It may not exactly be harmonic convergence, but the coincidence is still worth flagging. Last week, just about the time a Senate committee was failing to muster the quorum necessary to vote on Islamic terrorism expert Daniel Pipes' nomination to the United States Institute of Peace (thrilling the Islamic groups that apologize for such terrorism), the Pew Research Center was releasing a new poll finding that 44 percent of Americans now believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. This number is up sharply from the 25 percent who, in March 2002, had begun to notice jihadis in Sudan and Nigeria and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the Philippines and the Palestinian Authority and Malaysia (and Italy, France and Lackawanna) poking out from behind the smoother ranks of the "Islam is peace" p.r. professionals.
What does kicking the Pipes nomination under a Senate rug have to do with an eye-opening Pew poll?
Pipes, a scholar and prolific author steeped in the history and languages of Islam, is a knowledgeable and trenchant voice on Middle Eastern affairs -- one of a handful of experts, incidentally, who, long before Sept. 11, identified the grave threat that militant Islam, or "Islamism," posed to the United States. An advocate of Islamic reform and modernization, Pipes is nothing like the "Islamaphobe," bigot, or bogeyman his most virulent detractors, led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), like to depict. In fact, when Pipes tells us "militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution," I'd say he's being not only reasonable, but also more than generous considering the absence, to date, of religious movements of moderation within Islam worth writing home about.
But back to the Pew poll, which indicates that more Americans may now be wondering why some of the flags flying over Islamic nations include scimitars. (And, if they're really paying attention, maybe also why CAIR tries to pass itself off as a mainstream group with, as Daniel Pipes noted in a recent New York Post column, a chairman, Omar M. Ahmad, who says suicide bombers are not terrorists; an executive director, Nihad Awad, who supports Hamas; and a spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, who is not at all averse to an Islamic government in the United States.)
Just as more Americans are starting to understand that unreformed Islam and, by extension, the law (sharia) that flows from it, are indeed more likely to encourage violence than other religions, a serious scholar who has long applied himself to devising ways to defuse such deadly fanaticism is slowly being undermined and even marginalized in the United States Senate.