Dr Daniel Pipes at Melbourne University

There's no better way to warm up on a wet and wintery Wednesday night in Melbourne than to watch the fireworks (of the metaphoric rather than literal variety, unfortunately) at Melbourne Uni. Tonight the speaker was an excellent American academic Daniel Pipes, whose area of expertise is the Middle East, and provides a particularly refreshing sentimentalism-free perspective on the current dismal state of affairs in that part of the world.

His speech tonight was entitled "Militant Islam and the War on Terror", and enrage the left wing activists on campus it did. The antics started when the audience was forced to endure a throng of 15 placard-bearing activists informing them that there should be a free Palestine, war and racism were bad things and that there should be "No free speech for racists" (of course, it is not entirely clear how it could be determined who was a racist until the coutesy of free speech was extended to them, hence undermining the initial proposition, but I digress). Once inside, there were regular interuptions by the small but vocal group of protesters, although they were just as regularly hissed at by the vast majority of attendees.

Dr Pipes is an ardent conservative, and an interesting and challenging one at that. His proposition - that extremist Islam is a threat to the western world and that this needs to be acknowledged in order for the threat to be averted - is a sensible one, although he reverts to antagnostic language somewhat unnecessarily to stir up the audience. Referring to militant Islam as 'Islamism' is an unfortunate insult to the 85% of the world's Muslims (his figures) who opt for a peaceful, tolerant version of their religion, and who therefore by Dr Pipes definition are not believers in 'Islamism'.

One of the more telling points was his interesting insight into the ardent anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli attitudes that permeate many discussions of International Relations. To Dr Pipes, these should be considered in the realm of psychologists, and studied as a psychological obsession, rather than a political stance. Well said, and the throng of anti-American anti-Zionist anti-West anti-Imperialist anti-capitalist were on hand to demonstrate the point.

All was peaceful and much was learnt by those who were there to listen rather than satisfy their fetish for righteous indignation.


Anonymous said…
Ari, long time reader, first time blogger. I wasn't able to make the talk, your write up will suffice. Keep up the excellent work.
Anonymous said…
Ari - you are a big fat piece of no good and you should stick your ugly head down the toilet and flush.

Yours Sincerely
Joe Blogs (pardon the pun)
Anonymous said…
Very well said Ari, although I now believe that Pipes labelling of Militant Islam as "Islamism" is not incorrect.

It is not the Norwegians flying planes into buildings.
But if semantics is important, it must be said that one cannot really have a war on terror since terror is merely a tactic. And since an ideology must end with an "ism" , I presume it is the first 5 letters you are objecting to.

Pipes believes that Islamism sees itself as "the solution to all problems". His website states:
"It emphasizes strict application of Islamic law by the state and thus turns what was a private faith into public coercion."

Ari, it is clearly an "ism" based upon (a corruption or otherwise) of Islam.

Pipes states on his website (Jan'02 -see post script):
"Now it's important for me to stress that by militant Islam [or Islamism as he stated at Melbourne Uni] I mean something quite different from Islam, the religion. I mean the turning of Islam, the religion, the faith, into a political creed that aims at taking over states to mobilize populations, to rule, and to sculpt society. In this sense it is like an ideology and it is unlike a religion, which is a more private affair. I'm not saying that militant Islam has nothing to do with Islam, because it is an ideological version of Islam, but I am saying it is distinct from Islam the traditional faith. The proof of this lies in the fact that the first perhaps the largest number of victims of militant Islam are themselves Muslims. Ask an Algerian about militant Islam and he will tell you about the 100,000 or so deaths that occurred as a result of the militant Islamic insurgency in his country during the last decade."

[At Melbourne Uni, Pipes also mentioned the Sudanese government support of the Janjaweed Islamists in response to the Darfur muslim refusal to adopt a taliban-style Islamist rule.]


p.s. Here is the article I refered to. It is similar to what was said at Melb Uni, but a bit less current.
Ari Sharp said…
Hey Daniel, thanks for your comment.

The point I was making was that I largely agree with Pipes' idea (that fundamentalist Islam is a significant threat and needs to be averted) but that I disagree with his choice of language (to refer to militant Islam as 'Islamism' rather than referring to it as militant Islam). The dilemma on the language question becomes clearer when you think of a parallel with Judaism.

If Judaism is defined as 'a belief in the Jewish faith' then there is no problem. If it is defined as 'a fundamental belief in the literal intepretation of the Old Testament', then most people who are Jewish would be excluded.

Now apply the same to Islam and Islamism, and Pipes has in effect told the 85% of Muslims who are moderate and non-fundamental that they are not adherents of 'Islamism'. Ouch.
Anonymous said…
Yeah I know. Let's hope Hinduism and Buddism don't refer a militant totalitarian view too - coz that would mean there's a lot of trouble out there.

It's interesting that he changed his terminology from Militant Islam to Islamism sometime after that Jan'02 article I mentioned.

(I'm still in favour of an 'ism' if possible.)


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