In this volume Middle East expert Daniel Pipes looks at the changing world since September 11. While some of the essays here were penned before that tragedy, all deal with the rise of Muslim militancy, and how the West should respond.
Pipes begins by arguing that militant Muslims, or Islamists, do not represent all followers of Islam. The good news is they only comprise, at tops, fifteen per cent of the total. The bad news is, with one billion Muslims, 150 million are extremists. It is the Islamists that are the real threat, says Pipes, not traditional Muslims.
Pipes provides the historical backdrop for this new militancy. For their first six centuries, Muslims enjoyed huge success. By the 13th century however decline set in, and for the next six centuries they found themselves heading to the bottom of world affairs, as power and wealth slowly ebbed away. The loss of their golden age, and their sense of alienation and frustration resulted in three recent responses.
Secularism, the first response, is seen in countries such as Turkey. The second option, reformism, meant trying to live with the West. The third option, Islamism, is the focus of this book. Militant Islam seeks to reclaim its golden age, wants the total imposition of Shari'a law, and rejects completely Western influences.
Pipes shows that Islamism is in fact a radical, utopian ideology, of the same mould as Marxism-Leninism or fascism. It is totalitarian in nature, and seeks salvation in political power, not individual religion. Whenever Islamists take power, as in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, a bloody tyranny results.
Pipes argues that most traditional Muslims disagree with the premises of the Islamists. This is reflected in part by the fact that often traditional Muslims are the main victims of militant Islam.