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It's Not a Clash of Civilizations, It's a Clash between the Civilized World and Barbarians

by Susan L. Rosenbluth
Jewish Voice and Opinion
February 2007

The problem faced by Western civilization in the wake of Islamist terrorism is not a "clash of civilizations," but, rather, a clash between civilization and barbarism, a world renowned expert on Islam and the Middle East told a packed audience in London last month.

The solution, said Dr. Daniel Pipes, is not to adopt the left-wing policies of discussion and appeasement, which he said were useless against this barbaric foe, but, rather, to defeat it and promote the emergence of an Islam that is "modern, moderate, democratic, humane, liberal, good neighborly, and respectful of women, homosexuals, atheists, and whoever else. One that grants non-Muslims equal rights with Muslims."

Radical Islam, sometimes called Islamism, is the problem, he said, moderate Islam is the solution.

Dr. Pipes made his remarks as part of a debate against London's notoriously left-wing Mayor Ken Livingstone. The debate was the main event of a day-long conference entitled "A World Civilization or Clash of Civilizations."

Perhaps the most startling comment made by Dr. Pipes at the conference is that, as a result of British tolerance for Islamist terrorists, the UK is itself a serious terror threat.

No Coverage

Prior publicity for the conference said: "Some argue that the world is going into an era of conflict and war driven by ‘a clash of civilizations.' The Mayor of London's policies are based on the exact opposite idea—that the multicultural city is part of creating a new concept of world civilization that corresponds to a globalized world."

Initiated by the mayor, who has been called the only city administrator with his own foreign policy, the conference was held at the Queen Elizabeth Center, across the street from Westminster Abbey. Although the mayor had privately worried that no one might show up for such a conference, the event sold out all 5,000 tickets well in advance.

But although approximately 150 members of the press also attended the event, there was hardly a word about the conference or the debate in any of Britain's newscasts or print media.

Some of the bloggers who did cover the event maintained that the left-wing media had no interest in covering a debate in which the Left was unquestionably the losing side.

"Moderate?"

A self-avowed Muslim sympathizer, in 2004, Mr. Livingstone hosted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian-Muslim spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has endorsed, among other precepts, Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis, the death penalty for homosexuals, and the murder of all Americans serving in Iraq.

Mr. Qaradawi has been barred from entering the US, and Mr. Livingstone, who referred to the Egyptian sheikh as a "progressive" and "moderate voice of Islam," had to fight to gain permission for him to come to Britain.

"Of all the Muslim leaders in the world today, Sheikh Qaradawi is the most powerfully progressive force for change and for engaging Islam with western values. I think his is very similar to the position of Pope John XXIII," said Mr. Livingstone at the time.

Discouraging Jews

Mr. Livingstone, who has frequently been accused of antisemitism, has called the creation of Israel "a mistake," has blasted the US for going to war with Iraq "only for oil," and is currently planning a taxpayer-supported festival to honor Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Last year, Mr. Livingstone was censured by his own party for abusing a Jewish reporter by comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Commenting on the debate, British blogger Adrian Morgan said the timing of the program between Mr. Livingstone and Dr. Pipes, held on Saturday morning, January 20, was seen as designed to prevent Jews from attending.

"Neo-Cons"

British commentator David Pryce-Jones said that, in inviting Dr. Pipes to debate him, Mr. Livingstone, who is sometimes referred to as "Red Ken," was hoping to indulge in anti-American rhetoric while finding a way to "pin the blame for everything on the ‘neo-cons,' a portmanteau phrase for everything the hard Left hates."

In certain left-wing corridors, "neo-con," short for neo-conservative, has also become a code-word for "Jew." While many neo-conservatives are Jews (and many more are not), it has often been pointed out that far more Jews identify with the Left than with the Right.

Most neo-conservatives, Jews and Gentiles, are pro-Israel.

