On 1 April, President
Bush nominated Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute
of Peace (USIP). The Institute was created by Congress in 1984 to
promote international peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts
among nations and peoples. Exactly what the Institute does is not
clear. "It is a think tank that you hear about only occasionally
and even then not much," says a top official at another Washington
think tank. He adds, "They don't seem to do that much, and seem,
even more than most think tanks, to be a holding place for government
people who are between jobs."
Members of the
board of USIP are nominated by the president and confirmed by the
U.S. Senate, and there is some controversy surrounding this nomination.
Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think
tank that says it "works to define and promote American interests
in the Middle East." Pipes, who holds a doctorate in history from
Harvard, is widely considered an expert on the history and the politics
of the Middle East. He has authored nearly a dozen books on the
politics of that area.
Pipes a good writer;
he knows how to use words the way a good warrior knows how to use
weapons. He's also also a columnist for the New York Post and the
Jerusalem Post, and he usually writes about what he calls militant,
or fundamentalist Islam, the sort practiced by Osama bin Laden and
his cronies. He distinguishes militant Islam from the religion of
Islam. To Pipes, militant Islam is an ideology, not a religion,
and it is an ideology akin to Nazism, just another form of fascism.
His columns are
not well received by many adherents to, and proponents of, Islam.
For instance, on 25 March, Pipes' column in the New York Post, titled
Murder in the 101st Airborne, discussed the incredible action of
Hasan Karim Akbar, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division. Akbar
- an African-American convert to Islam - had attacked his division
command in Kuwait with several hand grenades. Pipes wrote that Akbar's
action, "fits into a sustained pattern of political violence by
American Muslims." In his column from 25 October of last year that
discussed the arrest of John Allen Muhammad, one of the Washington,
D.C.-area snipers and another African-American convert to Islam,
Pipes wrote that Muhammad's actions fit, "into a well-established
tradition of American blacks who convert to Islam turning against
Long before the
attacks on the World Trade Center, Pipes was writing about the growing
threat of militant Islam. He claims the goal of the militants is,
"the construction of a totalitarian, theocratic state," not just
here in the U.S., but throughout the West. Pipes has repeatedly
said that Islamic extremists in the U.S. want to replace the Constitution
with the Koran. His evidence for such a bold claim? It comes from
a statement attributed to Omar Ahmad, chairman of the Council on
American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that claims it was, "established
to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America."
There is controversy
about the statement attributed to Ahmad. On 4 July 1998, the San
Ramon Valley Herald ran a story about a speech Ahmad gave in Fremont,
California, home to a large number of Muslim immigrants. The story
quoted Ahmad as telling his audience that they had a responsibility
to spread their faith among non-Muslims, to those who are "on the
wrong side." The story also quoted him as saying that, "Islam isn't
in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant."
that Pipes drew particular attention to was this: "The Koran, the
Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America,
and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." The implication
is that CAIR's chairman would like to replace the Constitution with
Now, almost five
years later, CAIR disputes that Ahmad ever made such a statement.
On 29 April, it issued a press release in which Nihad Awad, CAIR's
executive director, says, "Our board chairman did not say the Koran
should be the highest authority in America."
Why would CAIR,
an opponent of Pipes for many years now, wait so long to douse the
very powder that Pipes has used to fire off so many shots against
opposes Pipes' nomination to USIP. In a letter to President Bush
urging that the nomination be withdrawn, Awad wrote that, "Pipes'
bigoted views have been instrumental in widening the divide between
faiths and cultures." And Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for CAIR, said
Pipes' nomination just went to show that the war on terrorism "is
really a war on Islam."
"Pipes is the
premier Muslim basher," says Hooper. "I hate to use that term, but
for him it really fits. It's basically his job to smear an entire
community and to create fear, apprehension and suspicion toward
a religious minority in the United States for his own political,
and apparently religious, agenda." Pipes is Jewish.
Last year, Pipes
started a group called Campus Watch that claims it "reviews and
critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving
them." In effect, the group collects complaints against professors
and academic institutions biased in favor of Islam and Muslims (much
as CAIR collects complaints about those that are biased against
Islam and Muslims).
It's not just
Muslims and proponents of Islam that don't think highly of Pipes'
nomination. Ted Galen Carpenter, a vice president of the Cato Institute,
a liberal, foreign-policy think tank, said, "He is perhaps the most
extreme hawk that you could find . . . . This is really a barometer
of the neo-conservative mood of this administration." Senator Diane
Feinstein (Democrat - California) who sits on the committee that
will consider Pipes' nomination said the hearings are likely to
Many think that
Pipes is just a well-educated bigot. On 19 April, the Washington
Post ran an editorial about Pipes' nomination and noted that many
Muslims felt it was a "cruel joke."
took Pipes to task for his 25 March column in which he repeated
this advice: "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim
government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic
corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim
chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants
must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny
beyond that applied to churches and temples." The editorial concluded
that Pipes has a "disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims."
commented on the brouhaha regarding his nomination and his views
towards Islam: "My view is that militant Islam is the problem, and
moderate Islam is the answer."
Is Pipes the Muslim
basher that Hooper claims he is? A careful reading of his columns
indicates that Pipes doesn't seem to care one bit whether someone
follows Muhammad or Jesus or Siddhartha or Zarathushtra, or whether
someone believes in Yahweh or Ahura Mazda or a nameless god or a
family of gods. His concern seems to be behavior. He seems to be
approving the behavior of those who make life better for themselves,
their neighbors, and their children, and disapproving the behavior
of those who are making life more miserable for themselves and others.
He seems to distinguish between those who are moving forward, or,
like the Palestinians, going backwards and blaming their miserable
lot on someone else (the U.S. and Israel), rather than taking full
responsibility for their own behavior. (Ever seen Palestinians demonstrate
writings simply reveal what we all feel: to fight for a noble cause
is a good thing; to make others suffer for some stupid, senseless
cause is a bad thing. In some sense, Osama bin Laden is just like
George Washington: a revolutionary warrior. But George Washington
was nothing like bin Laden: a small-minded, selfish man who delights
in bringing suffering to innocent people.
One thing's for
sure: Pipes is no diplomat, and he suffers an inability, or reluctance,
to mince words. (Call a spade a spade, and the Queen of Hearts might
just call you a bigot.)
Who knows? Maybe
he's a literary version of Madonna: someone who feels that shock
and awe is an appropriate way to get attention.