the fear of the intolerable things that would happen if we abandoned that hope.
Given Pipes's admission, in some articles, that moderate Islam has never existed as a concrete social and religious reality, and that "radical" Islam is therefore the historic norm of the faith after all, what explains his continuing insistence, in other articles, that radical Islam is only an extremist offshoot of the true, moderate Islam?
An opening into Pipes's contradictory thoughts on the subject can be found in remarks he wrote for an Islamic American magazine, The Minaret, in September 2000 (and which he repeated in the introduction of his 2002 book, Militant Islam Reaches America). After praising Islam for the "extraordinary inner strength" it imbues in its followers and the great cultural achievements of its classical period, he said:
I approach the religion of Islam in a neutral fashion, neither praising it nor attacking it but in a spirit of inquiry. Neither apologist nor booster, neither spokesman nor critic, I consider myself a student of this subject.
This is an odd comment for an intellectual to make. Since when does studying a subject preclude one from criticizing it? Since when does scholarship require non-judgmentalism? If Pipes were a student of, say, Soviet Communism, like his father the historian Richard Pipes, would he say that his scholarly approach to Marxism-Leninism prevented him from criticizing the Soviet Gulag, the millions of political murders, the enslavement of entire nations? Also, how can Pipes as a scholar expect his evaluations of Islam to be considered reliable if he announces up front that he will not render a negative judgment about it?
In any case, Pipes's personal motivations, whether for not wanting to be seen as a critic of Islam (which would be an understandable tactic of self-preservation given his exposed position), or for actually not wanting to be a critic of Islam (which would be harder to excuse), are not our concern. Pipes has already given us a meaningful and satisfactory explanation of his political motivations for avoiding a too searching critique of Islam: his fear that if we come to the conclusion that Islam is not and cannot be moderate, we will lost any basis for a constructive policy toward it and will be doomed to regard all Muslims as our eternal enemies. This is not a concern that can be lightly dismissed, and is probably shared by millions of Westerners. We will return to it in the second part of this essay.
What matters to us here is not Pipes's motivations, but the truth of his statements about the nature of Islam and about his role as a student of it. For a scholar in a field so filled with bloody controversy, there can be no such thing as the non-judgmental neutrality that Pipes attributes to himself. For example, Communist regimes, according to the most authoritative book on the subject, The Black Book of Communism, killed upwards of 100 million unarmed civilians in the course of the 20th century. If I speak this true fact about Communism, I am, perforce, a critic of Communism. If, conversely, I choose not to be critic of Communism, I can only do that by ignoring or minimizing its crimes, in which case I have ceased to be its student and have become its apologist. Therefore Pipes's claim that he is neither a critic nor an apologist is not true. As we have seen, sometimes he is one, sometimes the other. When he tells us that militant Islam is a fearsomely dangerous movement that threatens us all, and when he tells us that reformist Muslims falsely imagine the historical existence of a moderate and liberal Islam, he is being a critic. But when he tells us that only modern Islamism—not historic Islam—is dangerous, and that moderate Islam is the solution to radical Islam, he is being an apologist.
The false distinction between Islamism and Islam
Insofar as Pipes is a protector of Islam, the chief way he protects it is through his distinction between modern Islamism, with which he associates everything bad about Islam, and traditional Islam, which he describes, not neutrally, but in respectful, glowing tones. Writing in The National Interest in Spring 2000, he evokes the full-bodied, romantic view of Islam that is familiar from the works of Arabists and traditional Islam scholars such as Bernard Lewis. There was, he tells us, this glorious civilization, far greater than the miserable Europe of the early Middle Ages (a condescending attitude toward medieval Christian Europe is, of course, de rigeuer in all such encomia to Islam). But in the modern period Islam lost ground to the West, became weak and powerless, and now Muslims are bewildered and angry and are looking for explanations and a way to win back their former glory. So they have turned to the vicious ideology of Islamism, which uses modern technology, communications, mass indoctrination, and propaganda to strike back at modern civilization.
There are two points to make about this description of Islam's Golden Age. As Serge Trifkovic writes in The Sword of the Prophet, the glories of medieval Islam are largely a myth. It was a parasite civilization whose achievements were mainly the work of its subject peoples such as Byzantines, Jews, and Indians, and it declined when it eventually killed off its host.
