161 of 182 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2002
Pipe's key contribution in Militant Islam Reaches America is the distinction he makes between Islam the religion and Militant Islam or Islamism the ideology. Militant Islam is comparable to Nazism or Marxism in that it is a radical political ideology that has the stated goal of taking over the world. In light of 9-11, Fukiyama's "end of history" theory - that the West has won and the rest is faits accomplis - is seen as a little pre-mature.
And this threat is very real. Unlike the President and others who use confusing and inaccurate labels like "evil doers" and "war on Terrorism", Pipes clearly defines the enemy: Militant Islam. As Pipe so eloquently states: "And if it is true that most Muslims are not Islamist, it is no less true that all Islamists are Muslims.".
Pipes does a good job of describing the peaceful - yet insidious groups that use our court system and our ultra-tolerant media to get special treatment and promote their cause - as well as the more visible violent strain of Islamism. Tolerance toward Islam in America allows a double standard - e.g. a sanitized view of Islam is pushed in public schools and the main stream media and negative Islamic views are not tolerated. Contrast that with negative reviews of Christian or Jewish groups that are all too prevalent in schools and our media.
Pipes holds out hope that Turkey, as secular moderate Islamic state, can co-exist with the west and be a model for other Islamic states. What is not so hopeful is the fact that virtually all the other Islamic states in the Middle East are moving closer toward Muslim fundamentalism - not closer to Western secularism. Pipes shows us an interesting fact that the core of the Islamist movement is in fact highly educated over-achieving Westernized men (most of the WTC highjackers) - not the underclass in abject poverty that we have been told is behind this radical movement. On the contrary, this is very convincing evidence that indeed ideology - not poverty is the driving force behind Militant Islam. The issue is not that poverty causes radicals. The issue is that intelligent radical ideologues use poverty, intimidation, and brainwashing (Madrasas) to help promote their cause.
Pipes devotes a couple of chapters to Jamil Al-Amin - a.k.a Rap Brown and Elijah Mohammed - a.k.a. Elija Pool - and the Nation of Islam and the Black Muslim movement. It is clear that radical Islamists have used these demagogues and their ilk to their advantage. It is important for Black and White and all Americans to understand this phenomenon and realize that NOL and the Black Muslim movement is not just a reaction to racism. As Al-Amin commented in his book Revolution by the Book "..the Constitution of the United States..its main essence it is diametrically opposed to what Allah has commanded". This is a statement of sedition. These people want to take away your constitution and replace it with the Qur'an.
For moderate Muslims and the West to win this war, the West must not appease these neo-fascists hiding behind a head-dress. We must realize that so-called moderate Muslim organization like Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslim Council (AMC), Muslim American Society, et. al. all defended Al-Amin a convicted murderer as a good Muslim. This is perhaps the least of their sins. These groups could prove to us that they are not supporters of Militant Islam by denouncing the likes of Al-Amin, Ahmad Adna Chaundry (another convicted murderer), Mohammad Salah (accused of financing aid to Hamas). In all cases their silence is deafening.
So what can we do? The first step is to wake up and call the enemy what it is: Militant Islam and understand that it is as insidious and dangerous as any strain of fascism we have witnessed in our lifetime. We should set about not to just defeat the nebulous notion of "global terrorism", it is time to put a face on who the enemy is. Perhaps the Bush administration is using the vague "terrorist" label for diplomatic reasons. I hope that is their reason. But I agree with Pipes and von Clausewitz that "contradictory goals in war is a mistake". And we are at war.
So who exactly is the enemy? The inner core is the likes of Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden, the Taliban and their ilk. Our strike in Afghanistan was a good first pass, but the job is far from over. The second ring is larger population of militant sympathizers in most of the Arab world and other Islamic countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bosnia. Pipes estimates that as many as 150 million or 15% of the Muslim world fall into this group. And the third ring is non-Militant Muslims, but those infected with Anti-American hate - Saddam and Qadhadhafi fall into this group. So the final toll is about half the Muslim population.
