To the Editor:
In “The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America” [November 2001], Daniel Pipes accuses me and others of working to bring an Islamic revolution to the U.S. and thus of being no better than persons like Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is suffering a life sentence for no wrongdoing of his own but because of the Jewish lobby’s prejudices against Islam and Muslims.
Mr. Pipes thinks that he and his Jewish community are the sole proprietors of the U.S. and that the rest of the country are the “goyim,” with no right to exist on this earth. He forgets that every citizen of the U.S. has equal rights, whether he is a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim.
From the outset, Mr. Pipes takes Islam to be a “militant” religion that, when established somewhere in this world, brings forth nothing but tyranny, oppression, and a closed theocratic state. This idea is a creation of his imagination and reflects his ignorance of Islam and its history. He makes a great hue and cry about the Islamic system of life without even offering a comparative study of capitalism, liberal democracy, and Islam, pinpointing the superiority of one over the other. That is the least that one should expect from a learned scholar.
Mr. Pipes forgets that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all prophets of Islam. Islam is the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim community of America, and establishing the kingdom of God on earth is the joint responsibility of all three Abrahamic faiths. Islam was the din (faith, way of life) of both Jews and Christians, who later lost it through human innovations. Now the Muslims want to remind their Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters of their original din. These are the facts of history.
The Islamic system of life is the supreme need of our time. Human problems grow by leaps and bounds. There is no peace anywhere in this world. The fundamental needs of man—food, drinking water, shelter, basic education, medicine—lie unattended, especially among the downtrodden. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer day by day. Human rights are only for the privileged people of liberal societies; they are denied to the vast societies of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America. Communism, capitalism, and the liberal democracies of the world, despite their tall claims, have failed to resolve any of these human problems. Rather, they have become an instrument in augmenting them.
These man-made systems have filled the earth with greed, exploitation, and immoral ways that are unacceptable to Abrahamic norms. Why do scholars like Daniel Pipes prefer to prolong the game of subjugation, the remote-control modern slavery that operates through international financial institutions, the World Trade Organization, multinational corporations, and NGO’s (nongovernmental organizations)? The time has come to end this proxy game of socio-economic-political domination of the fortunate few over the unfortunate billions.
In the present context, Islam is the only alternative left; all the secular systems have failed mankind. But how and when will this alternative become available? It will come into existence through the long, peaceful process that I have discussed in detail in my books—the books now being misinterpreted by Mr. Pipes to suit his jihad against Islam and the Muslims of America.
Mr. Pipes has given a totally wrong interpretation of the tragic episode of September 11. In order to mislead the American people, and to keep them from pointing their finger toward the Jewish lobby of America and the Jewish state of Israel, he unashamedly accuses Muslims and Islam. He has used accusatory language without any proof.
I would like to remove the misgivings Mr. Pipes has created in readers’ minds and give an idea of how peacefully the establishment of the kingdom of God could proceed and progress.
Islam invites people to accept the authority of their Creator and Sustainer, to feel accountable to Him on judgment day, to follow the pattern of life demonstrated by the Prophet Muhammad. It is a matter of free will, not of coercion and compulsion. If individuals freely choose to change themselves, who can stop them? It may take decades, if not centuries, to build a benevolent human society based on Abrahamic faith. Why should people like Mr. Pipes feel averse to it?
The fundamental values of the United States—individual human rights, family, democracy, religious tolerance, social and economic justice, the free market—coincide, more or less, with those of Islam. The American people, by their own free choice, may prefer one day to transform themselves and be obedient to the will of God. It would be a turning point in the history of America. The entire world, especially the have-nots, would love America, and Uncle Sam would be greeted everywhere with open arms.
This is the process through which the U.S. can repair its tarnished image: that of a nation with a double standard, one for the rich and one for the poor; a nation that stands for human rights but supports undemocratic regimes throughout the world for the sake of political and economic expedience; a nation that correctly and justifiably condemns terrorism but connives with the state terrorism of its close allies; a nation that loves freedom and liberty but remains silent when oppressed people fight to escape their subjugation.
The list is quite long and painful to elaborate. The establishment of the kingdom of God on earth is the only way to correct the situation. In its wake, when the U.S. delivers justice to suffering humanity, terrorism will die its own death.
