|Daniel Pipes's recent talk, "Radical Islam and The War on Terror," was a resounding success. What was less successful and more disturbing was the shoddy scholarship of the professors (and graduate students, and librarians, and benchwarmers summoned from York) of Science for Peace, who only managed to de-legitimize both "science" and "peace" in their undertakings.
In their desperate attempts to vilify Daniel Pipes, signatories to the Open Letter printed in The Varsity (Mar. 28) mis-cited the bill they mentioned, and produced charges of racism long refuted as false. As the January-February 2005 issue of Harvard Magazine discusses in an article entitled "Militant About 'Islamism'," Daniel Pipes has always been scrupulous about differentiating Radical Islamists from moderate Muslims. He is widely known for his mantra "Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution." Responses to the charges are readily available, and as simple as exposing their misattribution to Pipes.
Moreover, the signatories of this open letter claim to be "committed to academic freedom...[and] strongly believe that hate, prejudice, and fear-mongering have no place on this campus." If this is their premise for condemning Pipes, then why weren't similar open letters circulated during the Arab Students' Collective Israeli Apartheid Week, during which hatred and violence were certainly incited? Recognized terror groups like Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade were endorsed on posters, and speakers urged that the borders of Palestine extend "from the river into the sea,"-advocacy of the destruction of Israel.
Why are members of the university so aroused by Dr. Pipes? Is it because of his organization Campus-Watch, founded to critically monitor academic activities at Universities? Some teachers squirm under such scrutiny, while proclaiming that their academic freedom is in jeopardy. Yet beneath this cloak of so-called academic freedom there can lurk strong, personal, socio-political ideologies, which exclude any challenge, including from university administrators and students themselves. The petitioners yelp that "Pipes is someone who has used freedom of speech in order to restrict the academic freedom of those whom he attacks from his position outside the academic world," yet as Pipes himself remarked, he cannot silence others. "All I can do is criticize, and I expect others to criticize me. Why should only one side be allowed to criticize?"
What is most disheartening about the matter is that the petitioners preemptively and mistakenly attempted to discredit Pipes and yet never attended the talk to publicly defend their views. This is cowardice of the worst kind. Surveying another's arguments and perspectives is a necessary prerequisite for both criticizing them, and examining the intellectual integrity of one's own.
How is it conducive to the university as a forum for the free exchange of ideas and the achievement of academic and social progress for infantile faculty participants to deliberately remove themselves from it, privileging instead a self-indulgent politics? As Dr. Pipes commented in response to the Open Letter, "This is precisely the sort of shoddy scholarship that "Campus-Watch" works to expose. Get used it."
Rebecca Waserman is the President, Middle East Forum, 2004-2005.