Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Daniel Pipes versus Ken Livingstone

The only sources available - mostly blogs - conclude that in the main debate between Pipes and Livingstone, entitled 'A World Civilization or a Clash of Civilizations', Dr Pipes was the victor
Daniel Pipes, columnist, scholar of Middle Eastern history, counter-terrorism expert, founder of both the Middle East Forum (publishing the Middle East Quarterly) and Campus Watch, an author of 14 books, is well known in the US and the blogosphere, where he maintains his own weblog. Though not against Muslims, Pipes has been critical of radical Islam and its incompatibility with democratic values.
On April 4, 2006, Dr Pipes was invited by Ken Livingstone, left-wing mayor of London, to attend a conference on the subject of the "Clash of Civilizations". Popularized by Samuel Huntington in 1993 and again in a book of the same name in 1996, the notion of a clash of civilizations has become a popular means of explaining and perceiving the modern world, particularly after 9/11.

The office of the Mayor of London advertised the conference, which was to be held on January 20, 2007. The event was to last from 10 am to 8 pm, with a host of speakers at various seminars. The event went ahead, with all tickets sold, and most of the planned speakers showed up.

Livingstone's debate with Dr Pipes was billed as the "main debate". Pipes had Douglas Murray of the Social Affairs Unit as is co-speaker, and Livingstone had Salma Yaqoob as his partner. This debate was chaired by Gavin Esler, a host of BBC's Newsnight current affairs show. Despite the advance publicity, the conference was not given one column inch of coverage in any of Britain's mainstream press outlets. The BBC has nothing on its website, and nothing was mentioned on national TV news.

The only sources of information on how the debate progressed comes from weblogs. The Muslim Council of Britain fielded their press spokesman Inayat Bunglawala to Seminar E (Enlightenment values and modern society) and their secetary general Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari to Seminar A (Is Britain becoming more segregated?), yet MCB could only place a brief mention of the event on their website. Martin Bright, political editor of the New Statesman, took part in Seminar G (Is there an Islamic threat?), but nothing is mentioned on the NS website or on his weblog. The Mayor of London's office made no mention of the conference after it had wound up, not even to blandly conclude that "a good time was had by all" or to thank those who participated.

The only sources available - mostly blogs - conclude that in the main debate between Pipes and Livingstone, entitled "A World Civilization or a Clash of Civilizations", Dr Pipes was the victor. Even a site with a left-wing bias, such as Harry's Place and Pickled Politics appeared favorable to Daniel Pipes' skills in presentation. The latter blog described Livingstone's argument as "a rambly sort of speech without structure". The same account described Pipes's performance thus: "...despite my distaste for his politics, was much more structured, well thought-out and argued.....his central point was this - there isn't a Clash of Civilisations as much as a Clash of Civilisations v Barbarism."

The conference is reported upon by Oliver Kamm of the Times who took part in Seminar E (Enlightenment Values and modern society) and Seminar K (Democratic Solutions in the Middle East). Though Kamm makes wry observations of the two seminars in which he participated, and also the participants, such as Inayat Bunglawala and Linda Bellos, he does not deal with the Pipes and Murray v Livingstone and Yaqoob debate.

Daniel Pipes writes of the event having taken place, but perhaps through personal modesty he does not give away details of the progression of arguments. Instead, he defers to other blogsites where witnesses have submitted their own accounts.

Sharon Chadha discussed the main debate of the conference and noted that Livingstone, who opened the debate, bemoaned the Cold War, describing it as a "sinister plot designed by a small group of Americans who were intent on world domination." She wrote: "If Mayor Livingstone seemed intent on promoting London, and Britain in general as a multicultural success story, Dr. Pipes countered that because so many Britons have participated in terror plots around the world, citing some 15 instances, the reality was the opposite: One could even make the case that because of this history, Britain should be added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism."

