Daniel Pipes recently gave an interview to Germany’s Global Review. His observations are pithy as always; here are some highlights:
GR: Many people say that Islam is not a religion but a reactionary, totalitarian and repressive ideology comparable to fascism and communism; and that Islam cannot be reformed. Other people say that Islamism had nothing to do with religion and Islam. What do you say about relations between Islam and Islamism?
DP: Both these statements are silly. Of course, Islam is one of the major religions of the world; what is there to argue about? Islamism, a modern movement, however, shares much with fascism and communism. Islamism is a form of Islam. Denying this would be akin to saying that the Jesuits are not Christian.
GR: Some experts compare Islam with Confucianism and Hinduism. They note that in the 1950s, Confucian societies were thought unable to develop economically and socially, and that Confucianism was seen as an obstacle to progress; same with Hinduism in India. Today, however, East Asia and India are economic powerhouses and many people perceive Confucianism and Hinduism as drivers of this success story. Could the same happen with Islam, that it will also reform?
DP: Yes, it is possible that Muslim peoples will recover from today’s predicament and go on to economic and political success. We have no way of predicting such things. And no civilization or religion stays permanently down. …
GR: There is a broad spectrum of Islamists. Al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, which want to occupy territory by military means and create an ever expanding state. And then the Muslim Brotherhood, the Turkish AK Party and the Iranian Khomeinists. Which of these Islamist groups are the greatest danger for the West and which of these concepts do you think will be the most successful?
DP: I worry the most about the subtle, infiltrating Islamists. When it comes to force, we can easily defeat them. But when it comes to our own institutions – schools, law courts, media, parliaments – we are far less prepared to defend ourselves.
GR: In the Western countries many Islamophobic parties and politicians are on the rise. Do you think this will help the spread of Islamism or will these parties help the counter-jihad? Hillary Clinton said that Trump and his anti-Muslim speeches are the best recruiters for the Islamic State. True?
DP: I do not recognize the term “Islamophobe” and do not know what it means except, in the immortal phrase of Andrew Cummins as a word “created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons.”
Your question reverses the sequence of events. Islamist ideology breads Islamist violence, which starts the process and in turn inspires anti-Islamic sentiments. Anti-Islamic views might also inspire more Islamist violence, but that is incidental. The real dynamic here is Islamism creating anti-Islam parties. As Norbert Hofer has shown in Austria, they are approaching 50 percent of the vote and with it, political power. …
GR: Besides Islamists, the West has to deal with Russia, China, and North Korea. How can it deal with all these challenges at the same time? Which counter-jihadi strategy do you find most promising?
DP: The strategic environment today is far easier than during the cold war; there is no determined ideological enemy with the tools of a great power at its disposal. The key is for the West not to go to sleep. Electing such leaders as Obama and Merkel, however, means going to sleep. The best counter-jihadi strategy is one that takes ideas seriously.
GR: It took the West two decades to get rid of fascism and 70 years to get rid of communism. How long do you think will it take to get rid of Islamism? Are we facing the zenith of Islamism right now or are we just halfway up the road and will it get even worse?
DP: The battle against Islamism has not yet started. I cannot predict how long it will take. It’s still pre-1945 in communist terms and the 1930s in fascist terms. I see Islamism as having peaked in 2012-13 and showing signs of weakness.