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War of words over Bush's 'peace' appointment
By Katrin Dauenhauer

WASHINGTON - US Arab and Muslim groups are continuing their opposition to the nomination of an outspoken Middle East scholar to a federally funded peace institute, but the administration says Daniel Pipes might now even get his place without a Senate vote.

President George W Bush nominated Pipes to the board of directors of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in April, but the move has been stalled by concerns about Pipes' highly controversial views on the Muslim world and the Arab-Israeli conflict, among others.

Last week the president suggested he might use a "recess appointment" to place Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, in the USIP position while the Senate is on its summer break. The appointment would last until the next Congress is sworn in, potentially 2005.

"Such an appointment, which would bypass the legitimate role of the Senate on such nominations, would be an inappropriate manner to install an inappropriate nominee," Hussein Ibish, the spokesperson of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Inter Press Service on Friday.

"This back-door move by the president is a defeat for democracy and an affront to all those who seek peace," Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.

At a meeting last month of the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions, the body that would have taken the initial vote on the nomination, several senators expressed opposition to Pipes' views.

"The United States 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. If he is on the board, more of the talk is going to be about him and his views than it will be about the work of the entire institute," said Democratic Senator Tom Harking. That meeting ended without a vote.

Opposition to Pipes' nomination also comes from a number of newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News and the Chicago Tribune. Pipes' nomination also caused controversy within the Jewish community, with peace groups opposing his nomination but other bodies, such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC), endorsing the decision.

Pipes has used his work to "alert the American public to the dangers posed by extremist Islamism in this country and abroad", wrote the AJC's Harold Tanner and David Harris. "At the same time, Dr Pipes has been a defender and champion of moderate Islam."

An expert on radical Islam, Pipes has long infuriated Arab organizations with his warnings on Islamic fundamentalism and its threat to US security. But his opinions have ranged far wider.

"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," he told the National Review in 1990.

More recently, Pipes has called for law-enforcement bodies to use racial and ethnic profiling and has fiercely advocated that mosques in the United States be regular targets of police surveillance.

"This man's hateful views stand outside the mainstream American tradition of equality and tolerance. He is a bigot. He promotes fear and hatred of many communities, not just Arabs and Muslims," said Ibish. "His attacks on African-Americans are particularly vicious. He is also a strident opponent of the Oslo peace process and President Bush's roadmap for peace," he added.

"And interestingly enough, it was Pipes who in the 1980s was criticizing the administration for not giving enough support to Saddam Hussein."

Pipes has established a project called Campus Watch, a website run by the Middle East Forum that monitors the work of Middle East scholars for pro-Arab bias. Many scholars have likened it to academic neo-McCarthyism.

"Daniel Pipes is not a credible, non-biased person. This involves his points on Islam but also his intellectual credibility. He is literally harassing fellow [academics] by establishing a monitoring website," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation.

She also criticized the White House's role in the nomination process. "I think the reason is pretty obvious. It's the Christian Right. Daniel Pipes fits to this constituency and has friends among them. And it has been the core constituency of this president, and that's why he is doing this step," Bray said.

Congress created the USIP in 1984 as an independent, non-partisan federal institution to "promote the prevention, management and peaceful resolution of international conflicts". The esteemed institute's bipartisan 15-member board is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Critics fear that the current controversy could severely damage the USIP's integrity and credibility.

"Given Mr Pipes' opposition to the president's call for understanding and respect and his disdain for the principles of conflict resolution, any such appointment must be seen in the larger context as an attempt to undercut the very mission of the USIP," said the Arab American Institute in a statement.

"With someone of Mr Pipes' caliber serving on its board, our friends and allies around the world will undoubtedly have questions about whether we are serious about ending violence and what we mean by 'conflict resolution'." the institute added.

(Inter Press Service)
Aug 19, 2003

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