President Bush recently nominated a distinguished scholar to serve on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Ordinarily, such a step would not engender much notice, let alone controversy.
The President’s selection of Dr. Daniel Pipes to serve in that capacity was immediately noteworthy, however, insofar as it appeared to signal that the Bush White House was sensitive after all to an important distinction: Not all Muslims are Islamists -- members of virulently anti-Western, intolerant and often violent extremist sects -- but all Islamists profess to be Muslims. Dr. Pipes has devoted much of his highly prolific career in academia and as an author to highlighting the danger posed to the United States, her allies and interests and to non-Islamist Muslims by the radicals who seek to hijack and dominate the Islamic faith.
With the Pipes appointment, the Bush team seemed to be trying to redress an earlier and potentially strategically disastrous error -- namely, treating groups associated with, funded by or otherwise supportive of Islamist causes and organizations as "mainstream" Muslim entities. By so doing, the latter were repeatedly afforded access to the President and other senior Administration officials and aided in their efforts to lay otherwise-unwarranted claim to leadership of the American Muslim and Arab communities.
This was all the more remarkable since groups like the American Muslim Council (AMC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Students Association have, to varying degrees, been quite outspoken in their opposition to many of the President’s domestic and foreign policies in the war on terror.
For example, pro-Islamist groups have strenuously opposed Mr. Bush’s liberation of Iraq, playing leading roles in the anti-war movement’s mass demonstrations and organizational activities. Their agenda has lately been preoccupied with denouncing and undermining any Bush law-enforcement and homeland security initiatives they can portray as unfair to Muslims. They deny compelling evidence contained in a 50-count indictment against one of their most prominent spokesmen, Professor Sami Al-Arian, that he and a number of his associates were directly involved in and/or supportive of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's international terrorist activities. Some are even suing the President, Attorney General John Ashcroft and others to block some of the Administration’s efforts to protect the American people from further Islamist attacks.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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