So we must realize that what we have is not what Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations". I think it makes more sense to call it a class of ideologies. A good example is that fact that militant Muslims do a great job of killing other Muslims that do not go along with the program - as exemplified in 100,000 plus dead Muslims in Algeria, and many times that number in the Iran-Iraq war.
So the answer appears to be an updated version of George Kennan's cold war doctrine that Pipes paraphrases: "a long term patient but firm and vigilant containment of (its) expansive tendencies." And by our fortitude and will we will convince the moderate Muslim world that it is worth fighting for Western tolerance and freedom rather than a world of fascism and chains.
102 of 117 people found the following review helpful
In this volume Middle East expert Daniel Pipes looks at the changing world since September 11. While some of the essays here were penned before that tragedy, all deal with the rise of Muslim militancy, and how the West should respond.
Pipes begins by arguing that militant Muslims, or Islamists, do not represent all followers of Islam. The good news is they only comprise, at tops, fifteen per cent of the total. The bad news is, with one billion Muslims, 150 million are extremists. It is the Islamists that are the real threat, says Pipes, not traditional Muslims.
Pipes provides the historical backdrop for this new militancy. For their first six centuries, Muslims enjoyed huge success. By the 13th century however decline set in, and for the next six centuries they found themselves heading to the bottom of world affairs, as power and wealth slowly ebbed away. The loss of their golden age, and their sense of alienation and frustration resulted in three recent responses.
Secularism, the first response, is seen in countries such as Turkey. The second option, reformism, meant trying to live with the West. The third option, Islamism, is the focus of this book. Militant Islam seeks to reclaim its golden age, wants the total imposition of Shari'a law, and rejects completely Western influences.
Pipes shows that Islamism is in fact a radical, utopian ideology, of the same mould as Marxism-Leninism or fascism. It is totalitarian in nature, and seeks salvation in political power, not individual religion. Whenever Islamists take power, as in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, a bloody tyranny results.
Pipes argues that most traditional Muslims disagree with the premises of the Islamists. This is reflected in part by the fact that often traditional Muslims are the main victims of militant Islam. Algeria is a good case in point, with tens of thousands of Algerians killed (compared to some 80 foreigners).
Since its ascendancy almost three decades ago, Islamism has become they main threat to freedom and democracy. It seeks global hegemony, just as past ideologies did. Fueled by fanaticism and hatred, militant Islam has become the new focus of evil in the world.
There are two main ways in which Islamists can achieve their goal of world dominion: revolution or integration. The latter comes in the form of immigration to the West, high birth rates, and conversion. All three means are resulting in rising Muslim populations in most Western nations.
The other option, bloody struggle, is something the West is becoming all too familiar with. Suicide bombers and terrorist cells are active around the world, and this threat is one all Western governments must come to terms with. Indeed, Pipes shows how militant Islam has been targeting Americans well before September 11.
Pipes sees some hope, however. Muslim unity has often been seen as an oxymoron, with the Iraq-Iran conflict being but one example. Another issue is how moderate Islam deals with the threat. If modernism is embraced and Western values are seen as compatible with Islam, then the fanatical arm may be contained. But it is by no means clear in which direction the majority of Muslims will move in the future. It is Muslims themselves, argues Pipes, not the West, who will determine the outcome of this post-Cold War ideological battle.
Pipes also writes about Muslims living in the US. There may be 2 or 3 million of them there. Pipes argues that on every front, the US is doing all it can to be hospitable to Muslims. There is a de facto affirmative action mentality in place, with schools, governments, the media, even the military, all fearful of showing any disrespect for Muslims.
Tolerance and respect of course are in order, argues Pipes, but in many ways Muslims are being given preferential treatment, so much so that the US government has become "a discreet missionary for the faith. Without anyone quite realizing it, the resources of the federal government have been deployed to help Muslims spread their message." Pipes documents numerous examples of just how this is in fact happening.
Pipes argues that if Islamists get their way in Western nations, freedom of speech concerning Islam and militant Islam would all but cease. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say anything which might be regarded as critical of Islam.
Pipes briefly examines the question of whether Islamism and jihad are an integral part of Islam, or a distortion of it. He recognises that Islam, like all great religions, is made up of different schools and is subject to varieties of interpretation, "from the mystical to the militant, from the quietist to the revolutionary. Its most basic ideas have been susceptible of highly contrasting explications."
