by Daniel Pipes
The first thing that must always be noted, these days, about Daniel Pipes, is that after a long and widely examined career as a commentator on Islamic and Middle Eastern topics, he has been demonized to a point of psychosis by apologists for Arab and Muslim extremism. This is the consequence of his refusal to retire into academic passivity or succumb to "political correctness."
Possessing a doctorate in medieval Islam, he has nonetheless become a polemical public intellectual, mainly working in journalism. Many of Pipes' enemies enjoy academic tenure, and many speak against him from powerful positions in the world of lobbying and electoral politics.
The contrast between the institutional "respectability" accorded his opponents and the personal insults and other disreputable tactics to which they resort in dealing with him can hardly be understated. The latest round of Pipes-bashing emerged from controversy over his appointment to an advisory post at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a somewhat obscure think-tank subsidized by the federal government.
Yet anybody who has taken the trouble to examine his writings realizes that his transformation into a name used to frighten American Muslim and Arab children is a misrepresentation. He is combative in confronting terror but respectful of Islam as a faith.
His academic credentials and authority are undeniable; it is only his opinions that bother his enemies. He has even been unfairly and falsely denounced as a bigot, and among Muslims word has been put out that anybody who agrees with him on anything is a traitor.
"Miniatures" is a collection of Pipes' columns from many venues, published in recent years. They fall into four parts, dealing with the war on terrorism, Islam and Muslims, the Arab-Israeli and other conflicts and options for American policy.
In his introduction, the author reaffirms his essential thesis that has held true throughout his career: "Today's international crisis concerns not Islam the religion but militant Islam the ideology."
Among the "happy implications" he derives from this principle are that moderate Muslims have a vital role in the struggle to defend their religion from extremism, and that radicalism in Islam, as in other global fields of endeavor, may be defeated and marginalized.
Indeed, most of his foes would doubtless refuse to recognize his authorship of so commonsensical a statement as this: "If Islam is the problem, there is no possible strategy for winning . . . Insisting on Islam as the enemy means a permanent clash of civilization that cannot be won."
Daniel Pipes as a critic of the "clash of civilizations"; who knew? Or better, who will admit it?
Still, Pipes conceives of his mandate as pointing out unpleasant issues that many others in the West would prefer to evade. Thus, he has concentrated on the ills visible in Arab and Muslim countries and the spinelessness of Westerners in analyzing them.
In a book dealing with such varied topics as Khomeini, U.S. immigration, standards for American educational instruction on Islam and a Palestinian state, no serious and unprejudiced reader will be left hungry.
Among many other useful arguments, I would cite the author's comments underscoring the "the massive implication" of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the horror of 9/11, in a column titled "Make the Saudis Pay for Terror." He cites U.S. intelligence showing that "Saudi princes are spending millions of dollars to help large numbers of al Qaeda and Taliban members escape the American dragnet." In his criticism of the Saudis, his views parallel those of the majority of Americans today.
This volume belongs on the shelf of everyone concerned with Middle Eastern issues.