Twenty-five years ago, few Westerners had given any attention to the threat of militant Islam. Sure, there were the usual upheavals in the Middle East — remember the First Gulf War in 1991? — and the endless terrorist assaults on Israel, otherwise known as the First Intifada, and the odd airline and bus explosion. But the idea that a few fundamentalist zealots would pervert Islam to justify a full-fledged terrorist campaign against the West was for most far-fetched.
One of the few who didn't think this way was the American historian Daniel Pipes. In 1995, the founder of the journal Middle East Quarterly, and the author of nearly a dozen books on Middle Eastern issues, wrote: "Unnoticed by most Westerners war has been unilaterally declared on Europe and the United States." The seemingly isolated terrorist attacks — the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 or the Bombay bombings that same year that killed nearly 300, for example — were part of a buildup in a worldwide anti-western jihad.
Only after the 9/11 attacks did Westerners begin to see their culture was under siege. As Pipes argued in a 2003 book, Militant Islam Reaches America, the Islamists "seek nothing less than to bring the Sharia to bear in the land of the free." The question, of course, has always been how and why the West should respond.