Dr. Daniel Pipes: The Islamic Scholar or The Utterly Confused


If you know anything about Islam, the odds are, through any amount of research, you ran across a man by the name of Daniel Pipes. He has been one of America’s key figures speaking  and writing about Islam and those who follow the religion. Most recently, Dr. Pipes had written an op-ed in the Washington Times on the subject–and it comes with incredible controversy.

Dr. Daniel Pipes

Dr. Daniel Pipes

Dr. Pipes is a PhD recipient, political commentator, and academic who often serves as a “distinguished visiting professor” at multiple universities. This is critical to note because anyone who has ever endured the PhD process knows prior to making any points about a subject, you must define your subject topics/terms. As silly as it may sound, this is paramount to prevent terminology confusion and contradiction. Pipes did not do this in his op-ed.

What is Islam? Sounds simple but it is not. Is it a religion, a political ideology, a lifestyle, all of the above, etc.?

What is Islamism? What is a Muslim? What is a Radical Muslim versus a Moderate Muslim? What is an Islamist? Are all Muslims, Islamists? Are all Islamists, Muslims?

Believe it or not, these are actually very serious questions and no one seems capable of really answering such questions. As one who has extensively studied Islam for more than a decade, and even taught several courses on the subject, I admit that I too cannot accurately define such terms, even today.

If we cannot fundamentally grasp the definitions of such terminology, how does anyone even begin to debate ways to resolve international conflict that saturates the “Islamic” world? Then again, what the hell is that—the Islamic world? Are we talking about a Caliphate? If so, which one?

Walid Shoebat

Walid Shoebat

We all have, based off prejudice and bias, our opinions on the subject and even polls have been created to help better grasp such definitions surrounding Islam. But as Pipes demonstrates through his writings, those polls are skewed. Let me use just one of many examples Walid Shoebat used in a recent rebuttal to Dr. Pipes.

“Pipes makes an unsubstantiated claim that a majority of Muslims are moderate and that Islamism is only, supported by 10-15 percent of Muslims…

So how and why did he come up with such numbers? Pipes’ uses different studies and surveys about which he himself confesses: ‘These ambiguous and contradictory percentages lead to no clear, specific count of Islamists.’ Why then use such statistics?”

I will not go on making any claims that I have the answers to defining specific terms often used in debates pertaining those persons the West has been fighting over the past 10, 20, 50, 100+ years. I will not claim that every person who practices a religious faith termed as Islam to be evil or an enemy—I have many friends who follow such a faith and they are heroic patriots who love America just as much as you or I.

I will make one claim though so readers realize why I decided to write this piece.

It becomes more and more apparent that the United States, specifically, is saturated with individuals who due to academic accomplishments, professional achievements, etc. poorly attempt to help build knowledge to those wishing to learn–and they do so because of an underlying and often undisclosed agenda.

We see these individuals at our academic institutions and within our media outlets—Dr. Pipes has been seen and heard on both. Sadly, an individual like Dr. Pipes constantly demonstrates contradictory commentary and presents a love in utilizing skewed numbers to suit specific agendas.

What was Dr. Pipes’ agenda in writing his recent Washington Times piece? I don’t know. Maybe the political correct crowd in academia got the best of him.

Academics and media pundits are great, but we should all take their words of wisdom with caution. In this case, Dr. Pipes lost an extraordinary amount of credibility—and that’s a shame.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors. You can follow him on Facebook.

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  1. Charlie N says:

    During my doc study, I was expected to document my writing statements with valid resources. When I did a survey as part of research, it needed to be clearly worded and not designed to direct the desired responses. When I was teaching, I expected the same from my students. Good article, Kerry!

  2. “Are we talking about a Caliphate? If so, which one?”

    Don’t worry, while academics befuddle themselves with identity questions, Islam will make it’s definition real enough. Which one? You’ll be finding out soon enough.

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