Raheem Kassam: What a day, actually, to have you on because you've written this article recently in the Washington Times about part of Trump's immigration policy, specifically about his Muslim visa policy. But it's a big day for Donald Trump today as well with regard to his visit to Mexico to see the Mexican president and we know there are all sorts of Islamic terrorism issues concerning Latin America also. Then he'll be giving a speech in Arizona. Mr. Pipes, do you have a take on his visit to Mexico?
Daniel Pipes: I think it's a very high-risk undertaking because the sides begin so far apart that unless they have some groundwork in place, some kind of preliminary draft agreement on what they're going to say, it could work out to the detriment of Donald Trump.
Kassam: Well, this is something Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, said to me this weekend. He said the problem that Donald Trump has suffered is that he was getting into politics using a businessman's strategy, that is to say, trial and error. You make mistakes and then, over the course of time, you can correct those. But it doesn't necessarily work in politics because people always hold you to your previous positions. This is something you almost said in your article in the Washington Times, is it not? I believe your conclusion was something about Donald Trump learning slowly and erratically from his mistakes. Do you think that has changed recently? And do you think he's got there now with his immigration policy?
Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes: "I'm delighted to see [Donald Trump's] change in position. I think it's a very important one."
Pipes: Well, there clearly was a learning curve. I focused not so much on the Mexican question but on the Muslim question. He came out with this extraordinary statement which requires a complete shutdown and closure to Muslims entering the United States. He said that back in December and he doubled down on it, repeated it, elaborated on it; then, starting in the middle of June, he walked away from it and talked about extreme vetting, and then about not taking people from certain territories, which he implied would include places like France and Germany where there is a lot of political violence; and finally he settled on this formulation which is, I think, the only workable one: that you keep out the Islamists, you keep out the nasties, you keep out the people who want to do you harm. It took him eight months to get there, but he did get there. And as you correctly point out, in politics you can't always take that kind of time to change your positions. I'm delighted to see the change in position. I think it's a very important one, but one need hardly point out that having a complete ban on Muslims was a preposterous idea, just as getting the Mexicans to pay for a wall is preposterous.
Kassam: Is it simply the practicality of it in the implementation of it or do you think there is something philosophically wrong with it as well?
Aref Movasaq Rodsari (left) and Vesam Heydari, two of the hundreds of Muslim asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity at Trinity Church in Berlin.
Pipes: Both. I think it's practically difficult; there's a church in Berlin that's become famous as a place for Muslims to convert to Christianity. What are you going to do about that? It's also immoral. We don't judge people these days anymore by their skin color, by their religion, or other such characteristics. We look at the individuals. I've actually drawn up a very long list of questions to ask, to discern who is an Islamist. And it might seem awfully difficult, but if you think about it, if you give them enough attention, enough time, enough resources, you could do it. You could find out who's who. We're not doing that now. For example, the San Bernardino couple had posted on Facebook many of their views, but law enforcement was prohibited from looking at Facebook. Is this a serious way to protect ourselves? We have to ask questions, we have to do research, we have to find out who's coming into the country.
Kassam: I was in San Bernardino and I remember the news coming out that actually they had stopped law enforcement's investigation into Tablighi Jamaat, this sort of shadowy Islamist or fundamentalist group that operates out of headquarters in Dewsbury, United Kingdom. Now it's interesting, Mr. Pipes, that you're saying these things because you're somebody who can't exactly be called soft on the Islamist question. You are well known for having worked in this area for a very long time and the practicality of it is certainly fascinating to me and to a lot of our listeners. Is there somewhere they can find this list of questions you put together that would help discern an Islamist from an ordinary, non-Islamist Muslim?
"We don't judge people by how they dress, how they look, or what religion they are."
Pipes: Yes, I published it some years ago, now I've amplified it, but if someone goes to my website, Danielpipes.org, and puts in keywords such as "questions, moderate Muslims or Islamists," then they'll quickly see the list. I've actually also provided a blog with lists of questions other people came up with. Including, for example, Naser Khader, a prominent Muslim in Denmark, Robert Spencer, and others. I'm confident that it can be done, but the key point is that it has to be done on an individual basis. We don't judge people by how they dress, how they look, or what religion they are. We judge people on an individual basis.
Kassam: I'm just looking at these questions now, pulled it up quickly on danielpipes.org. "Finding moderate Muslims: Do you believe in modernity?" That is the first one from November, then you had another one in 2005, updated in May of this year, "Finding Moderate Muslims - More Questions." It's an issue close to my heart because, while I wouldn't actually call myself a practicing Muslim anymore, Daniel, I was born into a Muslim family, and an outright ban on Muslims, maybe determined by name or heritage or whatever – effectively that would keep me out of this country.
Moderate Muslims protesting President Obama's speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on February 3, 2016.
Pipes: It certainly would, yes.
Kassam: So I think it's good that this policy is being developed. Of course we don't want any softening on the approach to Islamists, I think you and I can both agree on that, but tell us a little bit about, so our listeners can get a feel for what you guys now are doing at the Middle East Forum, what we can expect to see out of you guys in the near future?
Pipes: Well we've become more and more an operational outfit, as well as an intellectual one. So we're active in Congress, in courtrooms, on the campus. We're really bursting at the seams in terms of activities. I'll mention a couple things in Congress. One is that we are working to change the U.S. government's approach to the "Palestine refugee" question, which has been in amber for decades now, for sixty-plus years. It could use a shaking up. Second, we're looking at donations by Islamist leaders in the United States to politicians, and tracking who is giving to whom. It's not a lot of money in the larger scale of things, but it is significant and it is noteworthy to see who the Islamists see as their candidates.
Kassam: Can you point to any names from the outside?
Pipes: Well, it's quite striking that Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine both have received significant amounts and their Republican counterparts have not. In particular, Mike Pence has not, since he's been in politics for a long time.
Kassam: We're seeing at the moment something you guys are working on: I read it was in The Hill, about Saudi money for American mosques. This is becoming a feature of nearly all Western democracies, whether it's Saudi funding or a lot of Turkish money going into building mosques in Germany. There was a mega-mosque in the Netherlands which was recently constructed; where the money was coming from and what is was being used for, got hardly given any news time. Is that something you guys are chasing too?
Pipes: Yes, Rep. David Brat has introduced legislation that would say that there needs to be reciprocity. If there isn't freedom of religion and we can't do things over there – i.e. Saudi Arabia, which has no freedom of religion; it is the most oppressive country in the world other than, say, North Korea – then they can't fund activities here. Now, the legislation is still in its infancy, but I think it's a very important priority because until now, it's just been ad hoc, not letting the Saudis build a mosque here or there; it needs to be legislation. So this is a first step towards what I hope will be a successful piece of legislation.
Kassam: Well I think it's very important, as important in your country as it is in mine and across Europe as well. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, thanks so much for joining us here on Breitbart News Daily.