Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Daniel Pipes vs. Islamism vs. Moderate Islam

by Silas

Recently Dr. Daniel Pipes published an article entitled “Islam vs. Islamism” in which he argues the distinction between Islam and Islamism, or if you will “radical Islam”, or a name he had used previously, “militant Islam.”  The article is here.

Dr. Pipes continued in presenting one of his main arguments of the last decade or so.  His argument is composed of several points:

  1. moderate Islam is the best method to defeat radical Islam, “moderate Islam is the solution.”
  2. there are different forms of Islam and not all Muslims are radical Muslims
  3. those that argue that Islam is the problem itself paint all Muslims with the same brush.

One important positive development, or growth, has occurred in Dr. Pipes’ viewpoint:  he now acknowledges that within the corpus of Islamic source materials there is correlation between what the Islamists of today are doing and what the early Muslims did.

Those focusing on Islam itself as the problem (such as ex-Muslims Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) point to the consistency from Muhammad's life and the contents of the Koran and Hadith to current Muslim practice. Agreeing with Geert Wilders' film "Fitna," they point to striking continuities between Koranic verses and jihadist actions. They quote Islamic scriptures to establish the centrality of Muslim supremacism, jihad and misogyny, concluding that a moderate form of Islam is impossible. They point to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's deriding the very idea of a moderate Islam. Their killer question is: "Was Muhammad a Muslim or an Islamist?" They contend that we who blame Islamism do so out of political correctness or cowardliness. To which, we reply: Yes, certain continuities do exist, and Islamists definitely follow the Koran and Hadith literally.

It is refreshing and positive that Dr. Pipes is now admitting the continuity between what the Islamists are doing and what Muhammad did, and what the Quran and hadith teach.  This is a significant step forward for Dr. Pipes.  (Please note, it is possible that Dr. Pipes had acknowledged this correlation to this extent previously, and I’ve missed it, but this is the first time I’ve noticed him admitting the correlation to this extent).

However, Dr. Pipes is still unable to identify Muhammad accurately.  This continues to be a sad and glaring weakness on his part.  Although Dr. Pipes has done a lot of good work on the overall theme of Islam and society, and has made many good contributions to which he should be credited, this area is still a blind spot for him.

This, as I see it, is the crux of the matter.  Pipes frames the pivotal question as:

“Was Muhammad a Muslim or an Islamist?”

His answer is:

 “Muhammad was a plain Muslim, not an Islamist, for the latter concept dates back only to the 1920s.”

Here’s the problem:  Dr. Pipes frames the question incorrectly.  The question should be framed as:

“Was Muhammad a moderate or militant Muslim?”  or, “Does Muhammad’s life more closely resemble a moderate or militant/radical/Islamist Muslim?”  Or better still:  “Who is more like Muhammad, the moderate or militant Muslims?”

Pipes states that the term “Islamist” is a recent invention.  Okay, he’s just playing semantics.  What people who use that term mean is, “Was Muhammad aggressively violent or peaceful?" or "Was violence a means to an end?” and so forth.  The critics of Islam are asking for the real Muhammad to be identified clearly.

If you’re not sure of the terms take my Islam test.

I believe that test provides accurate definitions of moderate and militant Islam/Muslims.  I even use material from Dr. Pipes writings!  Take the test and determine how you would define Muhammad - Moderate or Militant.

Of course Muhammad was a plain Muslim, as were his followers.  They were the originals and they started Islam.  Their life and teaching defines real Islam.  However, just as Pipes’ admits, Muhammad used aggressive violence.  Muhammad brought violence abundantly to spread Islam’s rule and his trail of blood spread wide.

Real Christianity patterns itself after Jesus and real Christians obey Jesus’ commands.  Real Islam patterns itself after Muhammad and real Muslims obey Muhammad’s commands. 

I agree in part that moderate Islam can be part of the solution.  Yes, it can be part of the solution.  But moderate Islam is not real Islam.  That is why you find many Westerners who get into Islam soon resort to violence:  they can read and understand the Islamic source materials.  It is no mystery and it is not difficult to figure out.  You don’t need to read in-between the lines.  You don’t need to use differential equations or understand semiconductor physics to understand that for Muhammad and Islam, violence was an Allah-ordained means to an end.  The examples and commands to violence are stated plainly and thoroughly throughout the Quran, hadith, and sira.  Yes, I agree moderate Islam is better than real Islam, but the potential for a moderate Muslim to figure it out and turn from moderate to real Islam would continue to exist.

Identifying Islam as the enemy is an accurate assessment.  That is not a simplistic evaluation rather it is an analysis based upon the data.  What does the data say?  It says that militant Islam, Islamist Islam, is Muhammad’s Islam, is real Islam.  As such, real Islam should be criticized and condemned as being evil or diabolical.

Dr. Pipes advocates using the approach that defeated Nazism and Communism to defeat Islamism.  I agree!  Any attempt to confront and push back the evil of Islam is welcome.  But his own analogies work against his argument.  The Allies approach was to defeat Nazism in totality.  They did not want a moderate form of Nazism left in existence, they wanted it eradicated.  Similarly, the West works today to end Lenin’s and Stalin’s form of brutal communism.  We don’t want a kinder, gentler, form of that brutality, we want it ended.  Who would celebrate a victory if it was said that Kim Jong-il has gotten a bit kinder and gentler?  No!  That system would continue to kill the North Korean people even if Kim Jong-il bumped it down a couple of notches.  We would rather see an open, democratic, and free society there, more like South Korea, than a moderated form of its brutal communism.

Using Pipes’ analogy, “moderate” Islam would be like “moderate” Nazism or a “moderate” form of Stalin’s Communism.  Certainly that is not Pipes’ real goal is it?

I understand why most liberals and leftists have a hard time with admitting, understanding, or figuring out that real Islam is violent.  They are so predisposed to being politically correct that they can’t get too far into the criticism stage lest they sin.  They avoid studying the source texts because it will corrupt their pristine view of Islam.  Even many intelligent, but ignorant, conservatives bow the knee to the god of political correctness and cannot bring themselves to examine what the source texts actually say.  But Dr. Pipes should have arrived at this conclusion years ago.  Dr. Pipes is not a coward and no one should call his as such.  Nor does he bow the knee to political correctness.  He’s a good and intelligent man and he will figure it out in time.

Pipes states another key question:

“How do you propose to defeat Islamism?”

My answer is multifaceted because Islam is multifaceted.  Islam is a political, martial, and spiritual religion.  It must be confronted comprehensively, just as Nazism and Communism have been.  My answer is for Christians to preach the Gospel, for countries and people to watch those identified as militant Muslims and arrest or interdict them and their actions when warranted, for all people to do what they can to expose the ugly side of Islam.  Further all people should resist encroaching efforts of Islamization of our society.  Our laws should not be made Sharia compliant, and we should not subject Muslim women to “Sharia courts.”  Additionally support true moderate Muslims in their efforts to promote a modified version of Islam.  “Moderate” Islam is better than real Islam.

All Muslims have one moral and intellectual advantage over atheists: they know that life is more than meaningless, worthless, inconsequential, dumb luck.  Unfortunately, the god they’ve chosen to put their faith in is not the loving heavenly Father, who commands His children to love one another and forgive each other as their Father has forgiven them.  For the Christians, proclaiming faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the best solution we can offer.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the best solution.  God gives man meaning and value, and Jesus gave us a pattern of commands for life for humanity to follow:  love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

[First published: 11 July 2013]
[Last updated: 16 October 2013]