Thus Pipes sees a battle for the soul of Islam being waged, with moderates and militants competing for dominance. But he sees terroristic jihad against the West as but "one reading of Islam ... not the eternal essence of Islam".
He argues that if half the population of the Muslim world hates America, the other half does not. It is to these more moderate Muslims that the West must work with, along with its own Muslim populations, to see that the radical Islamists do not prevail. The struggle will be long and difficult, says Pipes, but an Islamist victory is by no means certain.
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2003
Our nation, founded on the right to open and unfettered exchange of ideas from which we derive much of our greatness, still has one taboo about which it is difficult to speak openly. Not Christianity: Mapplethorpe's defamatory photography is not only tolerated but subsidized. Nor anti-Semitism: so rampant on our campuses, it is constitutionally protected. There is only one religion benefiting from so much deference and hypersensitivity that it can trigger the recall of books, cause the dismissal of teachers, and bring politicians trembling to their knees.
This repression of free speech has been long ongoing outside of our borders. An insufficiently respectful British author was rewarded with a contract on his life, and translators of his book were assassinated. Open religious discourse has quite ceased to exist in the Arab world, with intense discrimination against Christians, Jews, and Hindus.
Daniel Pipes' work reiterates things we knew but somehow got repressed from our public consciousness, and reveals much else which never made it there in the first place. Fabulously detailed and with a wealth of references, this guide clarifies the ongoing war that culminated on September 11.
Pipes makes a wonderfully clear distinction between the religion of Islam and the political ideology called Islamism. Like communism and fascism, Islamism seeks the overthrow of democratic society by individuals who feel excluded from an elite they should be part of. Islamists are typically educated middle-class young men masquerading in religion while indulging in perversely un-Islamic behavior. By Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, terrorism is caused by "money, education, and privilege."
Recalling early successes in science, technology, and world domination, Islamists suffer from traumatic frustration ingrained over a thousand years of severe social, political, and ecomonic failure and the inability to improve. Western education only fuels the envy and heightens the sense of impotence. Little else binding them than hatred towards the West, wars between Muslim nations are in fact three times more common than those against infidel nations.
Ironically, ignorance obscures the fact that modern Islam actually borrows from Christianity. The Islamist repudiation of the importance of "who you are" for "where you are" copies the Western notions of nation-state and jurisdiction. A rather flimsy and self-contradictory Islamic theory of economics is based on Marxism and fascism. It is no surprise that Islamisation is inevitably followed by severe economic failure and political repression.
Far from suffering discrimination, Muslims have a privileged position in the United States and are thriving, ready to complain about any perceived slight, winning fantastic monetary settlements, and inducing employers to provide religious sensiti-i-i-vity training. Even 'Married With Children' is not safe from the Muslim protests after September 11.
Middle Eastern academic studies are suffering an all-time low credibility, having been tainted with a wash of Saudi oil money that sponsors intellectually vacuous teaching and writing, farcical distinctions between 'good' and 'bad' Islamism (as if the overthrow of civilzation could be good by any means), or dangerously denying there is any threat at all. Quoting one militant, "a moderate Islamist is someone who does not have the means of acting ruthlessly to seize power immediately."
While our Government repeats the mistake of Napoleon and Mussolini of sweet-talking to curry favor with the Muslim world, American Muslim leaders are openly calling for the conversion of the United States into a caliphate. Many clerics agree that the tenets of Islam are fundamentally incompatible with our Constitution. Says one, "Muslims cannot accept the legitimacy of the secular system in the United States." The strategy for imposing Shari'a in America includes demoralization by terror, immigration, reproduction, and conversion; the latter feeding off the culture of liberal 'blame America first' self-hatred that causes many to accept Islam mostly as a protest against their heritage.