As described by "Gandalf" at Up Pompeii, Pipes had compared the tensions between Islam and the West to a war. In the case of Vietnam, the war had been abandoned by Americans, not "lost". Gandalf states: "Dr Pipes went on to say how the UK was now the biggest terror threat to the US because of Muslims in the UK he cited Richard Reid and the UK connections in the 9/11 atrocity, this brought a standing ovation from the supporters of Dr Pipes because they recognised the damage that was being done to UK-US relations because of the presence of these people in the UK."

"Maybe I have taken a rather simplistic view and in interpretation of what Dr Pipes said, I do not think for one minute that Dr Pipes is suggesting that we all sit back and wait for Islam to give up, Islam has to be made to give up and that, in my opinion is the message that Dr Pipes was giving."

David Pryce-Jones in the National Review states: "Carefully he (Dr Pipes) distinguished the religion of Islam from Islamism, a totalitarian ideology with which there could be no compromise. He was looking for victory over it. He and his seconder, Douglas Murray, a brilliant young British intellectual, made the point that moderate Muslims had to be supported against extremist Islamists. And suddenly their arguments began to shift the audience away from Livingstone, and to attract a lot of applause. The war on terror has a long way still to go, but victorious battles like this one in a debating hall may mean fewer, or even no, future battles in the field or on the streets."

Livingstone's argument is the most hard to decipher. Jonathan Hoffman on Adloyada writes of the fact that Ken Livingstone admitted to meeting with leaders of the IRA when he was head of the Greater London Council, and spoke of his meeting with the Islamist Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the "spiritual leader" of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hoffman writes: "He does not agree with the Caliphate but is prepared to speak to Qaradawi because he represents 'the future of Islam'. Here he quoted Max Hastings who apparently said that there was no point in studying any culture except that of Europe . The Chief Rabbi had spoken about a "tsunami of anti-Semitism in Europe" but here in London it had declined. Ken's peroration followed. The US had been able to vanquish Communism because of its superior economic power. But now the US was increasingly having to share economic power with China and increasingly India . He linked this back to multiculturalism and the need to appreciate all cultures."

Whether or not Qaradawi represents the "future of Islam", he certainly represents a mentality present in contemporary Islam. His support for the murder of civilians in Israel seems to be a view held within many strands of the Muslim international community. Livingstone invited Qaradawi to London in 2004. He has even compared the Islamist leader to Pope John XXIII, who introduced the reforms of Vatican II, describing Qaradawi as "An absolutely sane Islamist". Livingstone said in 2005: "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."

In the debate, Douglas Murray took Livingstone to task for his support of Qaradawi, stating that the Islamist sheikh was not the sort of Muslim the West should be cultivating. Murray, aged only 27, received several ovations during his speech, which was said to be delivered with force.

Livingstone's choice of partner on the rostrum, Salma Yaqoob, was hardly likely to raise the level of intellectual debate. Yaqoob is a member of Birmingham City Council, and belongs to the "Respect" party, whose most famous (infamous?) representative is George Galloway, the apologist for Saddam Hussain. Her inability to construct an argument, even in writing, can be evidenced here.

Most comments on the debate note that Yaqoob, who supports the introduction of Sharia law, excused the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 by claiming they were provoked by American (and British) actions in the Muslim world. She said of this: "Do you expect us not to fight back?" Gandalf stated that she compared the Coalition forces to Crusaders and claimed the US only invaded Iraq in the pursuit of oil. As Gandalf writes: "Dr Pipes corrected her on this point and she did not reply to his statement. This ladies (sic) attitude was venomous and hateful and I am certain that I was not the only one that picked up on that."

Salma Chadha notes that: "If Mayor Livingstone did not elect to call his invited guest Dr. Pipes a racist or an Islamophobe himself, his debate partner, Councillor Salma Yaqoob of Birmingham, had no trouble doing so, even if this meant distorting the American scholar's remarks and extensive written record. For example, Councillor Yaqoob identified Dr. Pipes as a presidential advisor and proponent of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, assertions that as Dr. Pipes pointed out, have no basis in fact."

Ms Chadha described Yaqoob's demeanor as "shrill, demagogic". Hoffman states: "Predictably she attacked Pipes for evading 'the history of Western colonialism in the Middle East' and 'the attempt of the US neocons to remold the Middle East in their own image'."