Seconds

For the debate, Dr. Pipes chose the 27-year-old British writer Douglas Murray of the on-line think tank, Social Affairs Unit, as his partner. Mr. Livingstone chose Salma Yaqoob, a member of the Birmingham City Council and a spokeswoman for the Birmingham Central Mosque.

An outspoken proponent of forcing Muslim Sharia law on all British citizens, Ms. Yaqoob has excused the terrorist attacks of Sept 11 in the US and July 7 in London as having been provoked by American and British "state terror" in the Muslim world.

Although she said she would not apologize for terrorism, she insisted the attacks were the result of "despair and hatred" in parts of the world where people had previously no quarrel with the West.

"Reprisals"

During the debate, she called the Islamist bombings "reprisal events."

"Do you not expect us to fight back?" she said.

A blogger who attended the event questioned Ms. Yaqoob's use of the word "us," by which, the blogger said, Ms. Yaqoob, a citizen of the UK, clearly did not mean the British.

"In every word and act, this representative of the moderate face of the Muslim population in the UK, shows her disloyalty, nay treachery. When it comes though to getting its benefits, and all the other goodies that come along with being in a Western country, the Muslim population is immediately ‘us British,'" said the blogger.

Father's Confrontation

At the debate, Ms. Yaqoob was confronted by Winston Churchill's biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert. "My son was on the subway when these ‘reprisal events' took place on 7/7," he told her. "Would you mind telling me what these reprisals were for?"

Ms. Yaqoob, who has openly campaigned for the release of terrorists, reportedly had no response.

Writing about the event in the New York Sun, Daniel Johnson was not surprised. "What could she say to him? A great historian who has done the British state some service, who happens to be a Zionist? How could she justify the killing of scores of innocent people, and the attempted murder of countless others, including his son, as a ‘reprisal event?'" he said.

"Zionist-Free"

Ms. Yaqoob belongs to the Respect Party, a group which prides itself on being "Zionist-free" and whose most famous representative is George Galloway, the Socialist Scottish politician who was expelled from the Labor party after serving as an apologist for Saddam Hussein.

Although the Respect party is an arm of the secularist Socialist Workers Party, Ms. Yaqoob attended the debate wearing a hijab.

The debate was chaired by Gavin Esler, a host of the BBC's Newsnight current affairs program.

Expecting Disaster

Bloggers writing about the event as well as Mr. Johnson admitted that, before the debate, popular wisdom was that Dr. Pipes would be "eaten alive" by Mr. Livingstone. The political proclivities of the audience, much of it Muslim, were clear just by walking through the hallway to get to the auditorium. Mr. Livingstone had given permission for groups hawking "Free Palestine" and anti-racism brochures to set up shop.

"This is liberal hell," muttered one New Yorker within earshot of Mr. Johnson.

Some of Dr. Pipes's friends went so far as to advise him not to accept Mr. Livingstone's invitation. "How wrong everyone was," said British blogger and commentator Melanie Phillips.

Multicultural

Mr. Livingstone opened the debate by citing London as a model for the global community. He noted that the city now boasts a population consisting heavily of residents who were not born in the UK, and implied that London was chosen to host the 2012 Olympics because more languages are spoken there than in any other major city in the world.

London, he said, has become "multicultural" without descending into anarchy.

"People generally want the same things in life, and can easily co-exist," he said, adding that society should be based on the "shared values" of all cultures.

Proof of this, he said, is that after the July 7, 2005, attacks on the London transportation system, Londoners did not target Muslims because they, like their mayor, recognized that the city's large Muslim population had "contributed much that was good."

Cold War

Mr. Livingstone said he had decided to host the conference as an effort to avoid repeating the "tragedy" of the 20th century, the Cold War, which he suggested, without offering any evidence, was a sinister plot designed by a small group of Americans who were intent on world domination.

The Cold War, he said, could be blamed on the treatment accorded the Soviet Union by the US and the UK.

