Daniel Pipes is an American historian and president of the Middle East Forum. His writing focuses on Islamism, the Middle East, and U.S. foreign policy. His archive is at www.DanielPipes.org
Grégoire Canlorbe: Do you expect the George Floyd protests to leave, in the American collective memory, a mark comparable to the September 11 attacks and the Vietnam War?
Daniel Pipes: The great question is: Will the current lurch to the left be temporary or permanent? I worry it is permanent because liberals are capitulating to progressives as never before. Will that trend continue or end? It is hard to forecast when very much in the moment.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Donald Trump’s foreign policy is often praised as dismissing nation-building in favor of short-term intervention, economic asphyxiation, and striking a deal with US enemies. How do you assess Trump’s approach? Do you subscribe to John Bolton’s criticism?
Daniel Pipes: Trump came to office with minimal knowledge of the outside world, just impressions and emotions. He also lacked a philosophy or a network. The result has been haphazard. Bolton saw this from close-up and was understandably appalled. Fortunately, some of Trump’s instincts are solid, for example, as concerns China, Iran, Israel, and Venezuela, and he does not get intimidated by the Establishment consensus. So far, anyway, no catastrophe.
Grégoire Canlorbe: You present “moderate Islam” as the solution to militant Islam. How do you account for the Republic of Turkey leaving behind its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s vision of moderate Islam and its sinking into Islamism under its current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? Do you see a parallel between Atatürk and the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overturned by an Islamist revolution?
Daniel Pipes: Logically, no alternative to radical Islam exists other than reform Islam. But there is nothing inevitable about its success. Specifically, the tragedy of Turkey resulted from Atatürk’s ideas becoming ossified, with few developments and no excitement. The final shah’s father resembled Atatürk much more than did his son.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Will right-wing parties in the West be “undemonized” by rejecting anti-Semitism? Or will they continue to be perceived, no matter what they do, as anti-Semitic?
Daniel Pipes: Antisemitism long ago moved in the main from the Right to the Left; Jeremy Corbyn has no conservative counterpart. These days, mainstream conservative parties are more philosemitic than antisemitic. Leftists keep trying to turn conservatives like Victor Orbán into anti-Semites but that is silly.
Grégoire Canlorbe: When Jews were treated as dhimmis [tolerated second-class citizens who had to pay protection tax] under Islamic law, some managed to reach influential positions in Muslim society—such as Maimonides, who served as Saladin’s physician, or Hasdai ibn Shaprut and Samuel HaNagid who filled high political positions. How do you assess the fate of Jews in the contemporary Muslim world?
Daniel Pipes: The position of Jews and Christians dramatically improved after the colonial powers broke the dhimmi status in the nineteenth century. But that improvement lasted only so long as the Europeans remained. When they left, the status of Jews and Christians fell far below what it had traditionally been. About 95% of Jews that lived in Muslim-majority countries have already fled; Christians are not far behind.