JW friend Daniel Pipes on Islam:
Q: You have written extensively about the distinction between Islam and “Islamism”, also called “militant Islam”, or “fundamentalism”. How do you explain the difference?
DP: Islam is a personal faith, and there are many different ways of understanding what it means to be a Muslim. One can be a Sufi, a mystic, one can be someone who lives by the law in a very strict way, one can be a nominal Muslim, who does not pay that much attention to his faith; all these and other ways are possible within the religion of Islam.
Islamism is a very specific approach, one that holds that Muslims would be powerful and rich were Muslims to follow the Islamic law in its complete detail. Islamists aspire to apply that law everywhere in the world, and see non-Muslims as inferior, and to be defeated. It’s an ideology that has its roots at the origins of Islam, but developed in its present state about 80 years ago. It is part of Islam, but not the whole of Islam.
Q: However, hard-line Muslims as well as some critics of Islam insist that you cannot be a real Muslim unless you follow the Islamic law — that would make the distinction between Islam and Islamism disappear?
DP: It is curious to note that Islamists and those who say that Islam itself is the problem both agree that I”m wrong, and that Islamism is Islam. The Islamists say that because they want to portray their version of Islam as the only one. And those who see Islam as the problem, conflate the religion and the ideology. I think it a mistake. Even if you believe that’s the case, and you”re a Westerner and a non-Muslim, I would argue that you”d have to adopt my point of view, because a Western government cannot fight Islam. Ours are not crusader states. Therefore, you have to fight the ideology of Islamism, not the religion of Islam. We know how to fight ideologies. We fought Fascism and Communism and now there’s Islamism. We can’t fight a religion. So if it’s reduced to a religion, then we lack the tools to protect ourselves.
Q: Would non-Islamist Islam mean a secularized, privatized Islam?
DP: Secularism means two different things. A secular person is one who is not religious. A secular society is one that divides religion from politics. Non-Islamist Islam needs not be secular in a personal sense; a person can be pious, but not Islamist. But it does mean secular in the latter sense, in that society divides politics from religion. For example, the AtatÃ¼rk regime in Turkey is secular, you can be religious, but you cannot bring religion into the political sphere.
Q: What do you think about the term “Islamophobia” — it has been used a lot in Europe lately?
DP: “Islamophobia” is a fundamentally flawed notion, because the people who are worried about Islam are not phobic. “Phobic” implies they have an unjustified, wrongful dislike of something, whereas people who are worried about terrorism, about the imposition of the Islamic law, or the Sharia, are dealing with an actual set of problems. To call them names is both unfair and delegitimizing. Their concerns are real and legitimate, and need to be addressed.