The Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) has picked a fight it cannot win. It has issued the propagandist's equivalent of a fatwa against Daniel Pipes, whom President Bush has wisely nominated to serve on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
CAIR accuses Pipes of being "an Islamophobe" - by which it evidently means someone who hates all Muslims - and implies that, if his nomination is not withdrawn, the institute's hope to raise $80 million for a new headquarters on the Washington Mall could be thwarted.
CAIR can't win this fight, in part because Daniel Pipes' impressive record of scholarship, extensive writings (including a weekly column for The Post) and other contributions to the public-policy debate show him to be no Islamophobe.
Pipes is, in fact, a man who very much admires, respects and supports members of the Islamic community for whom CAIR seems not to speak - namely, tolerant, nonviolent, pro-American Muslims who do not defend or otherwise encourage the murderous, radical minority known as "Islamists" who would pervert their religion.
If CAIR persists in its bid to smear Pipes, it will unavoidably call attention to two facts poorly understood by the non-Muslim world:
* First, the real Islamophobes, ironically, are the Islamists. In particular, adherents to the radical Sunni sect known as Wahhabism (the state religion of Saudi Arabia) and the extremist Shi'ia school promoted by the theocratic mullahs of Iran are as murderously intolerant not just of "infidels," but also of Muslims who don't subscribe to their narrow interpretation of the faith.
In fact, over the years, Christians and Jews have sometimes received less violent treatment from the Muslim extremists than have other followers of Mohammed. As Pipes has done so much to document, it is the Islamists' determination to dominate and dictate to the rest of the Islamic community that animates much of their virulent agenda.
* Second, CAIR, like other putatively "mainstream" Muslim groups with whom it is associated, does not represent all of the Islamic community in America. To the contrary, it is much more closely aligned with the Islamists than with co-religionists they wish to dominate.
* CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad is a declared supporter of both the PLO and Hamas, two entities on the U.S. terrorist list.
* CAIR's director of community relations, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested by the FBI in January in connection with a terror- financing front group he helped found that is allegedly tied to both Iraq and al Qaeda.
* Another CAIR advisory board member, Siraj Wahhaj, is an unindicted co-coconspirator in the 1990 World Trade Center case.
In fact, CAIR appears on close inspection to be part of a well-organized and sophisticated Wahhabi-supported enterprise in America. Its function is media relations, both defensive (notably, labeling experts like Daniel Pipes as bigots and threatening lawsuits to counteract, or at least suppress, news items and commentary they generate) and offensive (for example, aggressive PR "spinning" and running weekly advertisements in the Sunday New York Times). The leitmotif of CAIR's work is its obscuring of the difference between non-Islamist Muslims and the extremists.
Daniel Pipes has long been a prominent target of CAIR's enmity for pointing out this difference and for lucidly warning of its implications. Like a latter-day Paul Revere, Pipes has written scores of essays and columns and seven books over the past two-plus decades, relentlessly raising an alarm about the menace the Islamists pose - both for the Muslim faith and for U.S. security.
It is a credit to President Bush that he has chosen Pipes to serve on the Institute of Peace board, a vantage point from which, it is to be hoped, he will be able to encourage scholarship in what is likely to be an increasingly important threat to international peace: the threat arising from the violent agendas of Islamist organizations and their state sponsors (notably Saudi Arabia and Iran). It is an appointment of the right man for the right job at the right time.
One thing is certain: Should CAIR persist in pursuing its threatened political jihad against this presidential appointee - whether by insisting that the White House withdraw the nomination and/or by trying to block its confirmation by the Senate - it will make manifestly clear the inadvisability of including the Council on American-Islamic Relations in any future Bush Administration outreach meetings to the Muslim community. This mistake should have been corrected long before now. It would be poetic irony if it finally occurred as a result of CAIR's own machinations, rather than at the hands of its many Muslim and non-Muslim critics.