Refusing to repeat history, he said, he would continue to invite people such as Mr. Qaradawi to London in an effort to achieve "a true multicultural state." He said there is a moral equivalence between the "crude Islamophobia" of American neo-conservatives and the terrorism of Islamist militants.

Groans

Before the mention of Mr. Qaradawi's name, Mr. Livingstone seemed in control of his audience, made up mostly of left-wingers. But, according to blogger Morgan, his description of Mr. Qaradawi as the strongest force for "modernization" in Islam brought "the biggest groan of the day."

Seeing the tide turning, Mr. Livingstone quickly pointed out that he did not agree with many of Mr. Qaradawi's policies. For example, Mr. Livingstone said, he disagreed with parents' rights to send their children to faith-based schools and wished all children could be forced to attend secular state-run institutions.

"I disagree with him on homosexuality, but he is the future," said Mr. Livingstone.

Who's a Progressive?

But if may have been too late. A self-avowed left-wing blogger who goes by the name "Sunny," said, "My biggest worry is that [Livingstone] sees Qaradawi as a ‘progressive.' Compared to who? Genghis Kahn? I don't want to call myself progressive if Livingstone is bloody well going to put Qaradawi in the same category."

"Derius," another blogger who was at the event, questioned Mr. Livingstone's devotion to multiculturalism.

Citing Islamists who seek suicide while murdering those they consider infidels, Derius said, "Does everybody therefore want to be martyred in the cause of Allah? Does every adult want female children to be circumcised by that particularly unpleasant form of genital mutilation? Of course not. Therefore, Mr. Livingstone's statement was probably the most ridiculous one I heard at the conference, with the exception of his assertion that the Cold War was the fault of the West and had nothing to do with Stalin, communism, or the fact that the USSR invaded half of Europe."

Derius also did not accept Mr. Livingstone's plea for a society based on "our shared values." "What values would they be?" asked Derius. "What values do I share with those that believe the Sharia should be installed in this country?"

No Cannibalism

Trying to win back the audience, Mr. Livingstone said that while he believes many cultures are superior to Western civilization, there are limits to his approval. He said he would not, for example, endorse the practice of cannibalism.

That allowed Mr. Esler, the BBC newsman who moderated the debate, to quip that he hoped press coverage of the event would go beyond the obvious headline that Mayor Livingstone had finally taken a stand against cannibalism.

Most observers on the Right and Left agreed that Dr. Pipes's preparation showed that he took the debate much more seriously than did Mr. Livingstone.

More Than Culture

Rejecting the ideas of Samuel Huntington, who said, in a 1993 article and again later in a 1996 book, that cultural differences will account for future conflicts, Dr. Pipes insisted that culture alone does not necessarily separate people.

The clash, he said, is between "civilized" cultures that protect "ethics, liberty, and mutual respect," and those that can be described as "ideological barbarians."

Historically, he said, these barbarians have included the culture that emerged from the French Revolution in the late 18th century; fascism and Marxist Leninism in the 20th century' and, today, "a third totalitarian movement," radical Islamism, which he defined as "an extremist, utopian version of Islam."

Not the Religion

Noting that he did not equate Islamism (the ideology of radical, fundamentalist, or political Islam) with Islam the religion, Dr. Pipes said barbaric Islamism has inflicted misery through its wars, suicide terrorism, tyrannical and brutal governments, and oppression of women and non-Muslims. Today, he said, it threatens the whole world.

"Radical Islam derives from Islam but is an anti-modern, millenarian, misanthropic, misogynist, anti-Christian, antisemitic, triumphalist, jihadistic, terroristic, and suicidal version of it. It is Islamic-flavored totalitarianism," he said.

By contrast, he said, Islam, the religion, has within it the potential to be part of a world civilization, with "civilization" taken to mean the opposite of "barbarism."

Same Goal

He maintained that he and Mr. Livingstone probably seek the same goal, but, he said, the path the mayor hopes to take is flawed.

