Something possibly unprecedented has occurred in the battle with radical Islam. A leading Islamist organization has retracted its slurs against me and issued a public apology. This offers a small but important step in blocking the advance of Islamic extremism.
The imbroglio began more than two years ago, when President Bush nominated me for a position in the federal government. Leftists and Islamists opposed my appointment; one tactic they used was to try to get me to say things that would get me into trouble. And so it was that I was asked in April 2003 if I condoned the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. I avoided the question, saying I lacked the knowledge to reply.
My curiosity was roused, though, so I read Michelle Malkin's book, In Defense of Internment (Regnery) and wrote about it in late 2004, concluding that given what was known (and not known) in the early 1940s, FDR's internment decision was "correct and sensible."
Juan Cole of the University of Michigan seized upon this assessment and distorted it, alleging that I have "fond visions of rounding up Muslim Americans and putting them in concentration camps." To this inaccuracy, I immediately replied: "I am not calling for the internment of Muslims. I am calling for an ideological war on radical Islam and the understanding that Islamists are our enemy. I see anti-Islamist Muslims as critical to the war on radical Islam and far from wanting them interned, see their active participation as critical to winning the conflict."
But the cat was out of the bag. By now, three hundred and fifty websites have repeated the falsehood that I want American Muslims in concentration camps. A cartoon even appeared in Islamist publications that has a caricature of me advocating "Muslim internment camps in the USA (the sooner the better)."
From endorsing concentration camps, it was but a short step to portraying me as an advocate of mass murder. Wahida Valiante of the Canadian Islamic Congress, an Ontario-based group, took this step on April 29, 2005, writing in her organization's weekly bulletin that I am a follower of Hitler, that I use the tactics of Hitler, and that I want "to ethnically cleanse America of its Muslim presence."
Did I really need to point out that this representation of me is, in the words of a National Post editorial, "a vicious calumny that Ms. Valiante plucked from thin air"? Must I insist that I really do execrate Hitler? Aver my horror of genocide? Protest that I never espoused expelling or murdering Muslim Americans?
I thought not. Rather than take these demeaning and surely futile steps, I took a different route. Backed by the Heenan Blaikie law firm of Toronto and the CanWest Global Communications Corporation, Stan Fisher of Heenan Blaikie sent a libel notice in early May to Ms. Valiante, the CIC, and the CIC's chairman, Mohamed Elmasry.
On June 10, the CIC published an apology and retraction: "The Canadian Islamic Congress and Ms. Valiante apologize without reservation and retract remarks in the column that suggest that Dr. Daniel Pipes is a follower of Hitler or that he uses the tactics of Hitler or that he wants to ethnically cleanse America of its Muslim presence." The CIC also sent funds to cover my legal expenses and made a donation in my honor to a Canadian charity.
The CIC's action is, to the best of my knowledge, without precedent.
Western Islamist organizations until now have relentlessly attacked, successfully extracting apologies from media figures like Paul Harvey and Mortimer Zuckerman, from businesses like Amazon and Nike, from pastors, columnists, and even from state politicians, a top U.S. general, and the president of the United States.
Never before have they apologized for having libeled someone. The CIC retraction breaks the Islamists' spell of privilege and their miasma of immunity. It establishes, at least in Canada and at present, that Islamist groups do not have impunity to fabricate lies about their opponents. The rule of law does prevail and it applies even to them.
For those who fear the growth of radical Islam, this episode offers encouragement that its forces can be contained and defeated. I hope others will join me in standing up to the new totalitarianism.