Published on Sunday, May 11, 2003 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Pipes Nomination a Slap in the Face for Islam
by Helal Omeira and Arsalan Iftikhar
Set aside the fact that Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and the man who said that Islam was "an evil and wicked religion," was the clergyman invited to deliver the Good Friday homily at the Pentagon. Forget that shortly after Sept. 11, President Bush gloriously stated that Americans were on a "crusade" in the war on terror. The most recent mystification to come from Pennsylvania Avenue is the nomination of Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, a governmental think tank.
Pipes has always had a troubling bigotry toward Arabs and Muslims. As early as 1983, an otherwise positive Washington Post book review noted that Pipes displays "a disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims. . . . He professes respect for Muslims; but is frequently contemptuous of them." Pipes, said the reviewer, "is swayed by the writings of anti-Muslim writers" and the book "is marred by inconsistencies and evidence of hostility."
Peter Rodgers, a former Australian ambassador to Israel, echoes a similar review of Pipes' work. In the mid-'90s, Rodgers was quoted in the Weekly Standard saying, sarcastically, that he wishes he "could be a polemicist [like Pipes]; then I'd never have to worry about accuracy and balance, about passing off egregious nonsense as alarming statement of fact, about repetition and self-contradiction. I, too, could trumpet mediocre fictions as insightful prophecies."
In 1990, Pipes expressed anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim views when he was quoted in the National Review: "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene. . . . All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most."
Pipes offered a glowing review of the infamous anti-Muslim book "Why I Am Not a Muslim" -- a book the National Catholic Reporter called "the literary equivalent of hate radio; literary warfare against Islam," and useful only to those "interested in returning to the polemical past to do battle with Islamic believers." Pipes called the book "quite brilliant" and "startlingly novel."
"This religion would seem to have nothing functional to offer," remarked Pipes.
No American Muslim will forget Pipes' finger-pointing following the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. As the Village Voice noted: "Leaping directly into hysteria was the right-wing Daniel Pipes . . . who told USA Today . . . 'People need to understand that this is just the beginning. The fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it very clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us.' "
It would seem that Pipes is the one with the obsession. It also seems that Pipes' bigotry does not end there.
During an interview broadcast on the national "Democracy Now" radio program, when program host Amy Goodman asked whether Pipes' support for racial profiling extended to the point where he supported internment of Japanese- Americans during World War II, he said: "It's not a subject I know enough about to talk about." The unfortunate and egregious internment of more than 150,000 innocent and lawful Japanese Americans has been called by former President Jimmy Carter, one of the "most disappointing and embarrassing occurrences in the history of our nation." Pipes' unwillingness to condemn these racist and ethnocentric acts proves that he deserves no place on a presidential commission.
Recently, editorials in the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune have all demanded that President Bush rescind his nomination of Pipes. This example of mainstream opposition to a nomination makes it quite clear that if President Bush does not withdraw the nomination, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions should reject the nomination when it comes before them.
In a time when we need open and lucid dialogue to help instill peace within humanity, President Bush's nomination of Pipes does nothing to further that dialogue. Pipes' record categorically proves that his ignorant and inflammatory rhetoric does not deserve to be even loosely affiliated with an organization associated with the word "peace."
Helal Omeira is executive director of the Northern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Arsalan Iftikhar serves as Midwest communications director for CAIR.