"The mayor and I agree on the need to withstand this menace [Islamism], but we disagree on the means of how to do it. He looks to multiculturalism, and I to winning the war. He wants everyone to get along; I want to defeat a terrible enemy," said Dr. Pipes.

He also took as a given that although their political views differ ("the mayor is a man of the Left and I am a classical liberal"), neither of them wants to be subjected to the Sharia.

The difference is that while those who agree with Dr. Pipes are "alarmed by Islamism's advances in the West, much of the Left approaches the topic in a far more relaxed fashion."

Common Enemy

This difference in approach, he said, is rooted in the Islamists' and left-wing belief that they have a common enemy. Their dictum is: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

For many leftists and Islamists, their shared enemies are the US, Britain, and Israel.

"Such common ground makes it tempting for those on the Left to make common cause with Islamists," said Dr. Pipes, pointing to anti-Iraq war demonstrations in the US and Britain which are often organized by coalitions of leftist and Islamist groups.

Rationales

According to Dr. Pipes, this bonding has led the Left to offer explanations to justify Islamists' acts of terrorism.

In addition, he said, there is also a tendency among leftists to focus on terrorism rather than on radical Islam. Leftists, he said, typically blame terrorism on problems such as "Western colonialism of the past century, Western ‘neo-imperialism' of the present day, Western policies—particularly in places like Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. Or from unemployment, poverty, desperation."

Dr. Pipes suggested that this hunt for excuses is actually a way of showing disrespect for radical Islam's ideology.

"I respect the role of ideas, and I believe that not to respect ideas, to dismiss them, to pay them no attention, is to patronize and possibly even to be racist," he said.

Multicultural Disaster

He also disputed Mr. Livingstone's perception of London as the multicultural ideal, defined by the mayor as "the right to pursue different cultural values subject only to the restriction that they should not interfere with the similar right for others."

Dr. Pipes said the multicultural impulse is creating "a disaster," because it ignores the "dangerous and growing presence of radical Islam in London."

Britain's radical Islamists, he said, have become a threat to the rest of the world, and he cited an admission from British Home Secretary David Blunkett that Britain is now "a safe haven for supporters of worldwide terrorism" as well as a "significant base" for supporting terrorism.

According to Dr. Pipes, British-based terrorists have carried out operations in at least 15 countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Algeria, Morocco, Russia, France, Spain, and the US. He singled out Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber who tried to blow up an airplane headed for the US and the Islamists involved in the Millennium Plot that was thwarted from taking place in Los Angeles.

This track record, he said, means that the greatest threat to US security may emanate not from Iran or Iraq, but, rather, from Great Britain.

The Right Religion

Three aspects of radical Islam render it especially dangerous, he said: its complete adherence to Sharia in areas that never existed before, its own inherent view of the world as necessitating war between good and bad religious ideologies, and its totalitarian outlook.

He quoted British-based Islamist Abdullah el-Faisal, who is now in prison: "There are two religions in the world today—the right one and the wrong one. Islam versus the rest of the world."

"You don't get a more basic clash-of-civilization orientation than that," said Dr. Pipes.

Like fascism and communism, radical Islam is "radically utopian," he said, explaining that it "takes the mundane qualities of everyday life and turns them into something grand and glistening."

"There is an attempt to take over states. There is the use of the state for coercive purposes, and an attempt to dominate all of life, every aspect of it. It is an aggression against neighbors, and, finally, it is a cosmic confrontation with the West," he said.

Confrontation

The only way to confront the adherents of Islamism, he said, is head on.

"There is no way to appease this ideology. It is serious. There is no amount of money that can solve it. There is no change of foreign policy that can make it go away. It must be fought and it must be defeated as in 1945 and 1991, when the German and Soviet threats were defeated," he said.

Dr. Pipes suggested that rather than pursuing multicultural dreams with the Islamists, people like Mr. Livingstone would do better to stand firm with truly civilized moderate Muslims around the world, "especially with liberal voices in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with Iranian dissidents, and with reformers in Afghanistan."

