Dear Mr. Pipes:
For several years the United Association for Studies and Research has strived to promote beneficial dialogue on issues concerning Islam and the West. Through its publications and research projects it has contributed to fostering understanding between people of the Middle East and the West. To the advanced observer it is apparent that progress in communication has been made amongst intellectuals on both sides. Given the import of relations between political Islam and the West we feel it is imperative that the dialogue continue and progress to a level of mutual respect and understanding.
Despite the obvious risks at stake (on a global level) we strongly feel that the free exchange of ideas in a pluralistic society should not be hindered by partisan agendas and premeditated crusades of slander.
The reputation of your journal has been damaged on account of the June edition interview with Steven Emerson. Not only has he been discredited as an expert on "Islamic fundamentalism" in reputable academic circles in the U.S., but he is on the verge of inciting violence against Muslim individuals and institutions. He made accusations that cannot be supported by credible evidence. We are fearful that ignorant individuals or groups might decide to retaliate against Muslims and their organizations based on comments attributed to Mr. Emerson.
For example, he was quoted as saying "CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] is Hamas with a K Street address in Washington." If the offices of CAIR are subsequently firebombed or otherwise attacked how would that make you feel? And who would assume responsibility?
Mr. Emerson and his backers are making an error in targeting mainstream Muslim activists and institutions. There is a counterproductive element to portraying American Muslims as fundamentalists and radicals. The post-antiMuslim era in the U.S. will have exposed this orchestrated campaign of hate against the Muslim population of America. It would deeply sadden us if your reputable institution and journal were perceived to be wittingly or unwittingly, participants in promoting anti-Muslim hysteria.
On a personal note, it is not the first time that my name has been mentioned by Mr. Emerson. Yet, it is becoming increasingly tiresome to be mentioned in the context of supporting acts of terror and illegal activity. How can it be that Mr. Emerson has incriminating evidence and so boldly pinpoints terrorists and their front organizations, and yet your own law enforcement agencies are unable to uncover any wrong doing?
Mr. Pipes, we cannot understand why Muslims are being demonized in a free society. Enemies and friends alike should not be fearful of Islam's message in the free marketplace of ideas. We continue to respect you as a scholar and as a decent human being. We look forward to a response from you regarding our concerns. We would like to know your thoughts on the issues raised. Communication is the first step to a dialogue and dialogue is a step to understanding and understanding is a step to friendship. Will you take a step?
United Association for Studies and Research
Reply to Ahmad Yusuf
Dear Mr. Yusuf:
I agree with you about the value of communication and therefore thank you for your letter and its conciliatory tone. But if communication is the goal, I wonder why you chose not to send this letter to me but instead to publish it in the Aug. 1, 1997 issue of the Muslim World Monitor, where I found it under the rubric, "Other People's Mail." Isn't that an odd way to begin a dialogue? But never mind, let's proceed.
As I read your letter, you make five main points: Steven Emerson vilifies yourself, American Muslim institutions, and Muslims in general; he endangers Muslim organizations and his findings are at variance with those of U.S. law enforcement. I shall address each point.
(1) Concerning yourself, it is "increasingly tiresome to be mentioned in the context of supporting acts of terror and illegal activity." Tiresome it may be, but let's see if what Mr. Emerson says about you is accurate. He states that you apologize for Musa Abu Marzook, portraying the Hamas leader jailed in New York for almost two years as a moderate, and that you "called for the annihilation of Jews."
Are these statements accurate? To find out, I asked Mr. Emerson for proof. On the first point, he showed me your description of Mr. Abu Marzook as a "peace advocate,"1 his outlook as "moderate," and his work as "tireless efforts to find peaceful solutions."2
On the second point, I have read your written statement addressed to the memory of ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam3 that "Palestine takes comfort that you awaken the longing for jihad and martyrdom in the hearts of the determined ones among its youth. The Qassam Brigades [Hamas terrorist squads] are very much an echo of the cry uttered by the late ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam."4 This next statement of yours recalls those coming out of 1930s Germany: "The Jews' conflict with us is a clash of civilizations that threatens the existence of the Islamic umma [peoples] and its lands.... We must enlist all energies and mobilize all efforts to counteract this creeping danger."5 And then I read this strange, ominous declaration of yours:
The Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, is the future horizon for the jihad project and it is the [alternative] action to all the bankrupt Arab [secularist] reactions. Hamas is none other than a decisive ending to the nature of the struggle, distinguishing itself from the other fronts of confrontation. God has promised that when the Muslims fight the Jews, the Muslims will vanquish them.