Ami, writing on Harry's Place notes that in the "question and answer" session, Ken Livingstone "got the biggest groan of the day, when he answered a question about supporting moderate Muslims by saying he supported the progressive Qaradawi, the strongest force for modernisation in Islam today. He said: I don't agree with him on homosexuality, but he is the future! Up till then, his main address had been very judicious and politic: you could agree with parts, disagree with much, but still entertain his arguments. Now he descended into the loony Ken persisting in defending the indefensible. This elicited forceful responses from Pipes and others about what Qaradawi stands for."

During questions, Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB, not known for judicious comments, "challenged Pipes for opposing Islamicism even if it used lawful means of non violent Islamification. What kind of democracy was that, he yelled." To which Pipes responded that "A totalitarian movement uses different means to reach power, vide Hitler. Hitler achieved office through the ballot box, not that he got the support of the majority of the electorate."

Beila Rabinowitz and William A. Mayer at Pipeline News state: "In stark contrast to Pipes and Murray, the London Mayor's speech was standard leftist boilerplate, alleging the Cold War was part and parcel of the United States' hegemonistic designs for dominion over all and in what must have represented a Stalinist flashback moment for many in the audience, actually blaming America for victimizing the Soviet Union. He then expanded his comments into a general attack on Western values, though he was careful to delimit his espoused multiculturalism, cutting short of endorsing the practice of cannibalism."

At the end of the debate, Ms Chadha states: "Gavin Esler, the BBC newsman who chaired the panel, ended the debate by quipping that he hoped press coverage of the event would go beyond the obvious headline that Mayor Livingstone had finally taken a stand against cannibalism."

The press coverage was non-existent. An event which, during an entire day, had brought together representatives from the British media and well-known Muslims, such as Tariq Ramadan (speaker at Seminar G - Is there an Islamic threat?) should surely have merited some comment, even if only a cursory mention. An estimated 5,000 people were in attendance, including 150 representatives from the media, but the press, including the Muslim press, ignored the event.

According to the blogsite Solomonia: "Pipes was magnificent at the Conference. Daniel went into the lion's den and not only did he survive, he pulverised the lion."

The timing of the opening debate, the morning of a Saturday, has been noted by commenters, and also some of those attending the event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center, seemed designed to exclude Jewish people from attending the Livingstone/Pipes clash.

Perhaps the last word should be reserved for Daniel Pipes himself: "Despite the many journalists and video cameras, and despite the GLA having recorded and simultaneously transcribed the event, and despite two and a half days having passed since it took place, there has been "quite to my surprise" not a single media account of the debate, nor a video made available, nor a transcript..... it would seem that the mayor's supporters took a pass on reporting the event."

The claim by Dr. Pipes that the UK is now the biggest terror threat to the US because of (radical) Muslims in the UK is perhaps the most significant and far-reaching observation from the debate. Britain refuses to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, and has allowed the activists of the now-disbanded group Al-Muhajiroun to continue openly campaigning against democracy and promoting terror. These individuals are the wet-nurses of terrorism. Pipes cited Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, who was indoctrinated by Al-Muhajiroun.

As culpable as the Islamist radicals who thrive in Britain are the government officials and civil servants from MI6 and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These are actively engaged in a policy of "Engaging With the Islamic World".

The FCO's "Engaging with the Islamic World Group (EIWG)" was founded in 2003, while Al-Muhajiroun was still active. With an annual budget of $15.8 million, this group, headed by 26-year old Mockbul Ali, a former student radical, actively promotes dialogue with radicals such as Qaradawi. Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the godfather of Hizb ut-Tahrir's British chapter, and spiritual ideologue of Al-Muhajiroun, was allowed openly to preach radicalism and hate for 20 years in Britain. Not once was he taken to court. Radical Islamists thrive in Britain, and are threatening the British/American "special relationship". But they do this solely because the UK authorities allow them to.

Adrian Morgan is a British based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He also writes for Spero News, Family Security Matters and He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

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