Los Angeles Times, Aug. 15, 2003 (Commentary)
By Charles Krauthammer, Charles Krauthammer writes a syndicated column.
The president has nominated Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace. This has resulted in a nasty eruption of McCarthyism. Pipes’ nomination has been greeted by charges of Islamophobia, bigotry and extremism. Three Democratic senators (Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Tom Harkin of Iowa) have shamefully signed on to this campaign, with quasi-Democrat James Jeffords of Vermont tagging along.
Who is Daniel Pipes? Pipes is a former professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He has taught history and Islamic studies at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He is a scholar and the author of 12 books, four of which are on Islam. Unlike most of the clueless Middle East academic establishment, which specializes in the brotherhood of man and the perfidy of the United States, Pipes has for years been warning that the radical element within Islam posed a serious and growing threat to the United States.
During the decades when the U.S. slept, Pipes was among the first to understand the dangers of Islamic radicalism. In his many writings he identified it, explained its roots — including, most notably, Wahhabism as practiced and promoted by Saudi Arabia — and warned of its plans to infiltrate and make war on the U.S. itself.
The 9/11 attacks demonstrated his prescience. Like most prophets, he is now being punished for being right. The main charge is that he is anti-Muslim. This is false. Pipes is scrupulous in making the distinction between radical Islam and moderate Islam. Indeed, he says: “Militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.”
The dilemma for a free society is that radical Islam lives within the bosom of moderate Islam. The general Islamic community is the place radicals can best disguise themselves and hide. Mosques are institutions that they can exploit to advance the cause. These are obvious truths. But when Pipes states them, he is accused of bigotry. For example, critics thunder against Pipes’ assertion that “mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches and temples.”
This is bigoted? How is this even controversial? Wahhabists and other radical Islamists have established mosques and other religious institutions in dozens of countries. Some of these — most notoriously in Pakistan — had become the locus of not just radical but terrorist activity. Where do you think Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was recruited? In a Buddhist monastery? He was hatched in the now notorious Finsbury Park mosque in London.
Does that mean that all mosques or a majority of mosques or even many mosques harbor such activity? No. But it does mean any given mosque is more likely to harbor such activity than any given synagogue or church.
The attack on Pipes for stating this obvious truth is just another symptom of the absurd political correctness surrounding Islamic radicalism. It is the same political correctness that prohibits ethnic profiling on airplanes. We are all supposed to pretend that we have equal suspicions of terrorist intent and thus must give equal scrutiny to a 70-year-old Irish nun, a 50-year-old Jewish seminarian and a 30-year-old man from Saudi Arabia. Your daughter is on that plane: To whom do you want the security guards to give their attention?
President Bush is considering bypassing the Senate and giving Pipes a recess appointment while Congress is out of town. For Bush, this would be an act of characteristic principle and courage. The problem is that it makes the appointment look furtive. Worse, it lets the McCarthyites off too easy.
Pipes’ appointment would be a great asset to the U.S. Institute of Peace. But it would be an even greater asset to the country to bring the Democrats’ surrender to political correctness into the open. Let the country see that for some of the most senior Democratic leaders, speaking the truth about Islamic radicalism is a disqualification for serious office.
Pipes’ nomination has been endorsed by, among others, Fouad Ajami, Walter Berns, Donald Kagan, Sir John Keegan, Paul Kennedy, Harvey Mansfield and James Q. Wilson. Who are you going to believe? Such unimpeachable and independent scholars? Or a quartet of craven senators?