Shamim A. Siddiqi
Flushing, New York
To the Editor:
Given the ongoing and very real threat to our physical safety posed by Islamic terrorists, I found it strange that Daniel Pipes would devote the bulk of his article to the quite unrealistic hopes of a few Muslim leaders to convert a majority of our population to Islam, and to establish it as our official state religion, with the codes of shari’a governing our legal process.
All evangelical sects—from Christian churches to the Scientologists and the “Moonies”—harbor dreams of eventual universality. But Muslims today comprise just 1 to 2 percent of America’s population, and are largely confined to America’s blacks. Many of them belong to the Nation of Islam, which does not follow any legitimate version of Islam, preaching instead a doctrine that is a mishmash of UFO-ology and racism. I suspect that a Mormon America is far more likely than a Muslim America.
Palo Alto, California
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes’s excellent piece should be read by every elected official and law-enforcement officer. But Mr. Pipes underestimates the role of violence in the plans of Islamic extremists to seize the American government.
Consider the chilling words of Wadih Hage, one of the Islamic terrorists who bombed American embassies in Africa in 1998, killing 224 people and wounding 4,600 others. At his sentencing to life imprisonment in federal court in New York on October 18, 2001, Hage, a naturalized American citizen and former personal secretary to Osama bin Laden, remarked (as paraphrased by the Washington Post): “On this soil . . . he and his fellow fundamentalist Muslims had been free to plan for an even more perfect nation; a theocratic state run by Allah’s law, such as Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.”
Even after September 11, a veil of secrecy still conceals the finances and nonreligious activities of Islamist mosques across the United States—mosques that raise tens of thousands of dollars every week. With the proclaimed intention of overthrowing the U.S. government, extremists are not using these funds, one assumes, to promote religious understanding.
By now we know that we are being subjected to a massive campaign of deception in which many Muslim leaders speak publicly in English about tolerance and peace, and in Arabic among themselves about how to kill more Americans and usurp our government.
Leslie D. Simon
Woodrow Wilson Center
To the Editor:
Are the violent and nonviolent ways of making the U.S. an Islamic country as distinct as (the indispensable) Daniel Pipes suggests? Has anything in American history done as much for Islam as the suicide hijackings of September 11? Large numbers of Americans, thanks to the strenuous efforts of civil libertarians and universities, now believe that it is Islam itself and not the thousands of people massacred by Islamists that is the aggrieved party.
The savagery of Islamic fascism has not yet effected a mass conversion of Americans to its ranks, but it has certainly had a terrific first inning.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes makes points that the United Kingdom might well take to heart. His description of the Islamists’ goal is in perfect accord with their core doctrine as described by the scholar Bernard Lewis: Islam divides the world into the dar al-Islam (house of Islam), where the faithful live, and the dar al-Harb (house of war), inhabited by the infidels. These “houses” are in a permanent state of war interrupted only by temporary tactical truces, and this conflict will not cease until the whole world is brought into the dar al-Islam, where members of other faiths will be tolerated only as second-class citizens.
In Britain the authorities constantly protest that we are not at war with Islam but with “terrorism,” which apparently exists in some sort of limbo, populated by “extremists” who have nothing to do with religion. Rabid Islamists like Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of al-Mouhajiroun (an organization that, among other activities, recruited young British Muslims to fight for the Taliban), are given generous and not always unfriendly exposure on British television, and are tolerated even when their activities and statements present a clear case of treason. Meanwhile, writers like the novelist Fay Weldon who publish critical comments about Islam are accused of “Islamophobia.” And Muslim pressure groups agitate for protection against such criticism under the government’s proposed bill to “ban religious hatred,” effectively criminalizing criticism of Islam.
Daniel Pipes writes:
That Shamim A. Siddiqi reads COMMENTARY is excellent news. But he does not, I fear, read it very closely. Nowhere in my article did I say the many things he ascribes to me—not about the Jewish community being “the sole proprietors” of the United States, not about non-Jews being “goyim,” much less about non-Jews having “no right to exist on this earth.” These colorful notions suggest that Mr. Siddiqi, whatever his strengths as a strategist of militant Islam’s ascension to power, is not much of an analyst of American politics.
