Amid intense resistance from Muslim lobby groups and several Democratic senators, led by Edward Kennedy, a Senate committee has postponed voting on the nomination of Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which calls the Bush nominee an “Islamophobe,” hailed the oppostion at a news conference after yesterday’s session of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
“We view the outcome of today’s meeting as a victory for all those who reject bigotry and, unlike Daniel Pipes, seek negotiated resolutions to international conflicts,” said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.
The vote was postponed because fewer than half of the committee’s members were present. A spokesman for committee chairman Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said there are more senators who want to speak on the nomination, and he hoped a vote will come up soon, the Jerusalem Post reported. With the summer congressional recess approaching, a vote may not take place in the current session. The White House could bypass the need for committee approval with a recess appointment, but strong Democratic opposition makes that unlikely.
CAIR is one of a number of U.S. Islamic activist groups that contend Pipes unfairly paints Muslims in broad strokes. Pipes, director of a Philadelphia-based think tank, the Middle East Forum, makes a distinction between militant Muslims and Islam in general, but the U.S. activists insist his policy views are racist.
Pipes argues since only Muslims are vulnerable to becoming militant Muslims or “Islamists,” it is logical U.S. security should give more scrutiny to Muslims than others.
Sen. Edward Kennedy
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., objected to that position during yesterday’s session, asserting Pipes does not fit the Institute of Peace’s aim “to promote peace and curb violent international conflict.”
“I believe that the statements and writings of Dr. Daniel Pipes are just the opposite,” Kennedy said, according to the Post. “His writings include derogatory statements about Muslim immigrants as ‘brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.’”
However, that quote, Pipes has contended, is one of many taken out of context. It came from a 1990 National Review article, which Pipes long ago explained was “my description of European attitudes, not of my own views.”
Pipes has declined to comment on the nomination because it is a pending Senate matter.
Supporters of Pipes have launched a website with a petition addressed to members of the committee.
Seventy-nine Muslims, including Tashbih Sayyed, editor in chief of Pakistan Today, and Fatima Sayyed, director of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, have signed a letter endorsing Pipes.
The Muslims say the Senate should vote for confirmation because:
- Dr. Pipes has demonstrated wide expertise in the study of Islamic history and politics, working with original source materials in languages which he has mastered.
- The USIP board is an appropriate place for his sometimes controversial views to be examined and debated.
- Organizations identified with an Islamist perspective have expressed their opposition to his appointment, claiming to speak on behalf of all Muslims.
Sayyed has named CAIR as one of those hardline groups. Two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs have described the organization from which CAIR originated as a “front” in the U.S. for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
“We wish to make clear that they represent an extremist viewpoint that does not represent all or even a majority of American Muslims,” the Muslim endorsement said.
An endorsement from intellectuals and scholars includes professors Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, Donald Kagan of Yale University, Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University and James Q. Wilson of UCLA.
The professors say charges that Pipes is an extremist are “systematically inaccurate and inappropriate.”
The endorsement says Pipes’s “extensive experience as an outspoken opponent of terrorism, including Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, has earned him a following among scholars and ordinary Americans of all backgrounds. In the course of this work, he has consistently made efforts to distinguish moderate Islam from its extremist offshoots. He is no bigot.”
A coalition of American Mideast organizations of mostly Christian origin issued a joint statement declaring failure to confirm Pipes would be a “slap in the face of millions of Americans from Middle Eastern descent.”
Another commendation is from Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
At the committee hearing yesterday, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. James Jeffords, an Independent from Vermont, joined Kennedy in criticizing Pipes, the Post said. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D- N.Y., was present but did not speak.
Other Democratic members of the committee are John Edwards of North Carolina, Patty Murray of Washington and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Republican members include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Warner of Virginia and Sam Brownback of Kansas.
The Post said, of all the senators present, only Sen. John Ensign, R- Nev., spoke in support of Pipes.
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.