Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Daniel Pipes - dishonest coward

[EDIT @ 31 July 2008: NB PLEASE SEE THE NEXT ENTRY FOR AN UPDATE ON THIS MATTER] Below is an item from Daniel Pipes's website.

The website states that Comments are screened for relevance, substance, and tone, and in some cases edited, before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome, but comments are rejected if scurrilous, off-topic, vulgar, ad hominem, or otherwise viewed as inappropriate. I submitted a quick comment in response to it on the 14th of July (his time). Subsequent comments by others were published, but not mine - even though it was neutral in tone, contained no 'offensive' content and was considerably more grammatical and comprehensible than the ramblings in most of the published comments, though to be fair these evidently don't come from native English speakers. The only possible reason for his rejection of my comment was that it demolished the claims he made in his post. His refusal to publish it says a great deal about his intellectual honesty. My rejected comment is reproduced below Pipes's original article.

The Problem with Middle East Studies A Microscopic Investigation

by Daniel Pipes History News Network July 14, 2008

As one of the few pro-U.S. and pro-Israel voices in the field of Middle East studies, I find my views get frequently mangled by others in the field – thus I have had to post a 5,000-word document titled "Department of Corrections (of Others' Factual Mistakes about Me)" on my website.

Usually, the precise evolution of such mistakes escapes me. Recently, however, I discovered just how one developed in three steps and confronted the two academics who made the errors. Their unwillingness to acknowledge their errors illustrates the mixture of incompetence and arrogance of Middle East studies as it is, unfortunately, too often practiced in the academy.

(1) In "The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming!" National Review, November 19, 1990, I wrote about some of the reasons for Western fears of Muslims:

Muslims have gone through a trauma during the last two hundred years – the tribulation of God's people who unaccountably found themselves at the bottom of the heap. The strains have been enormous and the results agonizing; Muslim countries have the most terrorists and the fewest democracies in the world. Only Turkey (and sometimes Pakistan) is fully democratic, and even there the system is frail. Everywhere else, the head of government got to power through force[,] his own or someone else's. The result is endemic instability plus a great deal of aggression.

Despite such problems, I concluded, "none of this justifies seeing Muslims as the paramount enemy."

(2) Yahya Sadowski, then of the Brookings Institution, quoted the bolded line of the above paragraph in an entirely different context in "The New Orientalism and the Democracy Debate," Middle East Report, July-August 1993, p. 14. Discussing Western considerations of democracy's prospects in the Middle East, Sadowski wrote:

The thesis that Middle Eastern societies are resistant to democratization had been a standard tenet of Orientalist thought for decades, but in the 1980s a new generation of Orientalists inverted some of the old assumptions and employed a new vocabulary which allowed them to link their work to a wider, international debate about the relationship between "civil society" and democratization. These updated arguments sought to prove not only – as neo-Orientalist Daniel Pipes put it – that "Muslim countries have the most terrorists and the fewest democracies in the world," but that they always would.

Sadowski quoted my words accurately but turned their meaning upside-down; he transformed my rather prosaic observation of fact into part of a grand theory that I never enunciated – and which, for the record, I repudiate. Throughout my work, I stress mutability and change and argue against historical essentialism concerning Islam. I see the Muslim world as changing and avoid extrapolations from present-day circumstances to the future. I make a point not to say something will "always" be a certain way. Further, contrary to Sadowski, I hold that Islam and democracy are indeed compatible.

Joel Beinin of Stanford University and Joe Stork of the Middle East Report then gave the Sadowski article legs by reprinting it in their co-edited 1996 University of California Press book, Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report; I am quoted on p. 34.

(3) Then along came Yakub Halabi, at the time a Ph.D. student at the University of Denver, with "Orientalism and US Democratization Policy in the Middle East," International Studies, 36 (1999), pp. 385-87. Halabi relied on Sadowski's distorted version of my words and further elaborated on it, now in the context of his discussion of Western attempts to understand how a passive Muslim people could have brought off the Iranian revolution:

The neo-orientalist school emerged in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution. It was an attempt to remove the anomaly in the orientalist approach that could not explain why a Muslim society rebelled against the Shah. … Orientalists as well as neo-orientalists, however, ignore any sort of modernity or novelty in Islamic societies in general and in the Iranian revolution in particular.

Halabi went on to note that some analysts depicted Islamic movements as not just radical but also anti-Western and anti-modernist.

One such writer Daniel Pipes, for example, depicts Muslims as "permanent" anti-democrats and terrorists. In his words: "Muslim countries [not only] have the most terrorists and the fewest democracies in the world, but that they always will."

"In his words"? Hardly; I said nothing of the sort. Halabi changed my meaning by ascribing the word "permanent" to me, though it appeared nowhere in my essay; by adding two words in square brackets; and by falsely ascribing Sadowski's phrase to me. To complete the transformation, he even altered Sadowski's language, changing the final bolded word from "would" to "will."

As with Sadowski's perversion of my sentence, I disavow the fictitious quote Halabi attributes to me.


My comment (verbatim including minor typos):

First, lets be clear that this Halabi character is clearly in the wrong and displays appalling scholarship - first in relying on a secondary source, then by altering the quote so as to change its meaning. It's hard to see how it could be an honest mistake. If his remarks about subjectivity etc are correctly reported, then he also intellectually bankrupt. If Pipes stuck to criticising Halabi, that would be fair enough. But he doesn't restrict himself to that - he attacks Sadowski, who doesn't misrepresent Pipes at all. He states that certain new arguments - part, he claims, of a neo-orientalist trend - say not only what Pipes says - i.e. (in my words) that muslim countries are uniquely terroristic and undemocratic - but also that this is an immutable fact about islam. Pipes himself aggravates his false account of the import of Sadowksi's comments by bolding both the quote and a fragment of the surrounding statement as though they formed a unified and discrete whole. As for Pipes's protests about his own views, he claims: "I see the Muslim world as changing and avoid extrapolations from present-day circumstances to the future. I make a point not to say something will "always" be a certain way." But in the same essay he complains was misrepresented, only three short paragraphs after the comments under dispute, he states: "Muslims are not now politically unified and never will be so." Pipes's protests would be more convincing if he could avoid misrepresentation himself.

Tim Wilkinson


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