February 24, 2003

Smoke out 'militant Islam,' Pipes says

By Eric Rangus erangus@emory.edu

The United States’ war on terror should instead be a war on militant Islam, and the government must do a better job of articulating its goals—according to Daniel Pipes, who spoke to a crowd of about 200 in the law school’s Tull Auditorium, Monday night, Feb. 17.

Director of the Middle East Forum, an author and commentator, Pipes lecture was sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of the National Association of Scholars. Pipes, a frequent contributor to the New York Post, has written columns for dozens of newspapers and magazines worldwide. He also is the author of 11 books including Militant Islam Reaches America, published in 2002. The Middle East Forum is a conservative think tank that, according to its website (www.meforum.org), works to define and promote American interests in the Middle East.

Defining militant Islam as an ideology that has a vision of a utopian society achieved by taking over governments and applying the aspects of Islam—he used the example of the Taliban in Afghanistan—Pipes compared militant Islam to Nazism and Marxist-Leninism, saying it was “one of the three great totalitarian movements of the 20th century.”

Pipes said terrorism is merely a tool used by militant Islamists to achieve their goals; therefore, a “war on terror” is misguided. “A form of warfare is the enemy,” said Pipes during his 50-minute lecture. “It would be like if, in 1941, Frankin Delano Roosevelt declared war on surprise attacks. One cannot win a war if one doesn’t have the courage to name the enemy. The Sept. 11 strategic enemy is militant Islam, and we’re not talking about faith—we’re talking about ideology.”

Pipes also said that the purpose of the war should be better defined. He said militant Islam must be defeated and moderate Islam strengthened. “Militant Islam must no longer be an attractive ideology,” he said.

“We must show it to be a losing proposition, just like fascism in 1945 and Marxist-Leninism in 1991,” he said.

Pipes said proponents of moderate Islam are quiet and fractured, but they are key to the defeat of the militants. “This is the most extreme moment in the history of Islam,” he said. “The United States must promote and enfranchise moderate Islam. Militant Islam thrives on its own success. To the extent it is defeated, Muslims will move away from it.”

Pipes spoke only briefly about impending conflict in Iraq. He called it “a very simple problem”: Saddam Hussein is a totalitarian dictator but he does not have an Islamist ideology, making him less dangerous than militant Islamists.

Pipes’ appearance was not without a bit of controversy. Flyers were distributed outside the auditorium debunking some of his opinions, and some snickers were heard during the question-and-answer session (as well as significant applause following an answer in which Pipes defended Israel’s right to exist). By and large, though, the Tull atmosphere was civil.

Also mentioned was the Middle East Forum’s project, Campus Watch
(www.campus-watch.org), which monitors and critiques Middle Eastern studies programs in the United States and Canada. Pipes said it is his right to criticize scholars for their views, just as he accepts criticism of himself. As an example, he mentioned the flyers that were handed out.






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