WASHINGTON – Daniel Pipes (search), the Middle East scholar who has been called a bigot by Muslim groups and denounced by senators, makes no apologies for his views, and said he believes some of his Muslim critics are dangerous extremists who need to be exposed.
“The problem is, right now, the Muslim institutions [in the Middle East] are dominated by militant Islam. Part of my work is to make that clear,” Pipes told Foxnews.com. “I am exposing them.”
As for his nemesis here in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations (search), which last week said Pipes’ appointment to the U.S. Institute of Peace (search) would “poison the well” of interfaith relations and “hurt American interests worldwide,” Pipes reserved his harshest comments.
“They are the lobbyists of [Usama] bin Laden and Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei, and they want to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Quran,” Pipes said, referring to the sacred Islamic texts. “There is no surprise that my greatest opposition are the allies of our enemies.”
CAIR has long denied it has ties to extremist groups. “Pipes is known for his hostility toward Muslims, Arabs and anyone who disagrees with his bigoted views,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad (search).
Nevertheless, President Bush is reportedly planning to bypass the Senate confirmation process this month to give Pipes a recess appointment to the U.S. Institute of Peace. The academic has generated so much controversy since his nomination in April that his confirmation was stalled in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
A recess appointment would last until the end of the next congressional session in fall 2004.
Several Senate Democrats, including Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have slammed Pipes, suggesting he is anti-Muslim, and that his nomination sends the wrong message to moderate Muslims working with the United States at home and abroad.
“The U.S. Institute of Peace is the last place that we need someone who is going to be a lightning rod for controversy — and Mr. Pipes is a lightning rod,” said Harkin. “I do not know why we are considering this person.”
USIP, a think tank founded by Congress in 1982 to pursue non-confrontational alternatives to war in foreign policy, consists of 15 board members, including 12 private sector representatives who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The secretaries of state and defense and the president of the National Defense University (search) serve as ex officio members.
Until now, USIP has maintained a low profile and is an unlikely stage for provocative debates and controversial personalities. USIP works on such lofty goals as the Special Initiative on the Muslim World, which seeks to find ways Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Indonesia can use their regional influence to moderate future relations between Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
The author of 12 books, including “Militant Islam Reaches America,” in 2002, Pipes has taught Middle East studies at Harvard University, the U.S. Naval War College, and is the founder of the Middle East Forum (search) in Philadelphia.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Pipes has increased his emphasis of study to militant Islam in the war on terror, and the implications on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
The White House points to Pipes’ long academic career as a good fit with USIP.
“Daniel Pipes is a widely respected scholar on a variety of topics, including Middle East issues, and he will make a fine addition to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace,” White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said recently.
Pipes has the backing of a number of prominent Islamic studies academics, including author and Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami (search), who recently signed his name on a letter from 30 leading scholars supporting Pipes to the Senate HELP Committee.
“His extensive experience as an outspoken opponent of terrorism, including Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, has earned him a following among scholars and ordinary Americans,” the letter states.
But since Sept. 11, 2001, Pipes has spent a great amount of time debating Muslims on television and in editorial pages, denouncing what he calls a politically correct ethos that ignores subversive Islamicists in U.S. mosques and Muslim organizations.
This has earned him a long list of critics, including a host of Middle East scholars, who say his anti-Muslim biases are clear in his writings and in his pro-Israel view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Pipes “crosses the line, reaching over to vilification [of Muslims],” said James Zogby (search), director of the Arab American Institute (search). “It is an obsession with him. He doesn’t believe in rational dialogue and discourse.”
Zogby and other Muslim organizations protest the Middle East Forum’s Campuswatch.org, a Web site dedicated to exposing what Pipes calls anti-Americanism and radical Islam in Middle East studies programs. The list is nearing 40 schools, including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford Universities.
For this, Pipes has been accused of inciting a witch-hunt — and racial and ethnic profiling. But Pipes scoffs at this characterization, saying it has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or even religion.
“They try and de-legitimate my point of view,” he said. “I am a big supporter of ideological profiling, of keeping an eye on who is willing to defeat us.”
He said supporting moderate Islam is key to preventing terrorism and inspiring new democracies abroad. “There are plenty of moderate Muslims who agree with that — unfortunately, they are not as well organized.”