Daniel Pipes’ scholarship merits our respect

Who is Daniel Pipes? Daniel Pipes is among the nation’s preeminent scholars of Islam and the Middle East; the author of 12 books in the field; a former professor at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the U.S. Naval War College; and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post. Dr. Pipes’ distinction in his field led President Bush to appoint him to the United States Institute of Peace, an organization devoted to promoting “peaceful resolutions of international conflicts.”

Dr. Pipes became prominent after Sept. 11, 2001, by dint of his prescient warnings about the threat militant Islam poses to the United States. Years before Sept. 11, Dr. Pipes warned that radical Muslims had declared war on the United States: “Unnoticed by most Westerners,” he wrote in 1995, “war has been unilaterally declared on Europe and the United States.” He identified the threat as Islamism, a militant interpretation of Islam working to submit secular society to Muslim laws and principles. The Boston Globe, among many others, heralded Dr. Pipes’ foresight: “If Pipes’ admonitions had been heeded, there might never have been a 9/11.”

Dr. Pipes, along with Yale Diplomat in Residence Charles Hill, is speaking at Yale today. Hosted by the Middle East Forum at Yale, Dr. Pipes and Hill will address current issues in the Middle East ranging from the War on Terror to the War in Iraq. More distinguished scholars addressing more important issues would be difficult to come by. A scholar who perceived the dangers of radical Islam and cautioned America about the prospect of an attack on its citizens merits both our attention and our respect. We were not listening before Sept. 11. We should know better now.

Yet Dr. Pipes’ arrival on campus will be greeted with defamatory charges that have become a hallmark of his opponents: charges of Islamophobia, racism and bigotry. Dr. Pipes’ opponents intend to stigmatize him with hateful, if hackneyed, criticisms, thereby shutting down a debate before it begins. They do so because it is a debate they will surely lose. “Racist!” and “Islamophobe!” are stinging and peremptory allegations that make substantive discourse nearly impossible. These charges, however, are false.

Dr. Pipes has devoted his professional life to the study of Islam and the Arab world. He carefully distinguishes between radical Islam, “the problem” in his words, and moderate Islam, “the solution.” He has repeatedly voiced his belief that “Islam is not the problem. Terrorism is not the problem. It’s a terroristic version of Islam that’s the problem.” These are hardly the sentiments of a determined and devoted opponent of Islam. Yet groups that seek to defame Dr. Pipes, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and activist groups on this campus, have smeared him as “a prolific author of anti-Islamic screeds” and as “avidly anti-Muslim.” When his critics attack Dr. Pipes for attacking Islam, is it because they draw no such distinction between the problem and the solution? If so, it is not Dr. Pipes who is guilty of defaming Islam. It is his opponents.

How, then, do Dr. Pipes’ opponents dress his beliefs in an ignominious cloak of Islamophobia? Simple. Dr. Pipes’ opponents routinely pick through his writings, and brandish out-of-context tidbits with an endless stream of name-calling. Take, for example, Dr. Pipes’ 1990 statement that Europeans “are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene.” Dr. Pipes’ opponents won’t tell you that “brown-skinned peoples,” “strange foods,” and “different standards of hygiene” were his descriptions of current European conceptions of Muslims, not his own. They also won’t relay Pipes’ next sentence: “the movement of Muslims to Western Europe creates a great number of painful but finite challenges; there is no reason, however, to see this event leading to a cataclysmic battle between two civilizations. If handled properly, the immigrants can even bring much of value, including new energy, to their host societies.”

Dr. Pipes is undoubtedly a supporter of a strong American defense and aggressive antiterrorism measures. The controversial nature of Dr. Pipes’ scholarship, however, does not make him a racist, a bigot, a Muslim-hater, or an Islamophobe. His scholarship, his words and his actions belie these claims. The use of epithets in a hateful attempt to hinder genuine discourse reflects on the purveyors of the epithets, not on Dr. Pipes. Please look past the tired rhetoric and come hear Dr. Pipes for yourself today at 3:30 p.m. in LC 102. Those who believe his opponents’ slanderous claim that he is “the premier Muslim basher” may be surprised to hear what he has to say.



Eliana Johnson is a sophomore in Saybrook College. She is the president of Middle East Forum at Yale.

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