Not with the Tormentors

He singled out Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch legislator who worked with slain filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and, after being threatened by the same Muslim groups that applauded Mr. Van Gogh's murder, has now sought asylum in the US; Canadian author Irshad Manji; and Wafa Sultan, the Syrian in exile in the US "who made her phenomenal appearance on Al-Jazeera;" and several others.

"If we do not stand with these individuals, but instead if we stand with those who would torment them, with the Islamists, with, I might say, someone like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, then we are standing with those who justify suicide bombings, who defend the most oppressive forms of Islamic practice, who espouse the clash of civilizations that we ourselves reject," said Dr. Pipes.

"To the extent that we all work together, against the barbarism of radical Islam, a world civilization does indeed exist—one that transcends skin color, poverty, geography, politics, and religion," he said.

"Islamophobe"

Dr. Pipes was followed by Ms. Yaqoob, who called him an "Islamophobe" and claimed the real clash of civilizations would be between "two barbarian groups, the neo-cons and the terrorists," whom, she said, thrive on war and confrontation, with most people stuck in the middle.

She accused Dr. Pipes of evading "the history of Western colonialism in the Middle East" and "the attempt of the US neo-cons to remold the Middle East in their own image."

With no basis in fact, she accused Dr. Pipes of serving as a direct link to the Bush administration's war policies, and called the US "a weapon of mass destruction."

She also accused Dr. Pipes of serving as an advocate for the Saudi regime. He corrected her, explaining that he favored support for moderate Islamic dissidents in Saudi Arabia.

She denied that Islamism presents any threat at all.

"Israel"

At the end of her talk, in what may have been a wink at multiculturalism, she asked for blessings on America, the UK, and the Jews, pointedly leaving out Israel. Even when pressed by a member of the audience to mention the Jewish state by name, she refused.

In his piece in the New York Sun, Mr. Johnson said he felt the audience "shudder" when Ms. Yaqoob referred to the bombings as "reprisals" and when she refused to utter the word "Israel."

According to blogger Sunny, Ms. Yaqoob "didn't put forward any coherently argued solutions except blaming the West for everything."

"She was happy to play to her own audience rather than trying to win over new recruits. She shouts and rants a lot, too, putting words in Pipes's mouth without carefully dissecting his words. He always came across as the more reasonable thinker," said Sunny.

The Wrong Muslims

Ms. Yaqoob was followed by Dr. Pipes's partner, Mr. Murray, the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. Most accounts of the debate say Mr. Murray came out on the offensive and never let up. He reportedly received the largest round of applause of anyone on the podium, and was given a standing ovation.

He began by thanking Mr. Livingstone "for being so generous with other people's money" and then went on to excoriate him for "courting the wrong Muslims" and "always blaming the ills of the world on the West."

Calling multiculturalism "an abject failure," he insisted that Ms. Yaqoob, by not holding Islamist terrorists culpable for their actions, was a racist. He accused her of holding the position that Islamists can never be guilty unless it is the West's fault.

Non-Western Enemies

He pointed out that Islamists have attacked Buddhists in southern Thailand, waged jihad against Christians and animists in Darfur, destroyed churches in Indonesia, and murdered Hindus in Bangladesh and Kashmir.

"How are these jihads our fault?" he said.

He also pointed to the lack of reciprocity in Islamic countries in exchange for Western concessions to Islam. While, in the Netherlands, the Dutch Justice Minister told Muslims that Sharia law could be introduced if a majority wanted it, Christians and Jews are not even allowed to pray openly in Muslim countries.

He called on Mr. Livingstone to announce that "we should not have Sharia law in the UK."

Noting that Ms. Yaqoob entered British politics by speaking out in defense of the eight British Muslims who were convicted in 1999 of plotting to bomb Western targets in Yemen, Mr. Murray faulted Mr. Livingstone for choosing her as his debating partner, rather than selecting a moderate.

