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Alberto Cristofari/A3/Contrasto/Redux

Remaking a religion

Q&A | Scholar Daniel Pipes says Americans must stand up to Islamists and encourage a 'moderate, neighborly' Islam

Issue: "Realities: 2011-2020," Jan. 15, 2011

Daniel Pipes founded the Middle East Forum in 1994. The author of 12 books, with a Ph.D. in medieval Islamic history, he is the most prominent American scholar of radical Islam; even CBS said he was "years ahead of the curve" in identifying the radical threat.

Many people associate Islam with terrorism, but you also examine a long-term threat that would be peaceful but transformative. In this country, mostly because of 9/11, we focus on terrorism, but in Europe the discussion is much more about immigration and culture. They say, "Unless we make changes, our civilization will disappear." Demographics, culture, and religion may make Europe an extension of North Africa, with attractions like the Mosque of Notre Dame in Paris.

In part that's because non-Muslim Europeans have few children, Muslims have many? There are three factors. First, demography: Women on average need to have 2.1 children to maintain a population, but in Europe right now it's about 1.4, one-third fewer children than are needed. The second factor is religion: the weakening of Christianity. Factor three is multiculturalism: no sense that your own culture is special, something worth fighting for and defending. Muslims have many children. They also immigrate. They have a distinct sense of the superiority of their civilization.

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Do you agree with those who say Europe is finished? I disagree. Non-Muslims still constitute 95 percent of Europe and have it within their means to say no to Islamization-and that's what they're doing. Parties that did not exist or had insignificant existence 10-20 years ago are now potently saying no. There are two options: Eurabia, or "No." Which way? It's too early to predict.

How exactly do they say no? That's the question, I don't know how exactly, but I would expect protracted civil conflict, expulsions, use of force. It's not going to be pretty. I can't give you precise scenarios, but Europe has within its history and its potential the prospect of pretty nasty treatment of Muslims.

Would the Netherlands be the leading edge of "No"? Yes, that is the country to watch. It looks like one-third of the government will be made up of an anti-Islamic bloc. What impact do they have? How will others respond? This is all to be seen.

How do the cartoon wars play into this? Were Islamists showing they would prevent anyone from speaking out against them? In 1989 Ayatollah Khomenei put out an edict against Salman Rushdie for his book, The Satanic Verses, in which Rushdie made fun of various Islamic sanctities. There was strong rejection of the edict: The U.S. Senate voted unanimously for a resolution asserting the right to write whatever you want. Well, 21 years later, people are being threatened and the Senate is not responding. Before 1989 anyone could write or draw whatever they wanted about Islam. Now if you do this, you are taking your life in your hands. If those of us who critique Islam and Muhammad are not allowed to speak or are intimidated from speaking, Islamists prevail: Islam walks in and who's to stop them? The real issue here is: Are we allowed to defend our civilization or not?

If current trends in the United States continue, what will be the situation in 2020? Increased deference to Islamic law. Look at Britain: Polygamy is legal so long as you contract the polygamist marriage in a place where it's legal (say, Morocco). The legal codes accommodate multiple marriages. Welfare and inheritance legal codes separate what wife No. 1 gets and what wife No. 2 gets. That has not happened in the United States, but about four years ago, in Brooklyn, two husbands with multiple wives, and a number of the wives and children, were killed in a fire. The mayor went to pay condolences-it was routine. No one blinked an eye about these polygamists in New York. Contrast that with American treatment of Mormons in the 19th century: furious rejection of polygamy.

So will we have polygamy in the United States by 2020? The debate over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque saw the emergence and mobilization of a resistance to Islamization that hitherto I haven't seen. It could well mean the beginning of a pushback.

Should we accept small accommodations-say, faucets outside an airport terminal for Muslim cab drivers to wash their feet-as an example of American pluralism and tolerance? Yes. We have chapels on military academies, with the ground given by the government and the chapel built with private money. It's an arrangement that works. Why not the same here?


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