Despite strong opposition from Muslim groups and some Democrats, President Bush is expected to make a recess appointment of Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace, possibly this week, according to congressional sources.
Pipes’s nomination to the federally funded think tank is stalled in a Senate committee, but an appointment during the current recess would bypass the confirmation process and allow him to serve a one-year term.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim, Arab-American and interfaith groups will hold a news conference today to continue their campaign against Pipes.
CAIR, which has set aside a special section on its website for Pipes, calls him an “Islamophobe.”
“This back-door move by the president is a defeat for democracy and an affront to all those who seek peace,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper in a statement. “Pipes’s appointment calls into question all of President Bush’s previous statements claiming that the war on terrorism is not an attack on Islam and shows distain for the democratic process.”
CAIR is among several U.S. Islamic activist groups contending 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 his statements and writings have been distorted by opponents and taken out of context. Supporters of Pipes point out he is a respected scholar who warned of the dangers of al-Qaida to the U.S. several months before Sept. 11, 2001. Yet his warning was reviled as racist by some, including Columbia University professor Edward Said, who scoffed at “highly exaggerated racial stereotyping” that talked of hijacking jetliners and blowing up buildings.
Opponents plan to bring up some of Pipes’s statements at the press conference today, including his assertion Muslims should be under greater scrutiny than other groups.
In a letter sent to each U.S. senator, C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, says his organization has serious concerns about “the damaging rhetoric and the continuous propagation of false stereotypes toward the Muslim community that have become the hallmark of Dr. Pipes’s career.”
Gaddy quotes a Jan. 22 column in the Jerusalem Post in which Pipes wrote: “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 … .”
Pipes continued: “Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children … .”
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.
But Gaddy insists Bush is forcing his will on people.
“Sidestepping Congress is a familiar tactic of the White House, especially when the White House does not get its way,” said Gaddy. “Ultimately, by disregarding the counsel and labor of many senators, Muslims and other community groups, the president is doing by appointment that which he has been unable to accomplish through the legislative process. The public’s outrage over Dr. Pipes’s nomination is an indication of the need to reassess his ability to serve, not an invitation to bypass the process.”
However, in a statement of support issued today, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs insisted Pipes is “supremely qualified” and chastised the “deliberately inaccurate” portrayal of his work by some Democratic members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.
“Daniel Pipes is a legitimate scholar with a principled academic background,” said Thomas Neumann, executive director of JINSA. “Pipes’s criticism of fundamentalist Islam, which has been mischaracterized by members of the Senate, is based on academic findings and does not step over the line of reasonable discourse.”
Neumann charged political opposition to Pipes is fomented by “hard core extremists,” such as CAIR.
“These groups are using Pipes as an excuse to quash all legitimate criticism of fundamentalist Islamic activities,” he said. “There are statements that have been made that are beyond the pale, but they haven’t been made by Pipes.”
Oppostion to Pipes by Sen. Ted Kennedy, ranking minority member of the committee handling the nomination, is “totally misplaced,” Neumann contended.
“The senator has apparently been poorly served by his staff, serving other political agendas that have nothing to do with Pipes’ qualifications,” said Neumann. “Their politics of personal destruction have simply gotten out of control and are terribly unfair to an outstanding candidate. We hope the Senate committee comes to its senses when it returns in September and confirms Daniel Pipes with expediency.”
One Democratic committee member, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, wrote in a letter to constituents that many of Pipes’ views “do not fit with the atmosphere of conflict resolution and bridge building that the USIP promotes.”
In December, Pipes took exception to Murray’s statement to high school students that the U.S. would do well to emulate Osama bin Laden’s alleged nation-building tactics, such as financing roads, schools, health centers and “day care facilities.”
In an interview with WorldNetDaily at the time, Pipes contended bin Laden’s aim was to build a terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan and Sudan, and his popularity stems not from his construction efforts but from his attacks on the United States.
Fleeing to Canada
Pipes also has been criticized for his Campus Watch organization, which “reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them.”
One professor singled out in a Pipes article, Thomas Nagy, associate professor of business at George Washington University, says he has decided to move to Canada because of Pipes’s nomination.
In an article titled “Profs who hate America,” Pipes gave six examples of professors who consider the United States rather than Iraq as the problem.
Pipes noted Nagy “proudly informed his university newspaper about providing aid to the Saddam regime against the United States during a recent (illegal) trip to Iraq.”
The professor, he said, offered “estimates of the number of civilians needed to act as a human shield to protect infrastructure and buildings for Iraqi citizens.”
Nagy, lamenting he was unable to testify against Pipes’s nomination before Congress, wrote: “Continuing to teach in the U.S. is no longer an option for me. So I am moving to Canada in a few days where I will apply for citizenship and try to rebuild my 20-year university career in a functioning democracy.”
In a July 26 letter to Nagy, Pipes pointed out apparent inconsistencies in Nagy’s statements, contending it would be quite a stretch to conclude Pipes was responsible for the decision to flee the United States.
If approved, Pipes would become one of 15 board members of the U.S. Institute of Peace, established by Congress in 1984 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.