The foundation published Ramadan’s book To Be a European Muslim in 1999, and it enjoyed a modest success. To Be a European Muslim was regarded as a thoughtful argument for healthy new relations between old-stock non-Muslim Europe and the new-stock immigrant Muslim population. Daniel Pipes in the United States was among the expert observers who offered applause–though, if you visit Pipes’s website, you will see that, ever since his initial review, Pipes has been posting additional remorseful observations about how wrong he was, and what could possibly have gotten into him? ~Paul Berman
Berman’s essay, which is more like a small book, on Tariq Ramadan may or may not be worth reading in full (I have just waded in and I am not sure that I will finish), but this remark about Pipes was interesting. Pipes is, of course, the embodiment of neocon Arabophobic Islamophilia. No, I’m not kidding. When they do not happen to live in the immediate vicinity of the Levant, Islamic fundamentalists have had few better allies–both conscious and unwitting–than neoconservatives.
Pipes himself peddles all the standard pro-Islamic myths or exaggerations: Islam as “religion of peace,” Islam as guardian of Greek learning in the middle ages, medieval Islamic civilisation as a Golden Age of rationality and tolerance, and so on and so forth. He is also ardently in favour of attempts to forcibly “reform” the Islamic world from the outside and supports all efforts to crush as many Arab states as possible in the process. He believes that Islam is essentially good, but has gone awry somewhere and must be pummeled and shaped by outside intervention to return to its pristine goodness. It is impossible to understand the creation of a word like “Islamofascism” without understanding just how deeply neocons have embraced this myth of the peaceful, enlightened Islamic world and their narrative of a small fraction of that world that has gone astray. While the word is intended to conflate and confuse multiple, mutually opposed groups and states, this conflation is done for specific policy reasons, one of which is to target all forces hostile to Israel and to create an ideological identifier for all of them. The word itself implies and its users constantly reiterate that Islam itself is fine and no problem at all; there is nothing inherent in it that should or could lead to what they called “Islamofascism.” As they are obsessed with telling us (and as Joseph Bottum insists on claiming again now, citing Bernard Lewis), modern jihadis are not just supposed to be theoretically totalitarian but can be tied to 20th century totalitarian ideologies as a matter of intellectual genealogy, and furthermore they will claim that jihadism is a political ideology. Hence Islamofascism, which is something that a secular audience can more readily grasp. Last year I proposed an explanation for why neocons do this:
For secular people like these prominent neocons, it is horrifying to consider the possibility that some people have motivations that cannot be explained in secular language, because they, lacking in religious imagination of any kind, are at a loss to even begin to really understand what motivates a jihadi. Even when they acknowledge the supposed goal of Paradise or the religious nature of the duty these people believe themselves to be carrying out, it is always with a certain level of incomprehension, almost as if they cannot really accept that anyone not attached to some intelligible ideology firmly bounded in this world really exists. Their inability to understand the religious desire for transcendence in some of its most appalling forms stems, I suspect, in no small part from their own depressingly optimistic and immanentist ideology. Their inability to understand a drive for religious purity and intolerance of other religions as anything other than fascism stems in part from their own reflexive commitments to religious pluralism and a latent or not-so-latent hostility to dogmatic Christianity: everything not on the side of pluralism and “freedom” somehow all gets pushed into a big box called fascism.
In any case, it is not surprising that Pipes would have had a soft spot for someone like Tariq Ramadan, especially pre-9/11, because in the late ’90s encouraging Muslim immigration into Europe (like encouraging Third World immigration into any Western country) was quite natural for neocons, who were, after all, leading advocates of intervening in the Balkans on behalf of Muslims (no bigoted Westerners were they!) and calling for Turkish entry into the EU. (The argument for Turkish entry was a twofer for the neocons: they were able to idealise a “democratic” Islamic country while also mocking the small-minded Europeans.) Just as they have winked and nodded approvingly at Chechen terrorism, they endorsed the entry of mujahideen into Europe for the greater glory of killing Serbs. Just as it had been fashionable in England to romanticise the Algerian rebel Abd al Qadir because he was killing Frenchmen (though they would take a rather dim view of locals rebelling against their authority some twenty-five years later), it became acceptable to write admiringly about the self-determination of Bosnian and Albanian Muslims. Neocon outrage against jihadis, such as it is, is really more that of a jilted lover than that of a dedicated foe. When they lament the jihadi threat, you can almost hear them saying, “Come on, guys, we’ve had such good times together. Remember when the KLA staged the Racak massacre and we pretended to believe it? That was great. We should get the gang back together.”