Daniel Pipes employs a quasi-highfalutin concept—”essentialism”—and argues that it (along with history) points to Muslims’ ability to reform and modernize Islam in a way that the West can live with. If anything, though, history has shown again and again that whenever Islam “reforms,” it does so by looking backward, not forward. That’s because, in keeping with its essential nature, it is a religion that claims its doctrines and its founder are perfect. It divides the planet into two worlds, the world of Islam and the world not yet conquered for Islam. At the same time, the religion accepts no division between mosque and state.
This is not Islamism. It is Islam, pure and simple.
On the subject of Islam and its supposedly rogue aberration, Islamism, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a more reliable authority than is Mr. Pipes. Vis-a-vis Islam’s essence, Erdogan has remarked: “Islam is Islam and that is all.” Which is why, pace Mr. Pipes, the future will likely give rise to more reformist movements in keeping with Wahhabism, Khomeinism, and the religious thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also why the possibility that an Islamic equivalent to, say, Judaism’s reform and reconstructionist movements will gain traction in the Muslim world is so remote as to be nearly ridiculous.