A controversial Islamic lobby group that casts itself as a mainstream voice for American Muslims is fiercely opposing President Bush’s nomination of a leading Middle East scholar to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, charges that Daniel Pipes, director of a Philadelphia-based think tank, the Middle East Forum, is an “Islamophobe” whose views “have been instrumental in widening the divide between faiths and cultures.”
Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pipes, who speaks Arabic and has a Ph.D. from Harvard, was castigated by Muslims as a racist for insisting militant Islam is a serious threat to U.S. security. Since then, he has been in regular demand as a pundit on television news programs, often explaining the distinction he makes between militant Islam and Islam in general.
Like CAIR, however, many U.S. Muslim activist groups insist he unfairly paints Muslims in broad strokes, and on Sunday the Washington Post supported that assertion in an editorial condemning the nomination as “sort of a cruel joke.”
The Post objected to Pipes’ argument that since only Muslims are vulnerable to becoming militant Muslims or “Islamists,” therefore Muslims should be given more scrutiny by U.S. security than others.
The paper said the Bush administration “has gone to particular pains to calm the nerves of U.S. Muslims, who are ever anxious that they are being singularly scrutinized. As long as there is an operational Justice Department actively investigating terrorism, this outreach campaign will never work perfectly. But the Pipes nomination is salt in the wound.”
Pipes argues, however, that while the problem is radicalized “Islamists,” and not mainstream Muslims, “one must look at Muslims to find Islamists.”
He believes Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps “need to be watched for connections to terrorism” and “mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches and temples.”
“To find Islamists, you would naturally look at the population they are most likely to come out of, and that is Muslims,” he told WorldNetDaily. “That is the difficult dimension of this.”
Pipes said he could not comment on the Peace Institute nomination since it is a pending Senate matter. CAIR has refused to speak with WorldNetDaily because of content it regards as anti-Muslim. Pipes has written columns for WND.
If approved by the Senate, Pipes would become one of 15 board members of the U.S. Institute of Peace, established by Congress in 1984 as a think tank to promote “the prevention, management and resolution of international conflicts.” The panel, which meets six times a year, can have no more than eight voting members of the same political party.
In a letter urging President Bush to rescind the nomination, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said Pipes’ “bigoted views have been instrumental in widening the divide between faiths and cultures.”
“Unfortunately, no credible Muslim leader in the United States or around the world could cooperate with an organization in which Pipes has a decision-making role,” he said.
However, a report by Pakistan Today last week contended “many moderate American Muslims, frustrated by and angry at the extremist policies of militant Islamist organizations in the U.S. and their efforts to portray themselves as the sole voice of Islam, have welcomed the nomination of Daniel Pipes.”
Among the supporters, the report named Tashbih Sayyed, president of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, and Islamic scholar Khalid Duran, the target of a death edict in 2001 after CAIR attacked him for his book.
CAIR was featured in the U.S. State Department’s Madison Avenue-style campaign to win the “hearts and minds” of Muslims around the world, and President Bush invited Awad to the White House shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the Muslim critics maintain CAIR and similar groups are conduits for radical Islam, including Saudi Arabia, which promotes its strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam in the U.S. through prison recruitment, military chaplains, Muslim student organizations and underwriting as many as 80 percent of America’s mosques.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud gave $500,000 for CAIR’s program to put pro-Islam books and tapes in 17,000 American libraries.
That gift came just a few days after CAIR issued a press release, stating: “In all its actions and statements, CAIR seeks to reflect the mainstream beliefs and views of the Muslim community in North America … . We do not support directly or indirectly, or receive support from, any overseas group or government.”
U.S. Muslim leader W. D. Muhammad has noted that when Saudi Arabia makes such gifts it requires that the receiver “prefer our school of thought.”
CAIR’s Awad attended a symposium in Riyadh in March 2002 that featured a session “devoted to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote dialogue between civilizations through the establishment of cultural and Islamic centers in different countries around the world, ” according to the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington.
In January, the group’s community affairs director, Bassem K. Khafagi, was arrested by federal agents in connection with a probe of the Islamic Assembly of North America, an organization suspected of aiding Saudi sheiks tied to Osama bin Laden.
Critics charge that the result of “civil-rights” lobby efforts by CAIR and similar groups is watered-down immigration laws, security procedures and intelligence. But Pipes – who says CAIR has sent out “nearly a hundred tirades impugning my reputation since July 1999″ – sees a much more pernicious aim.
