Expert on militant Islam to speak at Israel Bonds dinner

Daniel Pipes

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Daniel Pipes, one of the world’s leading and most respected experts on the Middle East and militant Islam, will be the featured guest speaker at the 2010 State of Israel Bonds Dinner Saturday at Traditional Congregation.

Pipes is the founder and director of the Middle East Forum, and a columnist for the New York Sun, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the Jerusalem Post and the Globe and Mail in Canada. Pipes gained recognition from the Boston Globe for his prescient writing on the dangers of radical jihadist terrorism even before the events of 9/11.

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The Jewish Light caught up with Pipes for an interview before his visit to St. Louis.

The Boston Globe wrote that “If Pipe’s admonitions had been heeded, there might never have been a 9/11.” What were some of those admonitions and why do you think they were not heeded?

I wrote extensively about the dangers of radical Islam, and it really didn’t get much attention. We were being hit all the time. I count (during the pre-9/11 period) over 800 attacks on the United States and its interests. But these were 240, 210, 60 people in separate attacks, and they didn’t amount to a shock. The previous attacks, such as the U.S.S. Cole, the Khobar Towers and on the U.S. embassies in Africa, while serious, were more like mosquito bites compared to 9/11, the scope of which (with 3,000 killed) reached the level of a real shock.

What is your reaction to the current controversy surrounding the Transportation Safety Administration’s new full-body scans and pat-downs? Is this a sensible precaution or an unnecessary violation of privacy?

I think it’s just for show. It’s what people in the security field call ‘security theater.’ We had the shoe bomb, so we take off our shoes. We had the underwear bomber, so we go after underwear. But my ultimate scenario is what if 25 tough guys got on a plane with no weapons whatsoever? And these 25 tough guys then took over the plane, in a coordinated fashion. How can you protect against something like that by looking for weapons? You have to inquire, when you’re suspicious, who the person is, who the person is traveling with, why is this person traveling, and so forth. These are generally considered to be ‘Israeli’ methods, but it’s also what the U.S. government does, when you enter the country. It’s pure observation and ‘profiling.’ In Israel, most people go through the Green Line, but a few people get stopped and questioned. That’s what I think should be done at airports, rather than engage in these intrusive searches.

Why then don’t we simply emulate the Israeli policy, which is seemingly almost airtight?

First of all, it’s expensive. It is intrusive, and we haven’t reached the crisis point that the Israelis have. The U.S. is a far larger country with many, many more flights. Plus, most flights in this country are domestic. In Israel there is a higher percentage of international flights.

How would you differentiate ‘Islamophobia’ from legitimate concerns about and criticism of militant and radical Islam? Are Americans being shamed into silence for fear of being branded as ‘Islamophobes’?

Well, I don’t use that word, but I do recognize that there is a faction of people who are anti-Islamic, and it has grown considerably in the past decade in the United States. Nobody is ‘phobic.’ Nobody has unwarranted fears of Islam. The fears of radical Islam are genuine, real. Does one need to point to 16,000 Islamist attacks since 9/11 around the world? Do I need to recite all the attacks in this country? Or in Europe? The fear is real. The question is how does one interpret it? There are two main schools. I am of the school that the (radical) Islamists are a faction of Islam, a certain reading of Islam, an extremist reading. Others say no, it’s Islam itself. That is actually the current debate between the two camps concerned about radical Islam. It’s an important debate, because depending upon which side one comes down on, it affects how our future policies will be determined.

What are your feelings about the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero?

I think it is a tempest in a teapot. The real issues are not about a symbolic Islamic Center including a mosque. The real issue is the threat of radical Islam’s threats to our lives. In this context the so-called mosque is not terribly important.

How do you react to NPR’s firing of Juan Williams after he said on Fox News that he gets ‘nervous’ at airports when he sees people wearing Islamic garb?

It reveals a certain bias at NPR and is evidence of efforts to shut down serious debate or even personal comments about these issues.

Read more of the Daniel Pipes Q&A on

Israel Bonds Dinner

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4

WHERE: Traditional Congregation, 12437 Ladue Road in Creve Coeur.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $45

MORE INFO: The dinner will also honor Traditional Congregation’s Torah readers; dietary laws will be observed. For more information, contact Marian Gordon at Traditional Congregation, 314-576-5230. The Israel Bonds office can be contacted at 800-969-3987.