Second, Pipes in his wholly positive portrait of historic Islam says nothing about jihad, nothing about the Islamic conquests that destroyed the former Christian and Jewish civilization of the Near East, nothing about sharia or mass deportations or slavery or the suppression and extinction of conquered peoples under the conditions of dhimmitude. The only negative aspect of Islam that he notes is modern Islamism, which he describes as a reaction to Islam's defeat by the West and its resulting internal decay. The upshot is: Islam is not the problem. Jihad is not the problem. A trauma that Muslims went through in modern times is the problem. That trauma gave birth to the totalitarian murderous ideology of Islamism, just as the traumas of modernity gave birth to Communism and Nazism.
Consider how far Pipes goes to create an absolute distinction between bad Islamism and good Islam:
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.
A personal credo that emphasizes individuals? This is the fighting creed that swept over half the known world, that crushed and dispossessed entire populations, that subjected the survivors to the miserable choice between conversion and dhimmitude, that treats women as a lower order of being, and that to this day pronounces a death sentence on anyone who leaves the faith—and Pipes calls it a personal credo that emphasizes individuals?
Pipes doesn't stop at denying the catastrophic human destructiveness of Islam; he even denies its aspirations to social and religious dominance. He wrote recently at Jewish World Review:
The mentality of radical Islam [emphasis added] includes several main components, of which one is Muslim supremacism—a belief that believers alone should rule and otherwise enjoy an exalted status over non-Muslims. This outlook dominates the Islamist [emphasis added] worldview as much in the elegant streets of Paris as in the rude caves of Afghanistan....
The Ehrgott and Okashah incidents fit an ugly Islamist [emphasis added] pattern of double standards. Although CAIR presents itself as a civil-rights group, it is just the opposite--an organization asserting special privileges for Muslims and derogating the rights of others.
Pipes is telling us that the radical ideology of Islamism believes in Muslim supremacy; that it holds that "believers alone should rule and ... enjoy an exalted status over non-Muslims"; and that it promotes a pro-Islamic double standard. Which means, given the constant theme of Pipes's writings, that Islam itself does not seek Muslim supremacy over non-Muslims, does not promote a pro-Muslim double standard, and does not derogate the rights of non-Muslims.
In effect, Pipes is removing more and more of the actual content of Islam and transferring it to Islamism. First he removed the extremism and terrorism that have characterized Islam for 1,400 years, and now he even removes Islam's aspiration to Islamic supremacy over non-Muslims.
Going against the whole historic record, Pipes denies the aggressive, collectivist, genocidal, tyrannical, and even hegemonic aspects of traditional Islam. Yet in some of his other writings, as we've seen, he speaks critically about the jihadist beliefs and practices that have characterized Islam from the beginning, and insists that Muslims admit and seek to change these ugly facts about their religion. While we have no wish to psychologize, there is no denying the profound ambivalence Pipes evidences between his affection for the good things of Islam and his knowledge of its evils. He cannot wholly deny that jihad is the core of Islam, since that would be a lie, nor can he admit it, since that would mean that Islam is unreformable. So he veers back and forth, sometimes portraying traditional Islam in altogether affirmative terms, sometimes pointing to the bloody historical realities of jihadism, but then turning around and insisting, regardless of how bleak the prospects may look now, that we must believe in Muslim's ability to change, because if we don't believe it, there is no hope.
However, we now understand that whatever Pipes's reasons may be, his absolute distinction between "radical" and "moderate" Islam is not true. While Islamism is certainly more toxic and murderous than traditional Islam, both have messianic elements, both appeal to the Koran as their ultimate source of authority, and neither can shed its jihadism in any principled and permanent way. Savage killings and beheadings of innocent non-Muslims did not begin in Iraq in 2004, but go back to Muhammad's days in Medina, when he carried out the treacherous and homicidal acts against his enemies (including mere critics) that became a paradigm of Muslim conduct toward unbelievers for all ages to come. Islamism—the modern, fascist-inspired version of the faith—may be new, but Islamic militancy is 1,400 years old.
Conclusion of Part I
While we have established that there can be no such thing as moderate Islam, most Americans, and certainly the political class, still believe that it exists. Therefore the next question is: what are the practical consequences of our society's holding to the belief in moderate Islam, even though it is not true? And that question gives rise to a second, which goes to the heart of Daniel Pipes's expressed fear: if Islam is radical Islam, what can we possibly do to make things better? What hopeful policies can result from such a seemingly hopeless insight? These issues will be addressed in the second part of this article.
1. William Muir, The Life of Mahomet, London, 1878, abridged from the first, four-volume edition published in 1861 (1878 edition reprinted by Kessinger Publishing), pp. 534-35.
2. Daniel Pipes, Militant Islam Reaches America (W.W. Norton, 2002), pp. xii-xiii.