“In short,” he says, “CAIR represents not the great civilization of Islam, but a radical utopian movement originating in the Middle East that seeks to impose its ways on the United States. Americans should consider themselves warned: A new danger exists in their midst.”
CAIR chairman Omar M. Ahmad said at a public meeting in July 1998, according to the San Ramon Valley Herald, “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant.”
The Quran, Ahmad said, “should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper indicated in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he wants the United States to become a Muslim country.
“I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” Hooper told the Star Tribune. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”
Founded in 1994, CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified as a “front group” for the terrorist group Hamas, according to Steve Pomerantz, former chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism section.
Another ex-FBI counterterrorism chief, Oliver “Buck” Revell, has called the Islamic Association For Palestine – both Awad’s and Hooper’s former employer – “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants.”
CAIR advisory board member Siraj Wahhaj was named by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White on Feb. 2, 1995, as one of the “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments,” including the World Trade Center in 1993.
CAIR called the conviction of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, including Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, “a travesty of justice.”
Wahhaj, who invited Rahman to speak at his mosque and testified on his behalf during the trial, has called for the U.S. government to be replaced with a Muslim caliphate.
In 1994, CAIR coordinated a series of meetings for Bassam Alamoush, a Jordanian Islamic militant who has called killing Jews a “good deed.”
The Journal of Counterterrorism and Security International said Alamoush delivered the following public address in the Spring of 1998: “Somebody approached me at the mosque and asked me, ‘If I see a Jew in the street should I kill him?’”
After pausing a moment with a dumbfounded face, the Journal said, Alamoush answered the question to a laughing crowd: “Don’t ask me. After you kill him come and tell me. What do you want from me, a fatwa? Really, a good deed does not require one.”
Later in the speech Alamoush interrupted his presentation to say: “Good news – there has been a suicide operation in Jerusalem.”
Defense of violence
CAIR – which devotes a section on its website to the question, “Who is Daniel Pipes?” – has focused since Sept. 11, 2001, on responding to what it perceives as a rising tide of negative stereotypes about Muslims.
The group released a report last May, based on complaints solicited by its website, suggesting there had been a major upsurge in anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S. since Sept. 11. Only 1 percent of the 1,500 complaints had to do with the threat of violence, however.
In February, CAIR launched a year-long series of full-page New York Times ads that cover issues such as terrorism. One ad calls terrorism “a tactic employed by deluded individuals” and emphasizes “it is not condoned by Islam or any other religion.”
But along with statements by CAIR leaders, Pipes sees numerous examples of the group’s defense of Islamist violence, including:
- Picketing the Dallas Morning News for revealing the Hamas infrastructure in Texas.
- Launching a campaign against the Tampa Tribune for uncovering the Islamic Jihad network in that city.
- Criticizing the Journal of the American Medical Association for investigating the medical condition of victims of terrorism, and the children’s magazine, The Weekly Reader’s Current Events, for publishing material on international terrorism.
- Denouncing the Atlantic Monthly for publishing an article on Islamist violence in Sudan
- Denouncing a Senate Subcommittee for holding a hearing on “Foreign Terrorists in America: Five Years After the World Trade Center Bombing.”
Pipes notes that CAIR also attacked the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles for portraying the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini as a Hitler-like enemy of Jews, and criticized Reader’s Digest for documenting the repression of Christians in several Muslim countries.
CAIR called on the Catholic Church to investigate noted priest Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, when he condemned contemporary Islam’s “resentments and suspicions, alternating with low-grade jihad in the form of the persecution of Christians, international terrorism, and dreams of driving Israel into the sea.”
Supporters of CAIR sent Neuhaus an avalanche of abusive mail accusing him of being “obviously mentally ill” and “doing the work of Adolf Hitler.”
Other Washington, D.C.-based groups opposing Pipes’ nomination include the Muslim American Society, which issued an e-mail dispatch yesterday titled “Anti-Muslim Bigot to Appear on C-SPAN.”
It urges supporters to call in to the network’s “Washington Journal” program at 9 a.m. Eastern time today “to challenge Pipes on his racist, anti-Muslim views.”
Among the e-mail’s suggested “talking points” was the assertion “if Congress confirms Pipes’ nomination, [it] will send the message that anti-Muslim bigotry is acceptable.”
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Related Special Offer:
“Militant Islam Reaches America,” by Daniel Pipes.