The Dartmouth Observer

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Sunday, January 30, 2005
More on Pipes

It appears that Daniel Pipes's lecture at Dartmouth went relatively smoothly. Good on the Dartmouth community. I just wish The D said more about the Q&A session following the lecture (John, you too). In my experience, that's when the interesting stuff happens.

Anyway, Pipes has a solid article on his website refuting the notion that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The latter comes from paleocon Lawrence Auster, whose essentializing "argument" beggars belief. In the first place, Auster, who claims to be using Pipes's arguments against Pipes, has clearly not read all of Pipes's arguments. How else could he fail to mention articles in which Pipes describes his interactions with moderate Muslims? How could he accuse Pipes of having a "romantic" view of Islam? (I guess the latter's just "relativism.")

Next, Auster doesn't appear to have any credentials as either a scholar of the Muslim world, or as an observer of Islam who's spent time in Islamic societies. He's an armchair pundit who's read bits of the Koran (in translation, no doubt) and a few books that corroborate his limited, nativist view of the world. Now, you don't need a PhD in Islamic History to write intelligently about Islam, but you should at least be able to muster better evidence than secondary quotations from a book written in 1878 and tendentious, post-9/11 quasi-scholarship. How about some Hourani, Riley-Smith, or even Lewis? How about some frickin primary source quotations to back up your claims that medieval Islam was a "parasite civilization"?

All Auster's capable of is tautology. Moderate Islam doesn't exist, according to him, not because all Muslims today want to destroy the West, but because there's no such thing as moderate Islam (again, the external evidence cited to support this point is virtually non-existent). As for people in Turkey, Malaysia, and other parts of the Arab world who identify themselves as moderate Muslims -- well, they're not actually Muslims, says Auster:
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.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said last Sunday that "Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion," and that is "against the rule of God." No moral equivalence is implied between the two, of course. But you can't help wondering why some people accuse Pipes of being against Islam when guys like these exist.