Nowhere in the course of Mr. Siddiqi’s extended rant (on my ignorance of Islam and its history, the failure of capitalism, the World Trade Organization’s “remote-control modern slavery,” the alleged Judeo-Christian-Muslim heritage of America, and the “supreme need” for the Islamic system of life) does he take issue with the main point of my article—that he wants to see a United States made Muslim. To the contrary, he dutifully confirms it several times, as when he expresses a hope that the American people will one day “transform themselves and be obedient to the will of God.”
Yet Mr. Siddiqi vehemently protests my presentation of his argument. Why? According to him, he sees the Islamization of America happening through a “long, peaceful process,” whereas I use “accusatory language without any proof” to suggest otherwise. Hardly: my article emphasizes precisely Mr. Siddiqi’s point—that he envisages Islam peacefully taking over. So why the outrage? Could it be that his schema is intended for certain eyes only, and that I made it public to an audience likely to be less enthusiastic about an Islamic Republic of America?
Ron Unz and I see the long-term danger differently. To me, the current wave of militant Islamic violence against the United States, however dangerous, is ultimately less consequential than the non-violent effort to transform it through immigration, natural reproduction, and conversion. It surprises me that Mr. Unz would find Islamists to be no greater a force than Christian churches, Mormons, Scientologists, and “Moonies.” Had Christians wanted the United States to be a Christian country, it would be one; that is one ambition that plainly does not exist. As for Mormons, Scientologists, and members of the Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, it should suffice to point out that there are some 50 self-identifying Muslim states in the world, but not one that is under Mormon, Scientologist, or Unification Church control. Finally, most Muslims in this country are not blacks, and most African-American converts to Islam adhere to normative Islam, not to the Nation of Islam.
I thank Leslie D. Simon for his kind words. The threat represented by figures like Wadih Hage is indeed a real one, but they are being and will continue to be cracked down on. To put it differently, the United States is better prepared today to deal with criminal conspiracies than with cultural threats.
Edward Alexander is right that September 11 has probably had two very different effects on the Western perception of Islam: while the large majority of Westerners are appalled by the violence of militant Islam, a tiny but significant minority have been newly attracted to the religion of Islam. Some imams in the United States have claimed a quadrupling of the rate of conversion. According to the Middle East Media and Research Institute, “Since September 11, 2001, many articles and reports have appeared in the Arabic press claiming Muslim proselytizing (da’wa) in the U.S. has seen an upsurge in Americans’ converting.” Osama bin Laden himself, in the notorious home tape of his musings released on December 13, noted this trend in two countries, one of them the United States, with evident satisfaction: “In Holland, at one of the centers, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last eleven years. I heard someone on Islamic radio who owns a school in America say: ‘We don’t have time to keep up with the demands of those who are asking about Islamic books to learn about Islam.’ ” In Great Britain, according to the Sunday Telegraph, the September 11 attacks have “swelled the numbers” of converts to Islam.
True, the deputy prime minister of the Netherlands denied bin Laden’s claim, saying that “there has been a significant increase in interest in Islam but this does not mean that we [Dutch] all want to be Muslim. Bin Laden is drawing self-serving conclusions, and there is no truth to his comments.” This repudiation notwithstanding, I am inclined to agree with bin Laden’s version: in my observation, exposure to Islam—even an Islam presented negatively—does win it new converts.
Herb Greer is correct to point out that the militant Islamic agenda is far more advanced in the United Kingdom than here. England is a country where Islamist spokesmen threaten to assassinate not only novelists (Salman Rushdie) but even the prime minister (Tony Blair), and where it was not just an eccentric John Walker who went off to fight for the Taliban but dozens, if not hundreds, of young men who went to Afghanistan in an organized way to battle their co-nationals. In a leading British newspaper (the Observer), one could also find a prominent Islamic figure openly announcing that “We will remodel this country in an Islamic image” and “We will replace the Bible with the Qur’an.”
Indeed, Americans curious about what an emboldened militant Islam can mean for a Western country might look to northwestern Europe for enlightenment. As for Mr. Greer’s excellent point about the reluctance of British (and American) authorities to mention who the “terrorists” and “extremists” are, this was precisely the starting place for my article in last month’s COMMENTARY, “Who Is the Enemy?”