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.
Surprisingly, a White House not exactly renowned for tolerating perceived disloyalty has, to date, not penalized those who have engaged in such activities. Many continue to be afforded the opportunity to meet with Administration officials and, in turn, to cite such meetings in press releases and public statements as evidence that they must not be Islamist-sympathizers, after all.
Thus emboldened, the AMC, CAIR and other organizations like the Islamic Institute have launched a jihad against President Bush’s nomination of Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace board. Pipes’ opponents are demanding that the appointment be withdrawn and urging the Senate to reject it if the President does not do their bidding.
Unfortunately for the pro-Islamists, the more they attack Dr. Pipes, the greater the likelihood that their true nature will be illuminated. It is not he who is demeaning all Muslims by pretending there is no distinction between those law-abiding, patriotic, tolerant Americans who adhere to Islam and those who are none of the above, and who want to destroy this country and the freedoms it affords all religions.
Dr. Pipes’ calls for greater scrutiny of the latter who may be masquerading as the former -- notably in the context of the recent alleged fragging of the 101st Airborne leadership in Kuwait by a Muslim sergeant named Hasan Akbar -- is not evidence of racism or bigotry. Most of us recognize that it is, rather, simple prudence in light of the now-indisputable determination of Islamists to shed American blood.
The effort to smear Daniel Pipes and to derail his nomination is overreaching by the pro-Islamist groups. Heretofore, their largely behind-the-scenes pressure campaigns have induced the Clinton and/or Bush administrations to allow them to: place extremist Wahhabi or like-minded clerics to proselytize in the U.S. and state prison systems; certify Islamists as chaplains for the military; and even conduct "sensitivity training" for the FBI With this open assault on the President’s nominee, however, the wisdom of these decisions -- to say nothing of that of making such organizations the favored interlocutors with the American Muslim community -- can no longer escape critical public examination.
President Bush is to be commended for recognizing the valuable contribution Dr. Pipes can make to understanding the threats to peace we will confront in the 21st Century. By rebuffing demands that he abandon this nomination and by securing its approval in the Senate, Mr. Bush can reinforce the powerful message the Pipes’ appointment sends to Muslims and non-Muslims, alike: This Administration will resist -- here at home, as elsewhere around the world -- those who seek to pervert and dominate the Islamic faith towards radical, intolerant and anti-American ends.
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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