March 1, 2007
Daniel Pipes fights the worldwide threat of Islamism—from Malibu
(Page 2 - Previous Page)To resolve the problem, the Metropolitan Airports Commission came up with a proposal: Drivers unwilling to carry clients carrying alcohol could have a second light on the roof of their cabs that would indicate their intentions. The cabbies would no longer have to go back to the end of the line, and customers would be more informed.
After the national media picked up on the issue, however, the commission began to receive complaints that Muslim drivers were getting special treatment. Pipes ratcheted the pressure even further when he wrote an opinion piece for the New York Sun, published last Oct. 10 and posted on his Web site, blasting the proposed program.
"Why stop with alcohol?" Pipes asked in his op-ed. "Muslim taxi drivers in several countries already balk at allowing seeing-eye dogs in their cars. Future demands could include not transporting women with exposed arms or hair, homosexuals and unmarried couples."
In the end, the commission scrapped the plan. Instead of accommodating the Muslim drivers, who make up an estimated 70 percent of the airport's 900 drivers, the commission recently announced that it plans to conduct a public hearing to consider increasing penalties for taxi drivers who refuse service to customers at the airport.
"I'm sure [Pipes] helped bring attention to" the issue, said Patrick Hogan, public affairs director for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
James Zogby, founder and president of the influential Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C., an organization that serves as the political and policy arm of the Arab American community, accuses Pipes of seeing threats where none exist, and said Pipes' "disinformation" fuels suspicions about American Muslims and Arabs.
"He is obsessed, in a not healthy way, with all things Arab and Muslim," Zogby said.
Pipes grew up outside of Boston, and as a child was reserved and bookish, devouring classics in his free time. As a student at Harvard, he experienced a political and academic awakening.
He initially hoped to become a mathematician, but said he found the material too abstract. Trips to Niger and Tunisia piqued his interest in the Islamic world, and he changed his major to Middle East history.
During his college years, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Harvard, like many universities nationwide, was a hotbed of protest and anti-war activism. After some students took over an administrative building, Pipes felt alienated by what he describes as their "wild-eyed, untenable views." Foreshadowing his later experiences as a professor, he found himself feeling isolated -- a conservative in a liberal, even radical, environment.
After graduating in 1971, Pipes spent nearly three years in Cairo. He learned Arabic and studied the Quran, which he said gave him an appreciation for Islam. His experience in Egypt led him to pursue a doctorate in early Islamic history at Harvard.
His parents, he said, initially questioned his career choice.
"They said, 'How will you ever make a living at that?'" Pipes said, with a laugh.
Yet in 1979, a year after he completed his doctorate, the overthrow of the Shah of Iran by radical Islamists made the field of Islamic studies seem more pertinent. Career opportunities opened up, and between 1978 and 1986, Pipes taught courses at the University of Chicago, Harvard and the Naval War College. But, even at this early date, his conservative politics, including his implacable anti-Islamist views, put him "at such odds with the consensus in the field that I would not have the kind of opportunities that I would have wanted," he said.
In 1986, Pipes moved to Philadelphia to run the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank. Eight years later, he founded the Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel, pro-Turkey think tank that today has an annual budget of about $1 million and a staff of 16.
In the 1990s, Pipes and terrorism expert Steven Emerson began publicizing the rising dangers of radical Islam. Few heeded their warnings. In 1998, Pipes wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Europe in which he said that "a state of war exists between them [radical Muslims] and the West, mainly America, not because of the American response but because radical fundamentalist Muslims see themselves in a long-term conflict with Western values."
Post-Sept. 11, much more of the world began listening to what Pipes has to say. And what he is saying now might surprise those who accuse him of cynically fear-mongering for profit.
"I expect that before too long, Muslims will see that this is not the way for them and try something else," Pipes said. "Let's hope it's something more progressive and functional."
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