To the editor:
I must admit, I was a little horrified when I read Eliana Johnson’s defense of Daniel Pipes in Thursday’s Yale Daily News. Her argument would have been much more compelling if she didn’t have to bend the truth to make her point. Take for instance, a Pipes quote from an article entitled “The Muslims Are Coming! The Muslims Are Coming!” that reads, “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.” Johnson insists that Pipes’ critics take the quote out of context and that Pipes was describing the way in which Europeans perceive Muslims, not how he himself views them. A quick glance at the article proves that this is not true. I was hoping that Pipes would be able to better explain himself at his talk later that day, but when asked about that quote, he spit out Johnson’s argument right back at us.
Pipes responded that when he wrote that sentence, he was merely using the terminology that was common in Europe at the time. For that reason, he didn’t feel the need to put quotation marks around terms like “brown-skinned” and “strange”. I am less offended by his choice of words though, and more by the ideas behind them.
The sentence preceding that quote reads, “Fears of a Muslim influx have more substance than the worry about jihad.” There is no mention of this being the prevalent European view. In fact, the sentence seems to presuppose that Europeans are in fact worried about jihad when Pipes believes that they should really be more concerned about Muslim immigration. He then goes onto say why, his reasons being that Western European societies are unprepared for Muslim exoticism.
In her column, Johnson insists that the sentences immediately following that quote say, “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.” Pipes also cited this quote in his response.
Pipes does write this later on in his article, but in a very different context, and it is by no means the next sentence. The next sentences read, “Muslim immigrants bring with them a chauvinism that augurs badly for their integration into the mainstream of the European societies. The signs all point to continued clashes between the two sides–” Only in the next paragraph does Pipes write that benevolent quote that Johnson attributed to him. What neither she nor Pipes tells you, however, is what is meant by “if handled properly.” If you read the entire article, Pipes’ main point is that the only way to eliminate the Muslim threat is for Muslims to modernize and assimilate into Western society. Pipes doesn’t envision a multicultural society with Muslims and Europeans living side by side. Instead, he calls for one in which Muslims give up their culture and assimilate into Western society. I find this implication that Muslim culture is flawed and dangerous to be both offensive and racist — far more than the word choices he blames on the Europeans.
Saqib Bhatti ’04
November 9, 2003