They ask, When will this be?
Say unto them, It may be near.6
In short, Mr. Yusuf, you did make the statements Mr. Emerson ascribed to you in the interview.
(2) You object to Mr. Emerson presenting what you call "mainstream Muslim activists and institutions" as extremist. But I note that nowhere in an otherwise articulate letter do you—as the head of one such organization—condemn the fundamentalist Muslim groups that engage in violence. If your and other institutions wish convincingly to deny having ties to terrorism, you must do this. Jewish and Italian organizations in this country have grappled with the difficult step of condemning the violent elements among their own, then done so; respectable Muslim organizations can do no less.
In the spirit of the dialogue you have proposed, Mr. Yusuf, I call on you to condemn the fundamentalist Muslim perpetrators of violence in the United States specifically and by name, including the Iranian government, which stood behind David Belfield's July 1980 murder of ‘Ali Akbar Tabataba'i; El-Sayyid Nossair who killed Meir Kahane in November 1990; Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and the five groups associated with him7who bombed the World Trade Center in February 1993; and ‘Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, the gunman atop the Empire State building in 1997 who, inspired by Hamas ideology, shot seven tourists, killing one. More than that, I hope you will join Mr. Emerson in condemning the climate of hate that prevails at some organizations—rather than attacking Mr. Emerson, as though he, the messenger, were the problem.
(3) You write that Mr. Emerson portrays "American Muslims as fundamentalists and radicals." In fact, I find that he carefully distinguishes between the vast majority of peaceable Muslims and a small minority of radicals. In our interview, for example, he estimates the number of "hard-core believers in militant Islamic fundamentalism" at one hundred thousand, then adds: "I should stress that this is only a very small percentage of the total Muslim population that ranges somewhere between 5 to 8 million." This makes it clear that he seeks to bring public attention to bear on a radical minority, and not to defame the innocent majority. I can also assure you that the Middle East Quarterly, far from wishing to "demonize" Muslims, has the greatest respect for Muslims and is proud to have distinguished Muslims as both writers and members of its editorial board.
(4) You object to Mr. Emerson describing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as "Hamas with a K Street address in Washington," which might cause it to be "firebombed or otherwise attacked." But your worry puzzles me. Violence comes potentially not from those who expose hate groups but from groups which, like CAIR, apologize for and in other ways support Hamas.
(5) You indicate that law enforcement agencies "are unable to uncover any wrong doing" by "terrorists and their front organizations." Aren't you forgetting the multiple trials of terrorists arrested in the World Trade Center bombing (including the one currently underway of the man who calls himself Ramzi Yusuf), the investigation of Islamic Jihad in Tampa, repeated efforts to deport suspected terrorists, and the State Department list of prohibited terrorist organizations? In other words, U.S. law enforcement agencies often see eye-to-eye with Mr. Emerson.
In the spirit of the "free exchange of ideas" you mention, I challenge you to repudiate your earlier statements in favor of Musa Abu Marzook and Hamas, and to condemn the perpetrators of violence by name. We offer you the pages of the Middle East Quarterly in which to do so; better yet, we would be pleased to interview you, as we did Mr. Emerson, for this journal.
1 Ahmed Yousef, "Dr. Musa Abu Marzuq: The Man, the Movement, and the Affair," Muslim World Monitor, Jan. 19, 1996.
2 Ahmed Yousef, "Why Should Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook Stay in America?" Palestine Times, Apr. 1997, located at .
3 ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam was a Muslim Brethren leader who helped found Hamas and who mobilized the Arabs on behalf of the mujahidin in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. He routinely called for the killing of Jews.
4 Ahmad Yusuf, "Ash-Shaykh `Abdallah `Azzam . . Qudwa `ala Tariq al-Jihad wa'd-Da`wa," Ar-Rabita, Jan. 1995, p. 16.
5 Ahmad Yusuf, Harakat al-Muqawima al-Islamiya "Hamas": Khalafiyat an-Nisha' wa-'Afaq al-Masir (Worth, Ill.: Markaz al-`Alami li'l-Buhuth wa'd-Dirasat, 1989), pp. Dal-Ha.
6 Ibid., p. Ba.
7 Jama‘a Islamiya, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, National Islamic Front, and al-Fuqra.