Friday, August 27, 2010

Moderate Islam is the answer

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, former teacher of History at many eminent Universities, with a doctorate from Harvard University, and author of 12 books that have been translated into 33 languages, has been recognized as one of Harvard’s 100 most influential living graduates. He visited Perth, Western Australia last week, and I attended all 5 of his speaking engagements here.

Pipes’ opposition to “Islamism” (radical Islam) is sometimes misunderstood. He doesn’t oppose Islam or Muslims. He says:

"It's a mistake to blame Islam, a religion 14 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."

He points out that Islamic society was a global leader for centuries since Mohammed, but has waned in the last two centuries. It is now least successful on virtually every index (freedom, longevity, innovation, economy etc).

Islamism developed as a response to this failure, at first taking its example from fascism (Mussolini) and communism (Lenin) in the 1920s, but overlaying “Islamic” content. It seeks to return to the heyday of Islamic societies and eventually to global Islamic hegemony by imposing and enforcing an extreme, violent, totalitarian interpretation of Islam.

In 1979 it graduated from a phenomenon of merely academic curiosity to become a serious strategic challenge to the free world, when the Islamic Revolution in Iran gave it control of a major Islamic state actor. Although Iran is not a powerful state like the Soviet Union or Germany was, its aspirations to add the nuclear threat to its arsenal of state-sponsored terrorism around the world, pose a grave danger to the free world.

However in addition to terrorism, violence and the nuclear threat, Pipes is even more concerned about Islamist infiltration of the free world using democratic freedoms and lawful means to acquire power. The "war's center of gravity has shifted from force of arms to the hearts and minds of citizens" he says.

Examples of this infiltration include Turkey, Pakistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Even the terrorist group Hamas (like Hitler) gained power in elections before it seized total power from its opponents by force. Moreover, Islamism is a utopian movement that has an attractive appeal to some. Proof of this can be found in the increasing number of Western converts to radical Islam. Pipes estimates that there are probably over 150 million Islamists today - more than all the communists and fascists who ever lived. Thus, it is dangerous to ignore the threat of Islamist infiltration of our free nations.

The Western response to this strategic challenge should be in alliance with moderate Muslims. What is needed, Pipes suggests, is a modern, more liberal re-interpretation of Islamic scriptures which would integrate women, gays and other minorities as full members of society, and would co-exist harmoniously with other religions, not seek to convert or subjugate them by force.

In summary: “Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution."
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