Daniel Pipes has managed to write a fair and courageous book that is deeply troubling but greatly inspiring. Packing so much information and private and public policy recommendations, this could have been a much longer book, and one will want to reread it often. If Hamas believes we are in a "battle of civilizations", we are in it for the long haul.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2004
Daniel Pipes presents an incredible story of militant Islam and how it is infecting America. The book is very well written and well documented. Pipes did a great deal of research prior to writing this book. He provides a look at the reality of Islam and the hate that can hide behind it. Pipes is NOT anti-Islam but rather sounding a warning that our political correctness is going to be our undoing.
I have read several other books on terrorism and the Middle East since finishing Pipes' book. Many of the books, including ones written by current and former government intelligence officers, reference Mr. Pipes' book as well as confirm many of his facts.
In addition to recent books on terrorism, I have also read numerous historical books on the Middle East both by Western authors as well as Muslim authors. Pipes' views and information are consistent with historical texts as well as current intelligence.
I noticed that another reviewer denigrates Pipes saying that his information is false and undocumented. This is absolutely not true. That reviewer should provide his/her own references prior to attacking Mr. Pipes.
This is an excellent first text for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the conflict in the Middle East. Mr. Pipes covers many different radical groups as well as the many "charitable organizations" that fund terrorism as well as provide a cover for terrorist's movements. This was probably one of the more disturbing sections as it shows how even truly concerned American citizens can, unwittingly, support global terrorism by giving money to a seemingly legitimate charity.
This was worth reading and is an excellent addition to any library. I would strongly recommend owning this rather than borrowing it from a library.
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2002
Pipes here presents the results of his research, dividing his work into two key subjects. First, he explains what exactly militant Islam is and stresses the large and crucial difference between Islam, the faith, and militant Islam the ideology. He demonstrates that there is no clash of civilizations underway, but a battle for the soul of Islam among Muslims themselves. He shows that militant Islam is not mainly caused by poverty and that its adherents, far from being the dispossessed, tend to include the more talented and Westernized elements. Militant Islam has strikingly much in common with fascism and communism. Indeed, Pipes demonstrates that the U.S. government has, without realizing it, become a patron of the Islamic faith by helping Muslims spread their message.
Secondly, Pipes takes up the relatively new subject of Islam in the United States, and how it has rapidly developed in the last decade. Significant elements within American Islam, for example, seek to replace the Constitution with the Qur'an. Americans can write far more candidly now about Jesus more easily than about Muhammad, as various writers and journalists have learned to their surprise. Despite widespread claims that American Muslims face discrimination, they enjoy a higher socio-economic standing than the national average. Jamil Al-Amin (the former H. Rap Brown), despite being sentenced to life without parole for murdering a black police officer, has been celebrated by many of the country's leading Muslim organizations.
I found the book to be extrememly intersting, however it's the unnecessary repitition of already known facts in some, and I emphasise <some>, that made it seem desperate to fill the pages at times. All in all, it's a great read on the subject.
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
This book is a collection of informative and thought clarifying essays about the real issues facing America in our struggle with Islamism. Dr. Pipes makes the very helpful point that Islamism is NOT Islam. It is a political movement, totalitarian and utopian in nature, that drapes itself with Islam. However, he also points out the real danger facing the United States from this movement.
The Author also helps us understand the magnitude of the problem. There are a billion Muslims in the world. A few tens of thousands are members of active groups working against the West. But there are another hundred million or so who actively support their goals with up to a half a billion sympathetic to their views. This is a serious issue and Dr. Pipes carefully takes us through a wide range of issues helping us understand this urgent reality.
While Dr. Pipes is often attacked personally by critics sympathetic to the Islamist movements, when you take the time to read these essays you will see that he takes Islam seriously and analyzes carefully. Yes, Dr. Pipes supports the west and the United States. Yes, he is advocating political positions and actions that he believes will be best for America to protect its interests. But along with this he is a serious scholar and I believe he has done us a great service by putting out this book.
You will know more about the situation we face and its constituent parts after reading this book. And that is a lot. It is certainly more than you get from many books on the middle east that generate a lot more heat than light.