How to Win

During the question-and-answer period, Mr. Livingstone defended himself by insisting that Islam will "evolve and change," but that it must happen from within, as in the case of the Christian reformation, and not by others "standing outside and denouncing it."

Mr. Murray said if it is to evolve from within, then moderate forces need to be elevated, something that will not happen, he said, by praising extremists such as Mr. Qaradawi.

Dr. Pipes stressed that Westerners have become uncomfortable with the notion of victory, but, in this confrontation with Islamism, he said, there can be no compromise.

Wars end, he said, when one side gives up. This, he said, would be a favorable scenario for Israel and her neighbors, if the Palestinians were to relinquish their dream of eliminating the Jewish state.

When an angry Muslim in the audience asked about last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah, Dr. Pipes agreed that the terrorist group "did not get to eliminate Israel this time round—I give you my condolences."

Iraq

When a question was asked about Iraq, Ms. Yaqoob called the Coalition forces "invaders" and likened them to Crusaders during the Middle Ages. She accused the Americans of invading Iraq only for oil.

Dr. Pipes called the accusation illogical, pointing out that the Americans would have been crazy to invade Iraq for the sake of oil, because the predictable effect of the war has been an increase in oil prices.

Mr. Livingstone responded that "the people in the White House were mad" and went onto make the apocalyptic prediction that if the war on terror continued, there would be "casualties in the tens of millions."

A Mistake

Many of the bloggers reporting on the event noted that, throughout the formal debate presentations, Israel was not mentioned. The Jewish state came up only during the question-and-answer period.

Jonathan Hoffman, who posted a report on the Adloyada blog, asked Mr. Livingstone about his view that Israel should never have been created. The mayor confirmed that he still held that position, because, he said, the land was "stolen from Arabs."

However, Mr. Livingstone said, now that Israel exists, despite the original mistake, it should be accepted.

Conspiracy Theories

His version of Israel's creation is a conglomeration of conspiracy theories and racial accusations. He said the US supported the creation of Israel only because "they were scared that if they did not do so they would be called antisemitic." He said the US, which he accused of controlling the UN, established the Jewish state on Arab land because the Americans and the British were "too antisemitic" to accept Jewish refugees in their own countries.

Blogger Sharon Chadha noted it was one of the only times in her experience that Mr. Livingstone discussed Israel without calling former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "a war criminal."

Ms. Chadha considered it strange that Mr. Livingstone, who usually praises the Soviet Union, does not acknowledge the key role Moscow played in the UN's decision to recognize Israel.

According to Mr. Hoffman, the entire conference was unusual in that such an event was held, touching on the Middle East, and it did not "degenerate into a tirade against Israel."

Winning the Debate

The reaction to Dr. Pipes's talk seemed to shock the bloggers. Most were expecting him to be treated with disdain, but, according to virtually all reports on the event, he and Mr. Murray were the clear winners, defeating Mr. Livingstone and Ms. Yaqoob on their home turf in front of 5,000 witnesses.

British columnist Oliver Kamm, who spoke at the afternoon sessions on "Enlightenment Values and Modern Society" and "Democratic Solutions for the Middle East," thought that, given the audience and the fact that there was no observant-Jewish contingent because of the timing, it was "remarkable" that Dr. Pipes and Mr. Murray received as much applause as Mr. Livingstone and Ms. Yaqoob did.

"The victory by Pipes and Murray was surely a development of no small significance in these savage and degraded times. Here were two neoconservatives, both staunch anti-jihadis and robust supporters of Israel and America, making the case to thousands of progressives in a left-wing bear-pit that London's very own version of Che Guevara was helping promote to endorse an evil ideology—and the audience, which might have been assumed to be viscerally anti-America, anti-neo-con and anti-Israel, duly turned not on them but on Livingstone," said Ms. Phillips.