The running battle between militant Islam critic Daniel Pipes and a prominent national Islam advocacy group heated up again this week when the Council on American Islamic Relations launched a campaign to stop Pipes’ nomination to the United States Institute of Peace.
CAIR, calling Pipes a "pro-Israel commentator" and "the nation’s leading Islamophobe," said President George W. Bush’s nomination last week of the Philadelphia-based scholar "sends entirely the wrong message as America seeks to convince Muslims worldwide that the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq are not attacks on Islam.
"His bigoted views are incompatible with the mission of the USIP," CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said of Pipes, who operates the Middle East Forum think tank, Middle East Quarterly and Campus Watch. The latter, a new project, monitors and publicizes college professors and campus organizations that justify terrorism, support militant fundamentalist Islam, and denigrate America and Israel.
"We respectfully urge President Bush to rescind this ill-considered and poorly timed nomination," said Awad, who called on the U.S. Senate to reject Pipes’ nomination.
Citing a quote from Pipes that "15 percent of Muslims are ‘potential killers,’ " Awad also said Pipes lacks the credentials to serve on the board of the institute, a nonpartisan think tank established by Congress to promote "the prevention, management and resolution of international conflicts."
"Pipes’ anti-Muslim polemics have had the opposite impact of that sought by the institute. His views promote unending conflict, not peace," Awad said.
Pipes told The Jewish Week he could not discuss his nomination as a matter of etiquette, but that did not stop him from talking about CAIR.
"CAIR is in effect Osama bin Laden’s lobbyist in Washington," Pipes declared. "They have defended him on occasion. They defend other terrorists and support militant Islam. So that’s who they are. And as time goes on, who they really are is becoming more evident to more people."
Indeed the battle between Pipes and CAIR has been joined for several years. In 2000, someone created a Web site with Pipes’ name that linked CAIR’s Web site and a page titled "Who Is Daniel Pipes?" which sharply criticized Pipes as a bigot.
After Pipes founded Campus Watch last year, CAIR and other Muslim groups decried the project as a threat to academic freedom and an effort to chill pro-Palestinian speech.
John Brinkley, a USIP spokesman, said the group would not comment on Pipes’ qualifications.
"We work happily with whoever they choose to put on our board," he told The Washington Post.
USIP was created by Congress in 1984 "to support the development, transmission and use of knowledge to promote peace and curb violent international conflict," according to its Web site. The institute offers research grants, fellowships and professional training, and holds conferences and workshops. Its board of directors is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Current board members include Harriet Zimmerman, vice president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Holly Burkhalter, advocacy director for Physicians for Human Rights; and ex-officio member Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and an architect of the military invasion of Iraq.
Board members meet six times a year and are paid $400 a day when working on institute business.
Pipes, who writes a column for The Jerusalem Post and the New York Post, has written four books on Islam. He warned of the threat to the United States from militant Islam years before 9-11.
Pipes said CAIR has been trying for years to label him among those who consider Islam the enemy, "which is not where I belong. My position is that militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution."
But CAIR says Pipes "has a long history of advocating the political disenfranchisement and marginalization of America’s Islamic community."
They quote an Oct. 21, 2001 speech before the American Jewish Congress where Pipes stated: "I worry very much from the Jewish point of view that the presence and increased stature and affluence and enfranchisement of American Muslims … will present true dangers to American Jews."
They also cite Pipes’ belief that "mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches and temples" and that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps "need to be watched for connections to terrorism."