After Sept.11, scholar Daniel Pipes finally attained the kind of public esteem that had long escaped him. For years, he had warned against the insidious threat posed by the Muslim world. “Western societies,” he cautioned in a 1990 National Review article, “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.” In 1995, when he brashly characterized the Oklahoma City bombing as “just the beginning” of an Islamic fundamentalist assault on the United States, he was mocked by many of his colleagues, labeled a fanatic, even a racist. Then, in an instant, as two planes smashed into the World Trade Center, Pipes’ star began to rise. It didn’t take long for Pipes to become known as the “prophet” of Middle Eastern affairs. If only we had had listened more closely to his reductive tirades, thought many, we might have averted tragedy.
Less than a month after the attacks, Pipes made his way into the new-fangled “Special Task Force on Terrorism Technology,” sponsored by the Department of Defense. His voice became a ubiquitous presence in the post-9/11 dialogue on national security, as he made countless radio and TV appearances, and wrote in numerous publications. Indeed, the terrorist attacks produced a national climate of fear — a climate in which the nation, and the world, would listen to Daniel Pipes. And he had made it clear who threatened the U.S. — who the “enemies within” were. Writing in the Jerusalem Post, he argued that “Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children–.”
In Sept. 2002, Pipes and his staunchly pro-Israel “Forum on Peace in the Middle East” launched www.Campus-Watch.org, a Web site devoted to the project of “monitoring Middle East Studies on campus.” The Web site was originally designed to post dossiers of professors at American universities who (as he put it in a New York Post article) “hate America.” Though Pipes has since removed the lists of so-called un-American professors, the damage has been done. One of the professors targeted (for opposing the preemptive war against Iraq) was Yale’s own Glenda Gilmore, who was subsequently bombarded with hundreds of hate e-mails. Not surprisingly, Gilmore and others have drawn attention to the Web site’s resemblance to McCarthyism.
Pipes has recently been appointed to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace by President Bush. This appointment came after much disapproval by Democrats, liberal Jews, American Muslims and Arabs, and members of the academic community. In response, Bush took advantage of the August recess in Congress to sneak through the appointment of Pipes, avoiding a vote and congressional inquiry.
Pipes has capitalized on American fear to perpetuate his anti-Muslim rhetoric, prevent diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, and eliminate dissent in American universities. On Nov. 6, 2003, he will be speaking at Yale upon an invitation from The Middle East Forum at Yale.
And that is fine by me.
Ever since 9/11, citizens of the United States — to use the ever-apt words of Malcolm X — have been had, took, and bamboozled. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? What happened to Iraqi support for U.S. occupation? Governmental lies and a patriotic, anti-Arab frenzy have created a convenient cover for people like Pipes to push forward their conservative agendas in congress and in academia. Pipes represents a dangerous trend which threatens the freedom of Americans to critique their government’s actions. While Pipes would like to think that those who disagree with American foreign policy “hate America,” it is the right to express dissent that distinguishes the United States from non-democratic nations. Mainstream media has already been fully purged of truly dissenting voices, making universities like Yale all the more valuable in their role as refuges for constructive dialogue. Let us not forget events that occurred on this campus last year, in which some members of our own community tried to silence and intimidate students who protested the war in Iraq. These ivy walls will protect us only as long as we continue to insist upon our right to dissent.
So I say let Pipes come to Yale. Let us see what we are up against. He has garnered his influence by hiding behind empty rhetoric and hollow threats. He has attempted to intimidate students and scholars with his ludicrous Web sites and scurrilous editorials. He has implied that those of us who do not “look American” are unfit candidates for citizenship. And he has precipitated violence in the Middle East by disavowing diplomacy as a means to reaching peace. Let his lecture serve as an opportunity for those who disagree with Pipes to defend our university and our nation from the real enemies within.
Natasha Rivera-Silber is a junior in Saybrook College.