WASHINGTON, April 21 (JTA) — Mideast scholar Daniel Pipes will be making the rounds of the U.S. Senate in the next several weeks, drumming up support for his controversial nomination to the board of a government-funded think tank. Pipes, an author and lecturer who has spoken out about the threat of Muslim fundamentalism, was nominated by the White House earlier this month to sit on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank that promotes peaceful resolutions to international conflicts. Pipes’ nomination has been criticized by Arab groups and others, including the editorial board of the Washington Post, which said Pipes’ nomination was like “salt in the wound” caused by government treatment of Arabs since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Pipes has found friends in interesting places, however, such as from some moderate Muslims. While Pipes is not speaking publicly about the controversy, sources familiar with the situation say he has contacted members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about meeting with them on Capitol Hill next week, when they return from Easter recess. Only one lawmaker, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has come out in support of Pipes, but he is not on the HELP Committee. The committee’s ranking minority member, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), will speak next week at a banquet of the Arab American Institute, one of the strongest opponents of Pipes’ nomination. A spokesman for Kennedy said the committee just received the paperwork for Pipes’ nomination over the weekend and is reviewing it. Little is known about when Pipes’ nomination will be voted on, though it would need to be approved by the HELP Committee and then the full Senate. There has never been an actual hearing on the appointment of a USIP board member, and votes on nomination can happen at any time in the Senate’s schedule. There are rumors that lawmakers could place a hold on Pipes’ nomination. If even one senator places an anonymous hold on the nomination, Pipes’ appointment may never come up for a vote. Jewish groups are rallying behind Pipes. The American Jewish Committee sent a letter to President Bush earlier this month, praising the appointment. “You have selected an eminently qualified candidate with broad knowledge of the threats posed by extremist, anti-American interpretations of Islam — and with the wisdom not to confuse the militants who make up that movement with the vast body of decent, moderate adherents of a proud and vibrant faith,” said the letter, signed by the organization’s president, Harold Tanner, and executive director, David Harris. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee supports the nomination and is “making sure the appropriate people know about it,” spokeswoman Rebecca Dinar said. Arab groups claim Pipes has “bigoted” views against Islam and that his appointment would not be in keeping with the USIP’s mission to promote peace. “Throughout his career, Mr. Pipes has been a virulent critic of the Islamic faith and Muslims in general,” wrote Jean AbiNader, AAI’s managing director. “Indeed, his bigoted point of view does little but stir the already enflamed [sic] passions of people who are searching for a hero or a villain to either emulate or degrade. Mr. Pipes happily fills both roles.” Pipes has been a frequent target of the Arab community. A Web site, www.danielpipes.com, was launched in 2000, forwarding visitors to a site run by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Pipes threatened to sue, and he won the rights to the domain name. Last year, Pipes launched a site called Campus Watch, which tracked professors on college campuses who denigrated Israel and the United States and justified terrorism and radical Islam. Critics, however, said the site smacked of academic McCarthyism.
Arab groups oppose Pipes’ nomination