35 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2002
Daniel Pipes is not in the least bit hostile towards the vast majority of Muslims. These people are our friends and neighbors, and not enemies. The author categorically rejects Samuel Huntington's thesis that we are currently engaged in a clash between civilizations. "Did not the Taliban reign in Afghanistan make this clear?" asks Pipes. "Nor are the Taliban an exception: militant Islam has brutalized Muslims wherever it has achieved power, and wherever it has striven for power." The real battle is between the Islamic militants and everyone who disagrees with their non compromising and nihilistic ideology. The politically correct Liberal establishment previous to September 11 did everything it could to make sure that Pipes would be mostly ignored and banished to the hinterlands of public awareness. His substantial evidence concerning the dangerousness of the radical Muslims was routinely derided as bigoted and malicious. His opponents rarely hesitated to stoop to slander.
Pipes agrees with Bernard Lewis that the Islamic world has been on a losing streak for the much of the last five hundred years. No longer does it dominate the arts and sciences. Militarily the Muslims are easily defeated even by the very small nation of Israel. Chapter six entitled "The glory of Islamic economics" alone justifies the price of this book. Islamist economic theory is nothing more than warmed over socialism. Cynically, it is safe to say that growth oriented extremist Muslim economics is an oxymoron. The West is indeed the undisputed leader and numerous followers of Mohammed are embittered and enraged by this harsh reality. Ataturk and his intellectual followers in Turkey were among the very few willing to reconcile themselves to this paradigm shift. Others like the Islamic radicals immaturely respond with a murderous and suicidal scapegoating which guarantees the backwardness and dismal poverty of those lands under their control. Were these committed radicals born and raised in an impoverished background? Not in the least. Most of them like Osama bin Ladin were raised in affluent surroundings. The author seems to embrace Eric Hoffer's true believer concept arguing that many of these militants display little genuine interest in Muslim theology. Instead, they seem to seek any half baked excuse to kill and destroy. A normal existence of earning a living and raising a family is deemed boring. Hypocritically, they philosophically reject our way of life but still put to full use the West's cell phones, computers, modern weaponry, and other inventions. Logical consistency is not a highly prized value.
Pipes contends that this threat is not going away anytime in the near future. We are in this battle for the long haul. Ignoring these monsters is not a viable option. Either we destroy radical Islamism like we earlier demolished Soviet Communism and Hitler's Nazis---or its unrelenting adherents will eradicate us from the face of this planet. "Militant Islam Reaches America" must be read by all thinking citizens. I also whole heartedly recommend Bernard Lewis' "What Went wrong?" along with Steven Emerson's "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us," and Eric Hoffer's seminal classic "The True Believer."
36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2002
_Militant Islam Reaches America_ is a collection of essays but manages the cohesive feel of a purpose-written book, largely due to its concentrated theme. "Militant Islam" or "Islamism" is distinguished from Islam generically; Islamism is a totalitarian ideology stitched together out of Marxist doctrines and practices and a naive (outside of tradition, uninformed, unnuanced, ahistorical, "protestant") reading of the Qur'an.
Islamists are not traditional or medieval, they are modern and revolutionary. They are not driven by poverty or desperation. They are not pious muslims by ordinary standards and indeed their principal victims are moderate ("normal") muslims.
Of course, the Islamists' principal enemy is the West.
In this collection of essays, Pipes tackles an assortment of issues, including how to deal with sleeper cells, the U.S. government's relationships with Islamism, Islamist anti-semitism, Islamism's roots (or rather, lack thereof) in poverty, the battle for the soul of Islam between Islamists and traditional muslims, anti-muslim bias in the United States, the Nation of Islam, Islamist antipathy to free speech, and more. Throughout, Pipes remains friendly to and respectful of Islam and muslims generally, while unflinchingly opposed to the radical Islamists.
Some of his conclusions are reassuring (only a small minority of muslims are or support Islamists). Some are deeply disturbing (American muslim communities are disproportionately radicalized; money flows from the US groups to the Middle East rather than the reverse). All of the essays provide great clarity and insight to a topic which is very timely, very urgent and often very difficult to understand.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2005
Daniel Pipes has become a sort of expert on the threat Islamism poses to non-believers and the text here is pretty important for all westerners to read. But it is especially VERY important for every person to be aware of the points that Daniel Pipes makes here. Every liberal country's elected representatives (and that includes the USA, which remains one of the world's "liberal" societies in the classical sense of the word) should make this book one of the top 5 on their reading list.
But I am distressed that Pipes misses the origins of the revitalized Islamist movement. Sure, when Napoleon conquered Egypt, it was a great slap to the Muslim world, but nearly concurrently, in a corner of Arabia, a Sheik by the name of Muhammad ibn Abdil Wahhab created a theology that condemned the Western colonists as kafir. This preacher, who was a far-off contemporary to Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Napoleon may have a greater impact on the global situation of the next two centuries than Franklin, Washington or Napoleon. It is disappointing that Pipes missed covering the life-story and mission of Muhammad ibn Abdil Wahhab as his anti-colonial movement, rhetoric, and his Tawheed is very influential among today's salafists and islamists.
Also, minimal coverage has been given to the writings of Al-Ghazali and Sayed Q'tub. These are names that westerners should understand more than those of terrorists, because they are the Marx and Engels of today's extreme islamist fundamentalists, and in their own way, their messages are creative and appealing to a particular audience.
Finally, there is no real coverage of the later 20th century's population explosion in the islamic world. There, a population that had been less than 350 million in 1950 has grown to over 1.4 billion by 2000. Is it any wonder that there is a surge in militancy when one's population is growing so rapidly and when the financiers of mass education in this world are Salafists extremists who see the ascendancy of their version (Q'tub's, Wahhab's, and Al-Ghazili's) of Islam as pre-ordained destiny?
Finally, too much is made of the Shiite influences on Islam. While the Shiites are a dominant sect in Iran, and parts of Iraq, and while the Shiite fundamentalists of Iran were the first to point the way to rebellion against the so-called "evil" West when they invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the most populous version of islamism remains the Saudi dominated Salafists (or Wahhabis) of the Sunni majority. This group accounts for perhaps 90% of the imans in today's non-Muslim world, and about 60% of the adherents in the traditional Muslim world.
63 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2003
Daniel Pipes is to Islamic Studies what Robert Conquest was to Sovietology: a lone voice of caution in a wilderness of apologetics. Over the years Pipes has fearlessly documented and theorized about the rise of militant Islam, or Islamicism, as it is sometimes rather confusingly called.
Pipes kicks off by asserting that Islam itself is not a danger, only the militant, aggrieved strain of it. But, most every Islamic organization and activist treated in the book turns out to be militant and aggrieved, so one does have to be careful to try to keep perspective.
The chapters are individual essays, written over a number of years, with linking material composed for this book. With the exception of a chapter on the homegrown Nation of Islam, the pieces focus on Arab Islamicists. We get examples of how American Muslim organizations wield considerable clout, successfully playing the victimology fiddle despite being almost totally spared anything that could plausibly be called oppression. We also see how simple criminals from Lebanon are turned to the service of Islamic terrorism, and how chary American media are of giving offense by reporting anything negative about American Muslims as a group.
It turns out that some Muslims charities fund terrorism, and this is because Islam's understanding of charity is significantly different from the West's. Charity, or _zakat_, means helping the poor, helping travelers, funding bureaucracies to administer the largesse, but also to "change hearts", which is bribery, and "the service of Allah", which is jihad. So it is not inconsistent for a Muslim charity to send money to Hamas or Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad, should it find their calls to holy war authoritative.
Pipes has been criticized for writing outside his specialty, which is medieval Islam. But he convincingly counters that the contemporary field has been paralyzed by Edward Said's influential denunciation of "Orientalism". Pipes maintains that current scholarship is dominated by Western scholars who have been intimidated into abandoning skepticism, or are Middle Eastern immigrants who are busily spinning perceptions of their faith and homelands.
When professors get arrested for fomenting and funding terrorism but remain posters boys for academic freedom, when an emotionally conflicted American Muslim soldier commits battlefield fratricide and his motives are dismissed as "attitude problems", when 3,000 Americans are murdered live on TV, and political correctness forbids discussing the enemy outside the leftist trinity of race, sex, and class, then you know we haven't taken scholars like Daniel Pipes seriously enough. It's way past time to start.